I look forward to the Nobel Prizes every year. I find it interesting to see what areas of research and activism get highlighted and noted. As an American, I know I live a very insulated life and must work to receive unfiltered news about what’s going on in the rest of the world. The Nobel Prizes are one way I am exposed to the gifts given to humanity by these fine individuals.
This year I was especially excited by the recipients of the Nobel Prize for Peace given to three outstanding women. In the history of the Nobel Prize (1901-2011), only 40 laureates have been women! Five hundred nine men have received this prestigious award. Hmm. Men, almost 93%. Women, 7%. Still a bit of disparity. At least women have been always been given serious consideration by the Nobel committee as early as 1903, with Marie Curie sharing the award in Physics with her husband. She is the only women to have received two Nobel Prizes, her second being in Chemistry in 1911.
The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was given to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Leymaw Gbowee a social worker and peace activist in Liberia, and Tawakkol Karman, a Yemeni jouralist and activist were recognized for “their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights” in peace-building work.
What’s especially poignant about these women laureates is that the area of the world where they labor has notably the greatest violence against women and girls. Besides rape, human trafficking, and sex enslavement, women and girls are often seen as not being worth educating, have no rights of their own, limited access to health care, and bleak economic opportunity. Sadly, women must be seen as incredible threats to maintain such oppression.
Unfortunately, religious institutions are among the worst offenders. If the God of Abraham, Mohammed, and Jesus had a body and was limited by eternity, that God would be on a perpetual roll in God’s grave. Our stories talk about the God who breaks into our human history to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1-3). The Qur’an is very specific about the human struggle. In order for a person to be at peace with oneself, they must control their baser instincts and seek spiritual purity. Buddhism promotes stopping all hostility to all persons.
God’s great gift to us is frees will. Much responsibility is given to us to interpret and live out God’s call. However, it’s pretty clear, in all faiths, that anyone who oppresses or suppresses another human being is acting against God’s will for humanity. As complex as the notion of peace is, it still comes down to each of us as an individual. We have, like these women Nobel Peace Prize laureates, within us the ability to make peace.
In this season of peace, may we continually find ways to live out our lives in peace to ourselves and one another. Amen.
Tuesday’s bonus: Here are links to two of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize addresses.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: A Voice for Freedom!
Tawakkol Karman: In the Name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful.