Thursday, 3 March 2011

Want to Change the World? Then Change Your Life

"I don't know how I ever got a Nobel Peace Prize, because when I see children die the anger in me is just beyond belief," Mrs Betty Williams told school children at Brisbane City Hall in 2006. "It is our duty as human beings, whatever age we are, to become the protectors of human life."

Since winning the honour with Mairead Corrigan in 1977 (for the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize), her career has become the embodiment of the truth that if you want change to come you have to be prepared to change your life first, even at the risk of being disowned by those who claim to love you.

The former Belfast receptionist changed her life in more ways than simply divorcing husband Ralph and marrying James Perkins. She persuaded Protestants and Catholics alike to come out on to the streets in their thousands and protest against sectarian violence. The IRA said she was a "dupe of the British".

She travels the world lecturing on the subjects of peace, justice and equality, a trinity of values some find as hard to swallow as atheists would the Eucharist. Justice and equality before the law are still widely subjugated to cultural values more in keeping with nomadic desert tribes than the urban reality of 21st century Western life.

For instance, forced marriage (for males and females) and honour killings. Here are some statistics from Jaswinder Sanghera, whose charity Karma Nirvana campaigns on these issues in the north of the UK.

. At least 12 so-called honour killings occur every year although the Crown Prosecution Service thinks there may be many more.

. The Home Office's Forced Marriage Unit deals with 5,000 calls for support annually and 400 cases of repatriation a year, a third of which are for under-16s.

. South Asian women aged 16 to 24 are two to three times more likely to commit suicide or self-harm.

Jaswinda told me recently: "I am perceived as a threat by people who have a mindset, who operate in an honour code, who don't want their children to integrate or have choices. They see me as a cultural threat.

"What I deem culturally unacceptable is when they abuse their child to maintain their own idea of what's right and what's wrong...Professionals know what's happening, but have been disarmed when dealing with other communities. They fear getting it wrong and being called 'racist'.

"The perpetrators of forced marriage and honour killings are gaining power through using the race card."

There is still much work for the likes of Jaswinder Sanghera and Betty Williams to do.


Anonymous said...

This being the same Betty Willimas who wanted to kill George Bush?

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