Emily Seppelt – Lead Copy Editor
The annual MAYDAY! Peace Conference took place this week at 10 a.m. in Christ Chapel on Wednesday, April 27. This year’s conference was titled “Growing Peacebuilders” and featured the co-founders of the non-profit organization Ceeds of Peace, Dr. Maya Soetoro and Dr. Kerrie Urosevich ‘93, as keynote speakers. The conference was also live-streamed and can be found on the Gustavus website.
This year’s conference was the first to host in-person speakers since the 2019 conference, titled “War on The Press” featuring author and journalist Thomas Friedman. 2020’s conference was completely canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and re-scheduled to 2021. The 2021 conference was focused on student activism, titled “Voices of Change: Our Generation of Student Activism” and was held on Zoom.
This year’s conference began with a welcome from Reverend Siri Erikson, followed by an invocation and greeting delivered by President Bergman. Bergman hoped that the conference would “…inspire attendees to take action. Actions for justice and peace throughout the world,” Bergman said. Glenn Kranking, Director of the 2022 MAYDAY! Conference, Associate Professor of History and Scandinavian Studies, and advisor to the Weekly, then introduced Soetoro and Urosevich, listing off their long list of accomplishments and involvements.
Ceeds of Peace aims to “raise peacebuilding leaders”, centered around the seven values of courage, critical thinking, compassion, conflict resolution, commitment, collaboration and connection. Ceeds of Peace “believe[s] peace is more than just a feeling, more than just knowledge, more than just a lofty goal,” according to the MAYDAY! Program.
Before Soertoro and Urosevich began their talk, they performed a Lei Ceremony for the organizing committee of the conference which was composed of President Bergman and Chaplain Erikson and family members of the conference’s late organizers, Florence and Raymond Sponberg. In this ceremony and subsequent welcome portion, Urosevich read from a prepared statement, telling the audience that “we acknowledge that what affects you, affects us”, connecting the mission of Ceeds of Peace to Gustavus’s five core values of justice, service, faith, excellence and community. In their lecture, Soetoro and Urosevich focused on how to work towards peace through practical action and thoughtful planning, calling peacebuilding “critical, hard, and joyful”.
Soetoro argued that many people think of concepts such as peacebuilding and love as soft and abstract concepts. In reality, Soetoro shared, love and peacebuilding are both soft and hard, like water that freezes and melts over and over again as necessary depending on the situation.
The speakers then asked the audience to ask themselves and their neighbors what their definition of peacebuilding was, then shared what they found with the rest of the audience. Soetoro and Urosevich asked the audience to do this multiple times throughout the lecture, creating an atmosphere of collaboration and openness.
The co-founders also touched on what inspired them to create their organization Ceeds of Peace as well as exactly what they do on a day-to-day basis. Both highly educated in topics such as multicultural education and peacebuilding, Soetoro and Urosevich wanted to teach the skill sets needed for conflict resolution and peacebuilding to both children and adults. They sat down together and made a list of all the peacebuilders they could think of, listing each of their skills. These lists of skills helped the co-founders to create their mission statement and focus.
Soetoro and Urosevich ended their lecture with a call to action, asking the conference participants to brainstorm how you can “instigate the social change you want to see”. Encouraging the participants to “lead from the behind, the side, and the back.” The speakers argued that conflict can and should be productive and needed when each of us use our “superpowers” or skill sets.
Later in the day, Soetoro and Urosevich both held “interactive” and “hands-on” workshops for guests to attend, focused on issues such as education and peace at 2:30 p.m. and climate-justice and peacebuilding at 3:30 p.m.. Later in the evening at 7:00 p.m., both co-founders hosted a workshop together titled “The Activist: Staying Steady in the Storm”. These workshops were held across campus in locations such as the Edwards Atrium in Anderson Hall and the Center for Inclusive Excellence.
Those curious about Ceeds of Peace and/or Soetoro’s and Urosevich’s mission can find more information at ceedsofpeace.org.