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Laureates Yunus, Karman to keynote Augsburg’s Nobel Forum

Nobel Laureate Tawakkol Karman

Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus

Believe despite the evidence. That’s what the faith community was encouraged in some of the early writings of the church. In other words, even if an idea seems ridiculous and certain for failure, if it seems right, stick with it.

“The commonality between our two Nobel Laureates for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize Forum is their willingness to do something ridiculous,” said Maureen Reed, executive director of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. “As [the planning committee] was looking for a theme, we realized that each of them had attempted the unimaginable, except that they imagined it.”

Under the theme “The Power of Ideas: People and Peace,” Nobel Laureates Muhammad Yunus and Tawakkol Karman will share their inconceivable ideas with the anticipated 5,000 participants of the Forum March 8-10. Events will take place on both the Augsburg College and University of Minnesota campuses.

“This event brings members of the world’s most exclusive club — Nobel Peace Prize Laureates — to campus,” said Reed. “Students, faculty, and staff have the opportunity to interact with people who fundamentally have changed and are changing the world.”

Reed said that the Forum brings global, national, and local leaders in business, health, science, and international issues to explore and discuss with attendees issues related to peacemaking, world security, and global stability.

The Forum also is an opportunity to explore the controversy that accompanies many laureates, and to understand why individuals “halfway across the globe” should care about one another, according to Reed.

“One of the mission commitments of Augsburg is to educate students to be informed global citizens,” said Augsburg College President Paul Pribbenow. “By bringing the world to campus, we also get to know our neighbors, which is fundamental to our identity as a college of the Lutheran church.”

The program is housed and coordinated by Augsburg College in partnership with the University of Minnesota and four other Norwegian Lutheran colleges.

Microloans, a ridiculous strategy

Muhammad Yunus had a “ridiculous” vision for changing the world by empowering women with small loans. As the “father of microcredit,” he founded the Grameen Bank Project, which has provided more than 8.4 million people — primarily women — with the means to better their lives as well as the lives of their children.

Reed believes that Yunus joins the University of Minnesota’s Norman Borlaug as individuals who have had profound practical effect in the lives of millions, perhaps even hundreds of millions, of people worldwide.

“Through microloans, women could buy a goat and therefore join a dairy cooperative,” explained Reed. “So, not only did the loan allow the purchase of a goat, but it meant that, even after repaying the loan, the borrower could pay for her kids’ school books.”

Reed explained that, even in Minnesota, people are benefiting from micro-enterprise loans. The African Development Center, founded by Minneapolis School Board Member Hussein Samatar, follows this model here.

“Now it is commonplace to say microloans have been successful,” said Reed. “But, when Yunus first proposed this idea, its success was not assured. Many thought it ridiculous.”

Reed believes that Yunus joins the University of Minnesota’s Norman Borlaug as individuals who have had profound practical effect in the lives of millions, perhaps even hundreds of millions, of people worldwide.

Yunus will address Forum participants at 12:30 p.m., on Friday, March 8, at Ted Mann Auditorium on the University of Minnesota’s West Bank campus.

Governmental reform, a ridiculous vision

Tawakkol Karman is the youngest person ever awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for founding Women Journalists without Chains in her native Yemen, often described as the most repressive government for women in the world. Using her own understanding of the press as a reform agent, Karman confronted the power wielded by the Yemeni regime for its human rights abuses.

Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School for Public Affairs host the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize Forum March 8-10. The Forum is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Photos provided by Nobel Peace Prize Forum

For her activism, Karman is often referred to as “the mother of the revolution” in Arab countries.

“It was ridiculous for a woman to take on the Yemen government — a singularly astonishing notion,” offered Reed. “She thought that people had the right to expect more from their own government.”

For her activism, Karman is often referred to as “the mother of the revolution” in Arab countries. She brought a peaceful revolution to many countries, a reality most individuals thought was impossible, or even ridiculous.

Like Yunus, she offered a revolutionary idea that benefited grassroots people in their daily lives through powerful ideas.

Karman will address the assembly at 3:30 p.m., on Sunday, March 10, at the Kennedy Center, Augsburg College.

Other keynote speakers are Nina Easton, editor at Fortune magazine; Paul Farmer, chair of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School; Malcolm Potts, scientist and obstetrician; and Robin Wright, journalist and senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Brother Ali and Omar Offendum will speak about their role as musicians and activists; they will play a concert at 8 p.m., on Saturday, March 9, at the Kennedy Center.

The Nobel Peace Prize Forum is the only program outside of Norway that is affiliated with the Norwegian Nobel Institute. It is designed to inspire peacemaking and celebrate the work of Peace Prize Laureates while deeply exploring questions of peace and conflict.

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