The Guys Get It! Men Who Build and Nurture Peace
- by Mary Liston LiepoldThrough the ’70s and into the ’80s, when I took my three sons to peace vigils and demonstrations or meetings of the various peace organizations I belonged to, they complained of feeling out of place because there were so few men. Last week when I walked into the posh DC offices of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, for the Washington, DC launch of the 2010 Global Peace Index, and saw three men in the three chairs set for the panel, I said Hallelujah! The guys get it.
That other half of the human race is joining the peace team, ladies, in impressive numbers. I’ve selected just a few to acknowledge here. They’re alive, human, imperfect, just as we are, but they all represent progress in one of the areas we identify as the Pillars of Peace (listed in the sidebar).
Has anyone ever told you that war is good for the economy? The Global Peace Index (GPI) shows by the numbers that peace grows the bottom line, and war is good for nothing. Now in its fifth year, the GPI is the brainchild of Steve Killilea, a wealthy and wise Australian who noticed that peaceful nations have healthier economies than belligerent ones. He set staff members from The Economist Intelligence Unit to work gathering data. Steve and his friends have created the Institute for Economics and Peace to further develop this original research and carry its results to the places where it can change cultures worldwide. The endorsers include 10 Nobel laureates and this year, as in previous years, the rankings are making headlines around the world.
In Getting to YES, first published in 1981, Roger Fisher and Bill Ury laid a foundation for peacebuilders and other negotiators across the decades. Trained as a social anthropologist, Ury carried out his research among the Bushmen of the Kalahari and the clan warriors of New Guinea as well as in the world of business.
Paul Rusesabagina (best known as the hero of the real Hotel Rwanda), is credited with saving more than 1,200 lives during the Rwandan genocide. Today he promotes truth and reconciliation commissions and works to prevent future genocides through his foundation and his frequent speaking engagements.
Citizen diplomat Charles (Chic) Dambach has headed The Alliance for Peacebuilding since 2005 and is North America’s representative to the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict. His resume is long and various, but I think of him fondly as the man who convinced the US Institute of Peace and other institutions to adopt the proactive, comprehensive term peacebuilding instead of the merely remedial peacemaking or peacekeeping. It’s a distinction with a difference, for Alliance member Peace X Peace.
Vast libraries have been filled with works on education, just as conflict transformation is acquiring its own voluminous literature. And all true education builds cultures of peace. For now, though, it’s enough to recognize two educators outside academia who are reaching wide audiences with compelling theory and practice.
Marshall Rosenberg developed the practice of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) while working for civil rights in the 1960s. NVC (also known as Empathic Communication) and its offshoots are used today in living rooms, schools, Fortune 500 companies, prisons, and war zones worldwide. I spend two and a half hours every Tuesday evening in one of those living rooms, and I’m amazed at how much I still have to learn. It helps to laugh a lot.
Jeremy Rifkin, whose titles include advisor to the European Union, published The Empathic Civilization earlier this year. It’s his 17th book and his most wide-ranging. He tells us that our choice as human beings is between empathy and entropy; that empathy for the members of our species and other species is the key to planetary survival. This is a big, important book. You can sample its premises quickly, though, in this entertaining, cartoon-style video.
The Global Peace Index calculates the cost of war, planet-wide, as $28 trillion over just the last four years. Rifkin’s analysis holds out hope if we can re-direct some of those trillions to healing our environment and adopt more sustainable ways to live. One of the greatest threats to the planet’s well-being and our own is nuclear weapons. That’s why the Nobel Peace Prize Committee chose to honor the International Atomic Energy Agency and its then-president Mohamed ElBaradei in 2005. ElBaradei left the Agency, after 12 years, at the end of 2009. I admire him for his sustained efforts to dial down the hysteria around Iraq eight years ago and Iran today. And I admire the IAEI for choosing cancer as its focus for 2010, demonstrating that nuclear testing is not something that might harm us in the future but something that is harming us now.
Former US Vice President Al Gore (Nobel Peace Prize 2007) deserves a nod in this category too, for trying to direct top-tier attention to the fate of the earth decades before leaders were prepared to listen. I remember hearing his passionate presentation on global warming at a National Science Teachers conference in the early 80s.
Health and Well-Being
Here’s someone I wouldn’t rule out for a future Nobel Prize: Dr. Paul Farmer. It might be in Medicine rather than Peace, but the Committee has shown its own grasp of the Pillars more than once, choosing banker Mohamed Yunus in 2006 and environment and women’s rights activist Wangari Maathai in 2004, as well as Gore in 2008. What qualifies Farmer for the Peace Prize, in my view, beyond his super-abundant brains, energy, and goodness, is his Gandhi-like determination to choose the means and leave the ends in God’s hands. He’s also got a great, quirky sense of humor. If you haven’t read Mountains Beyond Mountains, you have a treat in store.
We profiled Len Traubman last year, but the frequent bulletins we get from Len and his wife Libby keep us always grateful for their sustained, path-breaking work in dialogue and their vast collection of good-news stories.
Positive headlines―the stories the major media seldom cover―have another strong champion in Australian Jake Lynch. Jake wrote the book on Peace Journalism, with his wife Annabel McGoldrick, and the global growth of citizen-powered media brings in fresh recruits every day. Characterizing conflict in new ways gives us power to prevent it, transform it, and heal the wounds it inflicts.
Justice and Good Governance
The Global Peace Index, with whose 2010 launch I began this story, shows that some nations are reaping the rewards of internal and external peace. Congratulations to the governments and the people of this year’s top six: New Zealand, Iceland, Japan, Austria, Norway, and Ireland. If we count Queen Elizabeth II, New Zealand’s titular head of state, instead of its Vice Governor, exactly half of the six are governed by men.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is a particular hero to me because he has followed up Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, adopted in the year 2000, with resolutions 1820, 1888, and 1889, all aiming to bring an end to violence against women. I’m also impressed with his statements on the necessary role of men in that campaign.
Paul Farmer happens to be a cradle Catholic, like me. Eboo Patel is a Muslim who likes Catholics, Jews, Hindus, the unaffiliated, and everybody else. The young Chicagoan founded the International Youth Core to advance interfaith dialogue. He was chosen to deliver the keynote speech at a Nobel Peace Prize Forum with President Jimmy Carter and took part in a memorable podcast on anti-Semitism at the United States Holocaust Museum. Now he has a special role in the Obama administration, with the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Peace X Peace Executive Director Molly Mayfield Barbee looks like the original Barbie doll, before Barbie went multicultural, got a life, and was upstaged by younger doll-women. I could only wish for this Barbee to influence the self-image of America’s young girls as strongly as the other once did. Molly grew up moving comfortably across cultures, has lived in Africa and the Mid-East, has an advanced degree in theology, and is fluent in Arabic and French, as well as English. Her leadership is a fluid balance of gentleness and strength. What kind of parents raise a woman like this? Below you’ll find Molly’s tribute to her father, who is her hero of interfaith dialogue and more.
We invite you to learn more about the men mentioned so briefly above and the work they are doing for peace. And as always, we invite you to share names and details about those you want to recognize in the Comments to this Peace Times and our other blogs.
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