In November 1998, eight visionary recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize gathered on the grounds of the University of Virginia for two days of extraordinary dialogue. From the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Archbishop Desmond Tutu's riveting description of chairing South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, their conversation ranged from familiar international-relations issues to areas traditionally excluded from such discourse, like the need for personal transformation and community organizing.
From the laureates' speeches and exchanges, the veteran journalist Helena Cobban has drawn a powerful, prescient vision of our shared global future. Unlike other recent books on global change, The Moral Architecture of World Peace is based on the heroic stories of nine individuals who base their view of world peace on personal strength and public activism, not economic trends:
-- His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet
-- Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa
-- Betty Williams, Northern Ireland peace activist
-- Jody Williams and Bobby Muller, campaigners for an international treaty to ban landmines
-- Oscar Arias Sanchez, former Costa Rican president and architect of the five-nation peace accord in Central America
-- Rigoberta Menchu Tum, indigenous-rights activist
-- Jose Ramos-Horta, East Timorese independence activist
-- Ham Yawnghwe, speaking on behalf of Burmese democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi
As Helena Cobban articulates, these leaders all seem to subscribe to a broader set of truths that are not necessarily self-evident: that human beings can easily become locked into self-perpetuating "systems of suspicion and violence" at any level, from the interpersonal through the international; that when one is inside such a system, it can be hard to see it and to recognize one's own role within it; but that each one of us has the capacity to make a leap from self-centeredness toward greater understanding. "Try to change motivation", the Dalai Lama urges.
But while these laureates' stories are primarily of personal and political triumph, they also tell of great sacrifice, conflict, and pain. Bobby Muller's passionate exchange with Archbishop Tutu on moral accountability versus reconciliation, and the self-examination of Ramos-Horta, who reflected that his own East Timorese independence movement may have hurt the chances of United States' intervention to prevent Indonesia's brutal invasion of his country, point toward the new kinds of challenges we face in the next century.
From the candor, eloquence, humor, and differences expressed by these inspiring people, Helena Cobban has sketched out a new international paradigm of peace.