The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


The power of peace

Land mine activist led campaign that 'changed the world on this one tiny issue'

"We showed how ordinary people working together can accomplish extraordinary things," Jody Williams told more than 700 students at Augsburg College, Minneapolis.


Williams, who won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for organizing the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, was the keynote speaker at the Peace Prize Forum in February. She described the campaign's David-and-Goliath victory.

"Working in a coordinated effort, 1,380 countries brought about an international treaty to ban land mines," she said. The 133 nations that signed the Ottawa Convention in December 1997 agreed to ban the manufacture, stockpiling and use of land mines, and to dismantle those already in the ground.

"The campaign was a breakthrough because governments took the risk of allowing us in the room during negotiations," Williams said. "Because we both took risks, we changed the world on this one tiny issue."

Despite the success, much work remains.

"Millions of land mines in the ground, which don't recognize peace, take a victim every 22 minutes somewhere in the world," she said. Much to the dismay of activists, the United States has resisted the treaty.

Steve Goose, a representative of the land mine campaign, which shared the peace prize with Williams, called the treaty a success even without U.S. approval. But he acknowledged it would be stronger with U.S. backing.

"The United States could conceivably bring other reluctant nations on board, including its allies, such as Israel and Egypt who haven't yet signed the treaty. And difficult countries, such as Russia, might be reluctant to come on board until the United States does."

This year's Peace Prize Forum theme, "Striving for Peace: The Morality and Machinery of Modern Conflict," focused on the contemporary and traditional modes of warfare and on new and traditional avenues of conflict resolution.

The forum rotates annually among five ELCA Midwest colleges. St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn., will host next year's event.




Posted at 3:00 am (U.S. Eastern) 9/17/2007

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February issue


Embracing diversity