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Peace Lines was born in the summer of 1993, from the international convoy Mir Sada (Peace Now), with a double aim : to bring relief to the suffering, to stop the war. Sarajevo, a city of 300,000, had been besieged for 15 months then, totally cut off from the world. People were starving, could neither leave nor enter, except through a narrow tunnel under the airport, and a winding dirt mountain track known as “the Diamond Road”, monitored by the U.N. Protection Force.

2,000 peace-seekers gathered in Split, on the Dalmatian Coast, from various horizons (Italians, French, Poles, Greeks, Americans, Spaniards, Dutch, Swedes, Buddhist monks...). Twelve hundred took to the roads inland in 120 buses, trucks and cars, loaded with food, blankets, medical supplies, water, clothes. Only about sixty persons, in ten vehicles, were to actually make it through the front-lines into starving Sarajevo. The others retreated back to the Coast, due to the intensity of the fighting. This was the beginning of some twenty humanitarian convoys for us between France and Bosnia, half of those through war zones, until the shelling and firing finally stopped in the end of 1995. Our first Nobel Campaign “for a final cease-fire”, supported by 33 Nobel laureates, contributed to this end.

Our next campaign was for Algeria, during the dark days of its civil war, when a thick wall of silence was surrounding it, despite the horrendous massacres committed in 1997. Nobody outside Algeria knew, or even cared about what was happening there, although more than 100,000 people had been killed in the course of seven years. The “We are human beings” Call was published in all of the leading Algerian media in April 1998. The solidarity expressed by 68 Nobels worldwide was the first breech into censorship and indifference, and helped pave the way to better days and deliverance from terrorism.

After Algeria, we found debilitating famine and despair again on our way, on the West Coast of Africa, in the desert of Sénégal. Due to the drought and extreme poverty, misery and distress were growing all over, and, again, nobody knew.
Was this the world we had inherited ? How could we go back to our homes and just keep on with our lives as if nothing had happened, as if we had learned nothing?

Then and there, on the ocre sand of the Sahel desert, by the wells we had dug, we had to review the principles which could guide our steps, for the times to come in the new Millenium – in the years that would hold the biggest challenge yet, peace in the “Holy Land” :

1. The principle of freedom.

The need for freedom is our first priority, in terms of conditions that enable us to think and act. “Peace Lines is a non-confessional, non-partisan organization, without borders, open to all free beings of good-will.” (2nd Article of the Statutes)

2. The refusal of hatred and resentment.

We are well aware that, often enough, there is no running away from a conflict, when our freedom, our dignity, our peace are at stake. What we refuse to accept is the hateful aspect of vengeance. Disagreement does not have to lead to discord.

3. The principle of equality.

Because all people are equal, absolutely, we cannot accept any discriminatory speech. Thus, to let human beings suffer in their distress, under the pretext of fate or helplessness, is the very beginning of the process of segregation and collective extermination. We accept no kind of separatism, or apartheid, whatever their logics may be.

4. The principle of unity, and equivalence of sufferings.

What is happening far from us does not necessarily prevail over what is happening within our walls. Here too, like there, we witness the daily horror, and rampant fires of hate and exclusion. We cannot forget the warning : “It is the infinite sum of our breaches, however little they may be, that makes great catastrophes possible.” The envenomed conflicts around us poison our lives too much to be tolerated, even for one single day. How can we make peace in the distance, if we are not at peace amongst our closest circles ?

5. The principle of defence of minorities, of the oppressed.

Oppression exists, under multiple masks, and we fight it wherever it triggers its too familiar sequence of hate, personal boycotts, denials of dialogue. Inasmuch, our fight remains non-violent : we do not resort to the oppressors' means, be they civilians in the private sphere, or uniformed persons in the public domain.

6. The principle of non-judgement.

To be finished with judgement : such is one of our daily absolute priorities, in all our relations, infected as they are by centuries of oppression, fear and phobias, and multiple forms of violence. Do not close the door to dialogue...

7. The emancipation from, and eradication of, stereotyped opinions.

Because we live in a world saturated with partial news, and disinformation, and because we have no wish whatsoever of deceiving or being deceived. In this light, we consider it our innermost priority to methodically emancipate ourselves from ready-made opinions, and root out any system of creeds that lead to tensions, exclusive particularisms, and resulting tragedies.

8. The refusal to carry and use arms; our opposition to the death penalty.

We accept neither retaliation nor revenge. Because we consider everything that lives to be holy, we refuse to fight with weapons and death what we can fight through the spirit and the vigilant determination to live peacefully and safely.

9. The awareness of our limits.

Because we cannot get involved with every earthly challenge, we have to stay lucid about what we define our concerns to be, what is within our control, and what is not. On the other hand, we will pursue with dedication our defined objectives – what we decide to do, where we decide to go – and will not give up until we have reached our goals : the silence of arms, the meeting of fundamental needs, and the development of constructive relations between people.

10. The principle of gratuity.

Because a life has no commercial value, and nothing is worth a life, because we refuse any form of slavery, we place as the foundation of our practice the donation of time and energy, acts of free will, voluntary deeds. What we do to live in peace has no price, and can never be priced. The freedom and gratuity of our acts are the very conditions by which we put an end to the system of prevailing general suspicion. The principle of gratuity, little by little, restores the highest degree of equality between us, known as humanity.

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