©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
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
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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