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PeaceJam up for Nobel prize

Robert Weller

DENVER – A Nobel Peace Prize could be in the future of the children of two Detroit autoworkers who got the blessing of the Dalai Lama to start a youth-based peace movement that has enrolled hundreds of thousands.Dawn Gifford Engle and husband Ivan Suvanjieff had grown up only a couple of miles apart but only met in the 1990s at Boulder’s eclectic, Buddhist-based Naropa University, a haven for writers like Allen Ginsberg.”Some people think our chances are very good because we were nominated by so many people. We prefer to think we have no choice at all so we can sleep at night,” Engle said Thursday of their nomination by six Nobel Peace Prize laureates.Gov. Bill Ritter announced the nomination.Engle and her husband both said they were humbled by the honor, especially that it was coming from their role models.Peace Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland wrote a letter of nomination saying “their work to inspire and mobilize the youth of the world to address the root causes of violence and suffering in our local communities” has “created a worldwide movement of young people working for social peace and justice.In her letter, she added, “Their courage, conviction and hard work … is having a concrete impact on the lives of people all over the world. It gives me great pleasure to introduce their work to you.”Engle and Suvanjieff met in the early 1990s at Naropa. He was an artist-punk rocker, she a former political employee and lobbyist for Tibet. “We grow up a couple of miles from each other and we meet at Naropa,” Engle said.They hatched their unlikely plan with no funding source, and ran it by the Dalai Lama. They borrowed the money to pay to travel to India for the meeting. His approval launched their cause.The missionNow they want to inspire a billion people by the year 2016. Their more than 310,000 projects range from purifying water in a shantytown to reforestation and anti-gang projects.The group also supports political causes including democracy and the end of imprisonment for those who advocate it as well as an end to racism.Their 150 meetings, called congresses, throughout the world have drawn more than 500,000. Their next congress is Sept. 12-14 in Costa Rica.The other laureates who nominated the pair were Betty Williams of Ireland, Adolfo Perez Esquivel of Argentina, Rigoberta Menchu Tum of Guatemala, Jose Ramos-Horta of East Timor and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.The six laureates who nominated Engle and Suvanjieff were among the dozen laureates who attended the 10th anniversary festival of the group last year in Denver, the largest collection of laureates ever to gather in the United States.”I am proud to say that Colorado is the kind of creative place where really big ideas like this can be generated. We share the belief with PeaceJam that change starts here,” said Ritter.The winner of the peace prize will be announced in October.”It’s been an incredible, amazing ride. This is what we want to do for the rest of our lives. I feel like we are on a mission. We want all these great kids who work with us to have their horizons expanded like we did,” said Engle.Engle hasn’t ruled out their winning the prize because the organization has a habit of sending messages.”Maybe the Nobel Committee will want to say something to the American people about peace being good work,” she said. “The Committee feels like they have a huge responsibility to try and help the world when they make this decision.”We need a whole new generation of leaders to transform this world or they are going to have a frightening future. We are passing on a world that is full of problems and worse than the one we inherited – with global warming and sectarian violence,” she said.


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