McMaster establishes new chair to
foster Peace Through Health
Hamilton Spectator, October 15, 2001
by Suzanne Morrison
McMaster University is the first university in the
world to establish an interdisciplinary endowed chair in a new academic
discipline called Peace Through Health.
President Peter George announced the plan to
create the chair Friday, during opening remarks for a three-day conference at
which participants worked to lay the foundations for this emerging subject.
"The words Peace Through Health now carry
special weight in the wake of the cataclysmic events of the past month,"
The conference, which drew participants from as
far away as Afghanistan and Nigeria, was co-sponsored by the prestigious
British medical journal The Lancet.
George said it's recently been recognized that
health professionals have a major role to play in preventing war and promoting
In the mid-1980s, for instance, UNICEF, the Roman
Catholic church and other organizations negotiated annual three-day ceasefires
in the El Salvador civil war, to immunize children against polio and measles.
The effort not only dramatically reduced the disease but also contributed a
framework for negotiations that ultimately led to peace.
Contributions from private-sector funding partners
will be matched by the university to create the new chair, which George said
builds on McMaster's strong international reputation in peace studies, health
and humanitarian action.
Earlier this year, McMaster honoured two alumni,
Dr. Richard Heinzl and Dr. James Orbinski, with honorary doctorates for their
humanitarian endeavours with Doctors Without Borders, which won the 1999 Nobel
Dr. Graeme MacQueen, a professor of religious
studies who heads the university's media and peace education project in
Afghanistan, said the endowed chair will help to enhance McMaster's leadership
in peacebuilding work.
Child and family psychiatrist Dr. Joanna Santa
Barbara, past president of Physicians for Global Survival, said she sees a
hunger in young people for more than what mainstream health science offers.
Many want to work in a way that makes for a better world.
They are saying, "Teach us how to do
it," she said. "That, in part, is what this conference is
about - to form the theory, work out the ideas and collect the case examples,
so that we can teach young people how to do more of this."
Dr. Johan Galtung, a father of modern peace
research and founder of the world's first Peace Research Institute in 1959,
was a keynote speaker at the conference. He applauds the concept of
incorporating the medical profession's systematic, scientific approach of
diagnosis and prognosis into peace research and solving situations of
Before the conference, Galtung lectured informally
to a crowded roomful of students about the current war on terrorism.
"We are in an extremely serious situation.
People making the decisions are playing cards with all of us."
He doubts estimates by U.S. President George W.
Bush that the current crisis will end, at the very most, by the time his term
finishes in four years. Galtung suggested the crisis will last decades,
and possibly centuries.