–by Betty Williams (Feb 27, 2015)
War has traditionally been a man’s work, although we know that often women were the cause of violence. But the voice of women, the voice of those most closely involved in bringing forth new life, has not always been listened to when it pleaded and implored against the waste of life in war after war. The voice of women has a special role and a special soul force in the struggle for a nonviolent world. We do not wish to replace religious sectarianism, or ideological division with sexism or any kind of militant feminism. But we do believe; as Ciaran McKeown who is with us in spirit, believes, that women have a leading role to play in this great struggle.
So we are honored, in the name of all women, that women have been honored especially for their part in leading a nonviolent movement for a just and peaceful society. Compassion is more important than intellect, in calling forth the love that the work of peace needs, and intuition can often be a far more powerful searchlight than cold reason. We have to think, and think hard, but if we do not have compassion before we even start thinking, then we are quite likely to start fighting over theories. The whole world is divided ideologically, and theologically, right and left, and men are prepared to fight over their ideological differences. Yet the whole human family can be united by compassion. And, as Ciaran said recently in Israel, “compassion recognizes human rights automatically … it does not need a charter”.
Because of the role of women over so many centuries in so many different cultures, they have been excluded from what have been called public affairs; for that very reason they have concentrated much more on things close to home … and they have kept far more in touch with the true realities … the realities of giving birth and love. The moment has perhaps come in human history when, for very survival, those realities must be given pride of place over the vainglorious adventures that lead to war.
But we do not wish to see a division over this … merely a natural and respectful and loving cooperation. Women and men together can make this a beautiful people’s world, and that is why we called ourselves, “THE PEACE PEOPLE”.
We know that this insane and immoral imbalance of priorities cannot be changed overnight: we also know that it will not be changed without the greatest struggle, the incessant struggle to get the human race to stop wasting its vast resources on arms, and start investing in the people who must live out their lives on the planet we share, east and west, north and south. And that struggle must be all the greater because it has to be an unarmed, a nonviolent struggle, and requires more courage and more persistence than the courage to squeeze triggers or press murderous buttons. Men must not only end war, they must begin to have the courage not even to prepare for war.
Someday we must take seriously the words of Carl Sandburg: “Someday there will be a war, and no one will come”. Won’t that be beautiful? Someday there will be a “war” but no one will come. And of course, if no one comes there will be no war. And we don’t have to go, we don’t have to have war, but it seems to take more courage to say NO to war than to say YES, and perhaps we women have for too long encouraged the idea that it is brave and manly to go to war, often to “defend” women and children. Let women everywhere from this day on encourage men to have the courage not to turn up for war, not to work for a militarized world but a world of peace, a nonviolent world.
To begin to have that kind of real courage, people must begin to breach the barriers which divide them. We are divided on the surface of this planet, by physical barriers, emotional barriers, ideological barriers, barriers of prejudice and hatreds of every kind….
We as Peace People… believe in taking down the barriers, but we also believe in the most energetic reconciliation among peoples by getting them to know each other, talk each other’s languages, understand each other’s fears and beliefs, getting to know each other physically, philosophically and spiritually. It is much harder to kill your near neighbor than the thousands of unknown and hostile aliens at the other end of a nuclear missile. We have to create a world in which there are no unknown, hostile aliens at the other end of any missiles, and that is going to take a tremendous amount of sheer hard work.
The only force which can break down those barriers is the force of love, the force of truth, soul-force. We all know that a simple handshake, a simple embrace, can break down enmity between two people. Multiply such acts of friendship all over the world, and then the moments of pathetic friendship in the miserable trenches of the First World War would no longer be the exception but the rule in human affairs.
And such acts of friendship must be backed by dedication. A handshake or an embrace is not enough: Jesus Christ was betrayed by a kiss. The initial acts of friendship must be followed, day in and day out, by cooperation in everything that improves life and prevents violence.
–Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, with Mairead Corrigan, 1976
[Illustration offered as an anonymous gift :-)]