Members of PSALM: Proud Students Against Land Mines/West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs met last fall to discuss how to join the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) in celebrating 20 years of campaigning for a world free of landmines. It seemed fitting that a youth campaign born from an art project would commemorate the event with painted portraits of International Campaign to Ban Landmines campaigners and photographs depicting a timeline celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize winning ICBL and 13 years of WVCBL/PSALM work with the campaign. Titled, A “NOBEL” CAUSE: Portraits of Peace, PSALM students spent countless hours preparing and painting large scale portraits of International Campaign to Ban Landmines campaigners, mentors and role models in the efforts to ban landmines and cluster munitions. These portraits represent a mere fraction of the many amazing people we have had the privilege of working with over the years. The ICBL, a global civil society movement, was born to put an urgent stop to a humanitarian crisis. ICBL’s efforts were crucial to the development, negotiation, adoption and signing of the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997, the first treaty to ban a weapon in widespread use. In 1997, the ICBL was co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Today, after two decades of ICBL campaigning worldwide, and 16 years since the Mine Ban Treaty was signed, more than 80 per cent of the world has banned the weapon by becoming party to the treaty. Most importantly, the number of new casualties caused by antipersonnel mines each year has dropped dramatically. As a teacher who has been “at it” for quite awhile, I can attest to the fact that many times the student becomes the teacher and the teacher becomes the student. In 1999, I assigned a project to my 8th grade art students; design an artwork that would educate the public about a global social justice issue. Little did I know that such a small idea could have such life-changing consequences. The students choose “landmines”. Local veteran and ophthalmologist, Dr. Larry Schwab encouraged students to join the work to rid the world of landmines when he was invited to speak to the students. In 2000, PSALM students met with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Jody Williams, Landmine Survivors Network founders Ken Rutherford and Jerry White and Cambodian Campaign to Ban Landmines members including Tun Channareth, ICBL Youth Ambassador, Song Kosal and Sister Denise Coghlan all of whom went out of their way to educate the students about the issues. Dr. Rutherford and Jody Williams visited our school in 2001 to make presentations about the campaign and to encourage the students on their efforts.
This is what makes it such an honor for us to work for a landmine/cluster bomb free world. It is the amazing people from many walks of life and all corners of the world coming together for the common good. It is the survivors, the doctors, the world leaders, the politicians, the teachers and the students, the religious and civil organizations and even an occasional prince and princess, all working in concert to ban these indiscriminate weapons. Banning landmines makes a difference. There has been a great deal of headway since the Mine Ban Treaty came into force in March 1999. The global stigma attached to these weapons has led to a virtual halt in the global trade in antipersonnel mines, a sharp drop in the number of producers and a startling reduction in the number of governments laying mines, even among states that still refuse to officially join the treaty. Vast tracts of land have been cleared and put back into productive use; there has been widespread and extensive destruction of stockpiled mines; and most importantly, there are now fewer new mine victims each year. PSALM students and the WVCBL are committed to educating the public about the devastation caused by landmines and cluster munitions and the indiscriminate nature of these weapons leading to the destruction of innocent life, especially children, after wartime hostilities have ceased. We work to raise awareness about survivor issues, prevent future casualties through our service projects, and contribute to the universal signature of the treaties banning landmines and cluster munitions by ALL countries, especially the United States. JOIN US!
Nora D. Sheets: Coordinator WVCBL/PSALM
Read more about “A Nobel Cause” in the blog of The Journal of ERW and Mine Action
To Learn more:
International Campaign to Ban Landmines: www.icbl.org
Cluster Munition Coalition: www.stopclustermunitions.org
United States Campaign to Ban Landmines: www.banminesusa.org