We are for life and creation, and we are against war and destruction, and in our rage in that terrible week, we screamed that the violence had to stop.
But we also began to do something about it besides shouting. Ciaran McKeown wrote “The Declaration of the Peace People” which in its simple words pointed along the path of true peace, and with the publication of that Declaration, we announced the founding of The Movement of the Peace People, and we began planning a series of rallies which would last four months, and through which we would mobilize hundreds of thousands of people and challenge them to take the road of the Declaration.
The words are simple but the path is not easy, as all the people ever associated with the historic Nobel Peace Prize must know. It is a path on which we must not only reject the use of all the techniques of violence, but along which we must seek out the work of peace... and do it. It is the way of dedication, hard work and courage.
Hundreds of thousands of people turned out during those four months and we would not be standing here if they had not. So I feel humble that I should be receiving this award, but I am very proud to be here in the name of all the Peace People to accept it.
I am also aware of a sense of history. I am aware of all the people who have stood here before to receive this award. We think perhaps particularly of Martin Luther King whose memory we cherish, and whose ideals and whose voice inspire us still, as they have done for so many millions of people around the world involved, actively engaged, in the nonviolent struggle for justice and peace.
Mairead and Ciaran and I had the honor to receive the Carl von Ossietsky medal in Berlin last year, from the Berlin section of the International League of Human Rights. So we have a special reason for thinking of the man who, forty-two years ago, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as he suffered in prison in Hitler’s Germany. He could not come here to receive the award, but what an encouragement that must have been to those so hopelessly struggling for the only right way to live, then, as now, the way of nonviolence.
As we think of Carl von Ossietsky, and those who languish in prison, we think of those now in jail in Northern Ireland, young men and women misled by tradition into violence, and whose early release into a nonviolent society we seek. And we think of men like Adolfo Perez Esquivel, imprisoned without trial in Argentina, we think of so many similarly incarcerated throughout the world, whose only “crime” is their unswerving dedication to create just relationships by nonviolent methods throughout the human family. So we think of ourselves as standing in an historic line from the past, and we think of ourselves, all of us, as living at a great moment of opportunity... and danger... in human history.
And with that sense of history, we feel a special sense of honor... honor for women, perhaps a little specially at this time. 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.”