Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee founded a women’s nonviolent peace movement that helped stop the second Liberian civil war in 2003. One night she heard a clear spiritual call:
I had a dream.
I didn’t know where I was. Everything was dark. I couldn’t see a face, but I heard a voice, and it was talking to me—commanding me: “Gather the women to pray for peace!”. . .
In some ways, that dream [and] that moment, were the start of everything. We knelt down on the worn brown carpet and closed our eyes. “Dear God, thank you for sending us this vision,” said Sister Esther. “Give us your blessing, Lord, and offer us Your protection and guidance in helping us to understand what it means.”
My dream became the Christian Women’s Peace Initiative. In April 2002, about twenty Lutheran women from local churches gathered to follow the message I’d been sent, praying each Tuesday at noon in the small upstairs chapel of the St. Peter’s compound. Sometimes we fasted. Soon, other church women heard what we were doing and began to join us. “Jesus, help us. You are the true Prince of Peace, the only one who can grant us peace.” . . .
We lived in a closed, guarded box, and the most ordinary acts could bring down terrible punishment. . . . Nobody seemed willing to do anything. . . . Now, finally, we women were going to take action.
Gbowee describes the tireless efforts of organizing for peace in a country that had undergone immense suffering, violence, and corruption:
Three days a week for six months, the women of WIPNET [Women in Peacebuilding Network] went out to meet with the women of Monrovia; we went to the mosques on Friday at noon after prayers, to the markets on Saturday morning, to two churches every Sunday. . . . We gave all our sisters the same message: Liberian women, awake for peace! . . .
It wasn’t always easy. Women who have suffered for nearly as long as they can remember come to a point where they look down, not ahead. But as we kept working, women began to look up and listen. No one had spoken to them this way before.
We handed out flyers: WE ARE TIRED! WE ARE TIRED OF OUR CHILDREN BEING KILLED! WE ARE TIRED OF BEING RAPED! WOMEN, WAKE UP—YOU HAVE A VOICE IN THE PEACE PROCESS! . . .
As the women of WIPNET gathered together, my fear, depression and loneliness were finally, totally, wiped away. Others who felt the way I did stood beside me; I wasn’t alone anymore. And I knew in my heart that everything I had been through, every pain, had led me to this point: leading women to fight for peace was what I was meant to do with my life.
Leymah Gbowee with Carol Mithers, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War: A Memoir (New York: Beast Books, 2011), 122–123, 126, 127, 129–130.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Catholic peace educator Marie Dennis and others on why nonviolence works.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0017 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Iraq War Anniversary Peace Rally (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0014 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
Image inspiration: Candles are on either side of a central image, as in a sanctuary. Nonviolence is sacred.
Story from Our Community:
Today I awoke to my first day of the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I embarked on this journey in response to several years of many spiritual and worldly challenges. Along my walk, I encountered a message that will be with me throughout this journey and beyond: “yo estoy aqui, yo estoy aqui ahora,” or “I am here, I am here now.” I’m grateful that these words, and the words of the Daily Meditations, will accompany me in returning to peace within myself. —Dana G.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.