With two special guests this month and next, UC Irvine makes itself a little larger on the world peacemaking map.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet president whose political reforms helped spark the collapse of communist governments in the 1990s, will be at the Irvine Barclay Theater on Tuesday night to accept UCI's inaugural Citizen Peacebuilding Award.
University officials said they were honoring Gorbachev, who received the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize, for his contributions to world peace. They note his establishment of Green Cross International, an organization that promotes environmental sustainability and helps those affected by the environmental consequences of war.
And in what is seen as a luminary one-two punch for the UCI Citizen Peacebuilding Program, the Dalai Lama will be on campus April 16 to accept the award as well.
The award is a small sculpture titled "Believing, Building and Balance." It consists of the barrels of five guns confiscated by the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Its creator, sculptor and UCI professor Gifford Myers, said his intention was to turn the instruments of war into art that represented peace.
"With peace, you have to start with believing. You build peace person by person," Myers said. "And with people working with each other, perhaps we can achieve balance."
Established in 1998 as part of the School of Social Sciences on campus, the UCI Citizen Peacebuilding Program was the brainchild of UCI professors Paula Garb and John L. Graham, who sought to foster global peacemaking efforts at the local level.
"We only hear about the political process at the official level," Garb said. "But so much of the groundwork of getting to the final peace agreement is dependent on the grass-roots level."
With only 15 members in the organization -- people from the university and outside -- its efforts have reached well beyond Orange County. The group is pursuing initiatives in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Republic of Georgia and Northern Ireland.
In February, program members traveled to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where they visited two elementary schools separated by a soccer field. One was a Roman Catholic school, the other Protestant, and the students were forbidden to interact with one another.
Two members, Larry and Dulcie Kugelman, hope to establish a fly-fishing academy that would bring Catholic and Protestant students together.
The group has already formed a partnership between the Catholic and Protestant schools and fourth-graders at Turtle Rock Elementary in Irvine and Lowell Elementary in Santa Ana.
The four schools have been given digital cameras so fourth-graders can take photographs that symbolize peace from their perspective.
A selection of winning pictures will be displayed in an online gallery, with plans to publish them in book form.
"The goal," said Larry Kugelman, "is to bring the children from both sides out from the inner city, teach them the skills of fishing, but also peace building in the process."