Peace heroes might be defined as individuals who promote consensus, conciliation, arbitration, mediation and retreat from aggression to resolve or avoid conflict and war. Peace heroes might also be those who are prepared to endure personal privation, physical harm, and public or governmental ridicule are especially to be honored and respected.

History is replete with stories of peace heroes who have suffered for their beliefs.[1] Prominent among acknowledged peace heroes would be Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Martin Luther King Jr. Individuals and organizations that have promoted peaceful behavior as a fundamental belief system include the Chinese philosopher Mozi (c. 470 -391 BC, founder of Mohism), the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy who influenced Mahatma Gandhi, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Amish, Mennonites, and the Church of the Brethren.

There are over forty international Peace Prizes awarded to recognize and encourage Peace Heroes.[2] The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five prizes established by the will of Swedish Industrialist, inventor, and armaments manufacturer Alfred Nobel (1833-1896).[3] It has been awarded annually to those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Recipients are determined by a five-member committee, and awardees have included both 106 individuals[4] and 24 organizations[5]. There have been criticisms over the years of what some believe has been the politicization of the award, its management, and individual awardees. Other critics have noted the omissions of prominent peace heroes like Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Dorothy Day. However, legal scholars have argued that Peace Prize winners have been able to shape new norms in international law and relations, and the awards encourage peacemaking among individuals worldwide.

The earliest Nobel Peace Prize awards in 1901 were to Henry Dunant, Switzerland, founder of the Red Cross, and Frederic Passy, France, as the main organizer of the first Universal Peace Congress. The latest listed for 2018 are to Denis Mukwege, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nadia Murad, Iraq for the efforts to end use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.


Denis Mukwege is a Congolese gynecologist who specializes in the treatment of women raped by armed rebels. He has treated thousands of women who were victims of rape, some of them more than once, and spoken internationally against the unjust war against women. Nadia Murad is an Iraqi Yazidi human rights activist who was kidnapped, held as a slave and raped by the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh). She briefed the United Nations Security Council in 2015 on the issue of human trafficking and continues to work as an ambassador and advocate for victims.  Both prize winners have received multiple death threats for their advocacy.

American Presidents who received the Nobel Peace Prize award include Theodore Roosevelt, 1906; Woodrow Wilson, 1919; Jimmy Carter, 2002; Al Gore (Vice Pres), 2007; and Barack Obama, 2009.


There are many Peace Heroes that never receive a plaque or a monetary award. Their work although unacknowledged is critically important. At the site you can read about individuals who exemplify the definition above and serve as role models for the rest of us.[11]


Bob Meroney is an Emeritus Professor of Fluid Mechanics and Wind Engineering with a long career at Colorado State University. He has been an active member of the Fort Collins Rotary Club and regularly researches a range of topics on modern life, issues and politics that serve to spark deeper conversations among friends and colleagues. If you have questions or ideas, you can contact Bob: Robert.Meroney@ColoState.EDU.

[1] List of peace activists:

[2] List of peace prizes:

[3] The 6 million Krone prize is worth today about $710,000 US.  An analysis of birth data on Nobel Prize winners also correlates with one or two years of additional longevity for the recipient.

[4] List of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates:

[5] List of multi-winner Nobel Peace Prize Organizations:  International Committee of the Red Cross, 1917, 1944, and 1963; and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 1954 and 1981.

[6] Theodore Roosevelt for mediation to end the Russo-Japanese war through arbitration.

[7] Woodrow Wilson for his role in establishing the League of Nations.

[8] Jimmy Carter for his decades of efforts to solve international conflicts, advance democracy, and promote economic and social development.

[9] Al Gore for his efforts to disseminate knowledge about man-made climate change and measures to counter change.

[10] Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation.

[11] Peace hero stories maintained by the Dayton International Peace Museum:

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