In the Christian calendar, Easter is not one day, but a season in which we watch for signs of resurrection and hope. For me, the Calgary Peace Prize is one such sign. In the long-ago story of that first Easter, disciples were shocked by signs that their story hadn’t ended. Execution on a cross was not the final word, after all. They kept seeing Jesus — in the garden, on the road, on a beach and in a locked room. In our time, we know that even after war and genocide, resurrections are possible.
The Calgary Peace Prize was established by the University of Calgary's Consortium for Peace Studies to recognize outstanding individuals from the global community. The list of recipients is impressive. The first was Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, who was honoured for leading the Mayors for Peace anti-nuclear campaign. Since then, Jordan's Prince El Hassan bin Talal, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, journalist Sally Armstrong, environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva, Gaza's Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, musician and former child soldier Emmanuel Jal and War Child International founder Dr. Samantha Nutt have received the award.
This month, Deng Lueth, one of the “Lost Boys” of South Sudan and a Canadian university graduate, presented the prize to former senator and retired general Romeo Dallaire
. Close to 400 people came out to honour Dallaire’s contributions to human rights: the prevention of genocide and the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
Dallaire has many medals and honours; what he also has is humility and
determination. His horrific experience as force commander of the
ill-fated UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda gave him a lifelong commitment
to ending the use of child soldiers. To that end, he established the
Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative and wrote two books: They Fight
Like Soldiers and Die Like Children and Shake Hands with the Devil,
which was adapted for the big screen. What's more, he's a mental health
advocate who knows firsthand what returning soldiers must live with.
Courage is not only required for the battlefield, but for daily living
whenever post traumatic stress is a factor.
Next month, Dallaire
will receive the Heart and Vision Award along with refugee advocate Dr.
Mary Jo Leddy. This annual event is sponsored by the Toronto United
Church Council. Proceeds will support the Community Relief fund, which
helps congregations transform church space to meet the needs of
vulnerable people (i.e. retrofitting church halls for social housing,
Gurbir Sandhu, who works for the Calgary Centre for Global
Community, serves on the Peace Prize committee. She said that she was
gratified by the large turnout to hear Dallaire’s inspiring talk:
“Personally, I’ll be reflecting on the idea that sovereignty is not
absolute, that protection of vulnerable individuals must take priority.”
Former United Church Moderator Rev. Bill Phipps, who is on the
committee also, co-hosted the evening with Gurbir. "Romeo Dallaire lives
resurrection hope every day,” he said. “I was moved deeply by his
clear, compelling and humble message, and how it resonated with
attentive Calgarians. His unrelenting and compassionate advocacy on
behalf of child soldiers is inspiring . . ."
This Easter season, I will watch for resurrections and try, in the words of Wendell Berry, to practice resurrection, too.
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