Oct 03, 2016
Tagged with: Peace

Do one thing every day that everyone else is scared to do.

Leymah Gbowee


Leymah Gbowee, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, opened the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Institute for Human Rights on September 29th with a rousing, inspiring talk on her work as a Liberian peace and women’s rights activist. The newly created institute serves as a permanent location where scholars, educators, and activists come together and collaborate on initiatives designed to promote and protect human rights in an increasingly complex and globalized landscape. The IHR integrates existing university and community strengths and capacities with a global outlook, focusing on the use of innovative technologies and scientific methods to create and foster new research, policy solutions, educational programming, and outreach activities relating to all aspects of human rights.


So, here in Birmingham, Alabama, where the battle for Civil Rights was waged a little more than half a century ago, a new movement has begun: Human Rights.  Ms. Gbowee asked her audience, “Is your city going backwards or forwards?  Do you deserve to be leaders in the work of Human Rights?”  Do we?  Do I have a role in this?  Yes, I do.  We all do.  Where shall we begin?


In 1982, September 21st was named International Day of Peace and in 2013 the UN Secretary General dedicated the day to peace education. On this day, many countries observe cease fires.  Others do not.  But, it is a start.


Dr. Maria Montessori said, “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.” Her great work in the world was educating children.  Dr. Montessori felt that children raised in peace would create a peaceful world.  She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times and three times she did not win the prize.  Surely she was on to something.  What if we follow the children?


My 11 year old daughter is studying American History this year and recently said, “We sure have a lot of wars.” Yes, I agreed.  “Do you have to fight in a war?” she asked.  No.  I replied and told her about conscientious objectors.


(A conscientious objector is an “individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service” on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, disability or religion.)


“You mean you can refuse to fight? Really?  What if everybody on both sides did that?  We would have no more wars!” she exclaimed.  Surely, it cannot be that simple.  Or can it?


Out of the mouths of babes comes truth. From that truth comes hope.  Let’s educate our children in peace and follow them.





Author: Elizabeth Vander Kamp