World Vision Peace Prize

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Click here for a description of nominee Emeritus Professor Stuart Rees's peacebuilding work.

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From:  Karen Elysee Bryant

Los Angeles, CA


tsip95@aol.com

 

With delight, I discovered Prof Stuart Rees was nominated for this year’s World Peace Prize. My prejudice for his nomination is based on why I believe he should be the recipient of the above award.

 

In the fall of 1992, at the University of Texas at Austin, Prof Rees taught a class on “Peace & Conflict”. I attended that class. Beforehand, I did not know much about the course material, but experiencing the class forever changed my life.

Dr. Rees was a visiting Professor from the University of Sydney. Day one of class, I knew he had a different view of life – so different that I first felt compelled to challenge him on his topic(s). One was entitled, “Why Do Men Love War?” Previously I never gave any thought to that question. It was always my opinion, “They don’t – they were drafted to do it” and then after the draft ended and the volunteer armed services came into being, my reasoning was “It’s a job with great benefits, especially after serving – nothing more or less.” By the end of Dr. Rees’ class I viewed how wrong I had been and how little I understood the nature of man. He challenged me as well as the rest of the class, on this and other social justice topics. At semester’s end the class, as a whole, could not come to a consensus or justification of why men do love war. That was the fascinating part. Dr. Rees began a cause in each of the students to question topics we never thought much about. Prof Rees’ class began to turn my thinking around, as well as other class members and gave depth to have a conscious mind of worldwide issues. I learned to recognize injustice comes in many forms as do the solutions to these injustices. It was also during this time, if my memory serves me correctly, Dr. Rees was attempting to get the Sydney Peace Foundation off the ground. I remember him verbalizing concerns about the many obstacles this endeavor faced, one being financial. I respected his ability to take his eyes off his own needs and to completely dedicate himself pushing for this project to come to fruition. I just knew after listening to Dr. Rees recounting how intensely involved he had been in Aboriginal representation and how he describe the inhumane treatment of the Aborigine tribes while representing their rights how he would not give up on the Peace Foundation. This representation for the tribal people was just one microcosm of literally hundreds of other social justice issues he was, had been or scheduled to be involved in across the world, regarding world peace and social justice campaigns. I am so happy that prediction of the Peace Foundation became a reality

 

Some lectures focused on issues such as poverty and children. Prof Rees taught us poverty is one of the most abominable types of violence. Years later, because of his concerns regarding poverty and the abuse of children all over the continent, witnessing some children becoming slaves to human trafficking and child soldiering, Dr. Rees, I read was implemental in the 2005 Sydney Peace Prize awarded to Olara Otunnu, past United Nations Under-Secretary for Children and Armed Conflict. From time to time I catch news of how Dr. Rees had been involved in situations in India or Sri Lanka with Save the Children. I read, of late, he was in peace negotiations in West Papua, Cambodia. I also read where he had been in Zimbabwe fighting the good fight.

 

No, Dr. Rees did not solve or resolve a major world conflict via his class at the University of Texas at Austin. What he did and continues to do in his every day walk in life, is plant seeds even if ever so tiny - seeds of responsibility for people to become involved with social justice issues and to look at solutions apart from violent resolutions, not only through his voice , but through his example. By knowing Dr. Rees I gained a completely different way of approaching life’s situations and conflicts.

 

Even now, he involves himself in projects which I know men & women half his age, would never consider taking on with the gusto and passion Dr. Rees displays.

 

Hands down, Dr. Rees is the best recipient for the World Peace Prize.

 

In the six years that I have known Stuart, he can always be found working towards creating and enabling peace and social justice. When I was a student at Sydney University Law School, he was running the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS) and helped me design a roundtable event that brought law students and CPACS students together to discuss the nature of justice. Stuart’s insights were valuable in bringing together students with very different academic training and backgrounds to discuss peace and justice issues.

 

Last year, Stuart helped me when I was the coordinator of the Climate Change Working Group of NSW Young Lawyers. We were organising an event called “Carbon Conversations”, which was intended to provide a form for dialogue on politically charged and divisive issues in relation to climate change. Stuart provided insight and encouragement during the planning of the event. The dialogues were successful in creating spaces for people to find common ground and think of “big picture” issues in relation to climate change.

 

Stuart is a rare individual because he has dedicated his life to peacemaking. A few months ago, he spoke at the Art Gallery of New South Wales about Picasso and Noam Chomsky. On another occasion, he invited visiting international students to his home along the coast so that they could see another part of Australia.

 

The best thing about Stuart is that no matter how busy he is writing articles, speaking at public events, traveling or organising events for the CPACS and Sydney Peace Foundation, he always has time to listen and help other people try to make the world a better place too.

I am very pleased to support the nomination of Emeritus Professor Stuart Rees AM for World Vision International’s 2012 Peacemaking Prize.

Stuart Rees’ achievements make him a worthy recipient of the World Vision International’s Peacemaking Prize. Stuart’s teaching, research, campaigning and organising are rich with outstanding examples of constructive, innovative work for peace and conflict resolution.

Many of the projects that Stuart has initiated have endured and blossomed under his leadership, even when some critics have been intent on limiting and stopping his work.

Stuart’s moral compass has helped his work endure in the face of bias.

Stuart’s collaborative work style continues to build a broad based understanding of peacemaking in the 21st century. Many of his projects have attracted thousands of participants and have reached hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

If I had to name the most outstanding achievement in Stuart’s endeavours it would be the Sydney Peace Prize, an initiative of the Sydney Peace Foundation. This prize recognises the contribution to world peace of so many leading citizens and has promoted their work to a mass audience. The contribution this has made to peace and conflict resolution is immeasurable.

Stuart is also an experienced communicator and negotiator in local communities within Australia and also on the world stage. He played a key role in peace negotiations in Cambodia, West Papua and the Middle East. In Redfern, a local suburb, in his home city of Sydney he has taken action to reduce violence by helping to initiate the Aboriginal Night Patrol.

And while working on all these projects Stuart has found time to write books and research papers to develop much needed academic analysis of peace and conflict studies.

Stuart in his engaging, considerate style has dedicated most of his life to this work. I hope his contribution will be acknowledged with this award.

In support of the nomination of Professor Stuart Rees

 

I write as a 1980s collaborator in the establishment of Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS), briefly as a 1980s colleague in the Department of Social Work of which Stuart was the Professor, and as a recent member of the Council of CPACS.  

I met Stuart in 1986 when at a public meeting at the University of Sydney's International House he moved that a Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies be created.   He did so in support of the initiative of one of his Social Work colleagues and a group of her students.   Without Stuart's involvement the resulting centre would likely have been a modest group of interested staff and students, meeting occasionally for peace-related seminars and lectures.

With Stuart's involvement, it became a formal part of the University's structure, a powerful centre for peace teaching, research and community involvement, a place where oppressed and embattled people and communities can find the support, encouragement and learning to understand their situation and then constructively and peacefully improve it.   

In his endeavours to establish a Centre, I observed Stuart’s personal commitment and charisma, his ability to analyse the context and potential conflicts, his exceptional skill as a listener, his capacity to build bridges between people with conflicting agendas, and his ready involvement with people of varying levels of influence and sophistication.  He could see very quickly the way in which different people could contribute to developing a Centre and he effectively engaged and supported their efforts.   His own outspokenness and good cheer had the effect of liberating others to think and speak more freely than they might otherwise have done. He managed to make a lot of very different people feel winners.   (analysed in Australian Social Work, June 1990, Vol. 43, No 2.)

As I visit CPACS again after many years I find the same characteristics operating.   The work of the Centre has grown, broadened and prospered.  The Sydney Peace Prize has been added.   There are now several academics, plenty of students, a significant postgraduate program, an open membership facility and a broad-based Council comprising a range of people committed to promoting peace.   Stuart is, as always, near the centre of things, contributing to the purposeful buzz of discussion and activity now being generated by so many. 

I am delighted to see Professor Rees as a nominee for the 2012 World Vision Peacemaker Prize. He is, in my opinion, and that of many others, an extremely worthy candidate. I have known Stuart Rees for almost ten years now and his enthusiasm for peace and social justice is both inspiring, contagious and humbling. His warmth and hospitality, humour and congeniality are traits which merge flawlessly with a fierce determination to promote the many causes he has been involved in, all of them looking towards a world in which harmony and equanimity prevail.

I am honoured to have Stuart Rees as a friend and mentor and to have experienced and been witness to  many facets of his personality, purpose and vision. Whether he is reading a mischievous stanza of his own poetry at a small Peace gathering at a local cafe in Huskisson, discussing world affairs with Noam Chomsky or Hans Blix, or volunteering his valuable time to teach a group of my special ed students to sail, Professor Rees is a man of rare integrity and commitment to the cause of peace with social justice, and a worthy contender for the Worldvision 2012 peacemaker Prize.

Tracy Verdugo

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