Lesson from the Nobel Laureates
By George Arende
Sometime in 1976, a mother walking along the streets of Belfast in the company of her four children, suddenly found herself in a life threatening situation. A car had lost control and run over three of her children leaving them for dead. Only one survived. Soldiers had shot the diver leading him to lose control of the car.
The event triggered major protests in Belfast, as the community gathered to mourn the loss of the children. The little known Mairead Maguire mobilized rallies across Belfast, a campaign that called for respect of human lives as sacred and precious.
Her transformative action and initiative convinced the Norwegian Nobel committee, who awarded her with Nobel Peace award in the same year. The award recognized her individual extraordinary actions towards the betterment of humanity.
The South Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu too, led several non-violent protests, during the apartheid. He delivered fiery speeches and urged South Africans to forgive and adopt peaceful actions during the apartheid era. His non-violent approach to comfront apartheid were equally rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. The late Prof. Wangari Maathai’s love for environment and commitment to protect it, is yet another example of people who believed in action towards common good.
She championed for environment protection, not only in Kenya where she hailed from but also globally. She endured torture, faced resistance and came face to face with state intimidation. During one of her protests in Nairobi, the police forcefully pulled off her hair. Despite the humiliation, she remained steadfast in conserving and saving the environment. Similar to other laureates before her, the tireless effort to nurture and heal our wounded planet, got her rewarded in 2004 with Nobel prize.
All the Laureates since 1901 illustrate one common denominator; people exhaling compassion and commitment to change and make the world a better place.
Its never late to do good
Albert Nobel was an inventor and a businessman born in Sweden in 1833. When he was thirty years old, he made his first inventions of dynamite (a kind of explosive made by his company called Nobel Company). Although dynamite has many peaceful uses, including digging tunnels, it was and is still used in warfare. Alfred Nobel went on to become extremely wealthy by inventing and selling war materials, especially with a kind of smokeless gunpowder that made it easier for soldiers to see during battles.
In 1867, Nobel patented his dynamite discovery after making improvement on the blasting cap; which was ignited by lighting a fuse. Nobel died in 1895 and left behind nine million endowment fund.
According to the Nobel Peace prize committee when Nobel died, in 1895, his will came as a surprise to many. He left most of his vast fortune to pay for a group of prizes awarded every year. The prizes were to be given for achievements in chemistry, physics, medicine, literature and the cause of peace. The first four prizes are awarded by a committee appointed by the Swedish parliament, and the peace prize is decided by a committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament.
According to Nobel’s will,
“The prize for peace is awarded to a person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding of peace congresses”.
The award is sometimes given to an individual and sometimes to an organization. In 2017, Nobel peace prize award went to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.
As people of faith born of a ‘reformer’ (Martin Luther), desire to drive change is often over-shadowed by sense of powerlessness. We encounter poverty, un-employment, diseases, changing environment and the list of challenges seem endless. Being a change agent require ordinary efforts to realize extraordinary effects.
A little effort in our own little way build up to the bigger change we all desire. Together we can make the world a better place.