25 october 2023
Amid the heated international context, Pope Francis turned his thoughts to Gaza pleading that “everything possible be done to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe” as clashes between Israelis and Palestinians continue, during his general audience on October 18, 2023. The pontiff also launched a Day of Fasting and Prayer on October 27, calling on all Christians as well as believers of other religions and all those who serve the cause of peace to join in this initiative. Similarly, the security situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate, with the number of civilian casualties rising steadily. Against this backdrop, the celebration of the Day of Peace became a necessity. Therefore, on September 21, Domuni Universitas and the whole world celebrated the International Day of Peace, with the year 2023 marking the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. In a world that often seems fraught with conflicts, tensions, and global challenges, the role of universities in fostering and working towards peace has become increasingly significant. Universities are not just centers of education and research; they are also hubs of innovation, tolerance, and understanding. This article delves into the multifaceted role that Domuni plays in promoting peace, both at a communitarian and a global scale.
Education as a Foundation for Peace
At the heart of Domuni's mission lies education. Just as with other universities, Domuni is responsible for equipping the next generation with knowledge, critical thinking skills, and an appreciation for diversity. These are essential building blocks for peace. By providing students with a well-rounded education that encompasses the arts, humanities, and social sciences, Domuni fosters an understanding of different cultures, perspectives, and worldviews, especially through its Philosophy and Theology courses. This understanding forms the basis for empathy and cooperation, key elements in the quest for peace.
Furthermore, Domuni is promoting tolerance by encouraging open dialogue and the free exchange of ideas. Students from diverse backgrounds come together in the university's online forums and in-person participatory study days, providing an opportunity for them to learn from one another. It goes without saying that exposure to differing viewpoints helps break down stereotypes and prejudices, ultimately contributing to a more peaceful society.
Research for Conflict Resolution
Domuni is a hub of research and innovation, and its contributions to conflict resolution cannot be overstated. Many faculty and students engage in research that addresses the root causes of conflicts - such as cultural and religious misunderstandings, intolerance, radicalism - and identifies potential solutions. This research often involves interdisciplinary collaboration, bringing together experts from various fields such as political science, sociology, philosophy, theology, psychology, and economics. Domuni, through its partnerships with other universities, research centers, and thinktanks, seeks to further enable and foster this kind of research.
One crucial aspect of university research for peace is the study of peace and conflict resolution itself, and the notion of peace is discussed in many of Domuni's courses and throughout the different study programs it offers. At Domuni, we believe that by developing a deep understanding of the dynamics of peace and conflicts, we could possibly equip current or potential policymakers and diplomats with the knowledge they need to mediate disputes and prevent violence. We always seek to encourage that this research extends beyond the academic realm and has real-world applications, shaping policies and practices at local, national, and international levels.
Promoting Cultural Exchange and Understanding
Domuni is a melting pot of cultures and backgrounds. It attract students and faculty from all corners of the globe, creating a diverse and multicultural environment. This diversity is a powerful tool for fostering peace, as it encourages cultural exchange and mutual understanding.
Through our online forum exchanges, seminars, conferences, participatory study days and other multicultural events, Domuni facilitates cross-cultural interactions that promote tolerance and build bridges between people from different backgrounds. These experiences not only enrich the lives of students but also contribute to the broader goal of creating a more interconnected and peaceful world.
Peacebuilding Initiatives and Partnerships
Domuni is seeking to be more actively engaged in peacebuilding initiatives and partnerships with organizations dedicated to conflict resolution and peace promotion. Such initiatives could not only result in published research and books on peace, such as some of Domuni Press’s publications on living together, reconciliation and peaceful negotiation of conflict, but also lead to involvement in fieldwork in conflict-affected areas, where university students and researchers collaborate with local communities to address the root causes of conflict and promote reconciliation.
Domuni has also been forming partnerships with 1. NGOs - like in Congo, with the “Research Center for the Prevention and Resolution of Community Conflicts” [Centre de Recherche pour la Prévention et la Résolution des Conflits Communautaires] which was created in response to "recurring crises on Congolese territory" and aims to monitor conflict situations both before and after their occurrence -, 2. Universities – like in Iraq and Lebanon -, 3. Thinktanks – in France and beyond -, 4. government agencies, and 5. international organizations - UNESCO Chair and Domuni's ECOSOC status at the United Nations - to support cultural peacebuilding efforts. These collaborations can take various forms, including research projects, educational programs, and possibly capacity-building initiatives. By leveraging its resources and expertise, Domuni hopes to further make a meaningful impact in regions affected by conflict, and beyond.
Ethical Leadership and Social Responsibility
Universities have a responsibility to instill values of ethical leadership and social responsibility in their students. At Domuni, we treat these values as integral for the pursuit of peace. Through our courses, seminars, journals and books, we seek to encourage students to have a sense of responsibility towards one's community and the world at large. For example, our conferences on art and architecture history equipped attendees with the basic knowledge to understand and hence appreciate the works of art and diverse monuments created, and that might be threatened. This newly acquired knowledge following such sensitization sessions will undoubtedly lead to more advocacy from the part of students for the preservation of such works, which engages and enhances the students' social responsibility.
Furthermore, Domuni keeps improving its processes to lead by example in its own operations and practices. Sustainability initiatives and ethical investment policies, both at the level of staff and institution - e.g. by adopting eco-friendly operation models - demonstrate a commitment to ethical leadership and social responsibility. We hope but are also confident that these actions send a powerful message to our students and global society as a whole, encouraging them to prioritize values that promote peace and sustainability.
Lastly, the role of a higher education establishment in fostering and working for peace, the way Domuni does, is multifaceted and profound. Through education, publications, cultural exchange, research on peacebuilding initiatives, and ethical leadership, Domuni contributes to the promotion of peace and sustainable development at the global level. As an institution that shapes the minds of the youth, the leaders of tomorrow, Domuni is continuously trying to seize the unique opportunity and responsibility to cultivate a culture of peace, tolerance, and understanding in our ever-changing world. In this context, to conclude, we would like to join our voice to that of the United Nations by encouraging all youth to be ambitious in their engagement as positive and constructive social agents, to join the movement to reach the Sustainable Development Goals and contribute to building sustainable peace. We would also like to share that we are joining the Pope's initiative to hold an hour of prayer on October 27 "in the spirit of penance" to implore God for "peace in our days, peace in this world". Finally, it is worth pointing out that the date of October 27 coincides with that of the first World Day of Prayer for Peace, which took place in Assisi on October 27, 1986.