On October 6, Peace Boat joined the first-ever War Abolisher Awards ceremony organized by the global nonviolent movement World BEYOND War, hosted by the organization’s Executive Director David Swanson.
Three awards were presented, and Peace Boat was honored to receive the Lifetime Organizational War Abolisher of 2021 award, alongside Mel Duncan who received the David Hartsough Lifetime Individual War Abolisher of 2021 award, and Civic Initiative “Save Sinjajevina” who was awarded the War Abolisher of 2021 award. The awardees spoke of the challenges of war abolition while providing great inspiration and hope for future peacebuilding as well. Flutist Ron Korb provided an emotional and moving backdrop to the urgent matters addressed throughout the event.
Time to collaborate broadly
Peace Boat’s Founder and Director Yoshioka Tatsuya accepted the award on behalf of Peace Boat, celebrating the prize with the large number of Peace Boat staff and volunteers who joined the ceremony. The award was presented by veteran, author, and peace activist Ann Wright, a longtime partner and friend of Peace Boat, who lovingly labeled Peace Boat’s ship with the word ‘Peace’ on its hull a large-scale peace advertisement.
In his acceptance speech, Yoshioka Tatsuya spoke of Japan’s own war history, and thanked partners and friends for their encouragement and support over the years. Especially these past couple of years have been particularly trying for Peace Boat, but the love and support kept us going. Speaking of Peace Boat’s work, Yoshioka explained that Peace Boat voyages “allow people to visit conflict zones to not only learn about, but experience the realities of war. Otherwise, ‘war’ remains abstract. And ‘peace’ is abstract. But no, people are suffering, people are killing and being killed. It’s bloody - that’s the truth of war. There is no justice.” He added that this year’s so-called end of the war in Afghanistan is proof that “peace cannot be built through force” and that we need to share this truth with the world.
Introducing Peace Boat's work at the WBW Award Ceremony
Yoshioka also asked why governments prioritize military spending when people are dying from other threats such as Covid-19 and the climate crisis. Also urging the peace movement to collaborate on a greater scale with climate and anti-poverty initiatives, Yoshioka emphasised that the time is ripe to think about what we can do together and to combine our different strengths and expertise: “The Covid pandemic has taught us that we need people - we have to connect, and that connection creates friendships and mutual understanding, stopping hatred and creating peace [...] it’s time to recognize we can’t do things by ourselves. This is something the pandemic as well showed us.”
Adopting internationally recognized leader on global climate action Christiana Figueres’ term ‘stubborn optimism’, Yoshioka concluded by encouraging everyone to continue the work for peace and sustainability as ‘stubborn optimists’.
Ron Korb sets the scene with an emotional performance
All about people
Presenting the David Hartsough Lifetime Individual War Abolisher of 2021 award, physician and peace educator John Reuwer argued that “people don’t support war because they enjoy killing and destroying things, but because they don’t see an alternative.” While we are often taught to believe that only real warriors can protect us, John highlighted how this notion is challenged by this year’s awardee and their non-violent peace work: Mel Duncan from Nonviolent Peaceforce. Demonstrating effective alternatives to militarism and that it is possible to protect others from violence without using violence in return, Nonviolent Peaceforce, founded in 2002, is a modern organization of professional, unarmed peacekeepers, now specialists of best practices in ‘unarmed civilian protection’ (UCP).
“I’m intimately aware that my work would be insignificant if it were not part of a creative, courageous, and expanding community”, awardee Mel Duncan stressed, while dedicating his award to all his colleagues at the Nonviolent Peaceforce in recognition of the work they do for peacebuilding and preventing violence through unarmed civilian protection. Joining him from the border of Myanmar and Thailand, Nonviolent Peaceforce’s Head of Mission for Myanmar, Rosemary Kabaki, spoke of Mel Duncan’s dedication and how “people” are an intrinsic part of everything he and Nonviolent Peaceforce do. “We don’t have to step on the shoulders of giants to reach the sky,” Rosemary Kabaki concluded. “We ourselves have the capacity to grow and become giants.”
David Hartsough Lifetime Individual War Abolisher recipient, Mel Duncan
Violence against nature
President of the board of World BEYOND War, Leah Bolger, presented the final award, for the War Abolisher of 2021. Highlighting the inspiring work of both the awardees and the numerous nominees, she proceeded by describing how “military bases not only facilitate war, but also make war more likely”, and militarism continues to destroy indigenous lands and livelihoods.
Civic Initiative “Save Sinjajevina”, recipient of this year’s War Abolisher of 2021 award, was represented by environmental anthropologist Pablo Dominguez, film director Petar Glomazic, journalist and ‘son of Sinjajevina’ Milan Sekulovic, and ‘daughter of Sinjajevina’, Persida Jovanovic. They spoke of their struggle against the implementation of a planned NATO military training ground on the grasslands of Sinjajevina Mountain in Montenegro, a unique landscape of great natural and cultural value.
Petar Glomazic explained how public interests are neglected in the name of privatization and the so-called ‘transition’ in the western Balkans, and described the environmental destruction caused by for instance private mining and hydropower plants in the region. Milan Sekulovic and Persida Jovanovic spoke of the movement’s victories in halting military training in the area, but raised concern that without internationalizing the issue and gaining support outside of Montenegro, the grasslands of Sinjajevina might still end up as military training grounds. In order to increase both local and international pressure, please sign the petition here.
Civic Initiative "Save Sinjajevina"
Peace Boat is humbled by World BEYOND War’s recognition of our four-decade-long work for disarmament, regional solidarity, and peace-building, and honored to receive the award alongside inspiring ‘War Abolishers’ like Mel Duncan and Civic Initiative “Save Sinjajevina”!