From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 11:53:03


                      by Jerry L. Van Marter 
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y.--In a fiery address to the Presbyterian Peacemaking Jubilee 
Aug. 13, Northern Ireland's Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire told a 
crowd of 1,600 here, "Human life is sacred -- God gives it and we have no 
right to take it away." 
     Maguire, founder of "Peace People," went from housewife to 
international peace activist in 1976, when violence in Northern Ireland 
claimed the lives of her sister's three children.  They were struck by a 
car that when out of control on a West Belfast street after its driver, a 
suspected Irish Republican Army member, was fatally shot by a British 
     "We need to think of a whole new way," Maguire said of her efforts, 
"because the current road surely leads to destruction.  People are entitled 
to their politics, but not to take a life in furtherance of those 
     Maguire said the world should look to Northern Ireland for "clues" to 
the new way of resolving conflict because "more and more we are going to be 
faced with ethnic conflicts."  The situation in Northern Ireland, where the 
British Army and Protestant and Catholic militias have engaged in armed 
struggle for more than 30 years, "proves that armies are of no use to us, 
armies will not solve our problems." 
     Instead of turning to political and military theorists, Maguire said, 
people need to turn to Jesus Christ.  "Don't go looking in dusty books 
written by people just as confused as we are," she said.  "Don't go to 
books, go to the cross -- the ultimate expression of nonviolence." 
     A commitment to nonviolence is not easy, Maguire continued.  "Don't 
give me justice, give me mercy, because I am a sinner and trying to live 
nonviolently is very, very hard.  My hope lies in the fact that God will 
forgive me." 
     It is up to churches, Maguire said, "to inspire the truth that human 
life is the ultimate value.  Our young people will become cynics and the 
cycle of violence will continue if the churches cannot say without 
qualification,  War is wrong.'" 
     And individual Christians play the key role.  "The challenge is 
enormous, but we believe we can do it," Maguire said.  To thundering 
applause, she continued, "Moreover, we believe we must do it, for our own 
sake and for all others' -- we must disarm country by country, town by 
town, street by street, house by house, heart by heart." 

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  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
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