When the framers of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights penned the first draft directly after World War II, the definition of peace took on new meaning. Global peace was defined in the most basic and general of ways—a way that allowed the western world to breathe collective sighs of relief from totalitarian barbarism and expansionism.
It’s safe to say that the authors, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, could not have envisioned how the meaning of peace would evolve—or how oppressive forces would find other, more insidious ways to seep into our world in the form of civil rights abuses, the privatization of war, or Internet security breaches. Sixty-three years later, there is a new peace declaration germinating at the United Nations (UN)—and Marygrove is taking an active part in its birth.
After attending a session on the Human Right to Peace at the UN in New York in February, Barbara Beesley, IHM, Campus Ministry Associate was invited by the Spanish Society for International Human Rights Law (AEDIDH), to acquire signatures for an historic UN Declaration on the Human Right to Peace. A collaboration of more than 900 civil society groups around the world, it promises to put Marygrove on the international map for social justice and good stewardship. Since the Universal Declaration for Human Rights serves as the basis for what is now International Human Rights Law, this declaration, as a possible addendum, could mean important legislative and policy change for the future.
“I’m so proud to represent Marygrove,” says Beesley, who also serves as Adjunct Professor in the college’s graduate Social Justice Program. “The declaration is a perfect fit for us, as we prepare students to be global citizens.” Most advocates for peace, social change and race and gender equality will tell you that as a collective culture, we’re only beginning. But Marygrove’s sponsoring Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) have been championing these causes for more than 100 years.
Part and parcel to the IHM contribution toward peace is the IHM Peacemakers, an ecumenical group of activist citizens and sisters, dedicated to creating a just culture of peace. They have been working on transforming conflict in various ways for decades. The sisters themselves have represented fortitude in the face of social upheaval and dramatic change, such as the 1967 Detroit riot and ensuing catastrophic loss of major industry—the very things Marygrove College has weathered over the years, to remain relevant and viable in the community. Consequently, there is a long and stalwart history of change and social justice pulsing through the halls of this campus:
•In 1968, Marygrove took steps to recruit women of color, bringing diversity to a predominantly white women’s college in a growing African American community.
•In the 1970’s, when recommendations came to relocate Marygrove’s campus to the suburbs, the college decided to remain where it is needed most.
•In 1990, after two years of talks to merge with University of Detroit-Mercy, Marygrove chose independence, with an even stronger commitment to the school’s vision of urban leadership.
•The better part of the last decade has brought greater refinement of urban leadership roles and proactive community partnerships, including Our Neighborhood Engaged (ONE), a consortium of caring business leaders and residents surrounding Marygrove’s campus.
Marygrove College’s autograph on The Declaration on the Human Right to Peace is a way to further the advancement of peace education. It perpetuates the strategic plan to turn out compassionate, highly educated urban leaders who view peace as among the most essential of human rights. Marygrove’s students gain from working in a real world laboratory—amidst an urban culture determined to reinvent, or at the very least least, re-define itself.
Critical to any peace-building effort is peace education—a relatively new and expanding field of study. Human rights studies are often combined with peace studies, but by loose definition, it is the development of skills for individuals and nations to live in peace and harmony within the natural environment. One of the first programs of its kind in the U.S., the Master in Social Justice Program at Marygrove exists, in part, to foster these values. The program offers a new course, Empowered Nonviolence: Confronting Structural Violence & Gender Oppression—taught by program alumnae Kim Redigan, M.A., Heather Nicholson, M.A., and Emily Barone, M.A.
Students can tailor their practicum to a personal area of interest, which can bring about some dynamic projects. For example, one student worked with instructor Kim Redigan on reigniting the faith-based community’s focus on peace and nonviolence. “It was fabulous!” said Director Brenda Bryant. “Practicums can have far-reaching effects, far beyond typical coursework.”
In addition to the flexibility of practicum work, students can also opt for the exciting opportunity to serve eight hours of nonviolence skills training with Michigan Peace Team activists.
For more information on the Master of Social Justice program or the Declaration on the Human Right to Peace, contact program coordinator Elena Herrada at (313) 927-1418 or the program’s executive director, Dr. Brenda Bryant at (313) 927-1502. To get an idea of the framing and language, download an English version copy of the Santiago Declaration on the Human Right to Peace, at www.aedidh.org.