Award Nobel Peace Prize to Burmese Monks
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As the Norwegian Nobel Committee decides on the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize this coming week, we urge you to consider a decidedly late and unorthodox proposal: award the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Burmese Buddhist monastic order (sangha). As I am sure you are aware, a decidedly lopsided war has broken out on the streets of Rangoon, but only one side, the military, is armed with guns, tear gas, and tanks. The other army consists of monks from the sangha, who have attempted to use their spiritual authority to protect civilian demonstrators and bear the brunt of the military governments harsh crackdown. For this supreme act of peaceful courage, we would like to suggest that you award the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to the Burmese sangha, the spiritual force behind Burmas democracy movement.
The statutes establishing the Nobel Peace Prize entrust the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award it to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses. However, since World War II, most of the worlds bloodshed has transpired as a result of fighting not between governments but between governments and their citizens. The current peacemakers are not merely diplomats who draw treaties at negotiating tables but also religious leaders, activists, and ordinary citizens who use their authority and influence to promote peaceful change in their countries. The Nobel Peace Prize has been crucial in elevating the moral authority of peacemakers struggling against apartheid in South Africa, segregation in America, Communism in Eastern Europe, and military rule in East Timor. It could now protect those monks risking their lives to protest Burmas cruel military regime.
Over the past week, the world watched in humility and awe as hundreds of thousands of unarmed Buddhist monks and civilians marched peacefully throughout the country. However, as we have seen, rather than respond in a civilized manner, the military and its thugs have killed dozens of monks and arrested thousands. Descriptions of Burmese soldiers ransacking monasteries recall fifth century barbarian hordes pillaging villages, rather than the actions of a disciplined twenty-first century defense force. Rather than submit, the monks have used other tools in the arsenal of peace. Monks who have been arrested are now on hunger strikes, while those who are locked in their monasteries chant the metta sutta to ward off evil and spread love.
As tragic as these events are, these monks have not suffered in vain. They have successfully used their prominence in Burmese society to draw the worlds attention to Burma as never before. Concerned citizens from America to Indonesia to Costa Rica to Germany have added their voices to those of the Burmese people by protesting in front of Burmese and Chinese embassies. Perhaps more important, the bravery of the monks propelled Burma onto the international agenda. While we may not see immediate political change in Burma, the monks sacrifice has caused a spiritual change and altered the dynamics of international discussion of Burma at the highest level.
While we do not seek to pressure the Committee into giving the prize to the monks, we do hope our letter has raised a unique opportunity for the Committee to recognize what is fast become the symbol of conscience of our times. We realize that taking such a step would be a dramatic departure from the strict nominating procedure. However, we feel that if the Burmese monks could risk their lives to break the juntas draconian laws and prove the power of peace, then the Norwegian Nobel Committee could certainly make an exception to the Nobel statutes for such an extraordinary group of peacemakers. Indeed, the Burmese sangha would comfortably fit in with the most celebrated prior prize recipients, including Elie Wiesel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dali Lama, Martin Luther King, and, of course, Aung San Suu Kyi.
We look forward to your announcement on October 12, 2007.