Want hope? Peacemakers caught the world’s eye in 2011

“CARDINAL SIN” Banksy’s latest prophetic artwork. Image courtesy of Banksy’s own public domain website.

Our new book, Blessed Are the Peacemakers by global peace negotiator and teacher Daniel Buttry, is packed with 80 inspiring profiles of men and women who staked their lives on the hope that peace is possible. Many of the heroic peacemakers whose stories appear in Buttry’s book wound up in front-page news in 2011. That’s a testament not only to their lives—but to the world’s deep desire for peace. These figures move us, often in stunning ways. Here are a few of the men and women profiled in Buttry’s book who made headlines in 2011 …


As a journalist, ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm landed in Prague so soon after the 1989 Velvet Revolution overthrew Czechoslovakia’s Communist government that a few of the brand new government agencies still were operating out of activists’ apartments, church halls and other temporary facilities. Everything and everyone was in motion.
Traveling Prague’s historic byways to find and interview these successful revolutionary leaders for American newspapers, one image was constant—the friendly photo of Vaclav Havel, shown at right, with the slogan: “Truth and love must conquer lies and hate.” Of course, the posters were all in Czech, but everyone—including millions around the world—understood the slogan. That first word “Pravda” was infamous globally as the name of the Communist newspaper out of Moscow that contained anything but the truth. Havel was accomplishing something far larger than a change of government with his slogan. He was resurrecting our faith in “truth” itself in global relationships. He became the leader of the new, free republic essentially by acclamation and was a shining star to peacemakers around the world. In Buttry’s book, he writes that “a man with an artist’s soul brought down this soul-less system.” Before his death on December 18, 2011, Havel’s proudest accomplishment was that he lived to see a young generation come of age in eastern Europe who, as Havel put it, were never stunted by the “destruction the Communist regime wreaked upon our souls.” You can read Havel’s whole story in Blessed Are the Peacemakers.


One of the most-celebrated news stories among peacemakers in 2011 was the release from a Myanmar prison of the fearless comedian whose name, however it is spelled in English, means “Tweezers.” Here is our story from October about Zargana’s release, including some samples of Zargana’s humor. At that point, the news of his release was hopeful, yet tentative. Might he wind up back behind bars as quickly as he was freed? Zargana refuses to tame his tongue. Then, in December U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Burma and the situation in this harsh military dictatorship continued to look brighter. The most famous of all Burmese peace activists, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, is becoming ever more active in politically challenging the country’s military bosses. By late December 2011, Zargana carried the story of oppression in Burma around the world. Granted his first-ever passport by the military government, and with assistance from Clinton, Zargana made multiple stops in his global tour.


Banksy is famous for the prophetic use of his art—far beyond what other popular artists attempt. His outdoor art often is illegal. He gives away his imagery with abandon. He has rattled the cages of the rich and powerful over and over again. You can read Havel’s whole story in Blessed Are the Peacemakers. In March 2011, ReadTheSpirit reported on Banksy and reviewed the startling new documentary movie about him. With his Oscar nomination for that movie and showers of praise around the world, we might have expected Banksy to close out 2011 cruising comfortably on his fame. Then, in December 2011, Banksy is back in global headlines for unveiling an angry artisitc rebuke of Catholic leaders’ secrecy in the sexual-abuse scandal. Called “Cardinal Sin,” Banksy has taken a traditional bust of a Catholic cardinal and overlaid the face with squares of tile. From a distance, the effect is the pixilated obscuring of the cardinal’s face that is common in many TV news reports about criminals. This literally in-your-face piece is on display at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool as 2011 closes.


As 2011 closes, with so many global conflicts unresolved, billions of men, women and children around the world yearn for peace. As a vocation, peacemaking is a noble if dangerous calling. So, as 2012 dawns, peacemakers will continue to be headline news. Please, help Daniel Buttry’s worldwide activism on behalf of peace. Buy a copy of Blessed Are the Peacemakers. And, please, feel free to email [email protected] when you see headlines about peacemaking in 2012.

Among others in the news in 2011 …

Churchgoers across the U.S. celebrated the Nobel Prize for Leymah Gbowee. Millions of church members know her story through grassroots showings of the stirring movie, Pray the Devil Back to Hell.

Buttry was honored at a major seminary and closed his 2011 schedule of public appearance with the Good News that the prophetic claim of old—“a child shall lead them”—is still true around the world.

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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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