The Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill welcomed international peace activist and three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly to Seton Hill University on March 24 as part of The Sister Mary Schmidt Lecture Series.

The event was part of Seton Hill’s programming on peace throughout 2009. Kelly presented a lecture titled “Eyewitness to War, Witness for Peace, At Home and Abroad.”

“We choose Kathy Kelly as our speaker this year because we wanted to focus on the Christian tradition of peacemaking, which very few people know about. We wanted someone who was actively engaged in peacemaking and could share her or his personal experience with the Seton Hill community,” said Sister Dorothy Jacko, S.C., Th.D., associate professor of religious studies/theology, and member of the Mission Effectiveness Committee of Seton Hill University.

Kelly helped coordinate Voices for Creative Non-Violence, a campaign to end military and economic warfare against Iraq. Voices for Creative Non-Violence stays abreast of the United States decision making regarding war and takes nonviolent action in order to bring about peace, restore the dignity of humans, and stop injustice.

Kelly has had experiences in Haiti, Bosnia, Lebanon, and Iraq. Most recently in Gaza, she accompanied the people suffering from the devastation of the wars and led non-violent direct action teams.

Kelly spoke to the audience about her experiences in Iraq and her one year prison sentence in the United States. In 1988, Kelly was sentenced to one year in prison for planting five seeds of corn on nuclear missile silo sites in Missouri.

“I hoped that my action would speak to the farmers explaining that land is for corn and wheat and not to harbor weapons of mass destruction,” Kelly said.

While in Iraq, Kelly was able to see confusion of war from teenagers. One teenage girl felt as if her emotions were frozen by the war and a teenage boy wanted to become a fighter pilot and one day bomb the United States.

“Who are the terrorists?” Kelly asked. “We are so oriented to fear that someone will use weapons against us that we lose our rationality and now it’s needed more than ever. The real terror is what we are doing to our environment.”

At the conclusion to the lecture, Kelly explained to the audience that “to love and be loved, we remember to believe in the law of love. Don’t be afraid, love can triumph over other seeming controls.”

“My personal hope was that those who attended walked away with an understanding that there are alternatives to violence, death and destruction as a way of solving difficult personal, national, and international problems. It is the way of active non-violence and it has proven to be successful in many places in the world,” Sister Dorothy said.

Sister Dorothy hopes that the members of the Seton Hill community will continue to learn more about peace and non-violent actions and that the professors will develop courses to purse this topic in greater depth.

“Kelly risked her own life and freedom in order to perform acts of kindness to total strangers not only here in America, but overseas as well. We need more people in the world like her,” said Kelsey Criner, a sophomore business major at Seton Hill University.

Kelly earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Loyola University and a Master of Arts degree in religious education from the Chicago Theological Seminary, where she was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Theology degree in 2005.

The Sister Mary Schmidt Lecture Series is sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill in collaboration with Seton Hill University. Its purpose is to support the Catholic identity of the University; to engage both communities in learning and dialogue on timely topics of social and environmental justice with global impact; and to develop an understanding of Catholic Social Teachings and how they pertain to this dialogue.