By Nicole Foy
As most of our Women’s Global Connection/UIW immersion trip travelers were leaving to come home from Peru, Sr. Martha Ann Kirk stayed behind and was gearing up for one of her (and our!) favorite things: educating others about how societies thrive when they focus on promoting women’s rights, education, and peacemaking.
Sr. Martha Ann pictured
About 70 people attended the event at Lima’s Universidad Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, including local citizens, students, faculty and Turkish people. The story of how Martha Ann was tapped for the presentation is an interesting story of collaboration and teamwork.
Imam Beytullah Cholak of the San Antonio branch of the Dialogue Institute of the Southwest (DIS) informed the Inca Dialogue Society in Lima that Martha Ann, a member of the DIS advisory board would be on an immersion trip in the region this month. Kadir Keskin of the DIS collaborated with CCVI Sr. Katty Huanaco, the Director of the Incarnate Word Sisters International Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Office, to organize a program.
The event also included Laura Vargas, the executive secretary of the Interreligious Council of Peru, a part of International Religions for Peace. Sponsoring organizations included Asociación de Amistad Perú Turquia, the Gulen Institute, Inca Sociedad de Diálogo, Peace Islands Institute, and Universidad Inca Garcilaso de la Vega.
Laura Vargas pictured
In her speech, Martha Ann quoted former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, who noted that studies have shown that “there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women. No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, or to reduce infant and maternal mortality. No other policy is as sure to improve nutrition and promote health – including the prevention of HIV/AIDS. No other policy is as powerful in increasing the chances of education for the next generation. And I would also venture that no policy is more important in preventing conflict, or in achieving reconciliation after a conflict has ended.”
As usual, Martha Ann is a diplomat for peace wherever she goes!
Sezai Kara, of Asociación de Amistad Perú Turquia, Martha Ann Kirk, CCVI, and Kadir Keskin, president of AAPT Inca Sociedad de Diálogo
The Muslims who hosted the program in Lima are part of the Service (Hizmet) Movement, which has been inspired by Turkish scholar Mr. Fethullah Gulen. The day of the presentation in Lima, the French newspaper Le Monde published a moving op-ed by Gulen who called for Muslims to become more active in countering ignorance of their faith. The following is a quote from his article: “Our responsibility as Muslim citizens is to be part of the solution despite our grievances. If we want to defend the life and civil liberties of Muslims around the world, and the peace and tranquility of every human regardless of their faith, we must act now to tackle the violent extremism problem in all its dimensions: political, economic, social and religious. By setting virtuous examples through our lives, by discrediting and marginalizing the extremist interpretations of religious sources, by staying vigilant toward their impact on our youth, and by incorporating democratic values early in education, we can counter violence and terrorism as well as totalitarian ideologies that lead to them.”
Incarnate Word Associate member, Martha Zea, Sr. Martha Ann, and Laura Vargas, executive secretary of Religions for Peace in Peru.
Martha Ann is the author of the book “Iraqi Women of Three Generations: Challenges, Education, and Hopes for Peace.” She has found discrimination against women to be entrenched there, but has been inspired by the Hizmet education movement as a counter to such ignorance. She explained that young women educated in the Hizmet schools have self-confidence and leadership skills. They also have learned dialogue, forgiveness, reconciliation, and social responsibility.