What peace means to me

Global Elders’ mission is to aid humanity

by Lorraine Sims •

Despite all of the ghastliness in the world, human beings are made for goodness. The ones that are held in high regard are not militarily powerful, nor even economically prosperous. They have a commitment to try and make the world a better place. – – Desmond Tutu

In 1999, Peter Gabriel had a brilliant idea. Yes, Peter Gabriel, former lead singer for the rock band Genesis.

A boy wearing a tshirt which reads "it will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber

It occurred to Peter that, in traditional societies – North American First Nations, African indigenous peoples, Pacific Islands’ natives – the people had village elders to resolve conflict and to guide the people forward. Now that we live in a global village, we also need our global elders to resolve conflict and guide the people forward. Peter took his stroke of genius to his friend Richard Branson who supported Peter in bringing life to the idea. They approached Nelson Mandela to head the organization, which became known as The Elders.This global initiative began in 2007 with a group of senior statespeople from around the world, whose purpose is to seek new approaches to global issues, bring an end to human suffering and bring hope and wisdom back into the world.

The following are some excerpts from the speech by Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, at the announcement of The Elders, Johannesburg, South Africa, July 18, 2007:

“In traditional societies, it was the Elders of the village who were trusted to resolve conflict and provide wise guidance. Today, we live in a global village, yet we don’t have our global elders to lead and inspire.

I am very humbled and honoured to announce a new initiative to provide much-needed global leadership: The Elders, an effort led by the esteemed group of leaders who meet here today.

This group, dear friends, is one that has an understanding of the essential interdependence of all of us human beings.

It is a beginning and we look for a glorious tomorrow when we will discover that we are actually members of one family, the human family, God’s family. It is ultimately the goodness, and laughter, and joy and caring and compassion – those are what we want to convey in the end.”

Never before has such a powerful group of leaders come together, free from political, economic or military pressures. The only agenda of The Elders is that of humanity. And their only purpose is to ease human suffering in three essential areas:

  1. Offering a catalyst for the peaceful resolution of conflict.
  2. Seeking new approaches to seemingly intractable global issues.
  3. Sharing wisdom: reaching out to the next generation of leaders. Listening worldwide.

Chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Elders include:

  • Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, now Honorary Elder.
  • Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of South Africa.
  • Graca Machel, International advocate for women’s and children’s rights, former freedmon fighter, and first Education Minister of Mozambique.
  • Mary Robinson, former Prime Minister of Ireland and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  • Martti, former President of Finland, Nobel Laureate, Peace Negotiator.
  • Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Nobel Peace Laureate, Initiator of the U.N. Millennium Goals.
  • Ela Bhatt, Founder, Self Employed Women’s Association, Founder of India’s first Women’s Bank, Member of Parliament.
  • Lakhdar Brahimi, former Algerian freedom fighter, U.N. Diplomat, Peace Negotiator
  • Gro Brundtland, former President of Norway.
  • Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States, Nobel Peace Laureate.
  • Fernando H. Cardoso, former President of Brazil.
  • Aung San Sui Kyi, Burmese pro-democracy activist. An honorary seat was held for Sui Kyi while she was held under house arrest for 20 years.

Since its inception, Kofi Annan and Sui Kyi have taken a leave of absence, in order to fulfill other national and international duties

The Elders’ beliefs

  • The Elders represent an independent voice, not bound by the interests of any nation, government or institution.
  • The Elders are committed to promoting the shared interests of humanity, and the universal human rights we all share.
  • They believe that in any conflict, it is important to listen to everyone – no matter how unpalatable or unpopular this may be.
  • They aim to act boldly, speaking difficult truths and tackling taboos.
  • They don’t claim to have all the answers, and stress that every individual can make a difference and create positive change in their society.

To learn more about this inspiring group, please visit www.theelders.org

Lorraine Sims is a Vancouver-based activist, writer and leadership coach. She is currently writing a book about how each of us can contribute to world peace. www.lorrainesims.com


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