2017-05-24 / Voice at the Shore

Stockton professor meets with Pope on genocide prevention


Pope Francis with Stockton professor Elisa von Joeden- Forgey (right) and Irene Victoria Massimino. Pope Francis with Stockton professor Elisa von Joeden- Forgey (right) and Irene Victoria Massimino. Pope Francis met privately to discuss genocide prevention with Stockton University Professor Elisa von Joeden- Forgey and her colleague, Argentine human rights lawyer Irene Victoria Massimino, on May 5 at the Vatican.

Massimino and von Joeden- Forgey, who is the Dr. Marsha Raticoff Grossman Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Stockton, are both faculty of Stockton’s Genocide Prevention Certificate Program, which Joeden-Forgey started in 2015. Their conversation with the Pope focused largely on the threat presented by ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) to Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.

“Dr. von Joeden-Forgey’s work in Iraq and around the world illustrates her personal courage and her deep commitment to genocide prevention, which Stockton is proud to support,” said President Harvey Kesselman.

“The pope was gracious, generous, kind and brilliant,” said von Joeden-Forgey. “He had very interesting things to say about genocide prevention and the suffering of unwanted people in today’s world. He spoke with us for about 40 minutes and is clearly committed to the work of long-term genocide prevention. It was an indescribable honor to meet with him and to share a common concern for the people of Iraq specifically and the poor and dispossessed of the world more generally.

With Pope Francis’ invitation, the local contingent also met with experts in the Pope’s new office of refugees.

“There we were able to speak further about the challenges to peace in Iraq and the effects of global inequality on nurturing genocidal conditions around the world,” she said. “We look forward to working more closely with Catholic organizations on peace and justice initiatives. The Catholic Church has a very important role to play in longterm genocide prevention.”

These meetings are part of a larger initiative, the Iraq Project for Genocide Prevention, which von Joeden-Forgey and Massimino launched in the past year in collaboration with Stockton’s Genocide Prevention Certificate Program. That online certificate program is the first of its kind in the world. s

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