Given the turmoil in our war-torn world, “The Power of Ideas: People and Peace” is a perfect theme for the 25th Nobel Peace Prize Forum beginning Friday in Minneapolis.

And the two winners of the prize who will be featured at the forum — Dr. Muhammad Yunus (2006) and Tawakkol Karman (2011) — bring timely messages of hope.

Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank who pioneered the concept of microcredit in Bangladesh, will keynote Friday’s “Business Day,” which seeks to investigate the relationship of business to global stability.

Karman, a journalist-turned-activist from Yemen, will keynote Sunday’s “Global Day,” which seeks to explore “wide topics that underpin or undermine world peace.”

In-between, Saturday’s “Health and Science Day” will seek to explore the impact of those subjects on peace and security. Dr. Paul Farmer, cofounder of Partners in Health, will keynote Saturday’s session.

But the forum is not all lectures from laureates and other luminaries.

Friday’s schedule features a K-12 Festival for students and teachers, as well as dozens of workshops. And a Saturday night highlight will be the “Hip Hop and Peace” concert and conversation featuring artist/activist Omar Offendum and Minneapolis artist Brother Ali, who has written a commentary on racism for the Star Tribune.

The opportunities to both listen and talk are by design, according to Dr. Maureen K. Reed, executive director of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

“Our goal of the forum is to present attendees with the inspiration of a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and with real-world, concrete examples of people who are doing something for peace,” Reed said. “Being able to bring people of this caliber here allows people here in the Midwest to be put in touch with issues that have a real impact.”

The “people of caliber” goes well beyond the keynoters. An impressive list of academics and activists will lead many of the breakout sessions.

But it’s particularly notable that Yunus and Karman are both appearing. As two of the four living Muslim Nobel winners, they offer a welcome reminder that so many in the Muslim world work tirelessly to promote peaceful solutions in a region that’s too often embroiled in, or overly associated with, violent conflict.

The Nobel Peace Prize Forum is the only entity given permission by the Norwegian Nobel Institute to use the name, which gives this region a remarkable opportunity in hosting the event.

Attendance hit a record 4,449 last year, and it’s expected to top 5,000 this year. Another 5,218, from 57 countries, watched part of the 2012 forum online.

This year’s event will take place on the campuses of Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota. A number of other regional colleges are sponsoring the forum.

That long list reflects the fact that the peace process is not just the province of diplomats or world leaders, but of leaders from all societal sectors. This includes inspired individuals like Yunus, Karman and Farmer.

And, just maybe, someday it could include someone inspired by the Peace Prize Forum to better our world through peaceful solutions.


An editorial of the Star Tribune (Minneapolis). Follow the editorial board on Twitter @StarTribune and on Facebook.