A sunny afternoon filled with dancers, international foods and a variety of music styles from more than 20 nations around the world celebrated United Nations Day on Oct. 24 at UM.
“This is a unique event because we have representation from every international and multicultural club on campus,” said Nikki Chun, vice president of COISO, the organization that organized and funded the UN Day activities on campus.
The “Road to Peace” was the theme for this year’s festivities.
International student organizations throughout UM took the opportunity to express their own views on peace as they shared their culture with others, according to organizers and participants.
“By promoting our culture, we promote peace through a sense of unity and understanding,” said Shawbong Fok, graduate member of the Asian Student Association.
According to Fok, the tea, tofu, decorations and calligraphy gave students a much-needed sampling of Asian culture.
“The percentage of Asians in the University is very low, and a lot of people don’t know much about Asia,” he said. “Without this event there would be no way for this sort of cultural discovery.”
Many organizations decided to call attention to the fact that there are many political conflicts occurring in their countries.
“A lot of people are suffering from radiation, and there has been destruction and contamination of ecosystems due to the military target practices,” said Ivan Morales, president of the Puerto Rican Student Association.
The organization had a display of pictures showing both sides of the U.S. bomb testing conflict in the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.
“People coming together and compromising- that’s a road to peace,” Morales said.
Similarly, the Colombian Student Association [COLSA] tried to help students visualize the conflict and the peace process between the government and the guerrillas through pictures of refugees and important figures in the conflict.
According to Vice President Edith Londono, COLSA also tried to show another face of Colombia through its Latin pastries, typical candies and sodas.
“People need to understand that peace is a process, much like building a road, which involves a lot of hard work, patience and willingness to work together,” said Kevin Smith, president of the Organization For Jamaican Unity, in his speech at the event. “No one man ever built a highway by himself.”
Krystle Canaii, president of the Virgin Islands Student Association, said that peace is possible in culturally diverse areas.
“In this very little island of St. Croix, your neighbor is from Palestine; one of your friends is from Venezuela and the other one [is] Dominican,” Canaii said.
Other organizations chose to interpret the theme in various creative ways.
A road painted red, white and black exhibiting the colors of the Trinidad and Tobago flag was marked with stop signs indicating important historical developments.
Patricia Pena of the Dominican Student Association explained that they chose to portray the three Mirabal sisters as icons of peace because they are highly visible icons against Trujillo’s dictatorship and also mark the international day of “No Violence Against Women.”
“We have always advocated that education is more than just showing displays and brochures,” Chun said. “Education is most rewarding when visitors have a face to associate to the culture, and hopefully, after such interactions, visitors walk away not only with information but also with a new friend.”
Up coming events include International Education Week, Nov. 18-22, and International Week, April 4-12.
Andrea Alegria can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org