When Nobel Peace Prize recipient Mercy Sister Denise Coghlan speaks to schoolgirls she encourages them to be part of a world that is bigger than themselves and gives everybody a fair go. Source: The Catholic Leader.
Living in Cambodia and internationally recognised for her efforts to ban landmines and cluster bombs, Sr Denise is back in her hometown Brisbane, attending a chapter meeting of the Sisters of Mercy, Brisbane congregation.
She’s always in demand as an inspirational speaker, and on this trip has attended a past-students’ reunion at her old school All Hallows’, spoken to girls at St Mary’s College, Ipswich, and attended a fundraising dinner at the school, sharing her story of accompanying the displaced of Cambodia over the past three decades.
“I try to get them to see the world through the eyes of God. And the dream of God is to have a world of justice, a world of mercy and peace,” she said.
In the late 1980s, Sr Denise left Australia to work in the Thai-Cambodian refugee camps, where many Cambodians sought refuge during Pol Pot’s reign of terror.
Moving to Cambodia in 1990, she continued an energetic pursuit of social justice, refugee rights, poverty alleviation, and the banning of landmines and cluster bombs.
Sr Denise played a key role with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines that led to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, and in the same year the group shared the Nobel Peace Prize.
“You could cry for those with missing legs and see what might have been for them,” she said. “The landmine campaign is now almost 21 years old, and we’ve got most of the stockpiles destroyed.
“The slogan now is to finish the job by 2025 – to have all the landmines that are possible to be cleared by that date.
“We’ve got 161 countries and states party to it, we’ve got lots of land cleared, but some still to go.”
Sr Denise is equally concerned about the clearing of cluster bombs, and for nuclear disarmament, and is turning her attention to what she describes as “automatic killer robots” – military hardware that can independently search and engage targets.