Change: New Book Reflects Powerful Vision Of Recent Nobel Peace
12, 2000 -- In November 1998, eight visionary recipients
of the Nobel Peace Prize gathered on the Grounds of the University
of Virginia for two days of extraordinary dialogue about creating
a more peaceful world. From the inspiring words of His Holiness
the Dalai Lama to Archbishop Desmond Tutu's riveting description
of chairing South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission,
their conversation ranged from familiar international-relations
themes to crucial peace issues traditionally neglected by the daily
news, such as the need for personal transformation and better community-organizing.
on the laureates' talks, exchanges and life stories, a veteran international-affairs
journalist and author has created a powerful vision of our shared
global future in a new book, "The Moral Architecture of World
Peace," based on the historic conference.
other recent books on global change, "The Moral Architecture
of World Peace," written by Helena Cobban and just published
by the University Press of Virginia, is based on the heroic stories
of individuals. They come from such varied backgrounds as Rigoberta
Menchú Tum of Guatemala and Jody Williams of the United States,
and they base their view of world peace on personal strength and
public activism, not economic trends.
a former Middle East corespondent for the Sunday Times of London
who writes a regular column on global affairs for the Christian
Science Monitor, sees this personal-activism model as perhaps the
strongest potential route for peace to capture the worlds
imagination in the 21st century. The author of four previous
books on war and peace issues, she sits on an advisory committee
for Human Rights Watch and is a member of the International Institute
of Strategic Studies.
chapter in "The Moral Architecture of World Peace" contains
one laureate's version of a shared message: that peace is grounded
in the personal and spiritual as well as the economic and military
dimensions of global interconnectedness. When the Dalai Lama speaks
of the need for inner as well as external disarmament, he is asking
for a greater commitment than the most complicated nuclear arms
treaty, says Cobban, who teaches courses on peace issues through
U.Va.s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
similar lines, the Northern Ireland peace activist Betty Williams
tells of her hope to disarm "the landmines of the heart," the bitterness
that lives on in war survivors that can be more
destructive than physical scars. Jody Williams and Bobby Muller,
1997 laureates, sound a concordant note in the story of their successful
campaign to win an international treaty banning landmines.
Former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias Sánchez, architect
of the five-nation peace accord in Central America, challenges citizens
of rich western countries to recognize the gap between their luxury
spending and the amounts needed to fund basic human services in
other parts of the world. Indigenous-rights activist Rigoberta Menchú
Tum and East Timorese representative José Ramos-Horta both
lament the human and social costs paid by what Ramos-Horta calls,
sorrowfully, the world's "expendable peoples." Harn Yawnghwe, speaking
on behalf of the Burmese democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who
was refused the right to travel by her government, talks of the
tough issues of preparing for a transition to post-authoritarian
rule in a country that has been run by a military junta.
leaders, says Cobban, all seem to subscribe to a broader set of
truths that are not necessarily self-evident: that human beings
can easily become locked into self-perpetuating "systems of suspicion
and violence" at any level, from the interpersonal through the international;
that when one is inside such a system, it can be hard to see it
and to recognize one's own role within it; but that each of us has
the capacity to make a leap from self-centeredness toward greater
understanding. "Try to change motivation," the Dalai Lama urges.
while these laureates' stories are primarily of personal and political
triumph, they also tell of great sacrifice, conflict, and pain.
Bobby Muller's passionate exchange with Archbishop Tutu on moral
accountability versus reconciliation, and the self-examination of
Ramos-Horta, who reflected that his own East Timorese independence
movement may have hurt the chances of United States' intervention
to prevent Indonesia's brutal invasion of his country, point toward
the new kinds of challenges we face in the coming century. From
the candor, eloquence, humor, and differences expressed by these
inspiring people, Cobban has sketched out a new international paradigm
Nobel Peace Laureates Conference at the University of Virginia was
organized by P. Jeffrey Hopkins, U.Va. professor of religious studies,
and Michele Bohana, director of the Institute for Asian Democracy
in Washington, DC.
interviews about the issues and themes presented by these Nobel
Peace Laureates, Helena Cobban may be reached at (804) 971-1688
review copies of "The Moral Architecture of World Peace,"
contact the University Press of Virginia at (804) 924-3468 or by
fax at (804) 982-2655.
Bob Brickhouse, (804) 924-6856