The World Council of Churches welcomes with profound joy and deep satisfaction the decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award three women peace and human rights activists - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Roberta Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman - this year's Nobel Peace Prize. These women and the two countries they represent deserve attention. Any of the three women would be individually deserving of the prize. The burdens carried by women as well as their contributions in many conflicts are often neglected.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the 24th president of Liberia and the first elected female head of state in Africa has demonstrated throughout her career a passionate commitment to the rights of women and the importance of education in providing a better future for her country and its successive generations. President Johnson Sirleaf’s commitment to peace and reconciliation and her specific contributions to her own country and the neighbouring countries in the Mano River Union where she leads the effort for political stability and economic cooperation among Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire has been commendable.

Leymah Roberta Gbowee, another African peace activist responsible for organising a peace movement that brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003, is also admired by those in her own country as well as throughout the African continent. An ecumenical solidarity team from the WCC just visited Liberia and confirmed in their report the need for international support to the democratic process in this country.

The exemplary leadership of Ms Tawakkul Karman, a democracy rights activist from Yemen who has been in the forefront of the people’s movement, has committed her life to freedom and dignity in Yemen. Her active participation and leadership at the centre of the protest movement has been admirable.

The decision to honour these three committed women and responsible leaders who have committed their lives to the struggle for human rights, human dignity and peace with justice is right and commendable. In their long and arduous journey over the years in their struggle, all three have undergone much pain and suffering. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize will go a long way to accelerate the social and democratic changes and peace and reconciliation in their respective societies.

The World Council of Churches offers these women leaders of the world our best wishes and congratulations on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, and we assure them of our continuing prayers and support.

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

WCC general secretary

Geneva, 07 October 2011