Organizations across campus come together for annual peace conference


Elias Khalif and Nidal Abirafeh perform classical Arabic music at the Syria and Beyond Refugee Benefit in Nunemaker Auditorium on Wednesday. The event, which was a part of the eighth annual peace conference, benefited The American Refugee Committee, Catholic Relief Services and Doctors Without Boarders.

Ysabel Lola

Loyola students took a stand for world peace this week with the 8th Annual Student Peace Conference.

Started in 2008 by two then-seniors, the conference has since evolved into a week of discussing and studying important political, social and economic issues that affect our world today.

An opportunity for students all over the greater New Orleans area to speak their minds and present their research, the conference kicked off with panel discussions of student papers. Topics such as as the #BlackLivesMatter movement, sustainable food, feminism in the Middle East  and voting rights were discussed.

Haley Saucier, political science senior and organizer of this year’s conference, believes that this is a great opportunity for students interested in academia to get real world experience and connect with professionals.

“People worry about jobs in the humanities and I want people to see that you can be employed while making a positive social change,” Saucier said.

In addition, the conference included a fundraiser to aid refugees being relocated to the New Orleans area. Music, dancing, food and poetry were available for $5. Donations were also collected, benefitting the American Refugee Committee, Catholic Relief Services and Doctors Without Borders.

Saucier said the event brings awareness to Syrian and Iraqi refugees being resettled in the area and how we can help them.

“They’re right here in our communities,” Saucier said. “We want to show that we can make a concrete change.”

The conference’s keynote speaker, Linda Jacobs, scholar and publisher, added to the conversation about the history of Syrian immigration and the current crisis happening today.

Voting rights in Louisiana were also discussed, featuring a presentation by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Jenna Finkle, legal assistant at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said they are trying to repeal an outdated law.

“We’re working to challenge a discriminatory law that dates back to the 1870s that requires naturalized citizens to go through an extra step to vote,” Finkle said.

While the conference provided valuable information for immigrants and students alike, it also called people to action.

“We want people to know that they can make a difference,” Saucier said. “You can go to a fundraiser and pay $5 for hummus and that will directly help someone.”

The conference drew hundreds of students, faculty and community members, and is looking forward to many more successful years.