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School of Diplomacy and International Relations

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Visits Seton Hall

Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee

Liberian peace activist, Leymah Gbowee, center, with students from the School of Diplomacy.

The Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations featured Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee during the World Leaders Forum on November 14.

Madam Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. She was honored for leading a nonviolent movement with Christian and Muslim women that ended the 14-year Liberian civil war in 2003. She currently is the president of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa-USA.

Regarding current events, Madam Gbowee addressed how they have affected people’s perception of peace. "It’s a difficult time in the world that we find ourselves in," she said.  "People have more questions than answers."

She spoke about her experience in protesting for peace during the Second Liberian Civil War. "I had learned that as a leader, you show up first and leave last," Madam Gbowee said. "There are people in this world who may never benefit from the glory of peace, but they are determined to make the sacrifice that would lead us to peace."

According to Madam Gbowee, peace is "not the absence of war" but rather the presence of conditions that "dignify people." When discussing how she led Liberian women during the civil war, and wether there is a "formula" for peace, she said, "the first thing we need to do is see each other for who we truly are: humans."

Seven women, including Madam Gbowee, signed a statement for peace and put it in the newspaper in 2003 which gained traction in media outlets. "It was important for us to see each other as humans, regardless of which ethnic group we came from."

Prior to the current situation between Israel and Palestine, Madam Gbowee recounted working with a group called "Women Wage Peace" comprised of Israeli and Palestinian women. She said she did not bring up the story due to the current conflict, but "because of the compassion that existed amongst those group of women."

"They are determined that peace is the only way, but as part of finding the path to peace is understanding we are one people," Madam Gbowee said. 

Another issue that limits peace, according to Madam Gbowee, is the presence of double standards. 

"People will protest Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, but even though there are Palestinians on campus, you’ve never invited one of them to have lunch with you," she said. "Or people will protest the killings of Africans, but they would never invite one African to eat with them." 

"It’s time for us to humanize the world that we live in," Madam Gbowee said. "We cannot continue to operate in a world where we’ve lost our humanity. Young people need it in order to keep this world afloat."

Dean Courtney Smith from the School of Diplomacy and International Relations facilitated the event, and University Interim President Katia Passerini, Ph.D., welcomed Madam Gbowee. Gail Thornton, a member of the School of Diplomacy Board of Advisors, introduced Madam Gbowee.

Madam Leymah Gbowee currently serves on the School of Diplomacy Board of Advisors since 2022.

For a visual glimpse of the event, check out the photo gallery on our Flickr page.

Categories: Nation and World