Dr. Andrea Blanch, President and Director of the Center for Religious Tolerance (CRT), visited on Nov. 20 in Sudakoff to discuss interfaith peacebuilding in Israel and Palestine. The presentation was part of several events, including an international wellness potluck and a global map activity that occurred in celebration of International Education Week, which took place from Nov. 17 to Nov. 21.
Blanch’s presentation covered a wide variety of perspectives considering peacebuilding in others areas such as Kenya, as well as focusing on the role of women and indigenous groups in activism. Blanch spoke about personal experiences visiting each country, and provided anecdotes of individuals she had met with her organization.
The CRT describes their vision as one that “promotes peace and social justice through interfaith activities, particularly in regions experiencing religious conflict.”
“I decided to go in a completely different direction tonight,” Blanch said in the beginning of her presentation. “I am going to tell some stories […] and I am going to read some poems.”
Every so often, Blanch would stop in between first-hand accounts of the injustice and unstable conditions in conflict ridden areas to focus on a poem of her choosing. Each work, all by famous poet, Rumi, was meant to capture the essence of humanitarian efforts and global communication, such as a Kenyan mother who had put all of her children through high school or a group of indigenous women who had struggled in putting the safety of their community first.
“The issue at hand tends to get oversimplified by a lot of perspectives,”thesis student Alexis “Lexi” Allen said. Allen attended the workshop due to its relevancy towards her work. “[When] she was talking about the women in Kenya and embodying their experiences as women, that was something that was very on point with my thesis.”
The structure of Blanch’s presentation was influenced by her understanding of the way in which the school functions.
“When I was thinking about what I wanted to talk about today, I thought a lot about who was going to be in the room,” Blanch said. “This is New College. So we know that you guys are very smart, you’re independent, you probably have an activist streak in you, and you work really hard to learn.”