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Hume Describes Peace Process

By Helana Kadyszewski


John Hume, winner of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize, spoke last night to a packed Kresge Auditorium on the “Philosophy of Conflict Resolution.”

Following a brief introduction by MIT Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75, who referred to Hume as a “true soldier of peace,” the soft-spoken but assertive Hume opened his talk with a quote from Maya Angelou. He said that now and always, “we must never give up the search for a better world.” Hume spoke of the turn of the century and the new millennium as a symbol of the end of times of war and suffering.

Hume applauded the United States and Boston specifically as “rock solid friends” of the peace efforts in Ireland.

Ireland lessons apply universally

Offering the expertise of a leader of the Social Democratic Labor Party and a member of the British and European parliaments, Hume explained that there were three fundamental principles which led to the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. He argued that these three principles should be analyzed in any conflict.

“No matter where it is,” Hume said, “all conflict is based on the same thing: differences.” More than once in his speech, Hume emphasized that difference and diversity should not be a tool for division, but instead “must be fostered as a tool for bringing people together.”

He said that, following an end to violent conflict, the fundamental elements of conflict resolution are the respect for difference, the establishment and maintenance of institutions which enforce this respect, and an extensive healing process in which the common interests of all concerned groups are weighed.

“We must spill our sweat and not our blood,” Hume said.

Talk largely avoids terrorism

Undoubtedly expecting Hume to comment on the recent terrorist attacks and the current bombing in Afghanistan, the audience was perhaps surprised that Hume made no mention of the events of September 11 until prompted to do so by Assistant Professor Jared R. Curhan, who raised a question following Hume’s first remarks.

When asked to comment on President Bush’s recent rejection of negotiations with the ruling Taliban, Hume said that it was the duty of the democratic world to bring the people and organizations responsible “to justice,” but that justice must be attained without causing innocent people to suffer. Hume also said that it was the duty of the United Nations to investigate the reasons for the attacks and to address those reasons, even if it means speaking directly to the “enemy.”

Hume emphasized the need for in-depth dialogue between the opposing factions, regardless of the direct conflict between them.

U.S. should still be world’s model

Hume mainly discussed his experiences as a European leader in conflict resolution, and championed the evolution of the “New Europe” at the end of the last century as a remarkable model for what can happen when “real politics” are implemented instead of blind nationalism or territoriality.

More than once, Hume brought up the United States’ motto of “e pluribus unum” as a motto for world peace. He challenged the audience and young leaders around the world to make sure that “the world learns that humanity transcends difference.”

Perhaps the most recurrent theme of Hume’s speech was that which indicated that no peace process comes swiftly. Instead, Hume suggested that the political, economic and educational development involved in the healing process are gradual evolutions, which require the full effort and support of peoples in agreement.

The lecture was the third in a series of talks by Nobel Laureates sponsored by Ford Motor Company and MIT.