October 8-9, 2016
Nobel Laureate: Betty Williams
About Betty: 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner for her efforts to create a grassroots movement to end decades of violence in Northern Ireland.
Williams was born in 1943 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Like many families in Northern Ireland, Betty’s family was touched by violence. Her Protestant grandfather was attacked because his son was marrying a Catholic woman. Her cousin Daniel was killed by Protestant extremists. Another cousin was killed by an IRA bomb. In Betty’s words, “The Protestants killed one of my cousins, and the Catholics killed the other. ” In 1976, three innocent children were killed in a shooting in Belfast. Williams, a housewife and secretary, witnessed the tragedy personally and decided that the decades of violence had to end.
Williams co-founded the Community of Peace People with Máiread Corrigan, the aunt of the three children killed. Williams became a grassroots activist who established local peace groups comprised of former opponents in the conflict. She organized a peace march to the children’s graves that 10,000 Protestant and Catholic women attended. The Irish Republican Army disrupted the peaceful walk, but 35,000 people marched with Williams and Corrigan the following week to protest violence in their country.
Betty Williams currently serves as the president of World Centers of Compassion for Children, whose mission is to provide a strong political voice for children in areas afflicted by war, hunger, social, economic or political upheaval. The WCCC is building their first “City of Compassion” in southern Italy. This city will be a safe haven for children who are most at risk to the horrors of war, hunger, disease and abuse. Williams has been a member of PeaceJam since 1996.
Check out highlights from the PeaceJam conferences we attended in 2016!