Saturday, October 17, 2009

Peace - Yes We Can!

Peace worldwide, starts from inside. ~ The Luminaries

I have been watching the articles and the comments fly about the fact that President Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize. There are many people who are skeptical about it and think he was awarded it undeservedly so. What I think many of the critics don’t understand is that this is actually one of the trademarks of the Nobel Peace Prize. That is, if you look over the Nobel Peace Prize and who it has been awarded to – it has a long history of controversy that goes with it. In fact, I would dare to say that the uniqueness and beauty of the Nobel Peace Prize is that it stirs up controversy, raises awareness about an issue and most often also makes a very strong political statement. In fact, so often it has been used to not only award acts of peace and deeds accomplished or achieved, but to provide an incentive to take further steps and strides in creating peace.

Here are some examples of controversies and political statements made by the Nobel Peace Committee over time in awarding its Laureates:

· One of the most controversial awards was in 1973, when the Prize was awarded to Secretary of State Henry A Kissinger and North Vietnamese Leader Le Duc Tho even though there was clearly no peace agreement achieved. Further controversy ensued when Le Duc Tho declined the Prize (the only person to have ever done so) and Kissinger refused to go to Oslo to receive the prize and tried returning it, but wasn’t allowed.
· In 1976 with both the awards to Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan for the conflict in Northern Ireland and in 1987 to President Oscar Arias for the conflicts in Central America, there was significant controversy due to the fact that the conflicts had been far from resolved. The committee had awarded the Prize in the hopes of providing an impetus to move more quickly towards peace – something that still took many years to alleviate or resolve either of these conflicts.
· In 1989, the year of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the committee awarded the Prize to the 14th Dalai Lama in Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso. Clearly this was not a coincidence, but rather a strong political statement opposing the Chinese Government’s policies against Tibet and within for its hostile actions.
· In 1992, on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s “discovery” of America, the committee awarded the Prize to Rigoberta Menchu Tum, who advocated for Indigenous Rights in Guatemala and Latin America. The ironic intention of the Nobel Peace Committee was unmistakable in this blatant example of controversy to raise awareness around an issue.
· In 1994, the Peace Prize was awarded to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. The prize was awarded despite the fact that negotiations were still far from establishing peace.
· In 1995, the committee awarded Joseph Rotblat, one of the creators of the atomic bomb, the Nobel Peace Committee for leaving the Manhattan Project and dedicating his life to nuclear disarmament. The irony was they did so on the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
· In 1996, at a time in which East Timor had nearly been forgotten internationally many years after the Indonesian invasion of 1975, the Nobel Committee awarded Jose Ramos-Horta and Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo the Prize. The Prize was a leading contributor in raising attention back to East Timor and helping them get on the road to independence.

While the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to those who have worked for humanitarian assistance and aid, arms control and disarmament and human rights, the Prize has also come to be used unmistakably “not only as a reward for achievements accomplished but as an incentive for the Laureates to achieve even more.”

My guess is that this is exactly the call to action the Nobel Committee intended by awarding President Obama the Peace Prize. Perhaps for some, or many, his election as the First African American President of the United States and his unwavering commitment to creating a renewed HOPE in our country and around the world and CHANGE, or a correction of course, are not enough to warrant the prestigious award of the Nobel Peace Prize. But the Nobel Peace Committee definitely did what it is known to do so well in its long history: create controversy, raise awareness and set a new high standard of achievement and accountability for President Obama to live up to.

For that I tip my hat to the committee for taking the leadership and lighting a fire to incite the President to truly stand up for HOPE, CHANGE and PEACE. It is encouraging to see the Committee raise the bar and hold a new high standard for President Obama to step into and live up to. May it inspire us all to raise the bar for ourselves to step up above the criticism and controversy and take a deep look within to ask ourselves, how are we contributing to peace, hope and being the change we wish to see in the world?

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1 comment:

  1. This is very informative, let the change begin !!