The conference was hosted by PeaceJam Winchester – the southern hub of the international youth movement aimed to educate, inspire and engage young people in international fellowship and world peace – in collaboration with the University’s Centre for Religion, Reconciliation and Peace.
Rigoberta was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation work based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples in her native Guatemala. She was the first indigenous person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize.
As part of the event, Rigoberta worked with and mentored young people from schools and colleges across Hampshire, helping them to learn about indigenous struggles, indigenous power, opposing oppression and building communities.
“It was fantastic to welcome Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta to the University to inspire the next generation of social activists,” said Dr Mark Owen, Director of the Centre for Religion, Reconciliation and Peace. “The University champions social justice and the Centre for Religion, Reconciliation and Peace epitomises this commitment. The Centre shares Rigoberta’s beliefs about the power of reconciliation and peacebuilding, and seeks to raise understanding of the paths to sustainable peace.”
Rigoberta confronted the oppression faced by her family and her peoples by actively protesting labor and human rights abuses. As a result, she was forced to seek exile in Mexico, where she became an eloquent defender of the rights and values of indigenous peoples and other victims of government oppression.
Rigoberta was born in 1959 to a poor Indian family in the highlands of Guatemala. In the 1970s and 1980s, Guatemala’s repressive military dictatorship began a large-scale repression of Indian people which had a great impact on Rigoberta and her Mayan family. As a result of her actively protesting labour and human rights abuses, Rigoberta was forced to seek exile in Mexico in the early 1980s where she came into contact with European groups working for human rights in Latin America. She campaigned alongside other activists and their hard work led to a peace accord in Guatemala in 1996. This agreement ended Guatemala’s 36-year civil war between military regimes and anti-government guerillas – which left around 200,000 people dead – and gave many rights back to the Mayan people.
Professor Joy Carter, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Winchester, said: “I am incredibly proud to lead an institution with a long history of upholding people’s rights, seeking justice and challenging prejudice. We are so delighted to host the annual PeaceJam conference and this year to welcome Nobel Peace laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum, bringing her inspirational message to Winchester. Young people from local schools and colleges who came to the conference have taken a big step towards becoming the next generation of peace builders this weekend.”
The PeaceJam event culminated in Rigoberta delivering a public lecture, followed by a book signing of her biography I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala.
A print-ready image of Professor Joy Carter, Rigoberta Menchú Tum and Dr Mark Owen is available to download by clicking here
A print-ready image of Rigoberta Menchú Tum is available to download by clicking here