Peace and Disarmament

Back to listSep 10, 2009

Conflict Resolution Expert Dr. Fathali Moghaddam Speaks at SGI-USA's Culture of Peace Distinguished Speakers Series

On September 10, 2009—the eve of the eighth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks—150 people gathered at the SGI-USA Washington, D.C. Culture Center to hear a lecture on the themes of peace and violence by Fathali Moghaddam, a professor in the department of psychology and the director of the master's program in conflict resolution at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Moghaddam has worked as a professor at Georgetown University since 1990. His research focuses on intergroup conflict and the role of psychology in fostering a more peaceful society. At the Washington, D.C. event, Dr. Moghaddam talked about cultural conditions that give rise to acts of violence, including the challenges of globalization, which, he stressed, bring about two conflicting trends: assimilation, where minority populations cast off their past cultural identity and adopt the dominant culture; and multiculturalism, where groups strengthen their cultural identity, often overemphasizing their respective differences.

While assimilation can foster cross-cultural exchange, it can also cause the decline of minority cultures, he said. As a result, many individuals from minority cultures respond with a sense of separatism or radical self-assertion, leading extreme factions to defend their cultures through violence.

Dr. Moghaddam called for a shift to "omniculturalism," which he defined as finding cohesion among different groups by emphasizing our most fundamental and common humanity, and on the basis of this common foundation, recognizing and upholding the value of distinct local identities. Toward this end, he said that dialogue is fundamental. He also emphasized the powerful role that women play in building a more peaceful society through their ability to nurture and connect with others.

The SGI-USA Culture of Peace Distinguished Speaker Series commenced in 2007 with lectures focusing on one or more of the eight action areas defined by the 1999 U.N. Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace. The series aims to foster a culture that rejects violence and addresses the root causes of conflict through the power of dialogue.

[Adapted from an article in the October 23, 2009 issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA]