Invaded by Indonesia in 1974, for 24 years Timor-Leste (formerly known as East Timor) suffered under one of the most brutal occupations of the 20th century.
One third of the Timorese population would perish under the occupation. Torture centers were commonplace in the country, people “disappeared” in the middle of the night, women were taken as sex slaves. Journalists were banned from the country and the invasion and occupation were largely ignored by the West.
Exiled from his homeland for 24 years, José Ramos-Horta was the international voice, at times the only voice, of the Timorese people while they fought for survival. Working with the UN and traveling and speaking internationally, he built an international human rights network defending the rights of the Timorese people, and kept the story of their struggle and their suffering alive.
In 1996, he and Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “for their work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor.”
Ramos-Horta’s work paid off in 1999 when the UN sponsored a referendum allowing the Timorese people to choose by ballot whether to become an independent country or remain a part of Indonesia. The vote was 86% for independence. He returned to home to a hero’s welcome in December, 1999.
Over the next two and a half years, Ramos-Horta worked closely with Sergio Vieira de Mello, head of the UN Mission to East Timor, and the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, to get the country through Parliamentary elections, get their first Constitution written, get their first Presidential election completed, and helping to get the country on its feet as a democracy. In 2002 the country, now renamed Timor-Leste, because the first new democracy of the millennium. Continuing to maintain the country’s international relations, Ramos-Horta served as Senior Minister and Foreign Minister of the new democracy.
In 2006 Timor-Leste erupted in civil conflict from a renegade military unit, forcing 150,000 from their homes. Ramos-Horta was asked to step in as the country’s Prime Minister. When he did, peace immediately began to return to the country and the citizens began returning to their homes. In 2007 he was elected President.
As President of the country in 2008, he survived an assassination attempt, when renegade soldiers invaded his home and put three bullets in his back. As citizens poured into the street in protest at one of their “Founding Fathers” being harmed, the attempt put an end once and for all to the young democracy’s civil conflict. The country has remained at peace.
In 2013, after finishing his term as President, Ramos-Horta was asked by the UN Secretary General to head a UN Mission in Guinea Bissau, a small African nation that was under military coup at the time. He brought Guinea Bissau through two peaceful elections and restored democracy in the country.
In 2014, at the request of the UN Secretary General he chaired the UN High Level Panel on Peace Operations, a worldwide review of the UN Peacekeeping and Mediation efforts with the goal of making the UN “peace and security architecture” more efficient in preventing and revolving conflicts. Today, as one of the world’s real peace builders, he continues to do high level peacekeeping and peace building actions globally, while continuing to look after the young democracy he helped to build.
more information: http://ramoshorta.com
Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Human Rights Advisor.
For decades of racial struggle in South Africa, Desmond Tutu was the international voice for equality. Today he is one of the world’s prominent voices for human rights, conflict resolution and reconciliation.
In 1948, when Tutu was 17 years old, the National Party won control of the government and codified the nation’s long-present segregation and inequality into the official policy of apartheid. In 1953, the government passed the Bantu Education Act, a law that lowered the standards of education for black South Africans to ensure that they only learned what was necessary for a life of servitude. The government spent one-tenth as much money on the education of a black student as on the education of a white one. Tutu, a school teacher at the time, and no longer willing to participate in an educational system explicitly designed to promote inequality, quit teaching in 1957 and began his study of theology.
He quickly international prominence in the international religious community when he became the first black person to be appointed the Anglican Dean of Johannesburg in 1975. In 1976 he was appointed Bishop of Lesotho, and in 1978, the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches.
Tutu continued to use his position in the South African religious hierarchy to advocate for an end to apartheid. In 1976, he fervently protested the South Africa government’s use of Afrikaans as the compulsory language of instruction in black schools. He supported an economic boycott of his country and with a gift for oratory and skillful use of media, became the prominent voice in the movement to divest from South African countries in protest of the country’s apartheid policies. The divestment movement is largely credited with toppling the apartheid policies.
Archibishop Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.
While his opposition to apartheid was vigorous and unequivocal, Tutu consistently advocated reconciliation between all parties involved in apartheid. After the fall of apartheid he was named by Mandela to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, bringing the victims and perpetrators of atrocities under apartheid together for reconciliation a crucial step in South Africa’s non-violent transition to democracy and an often used model for international peace building.
Today he campaigns to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia.
He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
Mary Wald, Founder and President
Before entering the Internet arena in the 1990s, Mary had worked in marketing, promotions and public relations for the publishing and large scale graphic design industries in California. She directed promotional and marketing campaigns for four New York Times best sellers and acted as Account Executive and/or Art Director on promotional projects for clients that have included Pepsi, Sprint, Warner Records, and more.
In 1994, Mary established Silverado Trail Media, a web design and Internet strategy firm in Northern California. Since 2001, she has simultaneously served in numerous PR, editorial and and web strategy functions for Nobel Peace Prize laureate José Ramos-Horta. José and Mary launched the first international action of TheCommunity.com in 2001, gathering and publishing the statements of the Nobel Peace Prize winners to 9/11, to international press coverage.
In 2002, in conjunction with the UN Foundation, she webcast the East Timor Independence Celebrations, when with Presidents, Kings and other leaders from around the world present, East Timor stood on its feet as the first new democracy of our millennium. She organized and hosted the VIP event at the UN when the country was inducted into the UN and the flag of East Timor was raised for the first time.
Mary has launched actions and campaigns involving 27 Nobel Peace Prize laureates through TheCommunity.com. She has personally connected artists including Bono, Paul Simon, Robert de Niro, Ron Howard, Michael Douglas, Peter Gabreal and others to the causes of the Nobel laureates. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, LA Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, AP and more. She was a partner in the annual World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome for five years.
more information: http://marywald.com
Bonnie Abaunza, Board Member and Advisor
Bonnie founded and ran the Artists for Amnesty International program, activating the entertainment community, from 2001 to 2007.
She served as Vice President, Social Action and Advocacy at Participant Media for two and a half years, developing and executing social action campaigns to promote the documentaries and feature films produced by Participant Media, and served as Director of Philanthropy for Oscar winning composer Hans Zimmer.
She has worked closely with thecommunity.com and has been an integral part of our activities since 2001.
more information: http://abaunzagroup.com
Jesse Kornbluth, Board Member and Editorial Director
New York based writer Jesse Kornbluth has been a Contributing Editor for Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, Architectural Digest, and a contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Times.
In l996, he co-founded Bookreporter.com. From 1997 to 2002, Jesse was Editorial Director of America Online.
He currently writes and edits Head Butler, a cultural concierge site he created in 2004. His books include Airborne: The Triumph and Struggle of Michael Jordan; Highly Confident: The Crime and Punishment of Michael Milken; Pre-Pop Warhol; The Other Guy Blinked (with Roger Enrico); and Notes from the New Underground. He has written numerous screenplays and, for a decade, taught screenwriting at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Larissa Peltola, Youth Ambassador
18-year-old Larissa Peltola is a human rights journalist and advocate. She attends Claremont McKenna College in the fall of 2014 where she is majoring in International Relations with a concentration in genocide, holocaust, and Human rights studies. The daughter of an Amnesty International executive, Larissa has been TheCommunity.com’s Youth Ambassador since she was in 7th grade, interviewing Nobel laureates, attending the World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize laureates, and activating other young people in the causes of the Nobel laureates.
Michael Collopy, Director of Photography
Michael Collopy is one of the preeminent portrait photographers of our time and has gained worldwide recognition for his commissioned portraits of hundreds of public figures. His portfolio includes a vast array of portraits from world leaders such as Pope John Paul ll, Mikhail Gorbachev and 5 U.S. Presidents, and many others.
Michael traveled with Mother Teresa for more than 10 years, resulting in “Works of Love are Works of Peace,” a critically acclaimed coffee table book that has sold more than 100,000 copies and was selected as one of the top coffee table books of 1996 by USA Today. This was followed by Architects of Peace, which profiles 75 peacemakers, and formed the base for his Architects of Peace Foundation.