A Nobel Peace Prize winner and anti-landmine campaigner has embarked on a new crusade to “stem the tide” of global religious violence.
Jerry White has dedicated his working life to fighting humanitarian causes and breaking cycles of violence.
Now he is turning his experience to fighting the worst humanitarian crisis of our age – the displacement of millions of refugees caused by religion-related violence across the Middle East and North Africa.
Tonight he will deliver Aberdeen University’s 2015 Andrew Carnegie Lecture titled Religion, Violence and Strategy: How to Stop Killing in God’s Name.
Visiting Aberdeen for the first time, Mr White said he believed the “tide can be turned” on religious-related violence.
“People are calling religious violence the number one issue of our day,” he said.
“People don’t know what to do about it.
“I think we have to treat religious violence like an epidemic, like Ebola – we need to limit it and contain it.
“Part of it is getting down the temperature of the fever of this epidemic of violence.
“I think it is actually something we can do – I think we can stem the tide.
“Around the world, 84% of people are religious and it is a very small section that wants to pick up machetes and guns and things.
“That gives us an advantage.
“I am not coming with all the answers, I am coming with questions.”
Mr White was just 20 when he lost his leg in a landmine explosion while hiking in northern Israel.
He later co-founded the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which won the 1997 Nobel Prize for Peace.
His 1997 trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina with Diana, Princes of Wales, was the event credited with putting the spotlight on the plight of hundreds of thousands of victims wounded by mines worldwide.
Since then he has become known for his history-making campaigns, three of which led to major international treaties including the Mine Ban Treaty.
Speaking about his new mission – called the Global Covenant of Religions – he said: “This one makes the landmine campaign look like a warm up. It is so complicated – it involves religion and war.
“You could not get harder than tackling religious-based violence.”
However, Mr White believes it is too big an issue to ignore.
He said: “Resilience is the river that runs through all these campaigns.
“This is so important that it has to make an improvement – some lives will be saved.
“During the landmine campaign, there was no guarantee we would achieve all that.
“What is interesting is that people said it couldn’t be done.
“Back then, every 20 minutes someone was stepping on a landmine, there were 30,000 casualties a year.
“After we started the campaign we destroyed 60-70 million landmines and the casualty rate went down to 3,000 a year.
“It is an example of international cross-border coalitions working in partnership with governments, religious leaders and society.
“No one group and no one sector can tackle these huge problems alone.
“But we have hope and hope matters. We have to think that we can do better.
“We have to turn and face the future and if we save a few lives, great. Even if we save 50, that’s pretty good or we might save millions and that would be a huge success.
“This is the catastrophe of our age and we must stop it. The tide can be turned. We just need some miracles.”
Mr White’s lecture will be held at the King’s College Conference Centre from 6.30pm to 8pm tonight.