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UMaine Alumnus Seeks to Promote Peace, End Child Soldiering

Posted March 22, 2013, at 3:53 p.m.
ORONO, Maine — A University of Maine graduate dedicated to building cultures of peace to prevent new wars and advancing universal secondary education of youth in Africa will deliver the 2013 John M. Rezendes Ethics Lecture on campus April 2.

Arthur Serota, the 2008 winner of UMaine’s Bernard Lown 1942 Alumni Humanitarian Award, is executive director of the nonprofit United Movement to End Child Soldiering (UMECS), based in Washington, D.C.

His free, public talk, “To Look the Other Way or Not: Ethical Choices We Make,” begins at 3:30 p.m. in Hauck Auditorium in Memorial Union. A reception will follow. For more information or to request disability accommodations, call 581.3263.

In 1966, Serota earned a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences at UMaine and in the ’80s, he lived and worked in the Republic of Zimbabwe, teaching, building schools and taking part in agricultural and reforestation projects.

After witnessing a rebel army invasion in Zimbabwe that included child soldiers, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native helped form UMECS. Its goal, Serota says, is to transition cultures of war to cultures of peace and thereby prevent additional wars, genocides and child soldiering. UMECS provides grassroots, school-based and community-based programs that seek to stimulate access to education, a sustainable culture of peace, female empowerment, environmental management and economic development.

UMECS and the Council on Foreign Relations estimate 300,000 child soldiers are involved in conflicts worldwide — many of them in Africa. In addition, there many millions more youth directly affected by conflicts.

Millions of traumatized former child soldiers and other youth affected by conflict worldwide need rehabilitation and education in order to reintegrate into society, Serota says. “The decision to provide rehabilitation and education to children and youth affected by conflict and to build cultures of peace to prevent new wars are some of the ethical choices we make,” he says.

Taking part in efforts that save lives, focus on immediate and long-term needs, and transform situations detrimental to human dignity are ethical choices, says Serota, a human rights attorney who earned a law degree from Suffolk University Law School.

In 2000, Dennis Rezendes, ’57, established University of Maine Foundation funds to annually host a visiting scholar in ethics to honor his father, John and to engage staff, students and community members in ethical issues. Honors College and the Cultural Affairs/Distinguished Lecture Series Fund sponsor, in part, the John M. Rezendes Visiting Scholar in Ethics.

The University of Maine, founded in Orono in 1865, is the state’s premier public university. It is among the most comprehensive higher education institutions in the Northeast and attracts students from across the U.S. and more than 65 countries. It currently enrolls 10,900 total undergraduate and graduate students who can directly participate in groundbreaking research working with world-class scholars. Students are offered more than 90 undergraduate majors and academic programs, 75 master’s degree programs, 30 doctoral programs and one of the oldest and most prestigious honors programs in the U.S. The university promotes environmental stewardship on its campus, with substantial efforts aimed at conserving energy, recycling and adhering to green building standards in new construction. For more information about UMaine, visit umaine.edu.

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