Heather McIlvaine-Newsad Commentary
6:53 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

War and Peace and WIU Guest Speakers

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the University Theme at WIU. By bringing internationally renowned speakers to campus, the University Theme offers students, faculty and community members the opportunity to enjoy candid and personal interactions with world leaders. Discussions that begin with the lectures often continue days and weeks later in residence halls, coffee shops and classrooms.

This year's theme is "War and Peace: From Personal Conflict to Global Resolution.” For more than 10 years the United States has been fighting in Afghanistan and many of our own students have served in the military. Western Illinois University ranks in the top 15% of all colleges, universities, and trade schools serving veterans and military personnel -- thus earning us the designation as a Military Friendly School.

All of this year’s Theme speakers demonstrate what can happen when creativity and courage intersect during times of war. Our first speaker, Haider Hamza is a young Iraqi journalist who lived through the 2003 US-led invasion of his country with his family near Babylon, south of Baghdad.

Hamza comes from a distinguished family. His father was a diplomat and his mother a computer programmer. He was born in Germany, and lived in East Africa and Europe as a young boy. At the age of twelve, Hamza and his family returned to Iraq where he finished high school and university and began working as a translator for the Iraqi Ministry of Information. In 2007 he won a Fulbright scholarship to the study in the United States and obtained a master's degree in global security and conflict resolution.

Hamza will be speaking in the University Union Heritage Rooms at 7:00pm on Wednesday, September 12th. His lecture will include visuals of daily life in Iraq after the war. He will also talk about the losses of both nations and how the war has altered the future of many Iraqi families. On a personal level, Haider Hamza and his family fled Iraq. No longer able to live together as a family, they have found new homes on several different continents.

Adjusting to a new culture can be challenging for most of us. Imagine what it must be like for someone whose country is perceived to be the enemy? Rather than hiding who he was or where he was from, Haider Hamza took a creative approach to learning more about how the American people felt about their country’s involvement in Iraq. Hamza traveled through 35 states and set a stand reminiscent of Lucy’s psychiatry booth in the Peanut’s comic strip, called “Talk to an Iraqi.” The interactions that were recorded were touching, frustrating and at times painful to watch. But all unveiled the complexity of war and the search for peace. Portions of this journey were aired on NPR and Showtime’s “This American Life.”

I hope that students, faculty and members of the Macomb community will come hear Haider Hamza speak as he continues his personal commitment to healing the wounds of oppression by raising the awareness of all people about the cost of war. For as Naomi Drew once said, “Peace is not possible without forgiveness.”

Heather McIlvaine-Newsad is a Professor of Anthropology at Western Illinois University. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of WIU or Tri States Public Radio.