Mairead Maguire won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her efforts in bringing an end to violence in Northern Ireland. Soon after, she founded the organization Peace People and continues to work in nonviolent peace movements. Mairead is hosting the Nobel Women’s Initiative’s fourth biennial conference, Moving Beyond Militarism & War: Women-driven solutions for a nonviolent world.
I passionately believe peace is possible, and that it is possible for the human family to move beyond militarism and war. Indeed, it is already happening because millions of us have already rejected the ‘bomb and the bullet’ and all the techniques of violence and are working to build a world based on the values of love, equality and dignity for all.
People of the world do not want war. We have had enough of this wastage of human resources and intelligence in feeding the death machinery of militarism while children die of starvation and poverty. These are not the ‘values’ we want to live by, and the human family, particularly women, are uniting our voices as a powerful force to say ‘no’ no more of these destructive policies of bad governance and governments not acting in good faith.
Ten years ago, in February 2003, millions of people around the world said ‘no’ to the Iraqi war and occupation, and since then millions around the world have protested against unjust government regimes, demanding dignity, demilitarization, development, and democracy. These massive peoples movements, for the most part peaceful, are being repressed by government forces whose policies of ongoing militarism, war, inequality and injustice, are being challenged by courageous individuals and global protests of solidarity by civil community, both locally and internationally.
What unites these people’s movements is a new ‘consciousness’ that a good life, with dignity, freedom, fairness and human security, is their right – and by the law of love and logic, the right of every man and woman.
There is more awareness in the age of increased education and advanced communications that we live in a very rich world with enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed. This increased awareness of social, economic and political injustice which is destroying so many people’s lives, is creating deep anger and frustration resulting in non-violent revolution and protest movements to change repressive and unjust systems.
We have seen the Arab ‘spring’ in the Middle East, but also the rise of the ‘Occupy movements’ protesting the quest for profit and perpetual financial growth which has enriched a tiny minority, while causing hardships, despair and devastation particularly amongst the marginalized and poor . The quest for perpetual financial growth and profit has ravaged the earth, so that today we face unprecedented threats to the possibility of sustaining a liveable habitat for future generations. The dominance of the corporate media and the power of the military industrial complex to drive and control government policies is dominating our lives everywhere. It is colossal task to try to change it, but try we must if there is to be a future for our children.
The latest figure for world military expenditure is well over £l,082 billion, with the United Kingdom coming fourth in spending £39 billion. The British government plans to spend over £100 billion on renewal of Nuclear trident, whilst announcing strict austerity measures causing real hardship with many people unemployed – particularly young people – in Northern Ireland and elsewhere forced to reluctantly leave their homes to seek employment in other countries. There is a real sense of powerlessness and hopelessness amongst many young people which governments must address by diverting military funding into job creation and education, to give hope and dignity to people. .
And hope too, comes from people and their awakening and empowerment, as they work against violence and for social justice and change. This movement is exciting and inspiring.
Many women know the pain of losing a child, they know the pain of war, and that ‘violence is not a solution, it is part of the problem’. They know that there will not be paramilitary or military solutions to their problems, only peaceful dialogue and talking amongst all the parties to the conflict will bring the much needed peace, which is a right of all the peoples, and necessary if there is to be development.
A demilitarized, peaceful nonviolent world, is not a utopian dream it is a right for all. Most people have never killed anyone, but have struggled to live out their lives as joyfully and peacefully as possible. Most people know that human beings were not made for hatred and violence, but were made to love and be loved. We all know in our hearts that it is not permitted to kill or be killed. So too for political activists who choose to work for change through peaceful resistance, it is important to remember that peaceful resistance means we do not resist injustice with death, either our own, or others, but rather through respect of life.
Building a culture of love and compassion is the culture of accepting the other and recognizing their right to dignity. I believe that if governments allowed people to grow up respecting human life, respecting women, and respecting all people from all religions and from all countries, it would then be difficult to send out soldiers to kill others. This would end the arms trade, armies and militarism.
I hope that we can all work together to abolish armed forces, weapons research, manufacturing and trading of weapons. We can do this by building a culture of love, replacing a culture of violence and death. The great hope lies in the fact that human beings are continually evolving in their thinking, and we can replace military mindsets, with creative ways of conflict prevention, unarmed civilian peacekeeping, We are becoming more enlightened, and as we abolished slavery so too we can abolish armies and base our human security not on force, or threat of force, but on compassion, human rights and international law. At the heart of international law is the principle of good faith. Governments have a legal responsibility to uphold all international law and to do so in good faith.
Many government not only refuse to meet their obligations under the international treaties which they have signed – such as the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, but they are allowing a glorification of militarism, and in all our cultures we see a creeping militarization of society. In the UK we are, through the media and many other ways, being conditioned to see armies and militarism as acceptable, and offering ‘good career’ choices, instead of the truth that they are training grounds to teach people how to kill other people – increasingly women and children in Pakistan and Afghanistan through the use of drones, and targeted assassinations.
Within the military there is a great deal of violence against women, including rape and sexual violence, and it is to be hoped that women will challenge this culture of violence and militarism, and also call for the abolition of NATO, which armed with weapons of mass destruction, is a danger to civilians rather than their protector.
However, I believe that more than anything ‘the world needs love’ particularly the young people in whom we can place our trust, and believe in them and in the goodness of men and women and their potential to be truly magnificent human beings.