In a recent essay called "Give Peace a Chance: We Do Not Have To Go To War" I wrote about a new book edited by Douglas Fry titled War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views and an interdisciplinary meeting called "Obstacles and Catalysts of Peaceful Behavior" at the Lorentz Center in Leiden, The Netherlands, to which I'd soon be going. This Leiden meeting was strongly international and the program can be found here. Among the reasons this very unique and broadly interdisciplinary gathering was organized was to show clearly that a science of peace is possible and that war is neither a human universal nor an ancient or an evolved adaptation.
I attended this incredibly interesting and stimulating meeting and learned a lot from a wide variety of colleagues with vastly different backgrounds, all of whom are deeply devoted to developing a science of peace. While there were many Ph.D.'s giving papers and discussing a wide range of issues, I also met some outstanding students including (moving counter-clockwise from the front of the photo below) Nastaran Salehi from Iran, Hasan Habes (Cyprus), Evgenia Kolesnikova (Russia), Tyler Schafer (USA), Maija Jespersen (USA), Taalia Khan (Pakistan), Sabrina Surenjan (Austria), and James McKeown (Ghana) who are enrolled in the Master's Programme in Peace, Mediation and Conflict Research, organized jointly by Åbo Akademi University in Vasa and the University of Tampere in Finland (Doug Fry is on the far left). They also presented papers and all were very well received. What a treat it was to listen to voices for the future.
Professor and students in the peace program in Finland
This unique program at Åbo Akademi University "provides interdisciplinary approaches to research on the complex issues of peace and conflict in the contemporary world. These approaches aim to facilitate the understanding of the deep roots of wars and conflicts as well as their short and long term consequences. ... [it] also studies the preconditions for conflict resolution and peace in local as well as in international and global contexts ... [in which] peace and conflicts are understood as processes, thus the programme helps to analyze not only the evolution of the conflicts, but also peacebuilding, mediation and negotiation. A variety of approaches, procedures, tools and methods are analyzed in a practical context" within the program." What a breath of much needed fresh air.
I want to share information about this wonderful and forward looking program because if there ever is to be hope for a peaceful future we need to train students in the science of peace who will be facing numerous and increasing challenges and who will be able to foster peace in a messy and conflict-ridden world. I remain optimistic that peaceful coexistence is possible across cultures (and across species) and all of the participants at the meeting, and perhaps especially these remarkable students, are reasons for hope.