Luther to host Nobel Peace Prize Forum on March 4-5

Jan. 12, 2011

Luther College will host the 23rd annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum—a conference featuring presentations by Nobel Peace Prize laureates and other national and international leaders—March 4-5. The forum is the Norwegian Nobel Institute's only such program or academic affiliation outside Norway.

The theme of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Forum is "Striving for Peace: Courage to Act"; the forum will focus on the importance of courageous action in the work of peacemaking.

The forum is sponsored by a consortium of five Midwestern liberal arts colleges: Luther College; Augsburg College, Minneapolis, Minn.; Augustana College, Sioux Falls, S.D.; Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn.; and St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn.

The colleges, all of Norwegian heritage, sponsor the forum in cooperation with the Norwegian Nobel Institute to recognize Norway's international peace efforts and offer opportunities for Nobel Peace Prize laureates, diplomats, scholars and the public to share in dialogue on peacemaking and the causes of conflict and war.

Luther has invited President Barack Obama, the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, as keynote speaker. Upon accepting the Nobel Prize, President Obama stated that to truly honor ideals like peace, justice, and human rights, we must uphold these ideals "not when it is easy, but when it is hard." The 2011 forum will highlight the work of those who have acted with courage to confront difficult issues of religious discord, social and economic injustice, and the threats of nuclear war and environmental degradation.

Confirmed keynote speakers include Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi and peace activist Eboo Patel, leader in the global interfaith youth movement.

Ebadi, Iranian lawyer and human rights activist, will deliver the forum's opening plenary address Friday, March 4, at 7 p.m. in the Center for Faith and Life main hall on the Luther campus.

Patel, founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, will deliver the forum's closing plenary address Saturday, March 5, at 3:45 p.m. in the Center for Faith and Life main hall.

The 28th annual Ethnic Arts Festival, a celebration of diversity and cultural identity, will be held in conjunction with the forum on Friday, March 4, 8:15-11 p.m., in Valders Hall of Science.

The Ethnic Arts Festival is open to the public with no charge for admission. All other Nobel Peace Prize Forum sessions and events require registration.

The conference will also offer workshops, student discussion forums, a book signing, a Peace Fair and World Café.

For complete information about the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Luther College, visit To register for the forum, visit Registration deadline is Feb. 21.

Shirin Ebadi

Opening speaker Shirin Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts in democracy and human rights, especially for the rights of women, children and refugees. She is the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman to receive the prize.

Ebadi is known for promoting peaceful, democratic solutions to serious problems in society and taking an active part in public debate. She is well known and admired by the Iranian public for legally defending victims of the conservative faction's continuous attack on political and human rights.

She is the founder and leader of the Association for Support of Children's Rights in Iran. The author of a number of academic books and articles focused on human rights, she has had several books translated into English, including "The Rights of the Child: A Study of Legal Aspects of Children's Rights in Iran," "History and Documentation of Human Rights in Iran," and her memoir, "Iran Awakening."

Ebadi represents Reformed Islam and argues for a new interpretation of Islamic law in harmony with human rights such as democracy, equality before the law, religious freedom and freedom of speech.

Formerly a professor at the University of Tehran, she now works as a lawyer. Ebadi has been involved in a number of controversial political cases, and as a consequence, has been imprisoned on numerous occasions.

Ebadi earned a law degree from the University of Tehran. She served from 1975-79 as president of the city court of Tehran, one of the first female judges in Iran. After the revolution in 1979 she was forced to resign.

Eboo Patel

Eboo Patel is internationally recognized for his work in the interfaith youth movement, which seeks to develop positive relationships between people of different religious traditions through service to their communities.

Author of the award-winning book "Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation," Patel is a regular contributor to the Washington Post, National Public Radio, USA Today and CNN.

Patel served on President Obama's Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He serves on the Religious Advisory Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Board of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the National Committee of the Aga Khan Foundation USA.

Patel is a Young Global Leader in the World Economic Forum and an Ashoka Fellow, part of a select group of social entrepreneurs whose ideas are changing the world.

He was named by US News & World Report as one of America's Best Leaders of 2009 and by Islamica Magazine as one of 10 young Muslim visionaries shaping Islam in America. He was chosen by Harvard's Kennedy School Review as one of five future policy leaders to watch. With the IFYC, he was honored with the Roosevelt Institute's Freedom of Worship Medal in 2009.

Additional forum speakers

More than 45 additional presenters will offer more than two-dozen workshops on Saturday, March 5. Additional speakers include:

  • Geir Lundestad, educator, historian, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute and permanent Secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Lundestad will explore the topic, "Will the U.S. be overtaken by China as the next superpower?"
  • Steinar Bryn, a 2009 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Norwegian peace studies specialist and project director for the Nansen Dialog Network, which focuses on inter-ethnic dialogue between strategic individuals and groups that have strong influence or decision-making power in deeply divided communities.
  • U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Hanson, director of the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission and commander of the 321st Air Expeditionary Wing in Baghdad, Iraq. The 1980 Luther graduate is a 2010 recipient of the Luther College Distinguished Service Award. He will speak on the role of the military in peacemaking.
  • Alisa Gravitz, executive director of Green America (formerly Co-op America), the nation's leading green economy organization. Gravitz will address the topic of economic justice and environmental sustainability.

For the complete Nobel Peace Prize Forum schedule of events and information on speakers, visit website


Nobel Peace Prize Forum
Shirin Ebadi
Eboo Patel