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Peace Week will feature film screening, lectures, panels, and a peace vigil, September 21-25, 2009.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY-The Women's Studies Program at Vassar College has organized "Peace Week" (9/21-25) in celebration of the International Day of Peace on September 21, in order to bring attention to peace activism around the world and in the Hudson Valley and Vassar communities. Among the speakers will be Academy Award-nominated, Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Gini Reticker and Liberian peace activist, Leymah Gbowee, recipient of the 2009 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. All the events are free and open to the public.

"We hope to make this an annual event," noted Women's Studies Director Lydia Murdoch, associate professor of history at Vassar. "Each year we plan to highlight a specific example of women's peace activism along with a community peace vigil and student forums about opportunities and student funding sources for peace work."

This year, the featured events are:

  • a screening of the award-winning documentary film, Pray the Devil Back to Hell (2008) on Tuesday, September 22 (Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, The Rosenwald Film Theater, room 109, 5pm); 
  • a discussion on Thursday, 24 September, led by the film's director, Gini Reticker along with one of the Liberian peace activists who was featured in the film, Leymah Gbowee, winner of the 2009 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award (Sanders Classroom's Spitzer Auditorium, room 212, 5:30pm);
  • "Peace is Loud Vigil" on Monday, September 21 (Chapel Lawn, 7pm);
  • and a panel discussion on student opportunities and student funding for peace work (9/23) and a roundtable discussion on perspectives of peace work (9/25). Both programs will begin at 3:30pm, Rockefeller Hall, room 200.

"Our goal is to raise awareness about the multiple forms of violence we all face-everything from domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault to social injustice and poverty to war-while, at the same time, creating forums through which we can articulate and practice the experience of living in peace, free from violence," Murdoch explained. "We seek to promote the idea that peace is a process, not an event, which requires coalition building, respect for all human life, and tenacity."


Directed by Academy Award-nominated, Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Gini Reticker, Pray the Devil Back to Hell was produced by Abigail Disney, who is also the co-founder and co-president of the Daphne Foundation. The documentary tells the story of how Christian and Muslim women of Liberia joined together to end civil war, guide the transitional government though the process of demilitarization, work with ex-child soldiers, oversee democratic elections, and celebrate the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president of an African nation, as the new president of Liberia.

Last year the film opened to rave reviews in more than 80 cities and at film festivals around the world. It has also served as a focal point of events for war survivors and policymakers in conflict zones around the world. Pray the Devil Back to Hell was awarded the Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2008. In May 2009, the Liberian women who were featured in the documentary were awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for their efforts.

"When Abby Disney first approached me to direct Pray the Devil Back to Hell, I had some trepidation," noted director Reticker. "All the stories coming out of Liberia had been so bleak, the violence against women appalling, the forced conscription of child soldiers heart-wrenching. I wondered if I could immerse myself in that material for the length of time it takes to make a documentary."

Reticker continued, "And then, we met Leymah Gbowee, one of the main characters portrayed in the film (who is speaking with Reticker at Vassar). All of my trepidation turned instantly into unfettered enthusiasm. I couldn't believe how fortunate I was to be able to tell the extraordinary story of these women who had joined together to bring peace to their devastated country. Their remarkable accomplishment had been virtually ignored by the press and was on its way to being forgotten. Being part of ensuring that their story shines has been an absolute privilege."


Founder and executive director of Women in Peace and Security Network - Africa (WIPSEN-Africa) Leymah Gbowee was a 17 year-old girl when the war first came to Monrovia, Liberia. As she says, she turned, "from a child into an adult in a matter of hours."  She joined the Woman in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET) and quickly rose to leadership and then brought all the women of the Christian Churches together into a group called the Christian Women's Initiative and began issuing a series of calls for peace.  Soon she formed a coalition with the women in the Muslim organizations in Monrovia and eventually Liberian Mass Action for Peace came into being.  Under Leymah's leadership the group managed to force a meeting with then President Charles Taylor and extract a promise from him to attend peace talks in Ghana.  She then led a delegation of Liberian women to Ghana to continue to apply pressure on the warring factions during the peace process.  Leymah has since been awarded the Blue Ribbon for Peace by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and was chosen as a recipient of the 2009 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. In July 2009, the Celebrate Africa 2009 committee honored Leymah and WIPNET during their annual celebration in Philadelphia at the African-American Museum. She is currently building Women, Peace and Security Africa, a women's organization in Ghana that will act to build relationships across the West African sub- region in support of women's capacity to prevent, avert and end conflicts.

Filmmaker Gini Reticker produced the Academy Award-nominated short Asylum, and the Emmy-nominated A Decade Under The Influence. Directing for the PBS Series Wide Angle, Reticker took home an Emmy and the Society for Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award for Ladies First, which focused on the role of women in rebuilding post-genocide Rwanda. In 2006, she directed The Class of 2006, for Wide Angle, spotlighting the first fifty women in Morocco to graduate from an imam academy in Rabat. Her first film, The Heart of the Matter received the Sundance Freedom of Expression Award; Out of the Darkness: Women and Depression garnered both an Emmy and a Gracie Award. Before becoming a producer and director, Reticker worked as an editor on films including: Roger & Me; The Awful Truth: The Romantic Comedy, PBS American Cinema Series; and the Emmy-nominated Fire From the Mountain.


The United Nations' International Day of Peace -marked every year on September 21-is a global holiday when individuals, communities, nations and governments highlight efforts to end conflict and promote peace. Established by U.N. resolution in 1982, "Peace Day" has grown to include millions of people around the world who participate in all kinds of events, large and small.

All members of the Vassar and local community are invited to join the Women's Studies Program in celebrating Peace Week, 9/21-25. The program is supported by funds from the Dean of the Faculty and co-sponsored by Campus Life, the Office for Fellowships and Pre-Health Advising, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the Vassar College Bookstore, and the following departments and programs: Africana Studies, Anthropology, Art, Asian Studies, Drama, Earth Science and Geography, Education, English, Environmental Studies, Film, French and Francophone Studies, German Studies, History, International Studies, Italian, Jewish Studies, Latin American and Latino Studies, Media Studies, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Russian Studies, Sociology, and Urban Studies.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations at Vassar should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the Vassar campus are available online

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.


SEPTEMBER 21 - 25, 2009    
In celebration of the International Day of Peace (9/21) and supported with funds from the Dean of the Faculty. All events are free and open to the public.

Monday, September 21
Interfaith event: Peace is Loud Vigil. Coordinated with Rev. Sam Speers and Michelle Jackson, Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.
Chapel Lawn, 7pm

Tuesday, September 22
Film screening: Pray the Devil Back to Hell. The 2008 award-winning documentary, that shows how Christian and Muslim women of Liberia joined together to end civil war. Introduced by Ismail Rashid, Department of History and Africana Studies.
Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, The Rosenwald Film Theater (room 109), 5pm

Wednesday, September 23
Panel Discussion: Student Fellowships for Peace. Organized by Lisa Kooperman, Director, Office for Fellowships and Pre-Health Advising.
Rockefeller Hall, room 200, 3:30-5pm

Thursday, September 24
Lecture: "Women, War, & Peace." Leymah Gbowee, Liberian peace activist, and filmmaker Gini Reticker, director of Pray the Devil Back to Hell discuss their work.  Welcome by Lydia Murdoch, Department of History and Director of Women's Studies, introduction by Mia Mask, Department of Film. 
Sanders Classroom's Spitzer Auditorium (room 212), 5:30pm

Friday, September 25
Students' Roundtable: Perspectives on Peace Work. Organized by Ed Pittman, Associate Dean of the College, Campus Life/Vassar First Year Programs.
Rockefeller Hall, room 200, 3:30pm

Posted by Office of Communications Thursday, August 27, 2009