Hildegard Goss-Mayr – Austria

Linked with Deepening the Work, with International Fellowship of Reconciliation ifor, and with Servicio Paz y Justicia.

Hildegard Goss-Mayr is the honorary president of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. Her latest book, How Enemies Become Friends, has been published in German, Italian, and French. (See on Fellowship).

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “The life of every person has an absolute value”.

Hildegard Goss-Mayr - Austria redim 50p.jpg

Hildegard Goss-Mayr – Austria

She works for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), and for the Service for Peace and Justice (SERPAJ), Brazil.

Hildegard Goss Mayr is one of the world’s leading experts on non-violence. She is the honorary president of International Fellowship of Reconciliation, the world’s oldest organization dedicated to the principles of non-violent resistance. The efforts and training of Hildegard Goss Mayr, along with those of her husband Jean Goss, were a major factor in the successful and peaceful overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines.

For more than 52 years, Hildegard Goss-Mayr has been teaching nonviolent resistance against injustice and repression as part of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. She was influential in the 1986 nonviolent People Power Revolution in the Philippines, in the Liberation Theology Movement in Latin America, and the peaceful overthrow of tyranny in Madagascar. (Read more on World Council of Churches).

MME HILDEGARD GOSS-MAYR, NIWANO PEACE PRIZE LAUREATE, IFOR – Ms. Hildegard Goss-Mayr is honorary president of IFOR. She is a major witness of evangelical non-violence throughout the world. In 1962, she started promoting the building of a non-violent movement in Latin America. She then collaborated with Dom Helder Cama-ra and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel. She played an important role with her husband Jean Goss in the preparation of the Revolution in the Philippines in 1986. She has formed numerous groups of active non-violence in Latin America, Asia and Africa. (See on decennie.org).

The organization Service for Peace and Justice (SERPAJ) that she co-founded, denounced human rights violations during military dictatorships in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile under the most difficult conditions. Hildegard Goss-Mayr did not personally experience the People Power Revolution that toppled the Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos in February 1986. But with her preparatory work, her nonviolent ideas and training, her intense discussions with the Aquino family and with the highest representative of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Jaime Sin, she substantially contributed to the success of this nonviolent Revolution in the Philippines.

Soon after the victory of People Power, she realized “that our success came too quickly: The people were ready to sacrifice even their lives to change the political situation. But the opposition was too strong and prevented land reform, a reorganization of the economy and autonomy for Muslims in Mindanao. That was a major lesson for us. If an unjust regime falls without viable alternatives, the old grievances return.”Hildegard Goss-Mayr was born in 1930, the fourth of five children of a Catholic family in Vienna. Her father Kaspar Mayr had fought in the First World War and through that experience had become a dedicated opponent of war. In 1926, he took a position in the leadership of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and dedicated his time to German-Polish reconciliation and writing until Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany.

The International Fellowship of Reconciliation, to which the father and later also the daughter dedicated their energy, was founded in 1919 and is one of the oldest existing peace organizations. Today it includes a network of peace groups in more than 40 countries, with headquarters in the Dutch city of Alkmaar. Among its program is one for women peace activists. The organization rejects military service, instead promoting civilian peace service. Many Nobel Peace Prize winners have been among its members. Hildegard Goss-Mayr has been nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize, and has won the Bruno Kreisky Award and the Japanese Niwano Peace Prize, two famous human rights awards.

Following high school graduation, she studied English literature and language, history, law and theology. In 1953, she graduated from the University of Vienna as the first woman to receive the honor sub auspiciis and began to work as field secretary in the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. In the course of her work there, she met the French trade unionist Jean Goss, a dedicated pacifist. They married in 1958; in 1960 their twin children were born. Together, the two tried to build an East-West dialogue over the Iron Curtain that was dividing Europe. In February 1962, a new phase began for the couple, when they went for the first time to Latin America. In Colombia, they met with a young priest named Camilo Torres Restrepo. However, Camilo Torres later joined a guerrilla group and preached the right of the suppressed to carry out armed struggle. He was killed by the military in 1966.

That was their first encounter with Liberation Theology. Over the years, the Gosses met Cardinal Hélder Câmara, Paulo Evaristo Arns, António B. Fragoso, Oscar Romero — who, despite repression and mortal danger, opened their churches for the poor and oppressed. What color is the theology of liberation? It was red, hot, glowing. All of Latin America was in motion after the guerrillas under Che Guevara and Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba in 1959. They inspired numerous armed guerrilla groups, who fought against the corrupt dictatorial regimes of wealthy minorities. This was no easy situation for the Gosses. Although both felt the urgent need for a social revolution, they strictly rejected the use of force. Instead they supported peasant movements, land occupations, union strikes or the activities of local Christian groups. Together with Pastor Glenn Smiley, a colleague of Martin Luther King, and Lanza del Vasto, student of Gandhi and founder of the Christian community, The Ark, they held innumerable training courses for nonviolence in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

In spring 1975, Hildegard Goss-Mayr was arrested as she tried to visit the famous liberation theologian, “Red” Cardinal Arns in Brazil. She, along with the Argentinean professor of architecture Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, and Mario Carvalho de Jesus, a Brazilian lawyer who had led and won a three-year long strike of 900 workers in the Perus cement factory, were surrounded by the secret police and black hoods were put over their heads. They were brought to a torture center where they were accused of an international conspiracy. “I will never forget the quiet, strong voice of Mario, as it filled the room,” the imprisoned woman later wrote, “his testimony of the nonviolent struggle for the poor, a struggle that included freeing the police and military. There was music with the screams of those being tortured, bright light in the eyes, torture victims paraded in front of us. Praying together strengthened us. We decided to fast for a few days, and told the wardens that we were also doing it for their transformation. We were finally freed through the intervention of Cardinal Arns. As we left the prison, our worker friends from Perus embraced me and said, `Now you are really one of us, because you go through the same things we do!’”

Her companion Adolfo Pérez Esquivel was at the time the coordinator of the nonviolent Christian organization Service for Peace and Justice (Servicio Paz y Justicia, SERPAJ). This human rights organization, which worked under the most difficult of conditions, was founded in 1974 in the Colombian city of Medellín during a meeting organized by Hildegard and Jean Goss. In 1976, as Pérez ) Esquivel was collecting documents for an international campaign against human rights violations in Latin America, a coup occurred in Argentina, as previously in Brazil and Chile, putting a military junta into power in his homeland. He was arrested in 1977, with no reason given, and tortured. “When you are in prison to win justice, to win freedom for your brothers, when they torture you and try to destroy you, to turn you into a number, into nothing, then there are two possible ways to survive,” he wrote from his solitary confinement. “Either you open your heart to the hatred and violence that people are doing to you, and strengthen yourself through hatred. You survive through hoping for the destruction of your opponent, in anticipating his death. Or else you open your heart so wide to love that it includes even the torturer. And then you give the gift of life twice, to your enemy and to yourself!” Thanks to an international campaign initiated by, among others, the Gosses, he was released in 1978 under special conditions. In 1980 he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Many years later, another country descended into a similarly disastrous situation – Rwanda. A few months before the genocide, Hildegard Goss-Mayr and her colleagues in the Center for Reconciliation in Butare held a seminar that included Hutu, Tutsi and Europeans. “It was a good seminar, but afterwards we felt that it was too late, although in January 1994 it was still possible for the Rwandan participants to hold a peace day in the Kigali stadium. Following Martin Luther King, the Hutu and Tutsi presented their common dream and sang and danced together. But the distrust on both sides was already too great, the tension extreme. Then in April the genocide began, and more than 800,000 people died….If the violence has been building up for so long on both sides, then sometimes there is little left that one can do. Thus we must always try to be among the first to be present there.” That is why she continued the work in Africa. In Burundi the Federation of Reconciliation trained Hutu and Tutsi in nonviolence, and they developed a method called Ecoute Empathique (sympathetic listening). “The last time I was there was a year and a half ago, in the fall of 2002. Small groups of around six Hutu and Tutsi would take turns telling their stories. When victims are able to tell someone from the other side what they have experienced, there are grounds for the development of a process of self-liberation. Then it is possible for trust to grow. Both see that they have had similar sad experiences, and ask: what is the root of this injustice? How can we overcome it?”

Cooperation with the diverse movement of globalization critics is very important to Hildegard Goss-Mayr. “I think that there is no situation in the world where new initiatives are not also present,” she says. “We have to recognize and support them. The movement for an alternative globalization brings together hundreds of groups that believe people and not profit are central, and who feel responsible for nature and the entire creation.” As for the Iraq war, Christian, secular and Muslim groups demonstrated together. This alternative globalization is also a sign of the coming together of peoples and their religions”. (Read all on 1000peacewomen).

Hildegard Goss-Mayr (* 22. Januar 1930 in Wien) ist eine österreichische Friedensaktivistin und Schriftstellerin. Sie ist Ehrenpräsidentin des Internationalen Versöhnungsbundes und Mitglied der Ehrenschutzkomitee des Internationale Koordination für die Dekade für eine Kultur des Friedens und der Gewaltfreiheit für die Kinder der Welt.

Hildegard Goss-Mayr studierte in Wien und in New Haven (USA) Philosophie, Philologie und Geschichte. 1953 promovierte sie als erste Frau an der Wiener Universität “sub auspiciis”.

1958 heiratete sie den französischen Friedensaktivisten Jean Goss.

1960 wurden Hildegard Goss-Mayr und Jean Goss die Eltern der Zwillinge Myriam und Etienne.

1962 begann Goss-Mayr ihre Arbeit in Lateinamerika für den Aufbau gewaltloser Befreiungsbewegungen. Sie wurde Beraterin von Dom Hélder Câmara. Auch der argentinische Friedensnobelpreisträger Adolfo Pérez Esquivel erklärt sich von Goss-Mayr beeinflusst.

Für das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil erstellte Goss-Mayr zusammen mit den Theologen Bernhard Häring und Karl Rahner Vorschläge zur Gewaltlosigkeit, die in der Pastoralkonstitution “Gaudium et spes” Niederschlag fanden.

Der Erfolg der “Rosenkranz-Revolution” gegen das Marcos-Regime auf den Philippinen 1986 und die gewaltlose Absetzung des Diktators Ratsiraka in Madagaskar 1991 war auch ihrem Einfluss und ihrer Schulung von Gruppen für den gewaltlosen Widerstand zu verdanken. (Siehe viel mehr im deutschen wikipedia).

Der Hildegard Goss-Mayr-Preis für Aktive Gewaltfreiheit wurde vom IFOR (International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Internationaler Versöhnungsbund) zu Ehren von Hildegard Goss-Mayr im Juli 2003 gestiftet. Der Preis wird jährlich an eine Frau verliehen und ist als Beitrag zur Förderung des Studiums und der Praxis der aktiven Gewaltfreiheit gedacht. Der Preis ist mit 750 Euro dotiert. (siehe Hildegard Goss-Mayr-Preis).


Religion ORF;

OMNI Center;

Superar la Violencia.

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