We are rounding the corner towards the celebration of Earth Day.
For me, Peace and the Environment are closely tied.
In fact, to me, Peace and all things towards positive change, are unequivocally bonded.
For without Peace and Peaceableness, progress does not happen.
Peace marks the threshold of compassion, the willingness to welcome each other, the capacity to make decisions in everyone’s best interest.
Without Peace, there can be no wisdom-in-action regarding the choices we make for each other and for our Environment.
Without Peace, truth cannot prevail.
Enter Betty Williams. She has spent the past four decades on a crusade for peace. I first met and interviewed Betty during The Global Peace Film Festival in 2004.
As a Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Betty has garnered much esteem and praise and is the recipient of many other prestigious honors and awards including: The Martin Luther King Jr. Award, Eleanor Roosevelt Award, Schweitzer Medallion for Courage, Rotary Club International's "Paul Harris Fellowship," Certificate of Honor from the Federation of World Peace and Love, Doctor of Laws from Yale University, Italy's Ischia Peace Award, and Humanity in the Arts Founders Award, International Committee of Artists for Peace.
Betty served then as President to the World Centers of Compassion for Children International, Advisory Board Member - The Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education, Chair of the Institute for Asian Democracy - Washington, D.C., Board of Trustees of Pax Natura, Founding Member - Alliance for the New Humanity, Board of Directors - Adoption Options, Inc., International Advisory Board - Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Non-violence, and Advisory Board Member - Camfed International.
The above are partial lists and only a fraction of her activities and accomplishments.
Readers familiar with my work, here on OM Times and in the many newspapers, magazines and journals I publish, clearly see the common thread that binds each of my articles, namely to follow your dreams and live a life you love and while you are doing so to do your best to give back to your community and the world in any way you can.
Betty Williams is a woman who did just this.
She dreamt of a better place, a safer place, a loving place and peaceful place for the children of her land to live and be nurtured in. She extended her vision and her kindness to children on a worldwide scale.
In August, 1976 as part of the Declaration of the Peace People she stated: "We have a simple message for the world from this movement for peace: We want to live and love and build a just and peaceful society. We want for our children, as we want for ourselves, our lives at home, at work and at play, to be lives of joy and peace." She repeated those words along with many powerful superlatives in her Nobel Lecture on December 11, 1977.
Betty and Mairead Corrigan Maguire were presented with the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to create a grassroots movement to end the violence in Northern Ireland.
Betty Williams is not a woman to mince words.
She speaks clearly, occasionally curtly, sometimes bluntly, but always passionately and always for the common good of children.
She is an unusual yet palatable blend of honey and vinegar.
She is a powerful force.
During the panel discussion (a Panel on Peace) I observed during The Global Peace Film Festival she forthrightly declared "The truth will rise!"
In our interview she shared her outrage and disappointment in the state of the world today and said "I'm not here to impress anybody. I'm here to say that what's happening . . . is very, very wrong." She says that the onus is on each one of us to take a stand, take our country and our world back and make it a safe place for our children. She candidly points to the fact that "Upwards 40,000 children die a day, simply to starvation, not counting those lost to AIDS or sold into slavery, and sexual slavery. What's happening in the world to children is so brutal. . .even here in the United States you have 30 million hungry people – 13 million of those are children!. . . starving people in a country that can feed them.Shame on us! "
Obviously fiercely passionate about her purpose, Betty reminds us of how important it is to protect our children and give them a foundation in which to thrive from. She says, "It starts with the children."
In her homeland of Northern Ireland, children were taught to hate each other in their god's name. Protestant vs Catholics. She sighed in relief and reports that it is not that way any more but to give an example of how entrenched these beliefs once were in the minds of children she related a story: A couple of days after they opened an Integrated School (Catholic & Protestant students together) she explained part of the curriculum to one of the little boys attending, "We are going to bring people in from all religions to speak so that the children will know what other religions are like."
At the time there was a Buddhist Monk in town and she invited him to speak and when she announced this to the little boy he asked "Is he a Catholic Buddhist or a Protestant Buddhist?" While comments like that out-of-the-mouths-of-babes seems humorous to many of us, it is also quite telling of the limited exposure to other religious cultures as well as the tunnel-vision view children had about the world and they simply did not know anything else existed.
The bottom line is that children know what they are taught. It is our responsibility to inform them, to teach love and peace, not hatred and violence.
Therefore, Betty's work involves addressing the struggle but also being proactive about finding solutions.
One of the solutions is PeaceJam, an organization founded by Dawn Engle and Ivan Suvanjieff, two people whom Betty sings high praises of. PeaceJam provides five curricular programs that explore the experiences of 12 Nobel Peace Laureates and the ways they overcame problems in their communities. Children as young as five years old and through to college age study the personal stories of incredible world leaders and then engage in service-learning activities that address local needs. Other participating Laureates include The Dali Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Aung San Suu Kyi. During PeaceJam Betty is with 200 children and she loves every minute of it. When the course is completed the most important message she leaves children with is: "Non-violence is the weapon of the strong and not the weak. That's what I try and tell them. . .and to teach them how to love each other and hug each other!"
Circling back to our Environment, and the annual celebration of Earth Day.
I beckon those who wish to solve the environmental crisis we now face to look towards establishing Peace as the primary viable option for creating a lasting solution to tend to our planet.
Can we repair the damage we have done? Well, that is another article for another day. And much more research to be done to answer even close to correctly. But what I can say for certain is that Earth has a magickal way of healing herself when we humans cease our efforts (conscious or unconscious) to destroy her.
Namaste & Blessed Be,
View the following websites for more information about Betty's work: