The Peace and Justice Initiative opened its Conversation on Compassion events last week with reading circles that focused on Karen Armstrong’s book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, which urges readers to start with learning about compassion and end with loving one’s enemies.
Three campuses hosted reading circles on Armstrong’s book, and students reflected on their discussions with comments such as, “I felt the book was very enlightening,” and “I have learned that compassion is lost in all aspects of life in today’s time…. we are constantly on the go, constantly trying to meet schedules, deadlines, bills, that we forget who we are, our purpose and how to be compassionate. We need to slow down, take a deep breath and enjoy what life has to offer.”
Workshops were also held throughout the week of January 23-26, focusing on topics such as listening, the relevance of religion, and the power of forgiveness. These workshops were led by Valencia faculty and staff and were filled to capacity each day. According to Rachel Allen, coordinator of the Peace and Justice Initiative, students who attended described the workshops as “powerful,” “engaging,” and “insightful.”
Two highlights of the week included a keynote address by Dr. Bernice King, daughter of the famous Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a film screening on the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which was followed by a discussion from Agnes Umunna, a Liberian author and radio host.
King’s speech focused on a message that encouraged students and employees to “raise the standard” and take on society’s biggest challenge – complacency. Umunna spent three days on the Osceola and West Campuses working with classes, visiting with faculty and staff, and leading a post-film question and answer session. She brought the topic of reconciliation and truth telling to the forefront through descriptions of her work with women and child soldiers in post war-torn Liberia.
Programming of this magnitude required the support of many people throughout the college. These events were made possible with the help of over 50 volunteers from campus clubs and classes, including members of GSA, MSA, Valencia Future Educators, Bridges, and HEROS (see Featured Colleague – Subhas Rampersaud).
The Peace and Justice Initiative would also like to express gratitude for faculty support and our colleagues in student development, custodial services, word processing, marketing and strategic communications, audio visual, Cabin Creek Catering, the bookstores, libraries, digital media, organizational communication and development, and the campus presidents’ offices.
“Compassion begins at home,” Rachel said, “and we are grateful to be members of compassionate campuses!” The Conversation on Compassion events were an extension of the Peace and Justice Initiative’s discussions held last year on the science of nonviolence.
You can read more on Valencia’s New Site about King’s speech and Liberia’s search for peace in Beyond the Dream: Bernice King Urges Students to Reclaim her Father’s Cause and Women Behind Liberia’s Peace Movement Inspire Students, Faculty.