Rami George Khouri, a leading scholar and journalist who directs the Issam Fares Institute of Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, visited Portland on Oct. 20 to speak about the complexity and global impact of current events in the Middle East.
Nearly 300 attendees flocked to Westminster Presbyterian Church in Northeast Portland to hear Khouri’s presentation, “Diplomatic Stalemate and Democratic Revolts: Making Sense of a Middle East in Transition,” and engage in a question-and-answer session for nearly two hours. The conversation ranged from the ongoing Arab Spring to upcoming democratic elections in several Middle Eastern countries, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and likely future allegiances among and between nations.
The presentation was organized by the Institute for Christian-Muslim Understanding, a local non-profit that seeks to encourage appreciation and respect for and with Muslim and Christian communities. Portland Community College’s internationalization initiative co-sponsored Khouri’s talk by filming it for instructional purposes.
“Our mission is to offer multiple opportunities and services that help those at the college develop comparative knowledge of peoples and cultures, and to recognize the impact of global issues – here and abroad,” said Bryan Hull, faculty coordinator of PCC’s internationalization initiative and a composition and literature instructor at the Sylvania Campus. “PCC had a solid representation in the audience, but filming the session will offer faculty, staff and students who couldn’t make the talk an opportunity to hear Rami’s thoughts – in their classrooms, or on the college’s You Tube and television channels. We have the potential to reach more people this way – and when you have someone of Rami’s caliber speaking, you want to cast the net wide.”
A syndicated columnist and author – and the editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star – Khouri is regularly interviewed about Middle East politics by the BBC, NPR, and other global media outlets. He is a former visiting scholar at Stanford University and was the co-recipient of the 2006 Pax Christi International Peace Award for his efforts to bring peace and reconciliation to the Middle East.
Khouri’s evening talk was preceded by a reception at the church, where several co-sponsors and endorsers served food and staffed informational tables about their organizations. Both events were free and open to the public.
Earlier in the day, an informal get-together was held at Portland State University with graduate students, faculty and community leaders, enabling them to ask questions of Khouri one-on-one.
“We were delighted with attendance at the reception and evening presentation, which represented a varied audience – people from the community at large, students, faculty, media and peace organizers all were there,” said Sister Mollie Reavis, SNJM and co-chair of the ICMU board.
“Rami’s talk turned out to be such a collaborative event – so many people working together to make it happen,” said Reavis. “We are very grateful to PCC for the filming and being our partner on this project, and we’ll gladly share the You Tube link with as many people as we can.”
Joining PCC were several other co-sponsors: Abu Rasheed Lebanese Restaurant, Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, Arab American Cultural Center of Oregon, Habibi Restaurant/Portland, Jerusalem Mediterranean Groceries, Oasis Restaurant, Portland State University’s Middle East Studies Center and Center for Turkish Studies, Sesame Donuts, Westminster Presbyterian Church, and Willamette University.
For details about any of the topics above, contact Kate Chester, Community Relations manager for the Sylvania Campus, at (971) 722-8233.