Human life is sacred

An Appeal to Restraint and a Call to Action in a Moment of Crisis
by eight Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, September 2001

We are greatly saddened by the tragic events which took place on Tuesday, September 11th , in New York and Washington, D.C. We cannot yet fathom the magnitude of what has happened, and yet we feel impelled to speak in light of what we fear may be an escalation of violence in response.

We extend our deepest sympathies and heart-felt condolences to the families and friends of the victims and to the people of the United States. Our prayers accompany you in this difficult period of loss and mourning. The many acts of courage on the part of the rescue teams and the generosity of the citizens of your cities and towns are an inspiration to all of us.

Respect for the sacredness and inviolability of human life is a principal article of faith in each of the major world religions. We are heartened by the spontaneous expressions of solidarity by millions of men and women of good will, from all backgrounds, on every continent, and by so many religious and political leaders through the world who have spoken out against this barbarous act of terrorism.

There is nothing which can condone an act which has cost the lives of thousands of innocent people. The perpetrators of this deed must be sought out and brought to justice. At the same time, we know that administering justice to those responsible will not resolve the deeper questions of the causes of terrorism which are rooted in social, political, and economic injustice. In this regard, we are mindful that every day innocent victims suffer and die in many parts of the world, their only crime being born in a particular place, or into a particular religion, or with a certain skin colour.

In this moment of crisis we are confronted by a challenge whose outcome may determine the future of this first century of the new millennium. The UN General Assembly has declared the first ten years of the 21st century to be the Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001-2010). We believe that the time has come to implement that decision.

Many have compared the attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon to the attack on Pearl Harbour. But this is not 1941. In the past 60 years we have learnt many hard lessons about the downward spiral of violence and have been misled by false expectations about the ability of military power to solve problems. Sadly, our political leaders continue to take decisions which produce confrontation instead of negotiation. The result has been more death and destruction and an increasing sense of fear, anxiety, and hopelessness among us all.

We therefore call upon the world community and especially upon the American people to take up the challenge which is presented to them in the midst of adversity. We recognise the need to respond quickly and decisively to these terrible acts of terrorism. Yet we appeal to the American government to refrain from military retaliation. Any actions taken must be guided by international law and fall within the bounds of the United Nations Charter.

Furthermore we call upon the United Nations to organise in the very near future:

An international conference on terrorism which will investigate its root causes, propose measures to address those causes, and provide international standards to ensure that security needs are met and that the perpetrators of such acts are brought to justice.

An international day of commemoration for all the victims of terrorism with public manifestations of solidarity and programs for teaching peace education and the principles of nonviolence in schools and universities.

Terrorism threatens the very principles to which our societies aspire and which are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The best response to those who would undermine democracy and the rule of law is to reaffirm those very values and institutions.

In conclusion, we call upon the governments and peoples of the world to take concrete steps in developing a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence. The response of the United States and its allies should not be driven by a blind desire for vengeance, but rather a renewed determination to work for a peaceful and just world.

The single great evil that must be opposed is not one group of people or another, but rather the fear and hatred that continue to find root in human hearts.



Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize 1976

Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Prize 1976

Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize 1980

Desmond Mpilo Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize 1984

The 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso), Nobel Peace Prize 1989

Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Nobel Peace Prize 1992

Joseph Rotblat, Nobel Peace Prize 1995

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize 1997