In addition to the #BeDemocracy exhibit at the Nobel Peace Center, Chad and I explored the exhibit about the Nobel Peace Prize laureates, 103 individuals and 22 organizations in total since 1901. The exhibit itself was an interesting experience. Each year was represented by what I can only describe as a tablet on a pole, in a field of LED lights, also on poles. As you walked up to each screen, it sensed your presence and showed a photo, description, and quote from each person or organization for that year. They were not organized in any order that I could recognize. The room was dimly lit, with soothing tones playing softly as you approached the screens. We took our time exploring the field of information.
What I loved about the exhibit was the variety of fields that were represented by this group of people and organizations. The laureates made contributions through what I would say are more obvious avenues to peace, such as disarmament and diplomacy, negotiations and democracy, but also through a variety of other methods, such as education, law, medicine, energy and science, human rights, women’s rights, and children’s rights, poverty, agriculture, literature and philosophy, racism and segregation, labor, abuse, and land rights.
Because what is peace really? Is it simply non-violence, the opposite of war, the absence of conflict? Or isn’t it, rather, making people whole? Peace gives rest. As a Christian, I believe you can find peace and rest in knowing you are created by a loving God who wants you to build a community that serves and supports each other. And that goes so far beyond conflict resolution, to wholeness and compassion and security and justice and hope and love and other-centeredness. It means recognizing and honoring the image of God within yourself and within every person around you, regardless of race or class or age or gender or ability.
And in reaching that kind of peace, we need to combat hunger and poverty. We need to reconcile injustice and conflict. We need to give full dignity to all people, including all races, all genders, all ages. We need to produce energy and medicine and technology that honors all people AND stewards the environment. We need to share stories and ideas. We need to give all people the opportunity to work and rest and thrive. There is no one way to peace, and that was so apparent at the Peace Center. Peace requires all people to give the gifts they have. All efforts work toward the common goal.
Here are some of the highlights of what I saw in the laureates exhibit. (This is by no means exhaustive and does not do justice to varied perspectives, but just what struck me as the most inspirational during my visit).
“If you desire peace, cultivate justice, but at the same time, cultivate the fields to produce more bread; otherwise there will be no peace.” Norman E. Borlaug of the United States, 1970 recipient. Awarded the prize for his work with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center and his contributions to the “green revolution” initiatives that sought to increase agricultural production in the developing world. He’s credited with saving more than a billion people from starvation through the development of higher-yielding crops.
“The voice of women has a special role and a special soul force in the struggle for a non-violent world.” Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan of the United Kingdom, 1976 recipients. These two women are the founders of the Northern Ireland Peace Movement, later renamed Community of Peace People. Williams and Corrigan are two of only sixteen female recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.
“The appeal to the good in people can cut across deep-rooted prejudices and break down political, national, and creedal enmities.” The International Service of Friends and American Friends Service Committee from the United Kingdom and United States, 1947 recipients. (Now more commonly known as the Quaker Peace and Social Witness in the UK.) These groups work for compassion toward all individuals and educate and advocate for peace around the world.
“Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where the individuals and nations are free.” 14th Dalai Lama from Tibet, 1989 recipient. Lauded for his opposition to violence in the struggle to liberate Tibet, he focuses on tolerance and mutual respect for all people.
“A war of today with our technologies for megamurder has no winners. It is only a competition as to who can bring about the most monstrous destruction.” Alva Myrdal of Sweden, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Alfonso Garcia Robles of Mexico in 1982. Myrdal and Robles played a vital role in United Nations’ disarmament negotiations, particularly in response to the threat of nuclear war.
“Many of us in different countries and of different creeds, both in the Old World and in the New, asked ourselves this question and realized that more could be done for peace by a Christendom united at least in its most essential principle: to live according to the commandment of love.” Nathan Soderblom of Sweden, 1930 recipient. Soderblom was an Archbishop in the Lutheran Church and believed that church unity and the teachings of Jesus were relevant to modern life and society, and could aid in a more peaceful world.
I’d love to keep going because there are so many inspirational and interesting people and organizations, but you can read more about the Nobel Peace Prize laureates on the Nobel website.