The International Committee of Artists for Peace presented Betty Williams, a 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of World Centers of Compassion for Children International, with its Humanity in the Arts Peace Award at the world-renowned Montreux Jazz Festival.
Festival founder and past ICAP award recipient Claude Nobs joined ICAP co-president and jazz musician Herbie Hancock in presenting the award to Ms. Williams. During the ceremony, Mr. Hancock read the award certificate, which acknowledged that “the community of artists draws its deepest inspiration from those individuals who lead the way toward transcending the differences that divide human beings, who devote themselves daily to a heightening of the human spirit.”
Mr. Hancock continued to read the certificate which recognized Ms. Williams’ “exceptional commitment as an outstanding ambassador of conscience and peace” and praised her efforts to establish a society “wherein children are shielded from terror and violence.”
Ms. Williams, who received a standing ovation from the more than 4,000 in attendance, said she would continue to work harder to establish a safe world for children. She expressed her joy at receiving the award and her appreciation to ICAP’s founder, Daisaku Ikeda.
A former receptionist and mother of two, Ms. Williams in 1976 watched helplessly as a car tore down a street in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and plowed into a woman and her three children. She then cradled one of the woman’s dying children in her arms. The driver, who was slumped dead over the wheel, had taken part in the violence between Protestant and Catholic paramilitary groups.
It was the death of three children from one family, John, Joanne and Andrew Maguire, that became the catalyst for the peace movement in Northern Ireland, a movement of women who took to the streets by the hundreds of thousands demanding an end to the slaughter of the innocent. It was this action that began the turn-around in Northern Ireland, a time when peace was the objective. The women of Northern Ireland were determined to end the bloody cycle of useless violence and they did!
In all the years since the birth of the peace movement in Ireland, Mrs. Williams has traveled the world and seen first-hand the suffering of children. "Each brutalized child belongs to all of us and is our shame," she tells her audience. Determined to change how we treat children's issues Mrs. Williams is creating the first City of Peace in the world for children in the Region Basilicata, Italy. She has written the Universal Declaration of the Rights of the World's Children and is working to have it adopted by democratic governments worldwide. "We will create a new paradigm of peace where the children of our world are loved, cared for, respected and above all treated with the dignity they deserve," is the mantra of Betty Williams.
The festival also included the world premiere of “Herbie Hancock: The Imagine Project,” an unprecedented international recording and film project between the jazz legend and a lineup of internationally acclaimed artists, who use the power of music to convey the message of peace through global collaboration.
Also at this year’s festival, ICAP debuted its new exhibition, “Voices of Change—The Power of Youth” at Stravinski Hall, one of the most visible venues at the prestigious event held on the shores of Lake Léman. The exhibition which was displayed between July 2 and July 17 recognizes young musicians who have made a difference in society through the power of the arts and music, including American musician Alicia Keys, Pakistan musician and U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Salman Ahmad and Nigerian musician Femi Anikulapo-Kuti. Other young artists highlighted in the exhibit are: Joss Stone from England, Oumou Sangare from Mali, Charice Pempengco from Filipine, Justin Bieber from Canada, Shakira from Colombia, Leon Lai from China and Sara McLachlan from Canada.
“Many of these artists struggled in their youth and persevered through obstacles. Their courage made their success possible, and they are eager to give back to their communities. People of all ages can learn from the young,” Mr. Hancock said. “It’s vital that we listen to them, care for them, and foster their ambitions and high ideals. Youth are, and will be, emerging more than ever to forge a new era of humanism.”
Mr. Claude Nobs, the festival founder, expressed his appreciation to Dr. Ikeda and ICAP for their continued contributions to the Montreux Jazz Festival, which celebrated its 44th year.