As Room Draw and registration for the fall semester simmers down, May is just around the corner, and along with it comes Gustavus’s annual MAYDAY! Peace Conference. This year’s theme is Tibet: Finding Hope in Exile. It will take place on April 30 in Christ Chapel and Alumni Hall.
The first MAYDAY! Peace Conference occured at Gustavus in 1981. The purpose was to inform students about the rising concern of a nuclear confrontation between the U.S. and Soviet Union.
Ray and Florence Sponberg funded the first conference, and immediately it became a huge success. They continue to fund the informative and popular conference for Gustavus students and the whole public.
Senior Mara Johnson-Groh studied abroad last spring in Nepal focusing on Tibetan studies. She describes the purpose of MAYDAY! as a time for students to come together and talk about important issues.
“The goal of MAYDAY! is to raise awareness and open discussion on a topic of social justice or peace,” Johnson-Groh said.
This year’s conference will include a keynote address spoken by Dr. B. Tsering who is the Principal of the Dalai Lama Institute for Higher Education in India and is an elected member of the Tibetan Parliament.
It will also include a discussion panel of Tibetan experts, a ceremonial procession, and reception at the Linnaeus Arboretum.
Visiting Biology Professor Ngawang Gonsar will be participating as a panelist discussing Tibet’s democratic future from the Indian and Minnesota perspective.
Gonsar is hoping students will take away an understanding of the Tibetans’ struggles and be able to recognize this human issue.
“I think the issue of Tibet and Tibetan freedom is a complex one, but I hope that through MAYDAY! students take away some understanding of the Tibetan struggle. At the end of the day, however whatever our opinions on the issue may be, we need to understand that it is human issue, where the lives of millions of people are at stake,” Gonsar said.
The MAYDAY! Conference focuses on contemporary and relevant topics associated with peace, which is why Tibet was chosen as this year’s topic.
Johnson-Groh explains in more detail the history of the Tibetan exile, and why this topic is going to be brought to Gustavus this year for MAYDAY!
“Since the Dalai Lama went into exile in 1959, following the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the Tibetan people have sought refuge in India and throughout the world, including Minnesota. They have since struggled to maintain their identity and build a global democratic culture,” Johnson-Groh said.
The only Tibetan student at Gustavus, Tenzin Dolker, expresses the importance of this year’s MAYDAY! Peace Conference due to the lack of consensus and knowledge on the issue of Tibet.
“Some might know, might not know or have any ideas about Tibet. This would be a great opportunity to go and find out more about Tibet,” Dolker said.
Dolker anticipates a helpful and informative MAYDAY! this year. She is hoping it will expand to more than just awareness, but a creation of an organization to further the interest of Tibetan issues on campus.
Classes will be suspended or shortened in order for students and staff to attend this event. It will begin with a keynote address at 10 a.m. in Christ Chapel, and proceed until 4 p.m. There is no fee and is open to the public.