The Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention at Virginia Tech is sponsoring a world-tested conflict negotiator and a community resiliency expert in upcoming lectures.

Mike Bugason, who works for the African Union as advisor on Lord’s Resistance Army issues, will discuss “Brokering Peace and Reconciliation in Central Africa” on Thursday, March 6, at 7 p.m. in Fralin Auditorium on West Campus Drive.

As a special envoy advisor, Bugason analyzes reports and makes recommendations for interventions against the LRA, a terrorist group led by Joseph Kony. Notorious for using child soldiers, the LRA has spread across the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the southeastern Central African Republic, and parts of South Sudan.

A Ugandan national who suffered through his own war-ravaged childhood, Bugason participated as part of the African Union delegation in the Global Summit on the LRA hosted by Invisible Children in Washington, D.C., in November 2012.

Bugason’s lecture, which will include time for questions from the audience, is free and open to the public.

Another speaker in the Human Rights, Reconciliation, and Community Resiliency series will be Pekka Räsänen. His talk, titled “Social Solidarity and Community Resiliency: The Influence of the Welfare State,” will be on April 8 at 7 p.m. in Fralin Auditorium.

Räsänen is a professor of economic sociology in the Department of Social Research at the University of Turku, Finland. For more than 10 years, he has studied consumer behavior, mass violence and media, and attitudes toward various welfare issues.

Räsänen recently completed a project analyzing the social responses to mass violence in two Finnish towns that experienced school shootings. His current research focuses on how new information technology influences modern life, including how online hate groups operate and influence youth. 

“The center is delighted to host these two renowned scholars as we continue our investigation of issues of community resiliency,” said Jim Hawdon, director of the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention. “These talks deal with very different types of community traumas and very different paths to recovery. They will highlight the importance of social networks for promoting community resiliency.”