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PeaceJam events run through Sunday at WMU

April 16, 2008

KALAMAZOO--A presentation by a Nobel Peace Prize winner, a discussion on women's rights and Islam and a film set during the Iranian Revolution are highlights of this year's Great Lakes PeaceJam Conference Thursday through Sunday, April 17-20, at Western Michigan University.

Shirin Ebadi, a 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner from Iran and the only Middle Eastern woman to have won the prize, will give a public address at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in WMU's Berhard Center Ballroom. Her topic, "Defending the Rights of Women and Children," will discuss advocating for democracy and human rights and be followed by a question-and-answer session. The event is free and open with a suggested donation of $10 per person and $5 for students at the door.

Ebadi, a former judge, lawyer and instructor at the University of Tehran, is a civil rights advocate for some of the most vulnerable citizen of Iran. In court, she has defended women and dissidents of the Iranian government.

In preparation for her appearance at PeaceJam, two earlier events will be held at WMU. Thursday will be a panel discussion titled "Culture or Religion? Women's Rights and Islam" from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Lee Honor's College. Panelists include Islamic female members of the community and faculty from area colleges who specialize in women's issues, religion and the Middle East.

Also from Friday through Sunday will be a viewing of the film "Persepolis," a story of a young girl coming of age during the Iranian Revolution, during various times at WMU's Little Theatre. The event is sponsored by the Kalamazoo Film Society and features the film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2007.

The upcoming conference is one component of PeaceJam's year-round program for high school students throughout the four-state region of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Adult Club Advisors were trained in October 2007 and have been meeting with students in their clubs to explore issues of violence and prejudice and to study the life and work of Ebadi as a role model.

In addition to participating in the curriculum and attending the conference, PeaceJam participants are charged with identifying a local or global need and creating a service project to make a difference. During the conference, each club will present its work to Ebadi.

PeaceJam is an international education program built around 11 Nobel Peace Prize winners including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Màiread Corrigan Maguire and The Dalai Lama who work personally with the students. Their goal is to inspire a new generation of peacemakers who will transform their local communities and the world. Since 1996, more than 500,000 teenagers worldwide have participated in the program, developing more than 300,000 community service projects.

Great Lakes PeaceJam, based in Kalamazoo, is administered by the Greater Kalamazoo United Way and serves the four-state area. More than 2,000 young people have participated since its inception in 2002. Sponsors include the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Fetzer Institute, Kalamazoo Community Foundation and the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation.

For more information, contact Jennifer Weaver Stroven, Great Lakes PeaceJam director, at jstroven@gkuw.org or (269) 343-2524, ext. 245.

Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, deanne.molinari@wmich.edu

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