IFRC

Cultivating peace in Sweden

Published: 20 December 2001 0:00 CET



To mark the centennial of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Swedish Red Cross (SRC) organized its own celebrations in Stockholm last week, by inviting former Nobel laureates to participate in a session on "Peace, in theory and in practice". Together with students from the Red Cross College of Gripsholm, SRC staff were given the opportunity to meet and discuss peace and the role of the Red Cross in the world, with Cora Weiss, Secretary General of the International Peace Bureau, Mary Ellen McNish, who represents the American Friends Service Committee and Jody Willams, initiator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Cora Weiss challenged the Red Cross Movement on three issues : to promote a wider representation of women, to add new elements to International Humanitarian Law and to integrate peace education in all subjects and at all levels of the educational system. "The most important thing is to teach children that there are alternatives to violence", she said. Mary Ellen McNish emphasised the importance of co-operation between different organisations and interest groups.

while Jody Williams' key message was that it is possible to change the world for the better and that each and every one of us can make a difference. As an example, she explained, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines started off with just herself and a fax machine. "But we need more people who really want to do something. Words without action mean nothing. We have to find a way to make peace cool!", she noted.

Unable to attend the Stockholm meeting, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan sent special messages addressed to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement that were read out during the session. In his message, Kofi Annan underlined the importance of the partnership between the UN and the Red Cross in working for peace.

He wrote : "Peace means giving human beings the chance to lead a decent life. It depends on a deeply-held belief among all of us that change for the better is possible, and that each one of us can make a difference. The mission of the Red Cross and the United Nations is built on that shared belief. Today, the United Nations and I are humbled and proud to be counted as your fellow peace laureates. Above all, we are deeply grateful to have an unparalleled partner like the Red Cross in the work for peace around the globe."

The Dalai Lama said he was encouraged by Red Cross and Red Crescent initiatives in the pursuit of "sustainable peace". The globalization of events, he wrote, affects us all : "Today, events in one part of the world eventually affect areas far away, in other parts of the world. Therefore it is imperative to treat each major local problem from the moment it begins as a global concern. Invoking national, racial or ideological barriers that separate us will have disastrous repercussions. In the context of our new interdependence, considering the interests of others is clearly the best way of looking after our own interests."

Nina Nobel, Red Cross delegate on mission in Abidjan, and a member of the Nobel family sent a message of hope from the field : "Yes, clearly, the world is becoming more violent and it is easy to understand people's feeling of desperation and helplessness. But the message I would like to share with my friends and colleagues in Gripsholm is a simple one of hope and empowerment. You DO make a difference, and therefore you CAN make a difference by cultivating peace within your own heart first. What we don't have in our own hearts we can never expect to give to others."




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