The week of July 10-14, 2007 I attended the Third International Women’s Peace Conference in Dallas, Texas. It was a gathering of over 1,000 women from 43 different countries and 32 U.S. states. The gathering focused on peace using non-violent and communicative skills. There was no talk of protests, flag-waving, marches or sit-ins. This was a peaceful gathering.
Chaired by the Hon. Leticia Shahani, Ph.D., former Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations and a former senator from the Philippines and Vivian Castleberry, former reporter and editor who founded Peacemakers, Inc. the conference was dynamic. Over 1,000 women from various ethnic and religious groups met together for a common cause to eradicate the atrocities committed against women and children worldwide and also for women’s voices to be heard. I heard horrendous stories of torture, rape, killing and maiming of children from Burma to Africa, the Middle East, and Bosnia. The army of Burma is known as the School of Rape. Most of us in the U.S. cannot comprehend the horrors perpetuated against children and women. It is inhumane. It was a quiet revolution of women meeting to share and learn about the art of using non-violent methods and to connect with other women world-wide.
I learned about the power of technology. We, here in the U.S. take cell phones for granted. In Africa a woman in a small village uses a cell phone to call other villages to find out what the current price for a goat is because she wants to take her got to market and sell it. By using this technology she becomes a wiser business woman. By using the technology of Internet, women can communicate and become educated.
I previously had a jaded view of the United Nations until I hear Gillian Sorensen, former UN Under-Secretary General, UN Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations and currently Senior Adviser of the UN Foundation, a non-profit organization (NGO). Sorensen told us that the UN is not perfect, but we can make it better. I learned that there are many NGOs working with the humanitarian part of the UN and who are making a difference. One such organization is the Rotary Club, which has been working with the UN to eradicate polio world-wide.
There were three Nobel Peace Prize Laureates giving keynote addresses. The first was Betty Williams who was awarded her Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 for contributing to the ending of the conflict in Northern Island. Today, Northern Ireland is vastly different from the time when she saws three small children killed on the streets of Belfast. Williams’ interests today are the children of the world. She has traveled the world to work for the cessation of murder, rape and atrocities committed against children. She is the founder of the World Center of Compassion for Children International, a non-profit organization.
The second Nobel Peace Laureate to speak was Rigoberta Manchu from Guatemala and a member of the Quiche-Maya ethnic group. She was awarded her Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for efforts to end the Guatemalan Civil War that began in 1960. Ms Manchu told us that “We can make a light. We can make a difference in the lives of people.” She is running for the office of President in Guatemala this year. She has traveled the world extensively working for peace and is the author of over 30 children’s’ books.
The third Nobel Peace Laureate was Jody Williams from Vermont. Williams was awarded her Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her organization’s effort to have landmines outlawed through the Ottawa Treaty. The three notable countries who failed to ratify the treaty are the U.S., China and Russia. Williams said that landmines and cluster bombs kill more civilians than those of the military. She has traveled to Dafur and the genocide there is abominable and she called it the Genocide Olympics.
As I listened to these peaceful warriors, I sensed the time is now for all people to look at their values pertaining to life. It is a time to put aside prejudices, discrimination and hatreds. Each of us on this planet is part of the great quilt called God. Each of us with our various colors, creeds and religious beliefs make up the colorful fabric of this quilt. It would be a dreary world if we were all the same. I found this conference, a quiet revolution, a call to look at values and to revere life.