2011 Nobel Peace Prize Awarded

The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to three African women “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

The most prominent of the three winners is perhaps Leymah Gbowee, who engaged in non-violent protests of the conditions of women and children during the 2003 Liberian Civil War.  She was a mother of six, working as a trauma councilor to former child soldiers when she realizes that “if any changes were to be made in society it had to be by the mothers.”  This led her to a strategy of non-violent social protest that began with local women praying and singing in a fish market, and culminated in thousands of women engaging in sex strikes and hunger strikes until they forced a meeting with the Liberian President and persuaded him to negotiate with the rebel forces.

Through these and similar efforts they forced an end to the civil war.

Gbowee has since worked closely with Mennonite church in the United States and worldwide in constructing her Women Peace and Security Network Africa, a large organization structured on principles of non-violent social formation.

In her memoir, published 2011, she wrote “I read Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi and the Kenyan author and conflict and reconciliation expert Hizkias Assefa, who believed that reconciliation between victim and perpetrator was the only way to really resolve conflict, especially civil conflict, in the modern world. Otherwise, Assefa wrote, both remained bound together forever, one waiting for apology or revenge, the other fearing retribution.”

She also writes that her time working with Mennonites has taught her about the importance of “restorative justice.”

Restorative justice was… something we could see as ours and not artificially imposed by Westerners. And we needed it, needed that return to tradition. A culture of impunity flourished throughout Africa. People, officials, governments did evil but were never held accountable. More than we needed to punish them, we needed to undo the damage they had done.

I think this awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize makes much more sense than Obama’s, though I think I understand what the committee was intending when they awarded it to Obama.  It is nice to see the actual work of peacemaking and reconciliation receive some attention, especially amid the sea of voices (including Obama’s at his own acceptance speech!) who claim that peacemaking is nice as a side project, but that real peace comes from the end of a gun.

It would also be nice if the church developed a reputation for being involved in this sort of thing.

What do you think of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize?

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