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Oregon United Methodist plans park to honor U.S. peacemakers

June 15, 2006

By Paul Jeffrey*

EUGENE, Ore. (UMNS) — Peacemakers have too often been ignored by history books in the United States, so John Attig is determined to give them more attention. The retired United Methodist schoolteacher wants to build a monument to U.S. citizens who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In three years of organizing, Attig has acquired a two-acre site along the Willamette River in a Eugene city park and is busy raising pledges to finance the almost half-million dollar peace park. It will have a monument with a list of the 19 individuals and three organizations from the United States that have been awarded the prize.

“We all know the military heroes of our country’s history, but most of our peacemakers aren’t even to be found in the indices of our history books,” Attig said. “We need to remember and learn from our nation’s peacemakers, some of whom are fading into obscurity.”

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
John Attig
Attig’s congregation was an early sponsor of the project.

“Monuments are usually constructed to honor warriors or conquerors, but our faith tells us that people who work for peace need to be valued and honored,” said the Rev. Debbie Pitney, senior pastor at Eugene’s First United Methodist Church.

Besides the physical monument, Attig is working with other teachers to design a multimedia curriculum unit for schools that would teach students about U.S. laureates and encourage them to be peacemakers themselves.

“If we’re going to have peace in the world, it’s going to take all kinds of people to do it. And when you look at the list of U.S. laureates, you realize that you don’t have to be a famous celebrity or a politician or wealthy or even holy. You just need to promote fraternity among nations and reduce militarism,” he said.

Diverse list

While the list of laureates does include some famous names, like Presidents Jimmy Carter and Woodrow Wilson, it also includes lesser-known activists, such as Emily Balch, a founder of the Women’s League for Peace and Freedom; John Mott, an ecumenical leader who improved conditions in prisoner of war camps during both World Wars; and Jody Williams, a volunteer activist who initiated the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Attig points out that there’s no red or blue political tint to the laureate list; the winners include nine Republicans and seven Democrats.

The project isn’t without controversy, however, given that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was awarded the prize in 1973 for his participation in ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

“Henry Kissinger is the cross I bear. His presence on the list of laureates has made it more difficult to raise money and obtain endorsements.

“I wonder if we’ll need to make the reinforced concrete even thicker,” Attig said.

“But if you start picking away at the list based on your particular viewpoint, you won’t have many people left. You’ll end up with an award for moral perfection rather than for peacemaking. George Marshall was a warrior, but he was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953 because of the Marshall Plan. I’m personally convinced that Kissinger is a war criminal, but I’m going to honor him for his peacemaking. You need to cut these guys in to make peace a reality,” he said.

Attig began raising funds for the project a year ago, and spends many of his days courting potential donors. “If I had all the money, we could start construction tomorrow,” he said.

Instead, he said he realistically hopes to have the necessary support within a year. Yet he acknowledged that sponsors of another public gathering place in Eugene, the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza, took four years to raise the necessary support. “It will take as long as it takes, but we’ll build it,” he said.

Further information about the project can be found at www.nobelpeacemonument.org.

*Jeffrey, currently based in Eugene, Ore., is a United Methodist missionary and senior correspondent for Response Magazine.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

 
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Resources
First United Methodist Church
The Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize Laureates