Who is a Peace Hero?

It is easy to start a war, but always difficult to end it. War causes casualties and damages the life of all creatures on earth. PMV believes that anyone in the past or present who stands up and speaks out for social justice is a peace hero. A Peace Hero breaks the silence and shares her or his knowledge with others for the good of society.PMV looks for four characteristics in a Peace Hero. They should:

  • Recognise the interconnectedness of all people;
  • Promote justice in the face of discrimination;
  • Reject vengeance;
  • Foster reconciliation and friendship.

We want to inspire students and the public by showing them the good work that Peace Heroes have done. Our Peace Heroes come from across the globe. They all have worked for peace in their professions, ranging from musicians to activists to politicians.


What is our mission?

Peace Museum Vienna attempts to conduct peace education through the lives of its Peace Heroes. These heroes include historic as well as contemporary figures, who spent their lives either promoting peace through their profession, such as the sociologist Johan Galtung, or practiced nonviolence as their main strategy for a peaceful life, such as Mahatma Gandhi.

The PMV research team nominates Peace Hero candidates to the PMV board for approval. We have established a list of 150 Peace Heroes since June 2014, but we intend to increase the number of peace heroes to 365 by June 2016. We aim to bring peace heroes onto a global stage, with a network of at least 20 cities and over 5000 peace heroes by 2020. Since PMV is based in the city of Vienna, the capital of Austria, Bertha von Suttner is very important to us. She was the inspiration for the Nobel Peace Prize, and became the first woman to win it in 1905. Therefore, she is our first peace hero. Visit berthavonsuttner.com to learn more.

What is our vision?

We plan to extend our peace education efforts to schools in Vienna. We intend to expand our exhibition initiative, Windows for Peace, to a minimum of 20 cities and include 5000 Peace Heroes worldwide by 2020.

Bertha von Suttner

An Austrian, she is the first woman in history to receive the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1905.  She was a peace activist who published one of the most impactful writings, “Lay Down your Arms”, warning of the danger of weapons build-up before World War I.  Her personal contact with Alfred Nobel was to influence him to include a peace prize in the Nobel prizes to be awarded.

 Alfred Hermann Fried

An Austrian, he was a close affiliate of Bertha von Suttner, and winner of Nobel Prize for Peace in 1911. Together with Bertha von Suttner, he founded the “German Peace Society”. Fried was a prominent member of the Esperanto-movement. In 1903 he published the book of the International Language of Esperanto.

Franz Jägerstätter

This simple peasant from a small village near Salzburg refused to serve in Hitler’s army, preferring to follow his Christian conscience. He was beheaded in Berlin, leaving a wife and three young daughters. He was sentenced to death and executed. In June 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued an apostolic exhortation, and declared Franz Jägerstätter a martyr.

Richard Nikolaus von Coudenhove-Kalergi

Austrian politician and philosopher; proponent of peace, founder of Pan-Europa, precursor of EU.

Albert Einstein

Arguably the most important scientist in history, Einstein needs no introduction.  What is less well-known is his passion for peace.  He longed for a world without nationalism that would lead to dispute and war, and he supported anti-war movements in all ways he could.  One of his quotes, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding”, is an example of his view on war.  He chaired the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, with the mission to warn the public of the dangers of the development of nuclear weapons.

Pope Benedict XVI

“Peace concerns the human person as a whole, and it involves complete commitment. It is peace with God through a life lived according to his will. It is interior peace with oneself and exterior peace with our neighbours and all creation”. Pope Benedict militated for peace between different confessions and sought to improve relations with them throughout his Pontificate.

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II wanted to put the church at the heart of a new religious union between Jews, Muslims, and Christians.  He was a major opponent of the apartheid in South Africa.  He was an active figure towards the culmination of the fall of the Iron Curtain, and he was influential in the toppling of several dictatorships around the world as well. In the Pope’s youth in Poland he saved the lives of many Jewish people by helping them escape from the Nazis. The pope called for peace directly as he was actively outspoken against both the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq war.

He was the first Pope to speak out against the mafia in southern Italy, and the first global figure to call the mass murder in Rwanda “genocide, and although previous popes had accepted the practice of the death penalty, pope John Paul II was outspoken against it, saying that: “A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.” (From Death Penalty Information Center).

Pope Francis

The current leader of the Catholic Church is lauded for his commitment to peace for his commitment to bring together all people with different backgrounds, beliefs, and faiths. He has been outspoken against economic inequality and poverty and has said that extreme poverty and unjust economic systems are violations of human rights. The Pope has been hailed as man of the year by numerous publications such as “Time Magazine” in 2014 for his efforts regarding discourse on recent controversial issues and his efforts for World Peace.

Immanuel Kant

A German philosopher.  In is writing, Perpetual Peace, he listed several conditions he thought were necessary to end war and create lasting peace.  His ideas were thought to have become the democratic peace theory, and are still referenced by modern philosophers.


Peace is a central concept in Buddhism.  Buddhism strives to attain the state of peace in mind, and also in harmonious and peaceful living.  The theory of causality in Buddhism teaches the world that whether to have war or peace is our choice as human beings.  It encourages people to understand what causes peace, so to know where to direct effort.

Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus Christ is a peace hero goes without explanation. His very ethos is constituted in peace and love of mankind. Jesus emphasizes forgiveness – that one ought to “turn the other cheek”, which is essential to all elements of peace as conflict resolution and avoidance. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they should be called sons of God”.

Linus Pauling

An American Chemist, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the Nobel Peace Prize, and was the only person to be awarded two unshared Nobel Prizes.  He became a peace activist with the profound changes to his life by the aftermath of World War II.   He co-founded the International League of Humanists, and was the president of the scientific advisory board, World Union for Protection of Life.

Joseph Rotblat

A Polish-born British physicist, he studied nuclear reactions, and was strongly against the use of it as a devastating weapon.  His work was a major contribution to the Partial Test Ban Treaty, aimed to slow the arms race and to stop the excessive release of nuclear fallout into the atmosphere.  He won the Albert Einstein Peace Prize in 1992, and the Nobel Peace Prize in conjunction with the Pugwash Conferences in 1995.

Andrei Sakharov

A Soviet nuclear physicist, he was against nuclear proliferation, and a major contributor to the Partial Test Ban Treaty.  He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, and the Nobel committee referred to him as the “spokesman for the conscience of mankind.”  The Sakharov Prize, which is awarded annually by the European Parliament to individuals showing courage in defending human rights and freedom of expression, is named after him.

Kofi Annan

“Suffering anywhere concerns people everywhere. Global solidarity is both necessary and possible. It is necessary because without a measure of solidarity no society can be truly stable, and no one’s prosperity truly secure.” – Kofi Annan Kofi Annan is a peace hero because… of his accomplishment as the 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations, working onthe HIV / AIDS pandemic and proposing to create a Global AIDS and health fund, and with the UN jointly winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.  Kofi also leads the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (an agricultural initiative) and the Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva. Kofi Annan was born in Ghana, Africa in 1938. He published the book, Interventions: A Life in War and Peace, which is a memoir of his forty years of service at the UN.

Asha Haji Elmi

Asha Haji Elmi is an innovative activist in Somalia. Her life’s work has been the advancement of women’s rights and dignity in the country, and she is internationally recognised for bringing attention to the particular hardship that women and children face in conflict.
Born in 1962, Elmi was exposed to the political instability that Somalian women faced when she married into another clan. Rejected by both her family and her husband’s family, Elmi, like many other Somalian women, had no advocate and no political power. In the aftermath of the Somali Civil War, Elmi noted that while the five clans that Somalia’s government usually acknowledged were granted room to negotiate, they were represented entirely by men.

Aung San Suu Kyi

One of the twentieth century’s iconic political prisoners, Aung San Suu Kyi is the current State Counsellor of Myanmar (Burma), and an internationally recognised diplomat. Her career in Burmese politics has been characterised by her nonviolent struggle for democracy, and her endurance under harsh personal circumstances.Suu Kyi was born in 1945 into a political family. Her father, Aung San, was credited with leading Burma’s army in negotiations with the British. He was assassinated in 1947, the year that Burma gained independence. Suu Kyi’s mother, Khin Kyi, later became the Burmese ambassador to India.

Romeo Dallaire

Leader of UN Peace keeping Forces in Rwanda and founder of the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldier’s initiative. Advocate for responsibility to protect (R2P).

Shirin Ebadi

Iranian lawyer; promotes rights for women and  children in Iran, persecuted  for efforts towards peace.

Mohandas Gandhi

“There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”
Mahatma Gandhi was the primary leader of India’s independence movement and also the architect of a form of civil disobedience that would influence the world. Gandhi became a leader of India’s independence movement, organizing boycotts against British institutions in peaceful forms of civil disobedience.

Leymah Gbowee

Liberian peace activist; led a women’s peace movement, which helped end the second Liberian Civil War.

Johan Galtung

Norwegian sociologist and “ father of peace studies”, founded ‘Peace Research Institute Oslo’ and established ‘Journal of Peace Research’.

Malala Yousafzai

Pakistani teenage activist for education for females, survived after being shot in the head by the Taliban for wanting to go to school.

Srdja Popovic

Serbian political activist, ousted Slobodan Milosevic through nonviolent action, co-founder of ‘Otpor!’,  student movement, and of Centre for Applied Non Violent Actions and Strategies (CANVAS).

Martin Luther King Jr.

US American leader of the African – American Civil Rights Movement; received the Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against racial inequality through non-violent movements.

Tawakkol Karman

Yemeni leader and co-founder of  ‘Women Journalists Without Chains ’ , face of the Yemeni uprising in the Arab Spring.

Helen Caldicott

Australian physician; active and outspoken against nuclear technologies and weapons; runs a weekly radio program called “If you love this planet”: radio4all.net.

Bacha Khan

Pakistani nonviolent activist, founder of  ‘Servants of God’  movement, advocated non-violence against British oppression.

Cora Weiss

U.S American founder of an influential progressive Washington think tank, known for peace activism, particularly against the Vietnam War and apartheid in South Africa.

Rigoberta Menchu Tum

Guatemalan activist and politician; dedicated her life to publicizing the plight of the indigenous Guatemalan people during the Civil War.

Daniel Barenboim

Argentinian born Israeli pianist and conductor; critic of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Kailash Satyarthi

Indian children’s  rights advocate and an activist against child labour. Founded in 1980
the “Bachpan Bachao Andolan” (Save the Childhood Movement) and has acted to protect the rights of more than 83,000 children from 144 countries. Was granted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, which he shared with Malala Yousafzai.

Emmanuel Jal

South Sudanese musician, former child soldier, stating that he believes to have survived for the reason to tell his story and to touch lives. 2014, he was honored for his political and musical commitment against the abuse of children in Africa for military purposes with the Dresden Peace Prize.

Amy Goodman

American journalist, author and television presenter. Presented the daily show “Democracy Now” (WBAI Pacifica Radio);  committed to democracy and human rights and the independence of the media. Received the 2004 “Thomas
Merton Award for Peace and Social Justice” and 2008 as the first journalist to “Right Livelihood Award” (“Alternative Nobel Prize”).

Alfred Nobel

Swedish chemist and inventor; Inventor of dynamite and founder of the Nobel Prize. Nobel was convinced that only a particularly terrible weapon of destruction could prevent mankind from war. The interest from Nobel Foundation is annually distributed as prize to those “who have provided the greatest benefit to humanity in the previous year.”

Anna Frank

Jewish German girl; fled from persecution by the Nazis in 1934 with her family to Amsterdam and died shortly before the war ended in the Holocaust. She is regarded as a symbolic figure against the inhumanity of Genocide in the period
of National Socialism.

Lester B. Pearson

Canadian statesman, diplomat and politician; awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in organizing the United Nations Peace Force to resolve the Suez Canal Crisis.

Muhammad Yunus

A Bangladeshi civil society leader, and economist; awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in providing a program that allowed people to escape poverty.

Shulamit Aloni

Israeli politician, helped child refugees and established school for refugee children.

Joan Baez

American folk-singer active in the American civil rights movement, outspoken figure against war and poverty.

Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso

A Buddhist advocate for peace and freedom. Dalai Lama is the religious and political leader of Tibet who stood against China’s occupation of Tibet since 1959. His way of resistance is nonviolence. “One prime purpose of life is to help others.”

Wangaari Muta Maathai

Kenyan environmentalist, political activist, initiated the ‘Green Belt Movement’, first African women to receive Nobel Peace Prize.

Alva Myrdal

Swedish social welfare advocate and nuclear disarmament activist, Minister for Disarmament and co-founder of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Irena Sendler

Polish nurse; rescued some 2.500 Jewish children from the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Nelson Mandela

South African activist; jailed for many years for opposing racial segregation in South Africa; was elected the first black president of South Africa in the first fully democratic election.

Rosa Parks

U.S American civil rights activist; has refused to relinquish her seat on the bus to a white passenger in Alabama in 1955 and was therefore arrested. This was the occasion for the so called “Montgomery Bus Boycott”, which is considered among others as the beginning of the black civil rights movement, which ended the “Jim Crow laws”.

Werner Horvath

Austrian political painter of contemporary and often provoking art.

Vaclav Havel

Czech playwright, human rights activist and politician (last president of the state Czechoslovakia and first president of the Czech Republic), successfully opposed communist oppression.

Folke Bernadotte

Swedish diplomat; negotiated the release of about 31,000 prisoners from German concentration camps during World War II; assassinated in Jerusalem working as UN mediator

Jane Addams

American social and political activist, leader in women’s suffrage and world peace

Andrew Carnegie

Scottish-American philanthropist industrialist, devoted to world peace, founder of the ‘Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’.

Dr. Ali Ahmad Safi

Ali Ahmad is an international peace activist and the founder of Kabul Peace Library in Afghanistan, his home country. He holds a Masters degree in
‘Peace and Conflict Studies’ and has been an integral part of the team at the Peace Museum Vienna since early 2014. For him, peace is best characterized by harmony, nonviolence and creative approaches to transform conflicts.

Rachel Corrie

American peace activist and diarist. She was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer, while undertaking nonviolent direct action to protect the home of a Palestinian family from demolition.