Former soldier brings war awareness to campusupdated October 17, 2008
While reading a recent Spark article about the history of the Prism, Nikki Vega was struck by the how the yearbook reflected student attitudes about war in various eras: support during World War II and protest during the Vietnam War.
"There was participation and realization of the war on campus,” said Vega, a 2000 Calvin grad who returned to complete a teaching degree, of the students of those eras. “From my perspective, the war in Iraq is largely ignored. I want to change that.”
In October of 1969, classes were suspended for two hours to enable 1500 Calvin students, faculty and administrators to gather in the Fieldhouse for a "Moratorium peace assembly" regarding the Vietnam War. The assembly was followed by a silent procession. Image reprinted from Chimes.
Vega has organized a lecture series that approaches the war in Iraq—and the very concept of war—from many angles. The War Awareness Lecture Series will run for two weeks at Calvin, from Monday, October 13 through Monday, October 24, co-sponsored by student organizations Democracy Matters and the Social Justice Committee and by the Paul B. Henry Institute for Christianity and Politics. All of the lectures will take place at 2:30 p.m. in a variety of locations on campus
"The series is intended to be a community discussion of a lot of different levels and viewpoints of the war so that students can engage and interact with different ideas,” Vega said.
All points of view
The War Awareness Lecture Series will feature speakers representing all brands of politics and many points of view.
Calvin communication arts and sciences professor Randall Bytwerk will speak on war propaganda, and history professor Bert de Vries will speak on the Middle Eastern perspective. Retired U.S. Army LTC Denny Gillem will cover the political aspect of the war in a talk titled "World War IV.” Colonel Herman Keizer, a 1965 Calvin alumnus and retired army chaplain, will speak on just war doctrine and the influence of neoconservatives on the war. Branden Lyon, a counselor at a local veterans’ facility, will cover the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on soldiers.
Iraq insider’s view
Haider Alsaedy, an Iraq native who has relocated to the U.S will speak on the crisis in his hometown of Basra: “He’s going to give an actual perspective of an Iraqi, what this war has done to him and his people,” said Vega. Local peace activist Richa will speak about his involvement with the Arlington Midwest exhibit, a series of tombstones commemorating each fallen U.S. service member.
Melvin Flikkema, a 1968 Calvin grad and the current provost of Kuyper College, will speak on chaplains at war: “He was an army reserve chaplain in Iraq,” said Vega. “He can show you how to use your faith to deal with or react with the war.” And Dr. Ronald Kramer, a professor of sociology and director of the criminal justice program at Western Michigan University, will speak on the history of terror bombing.
A walk and a debate
The War Awareness Lecture Series will also feature two non-lecture events: The first, “A Walk to Remember” is a series of placards, one for each soldier serving in a Michigan unit who has died since 9-11. The placards will form a memorial ranging from the Commons Annex to the Library. The Calvin community is invited to walk through the memorial beginning at 4 p.m., Friday, October 17, and attend a special 6 p.m. memorial service in the Calvin Chapel.
"You’ll go and see all of these faces as you walk by, so that you can see how many people have died from Michigan since the war began,” Vega said. The series will also host a student debate on the war, beginning at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, October 21 in Commons Lecture Hall. “The student debate allows students to be the lecturers, to get their voices and their opinions heard,” said Vega. “It is their turn to say if change is needed and what that change should look like.”
Awareness and discussion
Vega, who served in the U.S. Army from 2000–2002, is eager not only to generate awareness of the ongoing war, but to support the people who are fighting it. In 2005, she organized a Letters to Soldiers campaign, an effort she hopes to repeat when the lecture series concludes.
Meantime, she hopes that the upcoming two weeks of discussion and activities will spur conversation about a very difficult topic: “No matter what side of the war you sit on, the war is a problem,” she said. “Instead of ignoring that the war exists because it’s gruesome, get away from your own personal restraints and fears and actively engage, even though the subject is difficult.”
~by Myrna Anderson, communications and marketing