The Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations featured Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee during the World Leaders Forum on Nov. 14.
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 is the current president of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa-USA, an organization she founded in 2012 that provides education and leadership opportunities to women and youth.
Gbowee addressed how current events 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 protesting for peace during the Second Liberian Civil War. “I had learned that as a leader, you show up first and leave last,” 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 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, she said the first thing necessary was to “see each other for who we truly are: humans.”
“It was important for us to see each other as humans, regardless of which ethnic group we came from.”
Prior to the Israel-Hamas war that began on Oct. 7, 2023, Gbowee recounted working with a group called “Women Wage Peace,” composed 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 that 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,” Gbowee said.
Another issue that limits peace, according to 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,” 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 Dr. Katia Passerini welcomed Gbowee. Gail Thornton, a member of the School of Diplomacy Board of Advisors, introduced Gbowee.
Gbowee has served on the School of Diplomacy Board of Advisors since 2022.
Dareen Abukwaik can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org