The Ladraa Episode

by Imri Haggin, United World College Maastricht
27th February, 2019

The International Peace Conference at UWC Maastricht has taken place throughout much of the college’s history and has contributed much to promote movement’s mission goals, which claim that “The United World Colleges are a global education movement that makes education a force to unite people, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future”.
In adherence to these core principals, the organizing team of IPC decided to cancel a speech planned to be delivered by Benjamin Ladraa, a twenty six year old Swedish activist who set out one year ago on a 5,000km trek from Sweden to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
This cancellation, while seeming both unconventional and unproductive, reveals a significant issue that is present within our community. Our student body is composed of students who have been vetted by a rigorous application process that strives to promote diversity. Despite UWC’s efforts, we still find ourselves in an environment where there is a single common ideology.
UWC students, myself included, apply to the movement in order to gain perspectives different from those prevalent in our former communities. Having diversity in opinions enables us to develop educated standpoints and to make a change in our communities. This characteristic is one of the key factors that lead us to acquire an international understanding, but how can we promote the mission values of our movement when a majority of the students share the same viewpoints?
In essence, our school has morphed from a center of ideological diversity into an echo chamber where we only encounter opinions that coincide with our own. It is clear that our school isn’t doing enough to encourage ideological diversity, and this is an issue that we should all actively work against so that we can create an environment that is conducive towards  the purpose of this movement.
Moving forward, I ask the community to actively search for ways to include perspectives that we disagree with and to integrate them into the narrative. Let’s be open to viewpoints that make us uncomfortable and actively seek to hear perspectives that are not aligned with our preexisting beliefs. IPC’s slogan this year was “Sapere Aude”, translating to “dare to know”. Let’s integrate this slogan into our experience here and challenge ourselves with differences in opinions so that we can bring UWCM to a state where we are all achieving intercultural respect regardless of our ideological backgrounds.
It was felt that Mr. Ladraa’s talk would have been exceedingly one-sided and presented to a student body that already views Israel as unlawfully aggressive. Was this a justifiable basis to object to his appearance? In hindsight, it is my opinion that even if no official or unofficial informed balancing point of view could be presented in conjunction with Mr. Ladraa’s talk, it should have proceeded regardless.

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