Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Peace laureates take U.S. to task in public address

Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, drew a standing ovation and roars of approval from a crowd of nearly 7,000 when she likened the current war in Iraq to terrorism and fundamentalism.

Other peace laureates echoed that theme in a public talk Saturday at DU’s Magness Arena. Nine laureates addressed the audience, which included 150 University of Denver students and some 3,000 youths who are participating in the PeaceJam10th anniversary conference this weekend.

Speaking in Spanish, 1980 Laureate Aldolfo Perez Esquivel told the audience, “You have to stand up to say no to war, no to torture! You have to stand up and say no to invasion of other countries!”

“People are being abused in the name of national security,” said 1976 Peace Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire.

Rigoberta Menchu Tum, a Maya who won the Nobel in 1992, criticized the U.S. government for not granting visas for Mayan youths to attend PeaceJam. She exhorted indigenous people around the world to “grow in spirit” and reclaim their dignity.

Costa Rican President and 1987 Peace Laureate Oscar Arias called for a broader definition of security to include security from disease and hunger. He said the real tragedy of Sept. 11 was that Osama bin Laden continues killing people by siphoning energy and resources away from these issues.

“You people of the United States are wonderful people,” said Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Peace Prize winner. “That is part of what you have as a gift for the world … democracy, freedom, the rule of law.

“Yet, you permit Guantanamo Bay,” he admonished. “Take back your country!”

“Don’t just whine and emote,” said Jody Williams, the 1997 Peace Laureate. “What are you doing about the issues you care about? I want you to claim your power as individuals to make the world a better place.”

Despite the criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, the overall tone of the evening was uplifting.

The Dalai Lama, who received the Peace Prize in 1989, called for religious tolerance and respect. Betty Williams, who shared the 1976 prize with Maguire, asked audience members to hug each other as she shared hugs with the other speakers.

“I’m going to go hug the mayor. Excuse me,” she said as she crossed the stage to embrace Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

“Just to be in the presence of people who are expressing their humanity in such a powerful way inspires me,” said Boulder resident Juliana Forbes. “I feel rejuvenated.”

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