Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Bridges to the Future explores the pursuit of peace

In anticipation of the gathering of 10 Nobel laureates for the PeaceJam Conference at DU Sept. 15–17, Timothy Sisk, associate professor of DU’s Graduate School of International Studies, presented an analysis of the Nobel Peace Prize Sept. 12 in Davis Auditorium. 

To an audience of nearly 400, Sisk expounded on the history of the prize and its effect on strategies for peace throughout the 20th century—“mankind’s most bloody 100 years,” according to Sisk.

The first in a year-long series, the “Pursuit of Peace” lecture is sponsored by DU’s Bridges to the Future program. In its fifth year, this program was created in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Through a collaboration of DU faculty, staff and religious councils, the 2006–07 series strives to stimulate community dialogue on the pursuit of peace.

Because Sisk’s current research is focused on how world governments manage conflict in deeply divided communities, he was able to illuminate the ways the prize can promote peace. The prize money—$1.5 million U.S. last year—often is used to establish programs that enhance peaceful pursuits. 

Depending on its political timing and recipient, the Nobel can encourage political dissidence, spur the progress of peace processes, save the life of its recipient, reward the successful pacifist, expose the secrets of abusive governance and help stop wars. 

“Addressing the source of conflict is a pursuit of positive peace,” said Tamra Pearson d’Estree, the program moderator. D’Estree is director of the Conflict Resolution Institute Center for Research and Practice at the University.

Ironically, the Nobel Peace Prize fund was bankrolled by the profits from sales of a weapon of mass destruction. Alfred Nobel invented dynamite in 1867, intending its use for blasting tunnels and pits for construction. Nobel sold his dynamite to European armies as a weapon, having been persuaded that once people saw dynamite’s destructive power, mankind would be deterred from starting wars.

Nobel died in 1896 and historians have said that regrets about his invention compelled him to will most of his estate to a fund directed to award those who helped mankind.

Since the first winner was named in 1901, 93 individuals—including 12 women—have won the Nobel for peace. Sisk serves on the Nobel committee that nominates and votes for candidates. He packed his lecture with details about the men and women who have made positive, significant differences in the trajectories of world events. 

Carl Studna, a visitor from Los Angeles, said he appreciated learning more about the Nobel Peace Prize. 

“I’ve known about it, but learning the history gives me a greater appreciation,” Studna said.

“I am inspired to ask myself, ‘How am I choosing peace within every relationship in my life?’ as a result of this fascinating delivery,” said Jan Herron, a DU Bookstore employee.

Sisk concluded by listing possible 2006 contenders, including the Oxfam “Save the Children” organization, former President Bill Clinton, U2 lead singer Bono and U.N. Secretary General Sir Brian Urquhart, among others. 

Sisk said his nomination will be for the Anglican Bishop Pius Ncube of Zimbabwe for his stance against the regime of Robert Magabe, who has reportedly driven hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwe citizens to homelessness and starvation. 

The winner will be announced in October, and the prize is awarded annually on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.

For the Bridges to the Future program, DU calls on local, national and international experts, academicians, religious and political leaders to guide the discussions and engage the public. The series is free and open to all. 

The next Bridges lecture on Oct. 10 features former Sen. George Mitchell, author of Making Peace, who will examine the complex problems of world conflicts.

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