The 23rd annual Peace Prize Forum was held at Luther College over the past weekend. It was the final occasion for this event to be held on a rotating basis at each of the five sponsoring colleges (Augsburg, Augustana, Concordia, Luther and St. Olaf). Starting next year, the tradition will continue to involve all five of the schools, but actual programming will be held every year in Minneapolis, in hopes of assuring greater exposure to this important conference. Winds of Peace has co-sponsored a number of the Forums, presented at several and attended many over the years.
The theme of this year’s Forum was “Striving for Peace-The Courage to Act.” The theme was inspired by Nobel Laureate Barack Obama—whose work inspired the 2011 Forum—when he stated that to truly honor ideals like peace, justice, and human rights, we must uphold these ideals “not when it is easy, but when it is hard.” In this spirit, the forum highlighted the work of those who have acted with courage in the name of peace.
The notion of a world at peace is, frankly, more than I can absorb; there’s simply too much history and hatred to allow me even a fleeting glance at it. But the Forum provided a number of occasions wherein the vision emerged, if only for a brief moment. Whether at the plenary session with 2003 Peace Prize recipient Sharin Ebadi or in any of the smaller breakout sessions offered, this gathering has the capacity to wrench participants from the constraints of apathetic comfort and to challenge every man and woman to be part of the movement toward peace, thus making it seem real, achievable. I know that always sounds grandiose and idealistic, but the Forum has a way of making it all so very digestible, doable, even personal.
The reality of global peace does not stem from a single, courageous initiative which suddenly quells all of the hurts and injustices of mankind. Rather, it begins from a single, courageous initiative taken by each one of us, to create peace in our own lives first, and trusting that this is the most and the best that we can do, that the act can radiate beyond us and to the lives of others. I may not be capable of ending the wars that rage elsewhere in the world, but I do have the capacities to end the personal conflicts that rage within me, reconciling relationships that have bred contempt, forgetting insults that have engendered mistrust, and forgiving acts of personal injustice done to or by me, intended or not. This is where courage is found and healing begins, when I am willing to confront myself. It is incredibly difficult, scary work. It is peacemaking one person at a time, myself at a time, and acknowledging my own responsibility.
The Peace Prize Forum is a unique opportunity to take personal stock of what each of us can bring to creation of peace. For a moment, the topic becomes our own, with all of its promise and its frustrations, its despair and its soaring hopes. This is at least one reason for Winds of Peace sponsorship of the affair.
Do I dream of peace? Shall I shake my fist at governments’ inabilities to craft solutions? Then I first must consider making true peace in my own life ….