Three Great Peacemakers - Mother Teresa, Rigoberta Menchu, and Deganawida
Mother Teresa, Rigoberta Menchu and Deganawida Made Peace Their Life's Work
These three incredible people have contributed immensely to human history. Their accomplishments in helping to create a better humanity have made them famous.
What makes a great Peacemaker?
Each one of these people is a prime example of persistence, vision, overcoming hardships and committing to peacemaking as their life's work.
Each one came from different origins, but the execution of their vision remains the same: they remained faithful to their vision of peace.
Mother Teresa: A Call to Greatness
Mother Teresa knew from a young age that she would serve humanity and her God. She wanted to become a missionary to spread the love of her Savior. At 18, she joined an order of Sisters and went to India. Initially, she went to work at a high school.
So much poverty surrounding that school affected her, however. She left the school to found her own order, "The Missionaries of Charity" and worked with the poorest, diseased, and otherwise shunned members of Indian society.
Mother Teresa's work inspired over 4,000 other nuns and 300 brothers to carry on with her work around the world, helping the most destitute people in countries everywhere.
Mother Teresa brought hope to the hopeless, and spread love and kindness and became world renowned as a Peacemaker. She became a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for her tireless work helping others.
Deganawida: I Am the Peacemaker
Long ago, many nations of Indians were constantly at war with each other. Eventually, they found a way to peace with the help of the Great Peacemaker, also known as Deganawida.
He had humble origins. It is said that he was born to a woman of the Huron tribe. His birth fulfilled a vision his grandmother had. In the vision, the Great Spirit appeared to her and foretold that her daughter would bear a child, one that would achieve great things.
When Deganawida grew into an adult, he crafted a canoe made of stone. This would be the vessel he used to travel and approach the various warring tribes. He'd always known that he would try to bring a message of peace to other nations. He set out on his journey.
He first came into contact with the people of the Mohawk Nation. He encountered several men and a woman in a long house. He spoke of the need for peace, righteousness and power. He was able to convince these people to accept peace.
He then traveled to the Cayugas, Senecas and Onondagas.
He unflaggingly preached his message, facing great adversity at times. He convinced an angry cannibal to embrace peace, and united many people that had only known war - they were warriors who found it difficult to change their lives, but they did.
Deganawida also performed miracles to help fulfill his vision. He climbed a tree and sat on a branch overlooking a cliff. He asked a skeptic to cut the branch, and he fell a long way into the raging waters below. However, he made it back to the camp before everyone woke the next morning. This miracle is what persuaded the Mohawks to accept peace.
Deganawida united six nations to form the Iroquois Confederacy. All tribes relinquished their weapons and established a pact of rules to live by - their constitution.
It was this model that Ben Franklin looked to when colonists were forming their own constitution. Because the Iroquois Confederation was so strong, peaceful and vibrant, many believe that this was a precursor to the American Constitution.
Rigoberta Menchú grew up desperately poor. The adversities she faced contributed to her actions as a peacemaker. As she was growing up, her family had to work on a plantation. At that time, many plantation owners didn't pay a fair wage.
Indigenous peoples of Guatemala had no rights. They were treated as property.
When the Guatemalan government, along with plantation owners continued to oppress, abuse and even steal native peoples' lands, they began to fight back.
Rigoberta's father was a leader in this movement. He was arrested many times and was even put to death by fire as Rigoberta watched. She also lost her brother in the movement. He was kidnapped, tortured and also burned alive. One by one, Rigoberta's family members were summarily raped, tortured and executed - as were many people. This became the start of the Guatemalan Civil War.
Because Rigoberta was also active in the movement, she retreated to Mexico, fearing for her life. She began to work on her autobiography and tried to begin the healing process from losing so many members of her immediate family. She had no schooling, so had to dictate the book.
Her book, I, Rigoberta Menchú not only talked about the plight of her family, but also of the plight of the indigenous peoples of Guatemala. The world began to hear about this conflict and began to help Rigoberta in her efforts.
In 1992, the United Nations recognized Menchú to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She used the funds to set up a foundation in honor of her father to help fight for the rights of indigenous people in Guatemala.
Her relentless battle for peace has changed the lives of many in her home country. Her work also led the United Nations to recognize the International Year for Indigenous Peoples in 1993.
Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Prize Laureate
Why Choose These Three Peacemakers?
I came across a site with over 800 known peacemakers in the world. Why did I choose these three?
So often, we hear of prominent white, male peacemakers. There's nothing wrong with that - it's incredible!
But, I wanted to highlight lesser known people and peacemakers who are not so typical.
Mother Teresa was a holy woman and did so many good deeds that the world recognized her as a pillar of peace.
Deganawida helped to create peace among people that had never known what it was. His efforts then influenced the founding fathers of the United States. The fact that he was Native American is even sweeter.
Rigoberta Menchú is also an incredible individual, rising from obscurity in poverty to fight for human rights. Despite no education and growing up with virtually no resources, she overcame the odds to help people in her own country and inspire others around the world.
What are the Characteristics of Peacemakers?
I believe that these three people had a few things in common:
- A vision - of love and peace
- Peace became their life's work
- They overcame incredible odds and adversity
- They were persistent in their efforts
- They all had humble beginnings
© 2011 Cynthia Calhoun