Blessed are the peacemakers—Jody Williams

This week when most Americans are breathing a sigh of relief because it looks as though the Syrian crisis may be ended without bombs, it’s a good time to think of some of the other peacemakers who have worked to remove some of the worst weapons from the world. Jody Williams and the people who worked with her to ban the use of landmines is one of the most prominent.

Jody Williams
Jody Williams

Just over twenty years ago, in 1992, Williams started the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) which worked tirelessly to convince countries and international organizations to join together to outlaw the use of landmines. These mines have been used for several centuries in wars in Asia, Europe and the Americas, but their use increased toward the end of the twentieth century. Television brought sickening pictures of the victims, many of them children, into the world’s living rooms.

Victims of landmines
Victims of landmines
Landmines are shocking weapons when they are used to kill and maim soldiers, but their use goes far beyond that. Anti-personnel landmines stay buried in the earth for years—for generations—and the damage they do can be seen in the number of people with only one leg, or no hands, or other body parts missing. Small children hobble around on crutches because a seemingly harmless walk through a field led to a devastating explosion that brought pain and misery. No number of free crutches or doctor services can undo the lasting harm.

When Jody Williams decided to start the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, it must have looked like an overwhelming job. Slowly and painfully through collecting enough money to raise the issue publicly and finally shame most governments into signing the ban, the organization made headway. 161 states have signed the Ottawa Treaty banning the use of anti-personnel landmines although neither Russia nor the U.S. has done so. The U.S. has said that it needs to have the freedom to use landmines in the DMZ between North and South Korea. Americans still need to push our legislators into finding other ways to fight wars—methods that don’t involve the killing and maiming of innocent civilians.

But this week Russia and the U.S. are working together to find a way to stop the use of chemical weapons in Syria. It’s not a perfect solution to the violence in Syria; the civil war continues there, but it is an important effort. If Syria can be persuaded to give up chemical weapons and destroy them, the world will have moved one small step toward greater peace.Perhaps someday John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov will join the roll of peacekeepers. If Jody Williams and her colleagues can persuade countries to ban landmines, surely two powerful government officials can work together to eradicate another one of the world’s devastating war tools—chemical weapons. That would surely be a blessing for all of us.

5 thoughts on “Blessed are the peacemakers—Jody Williams

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  2. When I wrote this post in September, peace seemed much closer in Syria than it appears to be now. I agree with you that the Syrian people are suffering because of the continuing war there. Other countries must try to help bring peace to the region. The group that I find most helpful on this issue is the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker peace group which urges the United States to continue discussion with all of the powers in the region, including Iran, so that peace can return to Syria. It seems to me we can honor peacemakers of the past like Jody Williams and Princess Diana, without denying that there is an unbelievable amount of work left to do in trying to build a more peaceful world.

    I congratulate you on your work with the Italian “Blessed are Peacemakers” group you mention. All of us around the world should try to help in the struggle against war.

  3. Dears American Peacemakers, I desagree totally with your picture about Syrian crisis. The focus that the two superpowers US and Russia -and you follow that- give to the use of chemical weapons it’s useful only to hide the “conventional” war engaged by the Assad regime against the Syrian People. It is illegal and criminal as the use of chemical bombs. The siege of Homs and suburbs of Damascus, where the civils are starving of hunger, nowater and noenergy, is forbitten by international humanitarian law, is a cruel medioeval way of war against humanity. The bombing with huge Scud Missiles of Aleppo and other cities and villages caused and continues to make so many civil victims, destruction, refugees. Syrians are not “breathing”, as many American pacifists are doing now, according to your view. The die! If this is PEACE I want Justice, I want protection of humanity, I want international accountability toward Syrians, and all peoples and human beeings who fight for freedom, dignity and human rights. I want MAKE A TRUE PEACE, not the one wanted by big powers, imperialism and fascism to continue to rule the World. Annalisa Roveroni, co-founder in 1992 of Italian “Blessed are Peacemakers” NGO, President of Civic Cooperativa sociale

  4. The landmines treaty also showed what a celebrity (Diana) and a middle “soft” power (Canada) could do when they focused on achievable ends. We also might decry Putin but he did point out some of the problems of American “exceptionalism” in his NYT piece.

    • I agree completely that Princess Diana and the publicity she focused on the use of landmines and the damage they cause was a huge factor in turning public opinion against them. Who can forget the pictures of Diana visiting victims? And of course Canada gets a lot of credit for developing the treaty–the Ottawa Treaty, after all. The world is lucky to have leadership from so many individuals and several countries in reducing suffering.

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