Oscar-Winning Filmmaker Malcolm Clarke on Peacemakers

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Amber and I are in New York, staying at a friend’s apartment on the West Side. Today we welcomed Malcolm Clarke to afternoon tea. Malcolm won an Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subjects for his 1988 film “You Don’t Have to Die“. He’ has won other awards too numerous to mention.

Filmmaker Malcolm Clarke

Filmmaker Malcolm Clarke

What’s most amazing to me about Malcolm is his radical courage in telling a truthful story. He’s done stuff that would make most of us wet ourselves–he mentioned an incident in which his assistant received a letter bomb addressed to him… because he followed a suicide bomb squad around for weeks and made a documentary about them for ABC News, called “Terror in The Promised Land”. He also sneaked into a maximum security prison in South Africa disguised as a priest, with a camera hidden under his cassock, and when he was filming another documentary in Beirut a member of his crew was tragically murdered.

We asked Malcolm what movie he would make that would help cause world peace. He said that the moving stories of numerous on-the-ground peacemakers in war-torn areas was the best untold story out there. He praised these people with “dirt under their fingernails” who understood what it takes to work for peace when it gets sweaty and dangerous. He said that in every horrible conflict area he has been to–and he has been to a lot of them–he finds people working under dire conditions, under the constant threat of death, to bring peace to their nations and homes.

These people choose themselves. They are determined, tireless, usually anonymous, and often are harrassed and even killed by those who wish to continue the conflict. He told the story of one Iraqi woman to worked in three-month intense shifts bridging tensions between Shia and Sunni Moslems in her country. She had to travel with a posse of bodyguards just to survive, and the stress was so great she had to take breaks of several weeks to recover–but she succeeded. He mentioned famous UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, killed in Iraq in 2003, and how he had a special genius for diplomacy that was so effective, people were scared of him.

Every war has embedded peacemakers trying end the insanity; putting their lives on the line for peace. Every true warrior has this same impulse–protect and serve, enforce the peace, help the wounded, the women, the children, the sick, the elderly, the young people who are the ones planting mines and firing artillery. Men and women both fight to bring peace back, to get people talking, to build bridges, to increase trust–that all sounds like soft stuff, but it is hard, and it is easy to get killed doing it.

Over the next five years, we at P:5Y are going to build tools for all of to support these radically determined peacemakers, to help them, the learn from them, to tell their stories and implement a Global Peace Treaty to commit the family of nations to the practices of peace safety that keep us ALL safe from war. We all know there’s no “over there” anymore: there is only one human family, and today war comes home sooner rather than later. It’s time to abolish war for good.

You and I will probably not be called to make the sacrifices these anonymous peacemakers do. But we can praise them, support them, give them resources, and give them our time–because if we don’t, one day war  will come to our homes.


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