September 21 is the International Day of Peace. Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO in her message says that we should join together “to make education a force for peace”. What does this mean for those of us working on issues of social justice, engagement and social responsibility within higher education? In the recent international conference on Knowledge, Transformation and Higher Education held in Barcelona in May of 2013, we spoke of many critical issues, but as I recall, the idea of peace as a direct topic was not well covered. Why is this? We live in a time of much peacelessness for the poor and marginalized whether they are in the face of military contexts of just the violence of hunger and exploitation. Many of our universities contain formal research centres for the study of peace. What role do they play in the day to day struggles for peace? In cities like Cairo, our students are in the streets working for peace and democracy. In Syria, many of our students have found their universities closed because of war and are now living as refugees in nearby countries.
Where does knowledge democracy, engaged scholarship and community university engagement interact with the hunger in the world for peace?
Is it enough that the rich can obtain peace through gated communities and private security? Is there an alternative to military powers taking it upon themselves to ‘police’ those who they do not care for?
I have no answers at all…but I believe that it is appropriate to ask the questions…