Exploring peace across Latin America

Emma Kennedy – Staff Writer

There are over five million refugees and migrants from Venezuela running from violence and lack of survival necessities across the world, according to The UN Refugee Agency. The 2016 Colombia peace deal has faltered three years later, resulting in the rise of gang activity and drug trafficking, says The Atlantic.
Peace in Latin America has been abominable as of late, and this is something Dr. Vilma Balmaceda has recognized and researched for years.

Along with working as the associate director at Duke’s University Center for Reconciliation, Dr. Balmaceda is the president of Peace and Hope International. This non-profit focuses on preventing injustice for the unprotected across Latin America.

These qualifications, along with receiving her master’s in International Peace Studies and her experience working in the human rights field, makes Dr. Balmaceda the perfect speaker for the upcoming Wallenberg lecture: Peacebuilding and Social Transformation in Latin America.
Dr. Balmaceda “has worked across multiple Latin American countries over the past few decades, organizing around human rights issues and working for more peace and just political and social order,” Event coordinator Mimi Gerstbauer said.
Dr. Balmaceda has done more recent research that has focused on the social transformation of various Christian groups across Latin America, and each of their differing understandings. Much of her life has been dedicated to traveling across Latin America in order to educate others and attempt to build strong networks to create successful peace work.
Dr. Balmaceda has done, and currently does work that could be of interest to any student, but to be even more precise, Gerstbauer recommends this lecture specifically to students who may be “interested in Latin America, in religion and ethics and in peace and social justice issues”. In regards to peace and social justice issues, some topics may include things like women’s rights issues, nationwide peace protests and even concern for displaced persons or refugees, according to Gerstbauer.
What might this lecture specifically be about? Gerstbauer and others have been anticipating this lecture for a few years now, as it has been on hiatus for a while. Students should look forward to hearing about “examples of the work for peace and justice in Latin America, for example with the Venezuelan refugee crisis, domestic violence against women, the Colombian peace accords and more,” Gerstbauer said.

Students should look forward to hearing about “examples of the work for peace and justice in Latin America.”

Dr. Balmaceda will also be touching on some of the differences in how churches handle social justice issues in the United States vs Latin America. Students can also look forward to hearing Dr. Balmaceda share her many stories from her travels and experiences from her various fields of work.
These past few years social justice has played a huge part in everyday culture.Racial justice, women’s rights and many more injustices have been brought to the forefront.. These matters are extremely prevalent in the United States, but what issues are being fought for across Latin America? Dr. Balmaceda will be able to highlight many of the current problems that have arisen in Latin America, and many of them are the same issues that the United States continues to grapple with. Americans are lucky to have laws protecting their freedom of speech rights, but this is not the case for the people of Latin America. Women specifically are unable to stand up for themselves and speak against injustice in Latin America, and this is something that Dr. Balmaceda has had to experience firsthand in her travels and field of work, and something that she will be able to touch on during the lecture.
The issues regarding peace in Latin America have been ongoing and intense for years now. Dr. Balmaceda is ready and willing to educate the students of Gustavus on what exactly those issues are, and how we can focus on rebuilding that peace. Whether students are interested in becoming an activist, or are just interested in becoming more educated on matters regarding injustices outside the United States, this lecture will provide all those things and more.
Stop by at 4-5 p.m. on Monday Oct. 18, 2021 in Olin 103 to hear Dr. Balmaceda discuss Peacebuilding and Social Transformation in Latin America.

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