Peace through Disarmament
by Mairead Corrigan-McGuire
Speech at National Institute of Research, Athens, Greece on International Peace Day 2l/9/20l4
It is a great pleasure to be with you all and celebrate International Peace Day. I would like to thank Panos Trigazis, President of PADOP (Observatory of International organization and Globalization), and the National Institute of Research, for their kind invitation.
I believe peace is possible and it is the greatest gift a person and a country can have. To believe peace is possible, to have a passion for peace, to work for peace, is indeed a great purpose in life. Life is a wonderful gift which we are all given, and no one has a right to take our life. In the words of the Nobel Peace Laureates Charter for a World without violence ‘everyone has a right not to be killed and a responsibility not to kill each other’. We have a long way to go to inculcate this Ethic of Nonkilling into our own minds, our societies, but I believe it is the way forward for humanity. I invite each of you to think deeply on this Ethic of Nonkilling. Why? Because, I believe, our human conscience is dysfunctional and we need the transformation of our human conscience in order to save humanity and our environment from destruction.
How else can we explain that in this the 2lst century we would still be training millions of men and women in our militaries and sending them to war? There are more choices than war or peace, there are multi-optional choices and a civilian based non-military diplomatic/political policy has more chance of succeeding in solving a violent conflict. In war the cost in civilian lives is incalculable not to mention the many military personnel whose lives are destroyed. The cost to the environment, the cost to human potential as our scientists waste their lives planning, researching, even more horrific weapons which increasingly, in modern war, kill more civilians than combatants. For example, the USA/UK committed genocide against Iraqi people when between l990/2012 they killed 3.3 million, including 750,000 children through sanctions and war. Also, we all watched in horror on our television screens in July/August the 50 day bombardment of civilians in Gaza, by Israeli Military. We watched on television Gaza mothers and fathers run from place to place seeking shelter from Israeli bombs falling from the sky on them and their children. Israel committed for all the world to see war crimes and crimes against humanity. Why are we surprised at this cruelty of military when they are doing what they are trained to do, kill? at the behest of their Politicians and some people? It is shocking to listen to politicians and the military boast of their military prowess when in laypeoples’ terms what it means is killing of human beings and increasingly little children, women, destroying their homes and countries. Watching too on our media, as insurgents exhibit their decapitated victims and boast too of how efficiently they have learned the lessons of their masters (Saudi Arabia beheaded many prisoners this last few months) and so the military and paramilitary madness goes on.
Every day through our television and local culture, we are subjected to the glorification of militarism and bombarded with war propaganda by Governments, whose tell us we need nuclear weapons, arms manufacturers, and war to kill the killers who might kill us. I believe we should never be ambivalent about violence, but say clearly it is always wrong no matter who uses it or for whatever reason. Also the fearology being fuelled by Governments is out of control, and it is up to each one of us to challenge the war propaganda, and stand up against the militarization of our societies and world.
People do not want war, they want peace, and it is their right. However, too many people do not have peace or the basics to help them achieve peace. They live their lives struggling with the roots of violence, some of which are poverty, war, militarism, occupation, racism, fascism, etc., but people are tired of militarism and war. They have seen that they release uncontrollable forces of tribalism and nationalism. These are dangerous and murderous forms of identity and above which we need to take steps to transcend. To do this, we need to acknowledge that our common humanity and human dignity is more important than our different traditions; to recognize our life and the lives of others are sacred and we can solve our problems without killing each other; to accept and celebrate diversity and otherness; to work to heal the ‘old’ divisions and misunderstandings; to give and accept forgiveness, and choose listening, dialogue and diplomacy; to disarm and demilitarize as a way to peace.
In my own country in Northern Ireland when faced with a violent ethnic/political conflict the civil community organized to take a stand and rejected all violence and committed to working for peace, justice and reconciliation. Through unconditional, all inclusive dialogue, we reached peace and continue post-conflict to work to build up trust and friendship and change. The civil community took a leading role in this journey from violence to peace. I hope this will give an example to other countries such as Ukraine, where it is necessary for an end to the war, and a solution of the problem on the basis of the UN Charter and the Helsinki Principles. In Syria too, the Syrian people are demanding no outside intervention and the right to solve their problems in their own way. It is not up to us to interfere with other societies who have to find their own path and I appeal to the Obama Administration to halt their illegal military actions and give peace a chance in Syria/Iraq and Middle East. These problems can be solved through political/diplomatic ways by bringing all parties and countries involved to the table for peace talks. Also in Cyprus, I support the ongoing efforts of all the people for peace and reconciliation, based on the United Nations resolutions and hope that Cyprus will continue to be a peace-bridge between the peoples of East and West, building unity and co operation and an increasingly demilitarized zone of peace. I have many memories of sailing, in a Greek ship ‘The Dignity’ from Cyprus into Gaza Port in 2008 and would like to thank all those who made this possible. However the lifting of the siege of Gaza and Palestinian Freedom is an urgent first task for the International community to help bring about as I believe Palestinian Freedom it is a key to peace the Middle East. It will be a great day for the people of Gaza when the Port of Gaza closed by Israel for 47 years, will be open again, and we must all do what we can to make this happen.
We are also challenged to continue to build structures through which we can co-operate and which reflect our interconnected and interdependence relationships. The vision of the European Union founders to link countries together, economically in order to lessen the likelihood of war amongst nations, is a worthy endeavour. Unfortunately instead of putting more energy into providing help for EU citizens and others, we are witnessing the growing militarization of Europe, its role as a driving force for armaments and its dangerous path, under the leadership of USA/NATO towards a new ‘cold’ war and military aggression. The European Union and many of its countries, who used to take initiatives in the UN for peaceful settlements of conflict, are now one of the US/NATO most important war assets. Many countries have been drawn into being complicit in breaking international law through US/UK/NATO wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.,
I believe we need to abolish NATO and increase our task of dismantling the Military Industrial complex, through nonviolent and civil resistance. The means of resistance are very important. As a pacifist and person deeply committed to no killing/nonviolence as a way to bring about social/political/cultural change, I believe we need to use means consistent with the end, and it is wrong to use violence. Our message that armed groups, militarism and war do not solve our problem but acerbate them challenges us to use new ways and that is why we need to teach the science of peace at every level of society, and have Ministries of Peace in every Government.
All of civilization is now the facing a Political/Ideological challenge with the growth of what President Eisenhower warned the USA people against, the Military/Industrial complex. He warned it would destroy USA democracy and today we are witnessing the attacks on the America Constitution by the Obama Administration and interest groups. We know now that a small world group made up of Military/Industrial/Media/Corporate/Academic elite, whose agenda is profit, arms, war and valuable resources, is now holding power and have a stronghold on elected governments. We see this in the Gun and Israeli Lobbies, amongst others, who hold great power over American politics. We have witnessed this, in ongoing wars invasions, occupations, and proxy war, all allegedly in the name of ‘humanitarian intervention and democracy’. However, in reality they are causing great suffering, especially to the poor, through their policies of arms, war, domination and control of other countries and their resources.
Unmaking this agenda of war and demanding the implementation of justice, human rights and international law is the work of the peace movement. We can turn around our current path of destruction by spelling out a clear vision of what kind of a world we want to live in demanding an end to M/I complex, and insisting our governments adopt policies of Peace, Just economics, and co operation with each other in this multi-polar world.
We the Peace Movement are the alternative to militarism and war, and as we want a different world, we must be part of building it. We must not be satisfied with improvements and reform to militarism, which is an aberration and a system of dysfunction which must urgently be abolished and replaced by Law.
Let us join together to take the world onto a different path of peace through disarmament and give hope to humanity.Mrs. Corrigan-McGuire’s book ‘The Vision of Peace: Faith and Hope in Northern Ireland’ has been published in Urdu and is now used in some Pakistani Universities on Peace Studies. ‘The Vision of Peace’ (edited by John Dear) is available from www.wipfandstock.com
Published with the author’s permission.