(KUNM Airdate: 10/27/06)

This month, a conversation with Northern Ireland Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire. Mairead Corrigan Maguire founded the Community of the Peace People in 1976 along with Betty Williams and Ciaran McKeown. Mairead was the aunt of the three Maguire children who were hit by a runaway car after its driver was shot by a soldier. The deaths prompted a series of marches throughout Northern Ireland and further afield, all demanding an end to the violence plaguing her country at the time. Mairead and Betty went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976.

In this program, Maguire recalls her peace work and talks with host Carol Boss about how the principles of nonviolence can be applied to conflicts around the world and in daily life.

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(transcription courtesy Rogi Riverstone)

CAROL BOSS: Would you say your message is the same, when you talk to audiences around the world and when you talk to troubled areas, such as the Middle East to talk to Israelis and Palestinians? If so, what is the message?

MAIREAD MAGUIRE: The message is the same, everywhere. When we were involved in the Cold War with nuclear weapons, we had one side, facing the other. That was one way of doing it. Today, everything has changed, since the Berlin wall has come down. Increasingly, we're seeing all over are more deep, ethnic, political conflicts. Northern Ireland is only a microcosm of what is going on in Burma, the Middle East . . . I could go on forever. The old ways don't work. War is not working. Nuclear weapons are of no use to us, in the interconnected world today. You can't really drop a nuclear bomb in West Belfast, to try to stop the I.R.A. or the Loyalists. You've got to go in there, sit down with them, find out what the problem is and solve it. These problems, that we're now faced with, need alternative thinking and alternative ways of solving them. Northern Ireland is a model of what we have got to do: multi-track diplomacy, how we've actually got to deal with these problems. We've got to move away from the old methods: militarism, war, and nuclear weapons. They're not working - quite apart from the fact that they're immoral, illegal, and counter-productive. They just don't work.

BOSS: You've said you believe that the hope for the future depends on each of us taking nonviolence into our hearts and minds, that there is a need to develop new and imaginative structures, which are nonviolent and life giving for all. Do you have an example of what that might look like?

MAGUIRE: We really have never been taught nonviolence. We don't know the ways of nonviolence. That is truly tragic, particularly in communities who would describe themselves as, "Christian." What is Christian about dropping, or making, nuclear bombs and storing them? Who are we going to drop them on - and spending billions of pounds, producing these nuclear weapons, while children die in poverty and haven't got proper education and health care?

We have to rethink our whole attitude, starting with the demilitarization of the mind-set, and finding creative, new ways of doing things. We have to rebuild the institutions, rebuild structures, support the United Nations, support the European parliament movements for humanitarian solutions for these problems, support those in our communities who are working for human rights and the equality agenda, upholding international laws, upholding your Constitution. America could lead the world in nuclear disarmament and no war.I believe that's much more the real spirit of the American people. Then, we'd have the freedom to really look at new ways, new institutions and build these things. We are the human family.

Mairead Maguire
1976 Nobel Peace Prize

Interviewer Carol Boss

Mairead Corrigan

BOSS: You also wrote that humankind is evolving to a higher consciousness. Everything is changing. Everything is possible. What is the likelihood of these beliefs of yours coming to fruition, considering the state of our post-9/11 world, where the quest for retaliation seems stronger than ever?

MAGUIRE: I believe there's absolutely every possibility that we, as the human family, will evolve to the stage where we are building nonviolent, non-killing societies. The human family - people - are forever changing. We're learning so much today. The one thing we do all know is that love, compassion and forgiveness come from the heart of every single one of us. We just have to develop, and water the seeds and believe we have the power as individuals. Particularly when we join together with other individuals with a vision of doing things in a peaceful and nonviolent way, we are powerful to bring about real change. The youth of today are crying out for a different world, all over the world. Young people don't want to bring children into a world that is armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, which is using war as a method of solving its conflicts. I've traveled the world. I've been in Iraq. I've been in most every area of the world. People are great. People are good. People want peace. We have to commit ourselves, our lives, and take risks for peace, wherever we live.

BOSS: Do people who challenge the idea of nonviolence and peacemaking ever challenge you? This is in consideration of the many fears of people around the world and, certainly, in this country, about terrorism.

MAGUIRE: We need to work, so we don't have terrorism. The best way in which to do that is to uphold human rights and international laws, and to build links, across the world, with those people who are using alternatives to terrorism and using nonviolent techniques. Deal with the root causes of violence. It's important to ask the question, "Why do young people use violence?" I lived in Northern Ireland. I've seen young people, in my own community, taking up the gun for the armed struggle in Ireland. I had to try to understand what possesses a young person to take a gun, or go on hunger strike to the death, or to be a suicide bomber. I came to realize that we are each born with an innate sense of justice and human dignity. When that justice is abused by states or governments and that human dignity is denied - whether it be civil rights, a right to food, a right to home, a right to country - when those things are taken away from us, we get very angry. What do we do with that anger? We must, in all consciousness, protest injustice.

You cannot sit back and say, "It doesn't matter. I'm doing nothing." When you see injustice - be it poverty, abuse of human rights, invasion and occupation of your country - you must resist. We have to learn the ways of nonviolent resistance. Violence is always wrong. If we don't try to tackle the root causes of why people go to this extreme, this call of despair, then, I'm afraid, we won't be able to solve these problems.

Betty Williams (1976)
Nobel Peace Prize

BOSS: There are many Americans, now, who feel fear about terrorism: feelings this population has never felt before. If you were a member of the Bush Administration, back in 2001 - or brought in as an advisor to them, what would you have advocated as an appropriate response to 9/11 acts of terror?

I would say to them, "Uphold human rights and civil liberties. Uphold your Constitution. Do not use abuse, either in your own country or others." The American administration knows what to do. Do you know why? In Northern Ireland - when we had our violent, ethnic conflict - the two communities couldn't get out of it. But the governments, in London and Dublin, and the American administration, encouraged us to speak to the terrorists, bring on board those who are using violence, bring them into the circle, listen to why they're using violence, have all-inclusive dialogue and negotiation. They helped us come into our peace process. Senator Mitchell came over to Northern Ireland a hundred times and made it possible for the different, conflicting parties - including those who represented the I.R.A., Jerry Adams and Sinn Féin - it was the American administration that encouraged us to make peace through all-inclusive dialogue. They know how to help the peace process in Iraq. I really believe it's time for the American administration to turn back from the negative, destructive, foreign politics that they're using and implement the methods that helped in Northern Ireland.



BOOK: The Vision of Peace: Faith and Hope in Northern Ireland
by Mairead Maguire and John Dear