THIS week the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union "for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe".
According to the BBC, critics say the award is inappropriate; pointing out that the euro-zone crisis has exposed deep divisions in the 27-nation bloc. The BBC's Europe correspondent Chris Morris says there has been a barrage of criticism — from Eurosceptics, peace activists and former winners of the prize.
Many of them question whether the EU should be given such an honour at a time when record unemployment and tough austerity policies, supported by European institutions, are causing serious social tensions in several member states.
In 1901 the first Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Henry Dunant for his role in the founding of the International Committee of the Red Cross and to FrÃ©dÃ©ric Passy for being one of the main founders of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and also the main organiser of the first Universal Peace Congress.
Over the last 111 years, 93 Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded (there were 19 years where no award was given) to persons who, in the words of Alfred Nobel, "shall 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".
According to the official website of the Nobel Prize, 63 Peace Prizes have been given to one laureate only. Twenty-eight Peace Prizes have been shared by two laureates. Two Peace Prizes have been shared between three persons. The 1994 Nobel Peace Prize went to Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, and the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman.
The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to 124 laureates — to 100 individuals and 24 organizations. Since ComitÃ© International de la Croix Rouge (International Committee of the Red Cross) was awarded three times and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was awarded twice there are 100 individuals and 21 organisations that have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Last year, the Nobel Peace Prize was was awarded jointly to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman (at 32 years, the prize's youngest recipient) "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work".
Three Nobel Peace Prize laureates have been under arrest at the time of the award — German pacifist and journalist Carl von Ossietzky (1935), Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi,(1991) and Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo (2010).
It is interesting to note that Mahatma Gandhi, one of the strongest symbols of non-violence in the 20th century, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and, finally, shortly before he was assassinated in January 1948. Although Gandhi was not awarded the prize (a posthumous award is not allowed by the statutes), the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to make no award that year on the grounds that "there was no suitable living candidate".
While the Nobel Peace Prize is the most famous of Nobel Prizes, there are also awards for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine and literature.
The men and women who have been nominated and awarded Nobel Prizes for the last 111 years have worked tirelessly for something that they believe in, something that they are passionate about. Their contributions have shaped the world as we know it.
Mind you there are ways of being outstanding in your own sphere of life and work; of being outstanding in your field.
A man was driving down a country road, when he spotted a farmer standing in the middle of a huge field of grass. He pulled the car over to the side of the road and notices that the farmer was just standing there, doing nothing, looking at nothing.
The man got out of the car, walked all the way out to the farmer and asked him, "Ah excuse me mister, but what are you doing?"
The farmer replied, "I'm trying to win a Nobel Prize."
"How?" asked the man, puzzled.
"Well I heard they give the Nobel Prize to people who are out, standing in their field."
For every person awarded a Nobel Prize, there are thousands nominated and millions whose work goes, for the most, unrecognised. They are the ordinary men and women who make their own little contribution to peace, justice, science and art and their community. They are the ones who live out the legacy that the greats leave behind.
As I reflected on the legacies of the men, women and organisations who have worked for justice and peace (I don't think you can have peace without justice), I wondered whether it is possible for a country to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. From a Fijian perspective perhaps we would be happy to reclaim the slogan "the way the world should be," although we are still a long way (and a lot of hard social, political, economic and emotional work) from achieving that.
But each of these peace laureates began with a thirst for justice, equity and peace in their communities. And they continued to work, not for recognition, but quench that thirst.
In this Christmas season of goodwill and peace to all, perhaps we need to ask ourselves, how thirsty are we for our communities to be just and peaceful? How thirsty are we for our nation to be just and peaceful?
And then perhaps we need to ask ourselves if we are truly willing to help others who are thirsty also drink?
May this twelfth day of the twelfth month of 2012 be filled with love, light and peace for you and yours.
"Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity."
* Reverend JS Bhagwan is a Masters in Theology Student at the Methodist Theological University in Seoul, South Korea. The views expressed are his and not of this newspaper.