Monroe Observes the International Day of Peace with Victim Trauma Expert Dr. Ani Kalayjian

Our School of Criminal and Social Justice recently hosted an important virtual event to recognize the 40th annual International Day of Peace.

Held each year on September 21st, this United Nations-sanctioned holiday was established in 1981 “as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire.”

SCSJ Director Jody McCalla opened the event with welcoming remarks and a challenge to participants to define what “peace” means in our own communities. The wide range of responses underscored the very personal and unique perspectives on what it means to live a peaceful life and contribute to a peaceful environment for others.

Carol Genese, Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, lead a conversation on the purpose of the International Day of Peace and this year’s theme, which was “recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world.”

The theme recognizes the toll that the global pandemic has had on all, as the UN explained:

“The pandemic has been accompanied by a surge in stigma, discrimination, and hatred, which only cost more lives instead of saving them: the virus attacks all without caring about where we are from or what we believe in. Confronting this common enemy of humankind, we must be reminded that we are not each other’s enemy. To be able to recover from the devastation of the pandemic, we must make peace with one another.

Psychologist Dr. Ani Kalayjian, a recognized trauma expert who has worked with the United Nations and other NGOs, was the special guest speaker once again this year. She has dedicated her career to understanding the impact of war and hostilities on the victims and survivors. We were incredibly proud and honored to have her lead the important discussion with participating students, staff, and faculty.

Dr. Kalayjian explained that another important theme for the day would be “No peace without peace of mind.”

“The mind, the heart, the emotions, and the mental health (need to be at peace),” she said. “If we are struggling, then we are not at peace. Our behavior then becomes conflictual and we begin to present disagreements around us.”

Later in the program, SCSJ student Roselena Estrada shared their thoughts on finding peace within based on personal experiences.

Dean Guylaine Harrison presented the Peace Award to two very important individuals on campus who work every day to help students find their peace of mind – our campus therapists Jessica Pollas and Nygera S. Pierson Mutis.

She commented:  “We are so proud to honor two of our Monroe College heroes for their daily work that promotes peace and equity for all of us. They contribute so much, but especially to the well-being and mental health of our students.”

This is the College’s third year recognizing the International Day of Peace as part of its annual programming. Dr. Everett Faison, a beloved professor we lost last year to COVID, was the program’s early champion. SCSJ Director Jody McCalla now leads the event for us.

It was a very inspiring event!