SPOKANE, WA – The arrest of a known white supremacist in the attempted bombing of Spokane’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity March on Jan. 17 underscores the need for the world’s first academic program focused on hate studies, said John Shuford, director of the Gonzaga University Institute for Hate Studies.
“More people have died because of human hatred than from any other human cause,” Shuford said, “yet we still do not know enough about how hatred works and how to prevent and combat it.”
Federal agents arrested Kevin William Harpham, 36, near his rural Stevens County home on charges related to a backpack bomb found along the MLK Day march route. Harpham is being held without bond and faces up to life in prison if convicted on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and possession of an unregistered explosive device.
The Gonzaga University Institute for Hate Studies will host the Second International Conference on Hate Studies April 6-9 in Spokane. The purpose of the conference is “to foster better understanding of the nature of hatred, develop more effective models and approaches for combating it, and consider the implications for practice across many fields,” Shuford said. “A key goal for us is to shape an academic curriculum on hate studies.” Gonzaga already offers courses in this area, and a hate studies academic degree program would be the world’s first.
Judging from the conference program, which includes more than 70 confirmed speakers from nearly two-dozen countries, much of the world also believes the time has come for a hate studies curriculum.
The conference will feature leading academics from some of world’s top-ranked universities, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, a representative of the U.S. State Department, international experts on hate crimes, as well as journalists, law enforcement personnel, educators, human rights experts, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, community leaders, clergy, and others.
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated author of “I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity,” will be the conference’s keynote speaker. The highly respected Palestinian physician has become an influential international voice on issues of peace and development in the Middle East. Abuelaish lost three daughters in January 2009 when Israeli tanks twice shelled his home. Yet, remarkably, his message of nonviolence and hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians endures.
Another conference highlight will be a session titled, “Combating Hatred: Community Impacts & Best Practices,” which will engage international hate crimes experts Barbara Perry and Michael Whine and King County, Wash. Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzales.
Efforts of the Institute and its Journal of Hate Studies have been hailed by politically and ideologically diverse organizations, and in academic and professional circles, as contributing to advancements in the study of hatred and effective responses to this fundamental area of human concern. In January 2009, the incoming Obama Administration received policy recommendations to “encourage the growth of, and find ways to engage with, the movement to create an academic field of ‘hate studies,’ which seeks to provide testable theories about how individuals, groups, institutions and governments can more effectively understand and combat hatred of all types.”
“In the case of so many other human concerns, we have already recognized the value of bringing together the complexity, wisdom, and tools of multiple disciplines,” Shuford said. “Given the kinds of problems we’re talking about, and what is at stake, it’s time to bring together our best thinking, practices, and questions on tackling hate in the name of promoting peace.”