Chicago hosts 12th annual summit of Nobel Peace Laureates
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
World-renowned peacemakers and activists gathered in Chicago last week for the 12th Annual World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. For three days, icons like former President Jimmy Carter and the Dalai Llama discussed peace, weapons and activism in today’s world.
The summit took place from April 23-25. Each day, there were two discussions with unique panels featuring Nobel Peace Laureates and members of organizations like Doctors Without Borders and Amnesty International. Additionally, they presented the winners of the Peace Summit Medal for Social Activism and the 2012 Peace Summit Award.
On April 25, for example, the two panels were entitled “A World Without Nuclear Weapons” and “World Peace and Nonviolence: Never Give Up.” In the former, panel members discussed the need to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Ingeborg Breines, a member of the International Peace Bureau, described them as “the human mind’s most destructive invention ever.”
“It should be unacceptable from a political, environmental, and economic point of view,” she said.
Dr. Ira Helfand, who is a member of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, painted a stark picture of what a nuclear bomb would look like in Chicago. Six to eight million people could die as a result, he said, and expanding that effect across the United States could do even more damage.
“That danger is not just some fantasy I can spin out for you today,” he said.
Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi added that nuclear energy has equally bad implications for the world.
“Nuclear power plants should be closed down,” she said. “We can have a more useful energy. This energy is dangerous.”
Additionally, Ebadi believes agreements with countries like Iran could be difficult to obtain. If achieved, the West shouldn’t necessarily trust these agreements because of the nature of those countries, she said.
“For international peace, the non-democratic countries are more dangerous than an atomic bomb,” Ebadi said. “Are you scared of the fact that the French have an atomic bomb?”
“Our friend Nobel reminds us that science has to be of service of human beings, not to stabilize corrupt political powers,” she added.
In between panels, the 2012 Peace Summit Award was presented to actor and activist Sean Penn. He started J/P Haiti Relief Organization to aid Haitians in their struggle to find stabilization, food, water and health.
“Against incredible odds, the Haitians rose up and democratically elected a president of their own choosing,” he said in his acceptance speech.
The actor also reached out to youth and activists for assistance, as “the war for quality of life can only be fought globally.”
“How often pundits and others say, ‘What do students know?’” he said. “What do we know? We know how to smell a rat.”
“Help guide the traffic to peace,” he concluded.
Finally, the day—and the summit—ended with a panel of Nobel Peace Laureates talking about peace, the very core of what Nobel represents. Professor Muhammad Yunus described the pains of income inequality, comparing impoverished citizens to bonsai trees.
“There’s nothing wrong with their seed,” he said. “Simply, society never gave them the space to grow.”
“What a waste of human resources,” he added.
The Dalai Llama and Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union, discussed peace in general and how to fix the world’s current dilemmas. The Dalai Llama said “problems remain so long as human beings remain,” but peace and nonviolence are ways to eliminate several of them.
“We should not act like animals,” he said. “We should act like human beings.”
Gorbachev also believes that the world should go about conflict “without blood, without violence.”
“It’s not just the details; we need to change the system,” he said. “The system that wants more, more, more; that is not the way to go. We need to address the problems of human beings and the problems of nature. We need a truly new world order: more just, more stable, and more humane.”