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Bluffton College hosted over 175 participants representing more than 60 schools and other denominational agencies, 20 states and 2 Canadian provinces for the conference on Teaching Peace: Nonviolence and the Liberal Arts Curriculum May 26-28.

The peacemaking conference was held on the Bluffton campus for scholars and educators from all disciplines. The Bluffton College Pathways to Mission and Vocation Program sponsored the conference with funding from the Lilly Endowment.

"We believe that nonviolence has the potential to shape research, teaching and practice in any discipline of the liberal arts curriculum. That is a cutting-edge idea, which means that seeing how nonviolence can shape disciplines across the liberal arts curriculum is not yet a consensus idea or even a commonly accepted idea.," said J. Denny Weaver, conference co-chair and religion professor at Bluffton.

The conference theme was inspired by the book, "Teaching Peace: Nonviolence and the Liberal Arts" published last fall by Rowman & Littlefield. It is a collection of 24 essays, all but one written by Bluffton professors, illustrating how a nonviolent perspective can shape their various fields of interest.

The three day conference had two key note speakers, seven plenary sessions and more than 50 presentations from educators and students about nonviolence in their disciples.

One of these presentations was from Assad Nimer Busool of the American Islamic College in Chicago, who led a discussion about peace in Islam. "The rest of us at this conference were Christians," Weaver said. "It was very important to hear Prof. Busool talk about how peace is understood in Islam, and also for him to talk with Christians for whom peace is a priority."

The two key note speakers for the conference were Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, president of Chicago Theological Seminary, and Dr. Robert Franklin, presidential distinguished professor of social ethics at Emory University.

Thistlethwaite spoke on Teaching Peace in an Age of Careless Violence. She offered a critique of war and its larger impact on societies using an ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes as a backdrop.

"The casualties of war go beyond the deaths of soldiers and civilians. Democracy is also a casualty of war – civil liberties are often taken away – as well as the economy," Thistlethwaite said during her presentation.

Franklin discussed Global Ethics: Our Last, Best Hope by examining globalization and classical religious texts from a variety of religious disciplines.

"There is a need for acceptance and understanding in our world. We need to use the classics of our world’s cultures to study the teachings of peach and nonviolence," said Franklin.

The conference concluded with a choral concert by Concentus on the theme of peace and featuring the winning works in a choral composition contest sponsored by the Teaching Peace conference. First place went to James Lentini, Dean of Art from the College of New Jersey and second place to Michael Richelton, a sophomore music major from Lipscomb University in Nashville. The choral composition attracted 39 submissions from across North America.

Concentus, a new, select, community chamber choir performed under the direction of Bluffton professor Dr. Mark Suderman with Bluffton professor Lucia Unrau as piano accompanist.

Robin Bowlus, Bluffton public relations office, 6/4/04