2-1/2 Days
©2001 janet j. jai

For two-and-one-half days, I have been sitting in a room in Oslo, Norway with the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Jody Williams, Elie Weisel, Lech Walesa, Mairead Maguire, and twenty other Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, listening as they discuss war and peace in the 21st century. I am at the Nobel Prize Centennial, celebrating 100 Years of the Nobel Peace Prize. Itís the first time so many Peace Laureates have ever met together. For a peace journalist like me, itís the event of a lifetime.

For a bit, Iíd like to take you into that room with me.

Desmond Tutu looks like a jolly dark-skinned elf, with his almost ever-present warm smile and twinkling eyes. With pain in his voice, he asks, "If the death of innocents is wrong in New York or Washington, give me one reason why it isnít wrong in Afghanistan."

Lech Walesaís hair is now all gray. His famous handlebar moustache now lacks the handlebars. 

Northern Irelandís Mairead Maguire is a constant gentle presence. In her soft Irish lilt, she tells me that "ordinary people are the most important piece" in eliminating terrorism, "ordinary people going across barriers to people of different religions and cultures, from community to community, across states and the world."

Carol Bellamy represents UNICEF. Her brash typical-New-Yorker remarks bring a spontaneous round of applause when she suggests putting more women in government. She says, "It wonít solve everything BUT..."

Only 10 of the Nobel Peace Laureates over the past 100 years have been women, but the Nobel Committee Chair volunteers that they are planning to correct that.

Once the Dalai Lama smilingly grasps my arm as he passes, always surrounded by his protective entourage of monks. 

Rigoberta Menchu Tum wears the colorful garb of Guatamala. She introduces me to the fact that the nature of war has changed. In contemporary wars, civilian dead outnumber dead soldiers by as much as 8 or 10 to one.

Elie Weiselís words and voice sound like poetry. He speaks of terrorism "killing children, killing the child in us."

Kim Dae-jung, President of South Korea, surprises me by pointing out that the digital age offers us a new way to help failing nations overcome their poverty. He says, "Poor nations can now create wealth if they use computers."

At one point, I sit next to Jody Williams, creater of the Campaign to Ban Landmines, as she sprawls tiredly in a chair. She has just brought me into the room through the Laureates-only door, telling me "rules are made to be broken." 

Many of the Peace Laureates express a desire to meet more often. I hope that the next time they do, they will not to be limited to giving well-delivered talks filled with excellent information, but will be allowed to work at solving the worldís problems.

Here in this beautiful room above a fjord, they are like champion racehorses brought to the track but then only allowed to paw the ground and whinny at each other while the race is being run by other horses, most of whom are going in the wrong direction. 

The Laureates intend to expand their role and turn the race around. As Mairead says, humanity needs a voice of hope. The Peace Laureates have one and plan to offer it.

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