House helps students through times of crisis by creating an atmosphere
of inquiry, understanding, and respect in a volatile world. Learn
more about International House and its programs at International
House residents from around the world often dress in traditional
garb when attending the Celebration and Awards Gala. The annual
event is the largest fundraiser of the year.
House in Challenging Times
members discuss Nigeria's Christian and Muslim cultures. From
left: Melis Senerdem, a journalism graduate student from Turkey,
Zahra Makoui, an electrical engineering and computer science
student who was raised in Iran; Ednah Chinaniso Kunjeku, a Fulbright
Scholar from Zimbabwe; and Roshan Gujar, an anthropology and
African-American studies student from the US.
of global crisis are always stressful for International House residents.
They endure periods of upheaval away from their homes and families,
and their families share in the anxiety, sometimes calling our offices
to ask after their children's safety at Berkeley.
why I-House is committed to providing physical safety through building
upgrades and a wide variety of security measures as well as emotional
safety by promoting harmony over hatred, interaction instead of
fear, and discourse instead of anger.
ideals were highlighted at an I-House event held in March. The PBS
news magazine Frontline: World partnered with I-House for a special
screening of their documentary The Road North: A Look At Nigeria,
followed by a resident panel and town meeting. The documentary explored
Nigeria's Christian and Muslim cultures, whose ongoing conflicts
boiled over last year during the Miss World Pageant. At the heart
of the story was Amina Lawal, a Muslim woman sentenced to death
by stoning for adultery, and the global debate about her fate.
panel consisted of Roshan Gujar, an undergraduate in Anthropology
and African-American studies from the US; Ednah Chinaniso Kunjeku,
a Fulbright Scholar on sabbatical from her post as chair of the
Biological Sciences department at the University of Zimbabwe; Zahra
Makoui, an undergraduate Electrical Engineering and Computer
Science student who was raised all over the world, but predominantly
in Iran; and Melis Senerdem, a Turkish graduate student in
the School of Journalism. Rachel Raney, a PBS documentary production
manager, moderated the discussion.
providing a respectful forum to air the volatile issues of religion,
politics, and women's rights, the program enabled the residents
to discuss difficult topics head-on without fear of retaliation.
said her first impression was that the stoning sentence was cruel
and unfair. She also noted that many of Nigeria's poor use strong
religious convictions as a "coping mechanism" for dealing
with poverty, and that this was consistent with her research in
gave a reporter's perspective, saying that it's hard for journalists
to explore a complex religious and social issue because much of
the surrounding context has to be left out. She noted that Turkey
is 98% Muslim, but has a secular legal system, and was concerned
that, while the Lawal case attracted international attention, a
riot which killed several hundred people received much less press.
explained aspects of Islamic law as it was originally intended and
as it is practiced today in different parts of the world. She expressed
her concerns that many of the Islamic laws could be stereotyped
as barbaric even though they were originally intended to protect
the weak and the poor. Zahra explained that the stoning rules of
Islam relating to adultery originally prevented women from being
raped and made one-time properties of men, and prevented prostitution.
Zahra noted that Ms. Lawal was from a very small, poor community
in which women who commit adultery are invariably ostracized because
they bring shame to the elders.
Ednah, who rose from a family of subsistence farmers in Zimbabwe,
pointed out that in colonized Africa, women do not have a choice
of religion, they are heavily discriminated against for being both
Black and female, and the power structure around them is heavily
weighted in favor of men. She could, she said, relate directly to
Ms. Lawal from these three issues.
program continued with questions from the audience and further discussion
on women's issues worldwide.
was the second in a series of documentary screenings and town meetings
created in partnership with Frontline: World. We look forward to
future events as we work together to help students through times
of crisis by creating an atmosphere of inquiry, understanding, and
respect in a volatile world.
avenue of discussion is provided by the Debate Club which was established
this year by two residents, Ziad Nekat (Lebanon) and Daniel Benoliel
(Israel). They share a commitment to discussing difficult and even
polarizing issues in a civilized way. This active club regularly
attracts over one hundred residents for debates and has addresses
such challenging topics as:
· The Iraqi Brief: An Indispensable Preventative Strike or
Just Another Oil War?
· The Kashmiri Conflict: Can Another War Be Prevented?
· Israel and the Arab Conflict: Can True Peace Ever Be Achieved?
· The European Union: An Outdated Country Club or a Growing
proactive programs such as these, I-House prides itself on providing
broad-based support both for engaging in the difficult dialogues
that international crises produce and for finding the understanding
and common ground that is so central to our mission. I-House further
supports residents in coping with challenging times by providing
counseling services, both in-house and through the UC Berkeley Tang
Center. In addition, campus events address the broader student community
and speak to the stressors that difficult times yield.