NCC hosts Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee
New York, October 7, 2011 – Liberian peacemaker Leymah Gbowee was hosted by the National Council of Churches Women’s Ministries program here just hours after she learned she is a recipient of the Nobel peace Prize.
More than 200 supporters gave her a sustained standing ovation when she entered the chapel of The Interchurch Center Friday afternoon. Gbowee smiled and acknowledged the applause. When she went to the microphone she shook her head and said, "What a day."
The prize was an unexpected honor, she said, and she paused to consider what she would say about it. Then she started singing an old Sunday school hymn, "This Little Light of Mine." Many in the crowd joined the chorus.
Gbowee, who captured international attention with her successful campaign to end a bloody civil war in her homeland, will share the prize with Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first woman freely elected as a head of state in Africa, and Yemen's Tawakul Karman.
Friday’s gathering, originally planned as a book reception and to add her name to the NCC’s Circles of Names campaign that honors women of faith who have been a source of inspiration and who have mentored others in their walks of faith, was hastily rearranged so Gbowee could meet with supporters and the media in The Interchurch Center Chapel.
“We always thought of Leymah as an obvious candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize,” said the Rev. Ann Tiemeyer, NCC Program Director for Women’s Ministries. “We were thrilled to wake up this morning to hear her name leading the news.”
Gbowee, who was slated to return to Liberia following today’s reception, is in the U.S. to promote her memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changes a Nation At War. (Beast Books)
Her story will also be featured in a 5-part PBS documentary, “Women, War & Peace,” premiering October 11.
Gbowee stands responsible for what began as a tireless vocal demonstration and soon escalated to a stand-off on the presidential mansion steps demanding peace. This course of action facilitated the war’s end in 2003 and the election of Johnson-Sirleaf.
“Leymah has been a model and a leader in teaching women about the power of activism,” Tiemeyer said. “She has been a good friend of women of faith for many years and we are extremely proud of her."