Events co-led by Professor encourage understanding and compassion amid conflict

December 6, 2023

As the Israel-Hamas war nears its two-month mark, an upswing in anger, protests, and divisive rhetoric has been evident in cities and on college campuses across the United States.  Here at Pitt, two professors with religious and cultural backgrounds on opposite sides of the conflict are looking to fight against this division with events designed to foster a culture of understanding and compassion among students and faculty.

Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili, a professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and Abdesalam Soudi, an associate professor in the linguistics department, have co-moderated two conversations centered around open and compassionate dialogue since the Hamas terror attack on October 7th. The events, which were featured in an article by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published on Wednesday, are part of the Governing Deep Differences Project, a research initiative of the Center for Governance and Markets (CGM) of which Dr. Murtazashvili is the founding director. 

Dr. Abdesalam Soudi, an associate professor in the linguistics department, speaks at recent event

“We believe it is important for us to come together as a community to recognize our common humanity and that our collective compassion is our greatest resource,” wrote Dr. Murtazashvili in her announcement of the first event, held on campus on October 26th.  The second session, which took place this week, saw audience members discussing historical events, deliberating ethical questions and the role of higher education during tense moments in history, and sharing their own experiences with racism and antisemitism.

“We’ve seen what’s happened on so many campuses across this country,” Ms. Murtazashvili explained. “We can disagree about things. We should disagree about things — if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be fulfilling the purpose of this university. We have a calling to disagree with each other, but what we can’t do is dehumanize each other.”

More information on the research and work being done by CGM, including their Governing Deep Differences Project, can be found on their website.  

Photo by Sebastian Foltz/Post-Gazette