Community and faith aided struggle of Nobel Peace Prize winner

By ENInews
October 11, 2011

One of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winners, Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian activist who helped bring her country out of a brutal civil war, says that the best way to achieve global peace is to start in local communities.

"It is time for us to do justice in our communities ... one day the world's problems will meet you at your doorstep," she said at the Interchurch Center in New York.

Coincidentally, she had been scheduled to appear there at a book launch, in an event organised by the National Council of Churches USA (NCCUSA), when the prize was announced.

Gbowee, citing the examples of peace and justice campaigners such as the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, said she does not believe it is possible to practice nonviolent action without some connection to a higher power.

"My faith has really helped me," said Gbowee, a member of the Lutheran Church of Liberia.

The Nobel committee announced on 7 October that Gbowee, Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Yemen's Tawakkul Karman, who leads opposition to dictatorial President Ali Abdullah Saleh, would share the prize. Faith groups around the world hailed the recognition of activists for justice and women's rights.

Gbowee, who organised a group of Christian and Muslim women to challenge Liberia’s warlords, was honoured for mobilising women across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the long war and to ensure women's participation in elections. She trained as a trauma counsellor during the war and worked with former child soldiers. The Liberian civil war ended in 2003, and Johnson Sirleaf was elected.

Speaking of Johnson Sirleaf, Gbowee said every time "she sees me coming, she's weary" because "I always say, 'Madame President, you need to do this, this, this.'" But, Gbowee added, "We have a good professional relationship, like mother and daughter."

Gbowee, who was slated to return to Liberia following the reception, was in the US to promote her memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changes a Nation At War.

Her story will also be featured in a documentary, 'Women, War and Peace,' premiering 11 October on the US Public Broadcasting Service.

The NCCUSA is also adding her to its Circles of Names campaign that honours women of faith who have been a source of inspiration and who have mentored others in their walks of faith.

[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]


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