DENVER — Ten Nobel Peace Prize winners gathered here this weekend to issue a worldwide call for peace and understanding toward all people, with the possible exception of those in the Bush administration.
The laureates, who met here to celebrate the 10th anniversary of PeaceJam, an international education organization, opened the three-day event by excoriating the White House for its invasion of Iraq and subsequent increases in military spending.
“I honestly wonder how any of them can think for a nanosecond how having civil war in Iraq has made us safer,” said Jody Williams of Vermont, who won the peace prize in 1997 for her work toward clearing land mines.
Billed as the largest U.S. gathering of Nobel Peace Prize winners in history, the event served as a starting point for the laureates’ “Global Call to Action,” an initiative aimed at urging young people to record 1 billion “acts of peace” over the next 10 years.
About 3,000 young people from 31 countries attended the event, held at the University of Denver.
The event’s biggest names, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, steered clear of politics. The Dalai Lama was greeted like a rock star yesterday before a one-hour speech in which he urged young people to embrace globalization.
“There are no national boundaries. The whole globe is becoming one body,” the Tibetan spiritual leader said. “In these circumstances, I think war is outdated — destruction of your neighbor is actually destruction of yourself.”
At a press conference Friday, however, other peace prize winners criticized U.S. foreign policy, saying the focus should be on social and economic justice.
Adolfo Perez Esquivel, the 1980 winner for his Latin American human-rights work, took it a step further with a personal shot at President Bush.
“Bush says he prays. But I think God covers up His ears when George Bush prays,” Mr. Esquivel said through a Spanish translator.
The Nobel Peace Prize winners also issued a statement identifying 10 “barriers to global peace.” They included disease, poverty, nuclear weapons, social injustice, racism, access to natural resources and the rights of women and children.
Conspicuously absent from the list was global terrorism. Several laureates said that terrorism was an outgrowth of ignorance, prejudice and inequality, and that it cannot be eradicated until those underlying social issues are addressed.
Mrs. Williams said the September 11 attacks were a response to U.S. aggression around the world, and that the White House should have tried to understand the reasons behind them before invading Iraq.
“They do not like the aggressive policies of the country and they don’t like that we’re ignorant of that,” she said.
Mr. Esquivel compared the nearly 3,000 persons killed on September 11 with the tens of thousands of children who die every day of hunger. “I call that economic terrorism,” he said.