PUBLISHED: 9:59 AM on Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Symposium discusses world issues through compassion and learning

Courtesy photos
  Engaged participants discuss topics introduced as a past symposium of the Island Institute in Sitka.
Making the efforts for compassion through understanding is what the annual symposium at the Island Institute in Sitka is about, said co-director Carolyn Servid.

The institute is a non-profit agency that promotes literacy arts and civic engagement, Servid said.

"We promote living well together in community and examining community values," Servid said. "The symposium is the program that got the institute started."

This year's theme is "Radical Compassion Among Great Divides" and deals with terrorism and global threats fueled by misunderstanding among "us and them" Servid said.

"It's really about trying to understand others point of view. We think it's an important conversation to be having," she said. "We've invited quite a mix of speakers."

The symposium guest faculty are Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, Crow Creek Sioux poet, essayist and fiction writer; Rabia Terri Harris, editor, founder and coordinator of the Muslim Peace Fellowship; Micheline Aharonian Marcom, author of two novels about the early 20th century Armenian genocide; Hozan Alan Senauke, Zen priest and Senior Advisor to the Buddhist Peace Fellowship; and Sandy Tolan, radio journalist and author of "The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East."

The event caters to a broad audience of writers, readers, and people of varied backgrounds and experience. Writers may opt for one-on-one manuscript critiques with faculty.

The event is held July 16-22 in Sitka and cost is $365 for the full week, although sessions will be sold separately on request. The symposium is limited to 60 participants.

"That's to make sure that conversations are intimate so people can get into the subject matter," Servid said. "Our faculty brings their own experience, but everybody brings their own thoughts and ideas. That line between the experts and the participants get blurred and everyone learns from one another."

For more information or registration, go online to or call Island Institute at (907) 747-3794.

Servid said participants range from high school students to retired citizens and include both Alaskans and out-of-state travelers.

"It's for anyone who has concerns or questions raising about this theme," she said. "It's a week that allows folks to step outside of their day-to-day lives and address them. It's really more about questions than finding answers."