(Nina Boe, 24, is our guest blogger today. St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Seattle, Washington, is her home congregation. She currently resides in New York City where her sister, Elizabeth Boe, serves on the Episcopal Church Center staff as an integral member of the Global Partnerships Team. In May 2011 she attended the Churches for Middle East Peace Advocacy Conference as part of the Episcopal Leadership Institute for Young Adults. We are deeply thankful for Nina’s passionate post and know that you will be moved by her enthusiasm and her articulate report. Thank you, Nina!)
I had never thought to come so close to the Nobel Peace Prize. I recently graduated with a degree in Political Science, and over the years have become increasingly passionate about social justice—what can I do to live out our call in the Baptismal Covenant to seek justice and peace for all people? For a long time I’ve considered the Nobel Peace Prize a wonderful acknowledgment of those who strive for this very goal—something that a number of people whom I respect and campaigns I support have received over the years. This summer I studied in Norway at the University of Oslo’s International Summer School, taking a course in Peace Studies. My class visited the Nobel Institute, and I even have a picture at the podium at which peace prize winners give their formal acceptance speech.
During my summer course we watched Abigail Disney’s powerful documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.” It tells the story of so many incredible women—Christian and Muslim—in Liberia during the civil war in the 1990s, and their involvement in the nonviolent peace movement encouraging then-president Charles Taylor to negotiate with rebel militant groups, and bring a cohesive end to the conflict. Between this documentary and Leymah’s recently published memoir, “Mighty Be Our Powers,” one gains an incredible insight to what was an amazing time in not only Liberia’s history, but remarkable examples of how women worked together to create peace for their families, their city and their society. Both are truly inspiring.
I was excited to hear from my sister that Leymah would be at a speaking engagement in early October, and still being in NYC, I planned to attend. I woke up that Friday to read the headlines: three women were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, namely Leymah Gbowee, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (current Liberian president), and Tawakkul Karman, a Yemeni activist (and according to some sources I read, the first Arab female to win the Nobel Peace Prize.) I was over the moon to have the opportunity to hear not only such an amazing activist, but a Nobel Peace Prize winner at that!
I arrived at the Interchurch Center early and snagged a good seat, from which I was able to take the above photo. It was all I could do the whole time to just keep listening, keep snapping photos, and keep writing down as much as I could from Leymah’s amazing speech. While this movement has evolved into an inspiring chapter in the quest for peace, her gentle insistence—“We didn’t go out to change the world; we wanted to help our society”—brought a smile to my face. The pursuit of change, the desire to help, can result in changing so many things.
“Pray the Devil Back to Hell” was the culmination of work spearheaded by New York resident Abigail Disney, who then went on to produce the upcoming six-part series “Women, War and Peace,” which will be shown for six consecutive Tuesday evenings on PBS, beginning October 11. I also had the pleasure of meeting Abigail Disney after attending a pre-screening event sponsored by Anglican Women’s Empowerment. She is a remarkable individual passionate about the potential of women to help bring about peace in the world today, and I would highly encourage everyone to participate in “Women, War and Peace”—watch it; tell your friends, family and colleagues; watch it with a group of friends—downloadable discussion guides and further resources are available online. It is my hope that it will do the same for you as the previews alone have done for me. I have been inspired, called to engage and sustain hope; hope that one day our Baptismal Covenant can indeed be realized. Let us truly strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.
(The Formation & Vocation Ministries Team suggests that congregations consider multi-generational viewings of this series. The free study guide is extremely helpful with contextual information for leaders/facilitators with discussion questions appropriate for high school youth through senior citizens. A multi-generational conversation on the material holds potential for diverse perspectives and transformative conversation. Let us know how “Bridging the Generation Gap” through these conversations transforms the faithful people in your community!)