May 03, 2013

Ball State Talks Peace

By: Margaret Cude
On April 5 and 6, 2013, the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies hosted the first ever Benjamin V. Cohen Peace Conference: Promoting Nonviolence at Home and Beyond . Co-sponsored by the City of Muncie, Benjamin V. Cohen Memorial Endowment Fund, and the United States Institute of Peace, the event drew presenters and audiences from across the US, and even a few from Canada.
With over 150 pre-registered attendees and more than fifty presentations, the Conference covered such varied topics as mediation techniques, racism, the crisis in Sudan, Muncie economic empowerment, pagan oppression, and conscientious objection.
“I was very impressed to know about the efforts of various centers and offices across Indiana,” said Janet Brown, Spiritual Life Commission, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church.

Friday’s kick-off included addresses from Dennis Tyler, Mayor of Muncie, Dr. Robert Morris, Associate Provost of Research and Dean of the Graduate School, and keynote speaker Pastor Steve Roese, President and Founder of Water is Basic.

Pastor Roese was charged with answering the question “Can one person make a difference?” In answering, Roese spoke about the birth and growth of Water is Basic. He then presented a 12-minute documentary entitled “Ru,” which portrays the day in the life of Jina Teji, twelve-year-old girl profoundly affected by her community’s lack of access to clean water. Jina is the primary caretaker of five younger siblings and a sickly grandmother and must make a two-mile circuit trip to the local water source, a tepid, green hole filled with gray water, three times a day. During the course of the film, Water is Basic drills her village’s first well, which allows the audience to see the profound difference one well can make in the life of a child.

“So maybe a better question would be, ‘How can you not make a difference?’ All of the people who have done what they could with what they have where they are – they prove that one person can make a difference. You can reach out in any direction and make a difference in someone’s life. It’s all about what you chose to do and if you will choose to make a positive or negative impact,” said Roese.
Saturday’s events began with a keynote talk from Dr. Kevin Smith, chairperson of the Ball State Department of History. His presentation, “Benjamin V. Cohen: Becoming a Man of Peace,” provided attendees with an understanding of the life and legacy of Cohen. The presentation was well received by attendees, many of whom who were amazed to learn that Cohen hailed from Muncie, Indiana.
Saturday’s luncheon keynote speaker was Dr. Dorothy Espelage from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her presentation, “Realistic Strategies for Bully Prevention & Promoting Positive School Climate,” was attended by community leaders and educators as well as academics. She presented her research on why there has been little success in preventing school bullying, as well as the long-term effects of bulling on students. She concluded by saying, “Bullying and intervention cannot happen at the same time. You have to slow down the bullying before intervention can occur,” and encouraged anyone with additional comments or questions to contact her for further discussion.
“The real benefit of an event like this is the potential to create new networks,” said Dr. Robert Helfenbein of IUPUI. “From a university perspective, there is a need for research and evaluation into questions of peace. This gives a chance for the community to benefit from academia. We came here with a common interest, but we can leave with new goals and ideas.”

The Center for Peace and Conflict Studies hopes to host this conference again as a biannual event.

About Benjamin V. Cohen
Born in Muncie, Indiana on September 23, 1894, Benjamin Victor Cohen graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1915. He then attended Harvard Law School where he attracted the attention of Felix Frankfurter. In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt summoned Cohen from private practice in New York to public service.

Cohen became a major legal architect of much of the New Deal legislation including the Securities Act and the plan for Lend-Lease and economic stability during World War II. A shy man, Cohen worked behind the scenes where his brilliance as a legal draftsman was widely recognized.
Following World War II, Cohen turned his talents to the problems of world peace and became one of the architects of the United Nations, serving on the U.S. delegation to the UN and on the United Nations Disarmament Commission. His abiding interest in world peace and his outstanding legal ability influenced American Presidents and world leaders until his death in 1983.
The Cohen Memorial Fund
The Cohen Memorial Fund was established in 1984 to support the Benjamin V. Cohen Peace Fellowship Program, which awards funds to Ball State faculty members and graduate students for research in fields related to progress toward a peaceful world.
The Center for Peace and Conflict Studies manages the logistics of the Cohen Fellowship.

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