Some People Who Spoke Up for Peace
The Freedom Quilt Mural (above) was designed and completed July 1988 on the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Atlanta office building by artist David Fichter with the help of many volunteers. The men and women depicted committed their lives to the non-violent struggle for justice and peace. Sadly, on February 28, 2015, David Fichter’s 1988 ‘Freedom Quilt’ mural — the former AFSC building on Piedmont Ave was demolished this week, taking the mural along with it.
- Mubarak Awad
Mubarak Awad is a Palestinian Christian (a member of the Greek Orthodox Church), was born in 1943 in Jerusalem when it was under the British Mandate. Awad is the founder and former president of the National Youth Advocate Program (NYAP) in the United States; he later founded and directed Youth Advocate Program International, headquartered in Washington, DC. In 1983 Awad returned to Jerusalem and established the Palestinian Centre for the Study of Nonviolence where he lectured on nonviolence as a technique for resisting the Israeli occupation. In 1989, Awad founded Nonviolence International, a non-governmental organization in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Nonviolence International’s mission is to promote nonviolent action and seek to reduce the use of violence worldwide.
“We have choices to make—the choice to resist, to run away, or to do nothing. If we do nothing, then we are accepting the status quo.”
- Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist, who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalized racism and fostering racial reconciliation. Although initially committed to non-violent protest, in association with the SACP he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1961 and lead a sabotage campaign against the government. In 1962, he was arrested for conspiring to overthrow the state, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela served 27 years in prison and was released in 1990. Mandela helped negotiate an end to apartheid and organized the 1994 multiracial general election in which he led the African National Congress to victory and became President. Mandela emphasized reconciliation between the country’s racial groups and created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”
“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires”
- Winnie Mandela
Winnie Mandela is a South African activist and politician who has held several government positions and headed the African National Congress Women’s League. She is also the former wife of South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela. Of all the major figures who came to global prominence during the South African liberation struggle, Ms. Madikizela-Mandela was seen as the most at home in the world of celebrity culture, and for many of the years just before Mr. Mandela’s release from 27 years in prison, she was his public face, bringing word of his thoughts and his state of mind.
- Desmond Tutu
Desmond Tutu is a South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop who rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid. He was the first black Archbishop of Cape Town and bishop of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa. After the fall of apartheid, Tutu headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has been active in the defense of human rights and uses his high profile to campaign for the oppressed. He has campaigned to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984; the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism in 1986; the Pacem in Terris Award in 1987; the Sydney Peace Prize in 1999; the Gandhi Peace Prize in 2007; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. He has also compiled several books of his speeches and sayings.
“If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
- Oscar Romero
Oscar Romero was a prelate of the Catholic Church in El Salvador, who served as the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture. Romero actively denounced violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable people and defended the principles of protecting lives, promoting human dignity and opposition to all forms of violence. He also criticized the United States for giving military aid to the Salvadoran government during the Salvadoran Civil War and wrote to President Jimmy Carter, warning that increased US military aid would “undoubtedly sharpen the injustice and the political repression inflicted on the organized people, whose struggle has often been for their most basic human rights.” In 1980, Romero was assassinated while offering Mass in the chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence. He was beatified by Pope Francis in 2015, setting him on the path to become a saint in the Catholic Church.
“You cannot reap what you have not sown. How are we going to reap love in our community, if we only sow hate?”
“Those who have a voice must speak for those who are voiceless.”
“Let us not tire of preaching love; it is the force that will overcome the world.”
- Rigoberta Menchu
Rigoberta Menchu is a K’iche’ political activist from Guatemala. Menchú has dedicated her life to publicizing the rights of Guatemala’s indigenous feminists during and after the Guatemalan Civil War (1960–1996), and to promoting indigenous rights in the country. She worked as an activist campaigning against human rights violations committed by the Guatemalan armed forces during the war. Since the Guatemalan Civil War ended, Menchú has campaigned to have members of the Guatemalan political and military establishment tried in Spanish courts. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 and the Prince of Asturias Award in 1998. In 2006, Menchú was one of the founders of the Nobel Women’s Initiative along with sister Nobel Peace Laureate with the goal of strengthening work being done in support of women’s rights around the world. Menchú is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and has become a figure in indigenous political parties in Guatemala.
“When you are convinced your cause is just, you fight for it.”
“We have learned that change cannot come through war. War is not a feasible tool to use in fighting against the oppression we face. War has caused more problems. We cannot embrace that path.”
- Leonard Peltier
Leonard Peltier is a Native American activist and member of the American Indian Movement. In 1977 he was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for first degree murder in the shooting of two FBI agents during a 1975 conflict on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Due to lack of evidence, Peltier’s indictment and conviction have been the subject of much controversy; Amnesty International placed his case under the “Unfair Trials” category of its Annual Report: USA 2010. Numerous appeals have been filed on his behalf; none of the resulting rulings has been made in his favor. Peltier is considered by the American Indian Movement to be a political prisoner and has received support from individuals and groups including Nelson Mandela, Rigoberta Menchú, Soviet Peace Committee, Amnesty International, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to name a few. Peltier was the candidate for the Peace and Freedom Party in the 2004 Presidential race.
“No human being should ever have to fear for his own life because of political or religious beliefs. We are all in this together, my friends, the rich, the poor, the red, white, black, brown and yellow. We share responsibility for Mother Earth and those who live and breathe upon her. Never forget that.”
“I don’t know how to save the world. I don’t have the answers or The Answer. I hold no secret knowledge as to how to fix the mistakes of generations past and present. I only know that without compassion and respect for all of Earth’s inhabitants, none of us will survive—nor will we deserve to.”
“Justice is not a flexible tool. Unless we all do our part to ensure that justice is applied equally to all human beings, we are a party to its abuse.”
- Andrew Goodman
Andrew Goodman was one of three American activists of the Civil Rights Movement murdered near Philadelphia, Mississippi, during Freedom Summer in 1964 by members of the Ku Klux Klan. In 1964, Goodman volunteered to work on the “Freedom Summer” project of the Congress of Racial Equality to register black people to vote in rural areas of Mississippi. In 1966, Andrew’s parents started The Andrew Goodman Foundation to carry on the spirit and purpose of their son’s life. In 2014, on the fiftieth anniversary of the murders, the Foundation officially launched Vote Everywhere, a program designed to support college students who are continuing the work of Freedom Summer.
“The road to freedom must be uphill, even if it is arduous and frustrating.”
- Fannie Lou Hamer
Fannie Lou Hamer was an American voting rights activist, civil rights leader, and philanthropist. She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi’s Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and later became the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). The MFDP was organized with the purpose of challenging Mississippi’s all-white and anti-civil rights delegation to the Democratic National Convention, which failed to represent all Mississippians.
“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
“When I liberate myself, I liberate others. If you don’t speak out, ain’t nobody going to speak out for you.”
- Daniel Berrigan
Daniel Berrigan was an American Jesuit priest, anti-war activist, and poet. Berrigan’s active protest against the Vietnam War earned him both scorn and admiration, but it was his participation in the Catonsville Nine (Catholic activists who burned draft files to protest the Vietnam War) that made him famous. His own particular form of militancy and radical spirituality in the service of social and political justice was significant enough to shape the tactics of resistance to the Vietnam War in the United States. For the rest of his life, Berrigan remained one of the US’s leading anti-war activists. In 1980, he founded the Plowshares Movement, an anti-nuclear protest group, which put him back into the national spotlight. He was also an award-winning and prolific author of some 50 books, a teacher, and a university educator.
“One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible.”
“The gift we can offer others is so simple a thing as hope.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American Baptist minister and activist who was a leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. King became a civil rights activist early in his career and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president. On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped to organize the Selma to Montgomery marches, and the following year he and SCLC took the movement north to Chicago to work on segregated housing. In the final years of his life, King expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty and the Vietnam War. In 1968, King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People’s Campaign, when he was assassinated on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee. King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states beginning in 1971, and as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
- Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks was an African American civil rights activist, whom the United States Congress called “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”. Parks, who was secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, was arrested after refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a public bus. Parks’ act of defiance and the Montgomery Bus Boycott became important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movement. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. She organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders, including Edgar Nixon, president of the local chapter of the NAACP; and Martin Luther King, Jr. She was also active in the Black Power movement and the support of political prisoners in the US. Parks received national recognition, including the NAACP’s 1979 Spingarn Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and a statue in the United States Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Upon her death in 2005, she was the first woman and third non-US government official to lie in honor at the Capitol Rotunda.
“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free, so other people would be also free.”
“I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi was the preeminent leader of the Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi first employed nonviolent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, in the resident Indian community’s struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he set about organizing peasants, farmers, and urban laborers to protest against excessive land-tax and discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women’s rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, but above all for achieving or self-rule. Gandhi famously led Indians in challenging the British-imposed salt tax with the 250-mile Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years, upon many occasions, in both South Africa and India. Gandhi attempted to practice nonviolence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same.
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
“An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind.”
- Lucretia Mott
Lucretia Mott was an American Quaker, abolitionist, a women’s rights activist, and a social reformer. In 1833, her husband helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society. By then an experienced minister and abolitionist, Lucretia Mott was the only woman to speak at the organizational meeting in Philadelphia. Days after the conclusion of the convention, at the urging of other delegates, Mott and other white and black women founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. She had formed the idea of reforming the position of women in society when she was amongst the women excluded from the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840. In 1848 she was invited to a meeting that led to the first meeting about women’s rights. After the Civil War, Mott increased her efforts to end war and violence, and she was a leading voice in the Universal Peace Union, founded in 1866.
“There is nothing of greater importance to the well-being of society at large – of man as well as woman – than the true proper position of woman.”
- Fredrick Douglass
Fredrick Douglass was an African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement from Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writings. In his time he was described by abolitionists as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Douglass wrote several autobiographies, describing his experience as a slave and promoting the cause of abolition. After the Civil War, Douglass remained an active campaigner against slavery and wrote his last autobiography. Douglass also actively supported women’s suffrage, and held several public offices. Without his approval, Douglass became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States. Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, whether black, female, Native American, or recent immigrant. He was also a believer in dialogue and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, and in the liberal values of the American Constitution.
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
- Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman was an American abolitionist, humanitarian, and an armed scout and spy for the United States Army during the American Civil War. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made some 13 missions to rescue approximately 70 enslaved families and friends, using the network of antislavery activists, and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She later helped abolitionist John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry, and in the post-war era was an active participant in the struggle for women’s suffrage. After she died in 1913, she became an icon of American courage and freedom. On April 20, 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department announced a plan for Tubman to replace Andrew Jackson as the portrait gracing the $20 bill.
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars, to change the world.”