Lisa Schirch

Lisa Schirch

Dr. Lisa Schirch, a longtime professor of peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia and founding director of the 3D Security Initiative, will spend several days in the Twin Cities this fall as the visiting scholar for a program sponsored by the Vaclav Havel Civil Society Symposium.

The symposium was established in 1999 to encourage discussion on the rights and responsibilities of citizens. Symposium speakers have included Havel, the first president of the Czech Republic, who gave the inaugural address, and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The symposium since has evolved into a yearly scholar-in-residence program that is a partnership of the University of St. Thomas, the House of Hope Presbyterian Church and Weyerhaeuser Preaching Ministry in cooperation with the Minnesota International Center and the Czech and Slovak communities.

A former Fulbright Fellow in East and West Africa, Schirch has worked in more than 20 countries as a trainer and consultant in peacebuilding programs. In addition to her role as a professor, she directs the Washington, D.C.-based 3D Security Initiative, which promotes civil-society perspectives on conflict prevention and peacebuilding in U.S. security policymaking.

Her current research interests include civil-military dialogue and the peace process in Afghanistan, a country she has visited regularly in recent years.  She wrote this column about a colleague who was among the 10 members of a humanitarian medical team gunned down there last August.

Schirch is the author of five books on peacemaking and is a frequent speaker on the topic. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of Waterloo, Canada, and a master’s and doctorate in conflict analysis and resolution from George Mason University.

During her St. Paul visit, Schirch will speak at the House of Hope, 797 Summit Ave., and participate in classes and programs at St. Thomas.

The three programs at the House of Hope, all free and open to the public, are:

  • 11:15 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 10 – Schirch’s enrichment hour talk will be: “Security from the Ground Up: Civil Society, Peacebuilding, and U.S. Policy”.
  • 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10 – Schirch will moderate a panel discussion on “Civil Society and Peacebuilding in Our Community.” Panelists will include: John Harrington, former St. Paul police chief and candidate for the state Senate; Nieeta Presley, director of the Aurora-St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corp.; Lee Pao Xiong from the Center for Hmong Studies; Abdi Ali from the Center for Multicultural Mediation and Restorative Justice; and Artika Tyner, a clinical law fellow with the Community Justice Project at St. Thomas’ Interprofessional Center for Counseling and Legal Services.
  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13 – Schirch will continue the discussion of local and global conflict prevention with an emphasis on the events behind the film, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.”

Schirch also will participate in a panel discussion, “Afghanistan: The Challenge of Human Rights,” that will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 11, at the Guthrie Theater in downtown Minneapolis. That discussion, moderated by the Guthrie’s Joe Dowling, is being held in connection with a three-part theatrical production exploring Afghan culture and history titled “The Great Game: Afghanistan” and is co-sponsored by the Minnesota International Center, Advocates for Human Rights and Americans for UNFPA.  For ticket information call the Guthrie at (612) 377-2224 or visit the theater’s website.

For general information about the Vaclav Havel Civil Society Symposium, call St. Thomas’ Center for Intercultural Learning and Community Engagement at (651) 962-6800. Information also is available on the House of Hope Church website.