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Founder of grassroots peace movement in the Middle East to speak at Whitworth March 3

February 17, 2011
First guest speaker for university's annual Great Decisions Lecture Series also has facilitated water-rights negotiations in the region

As the winds of change that kicked up in Tunisia and Egypt now blow across the Middle East, Asgeir Foyen, who founded a grassroots peace movement in the region, will present the first lecture in the 54th annual Great Decisions Lecture Series at Whitworth University. The series features five speakers who focus on current political, cultural and economic subjects of interest to the international community. The public is invited to attend the lectures free of charge. Foyen will present, "Hope for the Middle East? A Different Approach," on Thursday, March 3, at 7:30 p.m. in the Robinson Teaching Theatre in Weyerhaeuser Hall at Whitworth University. For more information, please call (509) 777-3270.

Foyen is a Norwegian who has been working internationally for 20 years in places such as Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. He has focused specifically on the Middle East since 1994, when he began working with teams to facilitate water-rights negotiations between Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Israel, and between Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Issues such as access to water and land rights underlie many of the conflicts in the volatile Middle East region. In 2002 Foyen founded The Middle East Program (MEP), a long-term leadership training initiative for Palestinians, Israelis, Jordanians, and Norwegians. A group of Americans also joined in 2007. MEP seeks to create peace by working with young adults to generate grassroots movements for a peaceable society.

"I'm particularly excited about what's going on in the Middle East right now because of the success of largely nonviolent collective actions in Tunisia and Egypt," says Patrick Van Inwegen, an associate professor of political science at Whitworth who just released a new book Understanding Revolutions. "We are bringing Asgeir Foyen to campus because The Middle East Program aims for precisely this kind of grassroots community building for nonviolent social action. Moreover, Foyen's life and work model Whitworth's mission of following Christ's commandment to love your neighbor in both your local community and the international community, using your skills to serve humanity."

Joining Foyen during his lecture at Whitworth will be Michael Ochs, a professional songwriter from Nashville and an American Jew who will talk about his changes in focus as a result of joining the MEP and taking part in its alternative approach to achieving peace.

In addition to his work in the Middle East, Foyen also leads the Abildso Foundation, in Oslo, which is involved in several social initiatives that focus on preventing school drop-outs.

In addition to the March 3 lecture, Great Decisions lectures will take place on March 17, March 31, April 14, and May 5. The lectures will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be held in Weyerhaeuser Hall's Robinson Teaching Theatre. For information on upcoming lectures, please call (509) 777-3270. Great Decisions 2011 is sponsored by the Whitworth Political Science Department.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Barbara Brodrick, academic program assistant, political science department, Whitworth University, (509) 777-3270 or

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or