Courage of Conscience

by Emma Cassidy

February 25, 2011

Last Saturday, the Peace Abbey presented Greenpeace with the “Courage of Conscience” award at our ship, the Arctic Sunrise, docked in Boston. The director of the Peace Abbey had visited the ship last week and was so inspired by our work and by the Coal Free Future tour that the Peace Abbey decided to present us with the award. The Courage of Conscience award is a huge honor, and it is being given to Greenpeace for our commitment to peace and non-violence. The award has been received by 100+ individuals and organizations, including Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama.

Captain Joel Stewart accepts The Peace Abbey's Courage of Concience Award on behalf of GreenpeaceThe Peace Abbey is a center for Peace Activists in New England, and is also where I interned in college while I was studying Peace Studies at Clark University. It began in 1988 after a visit from Mother Teresa to the Life Experience School and is founded on the ideas of “creating innovative models for society that empower individuals on the paths of nonviolence, peacemaking, and cruelty-free living.”

Lewis Randa, The Director of the Peace Abbey, spoke about the reasons why Greenpeace received this award:

“No other peace or environmental organization has taken the peaceful, direct action, nonviolent strategy that Gandhi used to free India, and so creatively applied it to expose global environmental abuses, anti-nuclear issues, deforestation, overfishing, global warming, coal pollution, the killing of whales and baby seals and all the horrific activities conducted under the banner of free enterprise.

Greenpeace took Gandhi’s teachings and, in the spirit of the sixties, moved forward to take risks to get the message of sanity heard through public campaigns that employed creative messages that caught the attention of the media and governments and, most importantly, the youth of the world.”

Lewis Randa ended the ceremony by giving thanks to Greenpeace for beginning his own personal involvement in activism.

“It is a profound honor for me to be making this presentation, for I stand before you today, after some 40 years of peace work to acknowledge that it was my involvement with Greenpeace, decades ago, that opened the flood gates of my own rebellious activism. 

My first public demonstration beyond my involvement in the anti-war movement of the sixties while in college was to join Greenpeace in the Stop Acid Rain campaign in New Hampshire.  After that action, I was never the same.  The leadership of the peace movement owes a debt of gratitude to Greenpeace, and so today, it is being expressed through the Courage of Conscience Award for Greenpeace’s unparalleled contribution to the peace and environmental movement worldwide.”

While Greenpeace began Lewis Randa’s involvement in activism, the Peace Abbey began my activist life.

While I was an intern at the Peace Abbey, I learned a lot about activism and peaceful protest by participating in my first anti-war demonstrations in Sherborn and Boston, MA. The Peace Abbey taught me how non-violent direct action is an effective way of creating change while staying true to your beliefs in non-violence and peace. Without the Peace Abbey and Greenpeace, I would not be the activist that I am today.

So thank you very much to everyone at the Peace Abbey for honoring Greenpeace with the Courage of Conscience award, and for inspiring me to lead a life of peace and activism.

Emma Cassidy is a Junior Action Campaigner at Greenpeace USA where she provides administrative and logistical support for events and actions, as well as trains activists in Non-violent Direct Action and Civil Disobedience.

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