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Luther College hosts 2011 Nobel Forum

Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her democracy work in her homeland. She was one of the keynote speakers at the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Forum held in March at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Metro Lutheran photo: Bob Hulteen

Midwestern Lutheran colleges have become a destination of choice for Nobel Peace Prize winners for the last two decades. It is possible that Oslo, Norway, may be the only place in the world that has been more regularly visited by peace prize recipients.
This is because five ELCA colleges in Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota, have hosted the Nobel Peace Prize Forum for the last 23 years: Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota; Luther College, Decorah, Iowa; Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota; St. Olaf, Northfield, Minnesota; and Augsburg College, Minneapolis. The colleges have rotated hosting the conference during that time. All of Norwegian heritage, these schools sponsor the forum in cooperation with the Norwegian Nobel Institute, recognizing Norway’s international peace efforts.
Luther College hosted the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Forum in early March under the theme “Striving for Peace: Courage to Act.” Iranian pro-democracy activist and 2003 Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and interfaith speaker Eboo Patel were the guests. President Barack Obama, as a 2009 awardee, was also invited, but his schedule did not allow him to attend, according to Jerry Johnson, director of public information for Luther.

Commitment to human rights and democracy

Ebadi represents Reformed Islam, and argues for a new interpretation of Islamic law that is in harmony with human rights such as democracy, religious freedom, and freedom of speech. A lawyer and judge, Ebadi has been imprisoned for her advocacy for human rights.

Interfaith spokesperson Eboo Patel

The abuse of Islam raises Ebadi’s anger. “About 10 years ago, a student was thrown from the third story of a building [by religious zealots]. As they shoved the student, they were calling on God’s name.” Ebadi then urged participating students to never let religion be used in such a way.
Patel, internationally recognized for his work in the interfaith youth movement, agreed that there is danger in religious extremism. But he reminded students that all religions share some basic values as well — justice, hospitality, charity, and concern for the poor. “Keep your attention on these shared values,” he encouraged the gathered students.
Starting in 2012, the forum will be held at Augsburg College in Minneapolis permanently, though all five participating colleges will continue involvement.

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