Mar. 1, 1999
Volume 51, No. 22
Carter, Tutu discuss peace in Cannon Chapel
President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu filled Cannon Chapel to capacity Feb. 17 when the two world-renowned workers for peace sat on opposite sides of Candler Dean Kevin LaGree and spent an hour talking on the subject to an invitation-only crowd.
With no external media present, the occasion was more informal than what one would normally expect when two figures of Carter and Tutu's stature hold a joint event. Each gave a short talk on his experiences in peacemaking, and then the pair answered written questions submitted beforehand.
The Carter Center analyzes about 110 world conflicts in any given year, its founder said, around 70 of which are considered "wars" and 30 "major wars," meaning more than 1,000 soldiers killed in battle. "Very rarely are wars today between two nations," Carter said. "And horrendous war crimes are more common in those wars because the United Nations charter doesn't address them; it's a vacuum in world [policy]."
Democracies, Carter said, are more likely to win wars, partly because democratically elected leaders are hesitant to enter a conflict unless they know they can win. But Carter criticized the United States' willingness to use force to intervene in conflicts involving whites, such as that in Bosnia, while ignoring others. "We pay no attention, comparatively speaking, to ongoing wars in Sudan, Ethiopa, Sierra Leone, Congo, Angola, just to mention a few in Africa. We don't seem to care that they're killing each other in a more expanded way than in Kosovo."
Tutu, spending this year at Emory as a visiting Woodruff Professor, said such basic human traits as the desire to save face often prevents leaders from using words instead of guns to solve disputes. "Something we should be telling politicians is never to use the word 'never,'" Tutu said, referring to governments that vow never to negotiate with "terrorists." "Some leaders will not even shake hands. It gets to a point where you say to them, 'Discussions of peace don't happen among friends--they happen among enemies.' Sometimes negotiating for peace is helping people discover the obvious."
Responding to a question about what American and South African churches might learn from each other, Carter said that "no doubt the least integrated aspect of U.S. society is the church." Through The Carter Center and also in his own church, Carter said he urges churches to launch programs to reach out to ethnically different congregations, such as having joint services or joint choirs. Tutu added that some churches in South Africa, both black and white, caused uproars in their congregations when they tried to integrate.
Asked how he nurtures himself spiritually, Carter said he and his wife Rosalynn read the Bible out loud to each other every night, which "helps ease any tension between us." The two have been married for 52 years. "And I pray, of course," he continued. "I used to pray more when I was president.
"I have no doubt that God answers our prayers," Carter said. "Sometimes he answers 'yes,' sometimes 'no,' sometimes 'wait,' and sometimes he answers 'you've gotta be kidding.'"
Though he said the single greatest challenge facing humanity is the elimination of discrimination, especially rich against poor--The chasm between us is enormous, and it's growing," he said--Carter said there is hope for peace. Not a word of the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel has been violated in their 20 years of existence, he pointed out. "My hope is that the mothers of the Middle East, the mothers of Israel, the mothers of Palestine, want peace," Carter said.
"How about dreaming with God about a different kind of society?" Tutu said. "One that's compassionate, generous, caring. Is it Utopian? Well, God is Utopian. God dreams that dream. Why don't we dream it too and try to bring it to fruition?"