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University News

Critical Concerns 2022, March 21-24, Takes a Timely Focus on Nonviolence

Critical Concerns 2022 nonviolence graphic

During Critical Concerns 2022, March 21-24, the Georgian Court University community will explore nonviolence—an important topic any time, but especially against the backdrop of the war against Ukraine. Most events, from expert-led discussions to the arts, are open to the public; click here for the calendar.

Frida Berrigan, keynote speaker for Critical Concerns 2022
Frida Berrigan will offer keynote remarks on March 23.

“Nonviolence is one of five Critical Concerns identified by the Sisters of Mercy, and while equally important, they gave it a special role. Nonviolence is the lens through which all Critical Concerns are understood,” said Paul DaPonte, Ph.D., executive director of mission integration and special assistant to the president. In addition to the importance of nonviolence to GCU as a Critical Concern, peace and nonviolence are the intellectual focus of the university’s Mulcahy Institute for Social Justice, which will be formally launched this year.

“Our thoughts are, understandably, with the people of Ukraine and also those in Russia who are challenging their nation’s aggression at personal risk,” said Dr. DaPonte. Yet there are many ways to approach the topic of nonviolence, beginning with how it is defined. “The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said, ‘There is no way to peace; peace is the way’; in other words, the actual practice of peace is not an idea or a goal, but essential for us all,” said Dr. DaPonte. “From a Biblical perspective, peace is not only the termination or absence of conflict. It means engaging in right relationships with each other.”

Understanding Nonviolence Through Macro and Personal Levels

GCU’s Critical Concerns 2022 program, as in previous years, offers diverse ways to participate: prayer and meditation, thought-provoking speakers and panels, the arts, and service. Here are just a few of the highlights:

The university community and the public are invited to the Casino Auditorium on March 23, beginning at 6:00 p.m., for the week’s keynote program—a combination of guided meditation; a dance performance, “Body Rhetoric”; an exhibit of multimedia and design work by GCU students; and keynote remarks by community activist Frida Berrigan, who will speak on “The Small ‘No’: Integrating Resistance Into Daily Life.”  The daughter of peace activists Philip Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister, Ms. Berrigan is a renowned author and mother who writes on nonviolence topics, works with a community land trust on affordable housing, and pickets at nuclear submarine maker General Dynamics.    

Jerry Elmer, presenter for Critical Concerns 2022
Jerry Elmer will share his perspective on civil disobedience on March 21.

On March 21,  at 7:00 p.m., Jerry Elmer, J.D., attorney and Vietnam-era draft resister, will join GCU via Zoom to share his perspective on civil disobedience and reflect on his own actions as a teenager who refused to register for the draft—a felony crime. He has worked in the nonviolence movement for several decades and as a public interest environmental lawyer, and also authored Felon for Peace: The Memoir of a Vietnam-Era Draft Resister.

Also contributing to the conversation during Critical Concerns 2022:

  • Jonathan D. Greenberg, J.D., co-founder of the University of San Francisco’s Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice, and Margaret M. Russell, J.D., Santa Clara University School of Law faculty member, comprise a panel moderated by Ria DasGupta, Ed.D., GCU chief diversity officer for academic affairs and community outreach.
  • Several GCU faculty members will discuss Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement.
  • Rev. Robert Moore, executive director of the Princeton, New Jersey-based Coalition for Peace Action, will present on “Reducing the Epidemic of Gun Violence in This Time of Pandemic.”
  • There’ll be a showing of the film A Hidden Life, which tells the true-life story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II (open to GCU community members only).

Be sure to check the calendar for more events and details, and join GCU in this holistic exploration of today’s most pressing topic.

Story contributed by freelance writer Sheila Noonan. 

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,200 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 14 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by Money.com and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at HazletGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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