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Noor: Let's reclaim Mother's Day for peace

By Queen Noor
Special to CNN
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Editor's note: Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan is an international humanitarian activist, a leading voice on issues of world peace and justice, and honorary chair of Rediscover Mother's Dayexternal link, which celebrates the role of women as peacemakers.

AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- In 1982, during a period of dangerous stalemate in the Middle East peace process, I gave a speech at Georgetown University about the critical need for a more engaged and balanced role for the United States in the region.

The newspapers the next day covered my handbag, my rings, and my dress. When asked about the substance of my message, one U.S. Senator said, "It's a great public relations weapon to have an attractive queen."

Twenty-five years later, the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East still reflects some of the most pressing global challenges confronting the contemporary world -- the stagnant Palestinian/Israeli peace process, the increasingly dangerous conflict in Iraq, the escalation of extremism, the debate over emerging democracies -- all point to the need for visionary and transformative leadership. I firmly believe that peace will only come to the region when mothers find their voice and say of the violence, "Enough is enough!"

Mother's Day -- whether it is the U.S. tradition of celebrating mothers on the second Sunday in May, or on the first day of spring, when we observe the holiday in Jordan -- is universally meant to be a tribute to motherhood and the blessings of peace. In fact, in America the holiday was originally called "Mother's Day for Peace." It was proposed over a century ago by Julia Ward Howe, the famous abolitionist and suffragist, after she witnessed first-hand the terrible bloodshed of the Civil War in America and the Franco-Prussian War in Europe. Howe hoped that the powerful maternal desire for security could shape world events, and she called on mothers of the world to unite against war.

Howe's vision and her call to action could not be more relevant today. As a mother, stepmother and grandmother, nothing is more important to me than the safety of my family. I am not alone. Studies show that women's priority, when given either money or opportunity, is the well-being of their families. They invest their time and devote whatever resources they have to reducing poverty and hunger, improving maternal, child and general health and promoting educational opportunity. That is why the position of women is the best marker of a country's development and stability.

Mothers prove every day, all over the world, that peace and security require cooperation and compassion. Having traditionally occupied a paradoxical position at the heart of society but on the fringes of power, women often bring unique strengths, talents, and perspectives to the quest to resolve conflict and establish freedom. They are willing and able to cut across ethnic, religious and tribal barriers, and break through obstacles through peace in order to do what is best for their families.

It is no coincidence, then, that so many of today's leading peacemakers are themselves mothers. All of us must do everything we can to support their efforts. People like Swanee Hunt, who served as the United States Ambassador to Austria and has spent her life advocating for peace and for the inclusion of women in the peace process through her work and by creating Women Waging Peace. Or Trish Malloch Brown, who travels the world advocating for people affected by war and conflict on behalf of Refugees International. Or Lisa Schirch, the director of the nonprofit 3D Security Initiative, who uses development projects like building schools and water wells to disarm conflicts from Lebanon to Ghana.

But the day has come for something more than individual efforts. Millions of mothers from Nablus to New York and from Baghdad to Beersheba must begin to find common cause in peace and work together to give their quiet power a louder voice. We need a movement of what Naila Bolus of Ploughshares Fund calls "global security moms," who can work within their families and communities, and in national and international arenas to temper extremism and to hold their leaders accountable for decisions that escalate the cycle of violence rather than address underlying problems. Such a movement of mothers would be impossible for our leaders to ignore, and would be more powerful than all the tanks and suicide bombers combined.

So from one mother to many others, let us be silent no longer in the face of war and violence. May all mothers and families around the world be blessed with a happy Mother's Day for Peace.

What is your take on this commentary? E-mail us

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the writer. This is part of an occasional series of commentaries on CNN.com that offers a broad range of perspectives, thoughts and points of view.

Your responses

CNN.com asked readers for their thoughts on this commentary. Below you will find a small selection of your e-mails, some of which have been edited for length and spelling:

Pati Quin, Cheltenham, Pennsylvania
My thanks to Queen Noor for her sense of justice and her advocacy for women's rights. She has expressed eloquently and compellingly the critical need for all women, and mothers especially, to participate in decision making in the public sphere. Women's empowerment is a matter of urgency, not a frivolous low-priority game to be put on hold while the world's males continue to endanger our species' survival.

Patrick Story, Portland, Oregon
It's telling that so few people know that Mother's Day in America started out to be about peace, and not about consumerism. I hope that a movement of mothers for peace can spread worldwide.

Ray Fisher, Mountainside, New Jersey
As a male in our society, I am sick and tired of the political aggression and posturing of males. For years I have been saying to my wife, only half jokingly, that we should do away with male politicians. Hooray for Queen Noor. She is on the right track. My only concern is that when looking at politics today, especially in the United States, women politicians seem to aspire to the male role model -- i.e. will they be aggressive enough on the world political stage. While the ability to use aggression and force must always be available, it should be THE LAST resource used.

C. DeLong, Avon, Colorado
Lovely rhetoric, but does she have a plan?

Beth Marshall, Shutesbury, Massachusetts
When my first son was born in the early 1980's, I thought about a Russian mother holding her son in her arms. I realized then that war was wrong. How could I send my son to kill some other mother's son? A mother's dedication to her chilren's wellbeing and the wellbeing of other children transcends war. Let us all stand up on Sunday, May 13, and say no to war and yes to peace - for the sake of all of our children.

Scott Lunin, Port Charlotte, Florida
Queen Noor's observation -- "That is why the position of women is the best marker of a country's development and stability" -- lies at the very core of why there may never be peace in the Middle East. Until the countries of the Middle East reverse their oppressive and barbaric approach to women's rights, the region will be plagued with continued ethnic violence and senseless human suffering.

Gayle Goetz, Pioneer, California
If women were rulers, there would be an end to wars. We need MORE women in power. Excellent article. Thank You

Ann Weber, St. Augustine, Florida
Yes, this is a good idea if mothers who are also women, have the freedom to voice their ideas and work toward peace in family, community, country and world. Unfortunately many women of the world are no more than personal property to men and can lose their status if not their lives for voicing any opinion.


Noor

Queen Noor of Jordan calls for a worldwide movement of mothers to fight for peace.

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