Centered on Palestine and the war-torn region of Gaza, the University chapter of the Palestine Children's Relief Fund hosted an event called "A Celebration of Palestinian Heritage & Its Legacy of Resilience" Sunday at the Busch Campus Center.
The program featured movies, exhibits and presentations about Palestinian life, as well as a panel of experts who commented on the current Arab-Israeli conflict in Gaza.
Speakers Hamid Abdeljaber, a University professor at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Khalid Abdelshaffy, the senior program advisor at United Nations Development Program for the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Fida Qishta, a journalist and filmmaker, discussed different aspects about the issue including history and current affairs.
"The issues between Gaza and the West Bank are deeply seeded in the history of both countries," Abdeljaber said.
Abdelshaffy, a native of Gaza, explained the conflict is more than a humanitarian crisis.
"It is more than a political tragedy, but instead a tragedy of human dignity," he said. "The excessive use of force of Israel in Gaza is the collective punishment of a whole neighborhood."
Through their personal experiences of living and growing up in a turbulent area, two of the panelists discussed the violence in Gaza.
"It was either taking the short and dangerous five-minute walk to school or the safe way that took half an hour," said Qishta, a former resident of Gaza. "These were decisions I had to make living in Gaza."
Qishta showed a short film entitled "Where Should the Birds Fly?" that centered on a young girl who lost her family to the violence in the Palestinian city and served as a representation of its present conditions.
Panelists also discussed solutions to combat violence in Gaza, noting that focusing on the unification of Palestine will not bring the change they are looking for.
"Critics say Palestine is not united as a country. There is a disconnect between the people of the country and the top officials," Abdeljaber said. "There needs to be a focus on internal issues of the country. Power has the ability to blind people."
Abdeljaber emphasized the importance of looking at the situation in Gaza objectively and examining both sides of the issue.
"As a professor, it is my job to present information from both sides. It is vital to maintain an element of neutrality and objectivity in education," he said. "We present both sides and allow students the responsibility to form their own opinions based on the information given."
Sherif Ibrahim, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said it is important to raise awareness on the issues mentioned at the panel discussion.
"I think cultural events such as these are great for educating people, but we need to generate more public attention," Ibrahim said. "So many do not know what is going on in Palestine and we need to broaden the views of the people."
Abdeljaber hopes the panel discussion helped people form their own opinions about the conflict in Gaza rather than be influenced one way or another.