Mr Chairman, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.
The United Nations has declared 2001-2010 to be the decade for a culture of peace. But the UN definition of culture of peace is mostly technical, speaking of the absence and rejection of conflict. But it leaves out, once again, the important issue of philosophy, religions, language and ethnicity.
Mr Chairman, we have to move beyond dialogue to come to consensus on what is good and what is evil. This must start with trust between religious leaders who are usually the guardians of a society’s morals and ideals.
Today, I speak to you as the Chairperson of the Presiding Council of the Universal Peace Federation which was inaugurated on the 14th of September 2005 at the Lincoln Centre in New York by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace which itself was founded some 18 years ago in an attempt to get the religions of the world to unite and work together for peace.
Mr Chairman, we need more than a culture of peace that is simply avoiding conflict. We need a culture of heart that recognizes that all of us are part of the culture of humankind, or one human family. If the human heart is in the wrong place, there is no future. In the end, people shape culture, not institutions. Change does not begin in the UN buildings – but deep in our hearts. We are all one family, and we all have the same needs, if we can get beyond the issue of greed.
In the past eighteen hundred years, spiritual men and women came across as people of such deep conviction that I am left challenged by them. There is much in their theology that I will disagree with and some would say was purely based on superstition. But despite their failings, here was a relatively small group of people who sought to spread the message of peace with an emphasis on many of the values they had held dear for many years. These people placed a strong emphasis on the weak and the poor. They believed that living simply was vital for others to simply live. This was the epitomy of spiritual wellbeing. And whilst they recognized the political powers around them, these people realized that earthly powers was unimportant when compared to the authority of God.
In the early 20th Century, many Europeans thought that science was the greatest achievement of men and would lead to peace. They felt that they were at the beginning of the golden age of progress and not, as history was to prove, on the brink of continental and even global disaster and conflict.
Mr Chairman, we need a change in culture if we are to change institutions. If the culture remains the same, the institutions will not be different. For example, towards the end of the League of Nations, members felt free to pursue their own ends. Thus, did Russia marched into Finland and Japan into Shanghai. Does not that seem rather similar to the reality of the UN today, where powerful Nations don’t always feel the need for a UN mandate?
Mr Chairman, at this time humanity is turning at a moment of opportunity. With the nuclear threat hanging over the world, can we allow ourselves to say no to an age of peace? The hope of all ages must be for a unified world of peace. But the realization of such a world depends on no one else but ourselves. The force of love must prove greater than any weapon that has ever been produced.
The United Nations Organization was created with the fourfold purpose of:
- Saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war;
- Reaffirming faith in fundamental human rights;
- Striving for justice and respect for international law;
- Promoting freedom, social progress, and better living standards.
We must support and uphold and sustain the United Nations, that most imperfect organization seeking for perfection in a flawed world. To its credit it has been able to uphold the principle of universality, through the General Assembly, while recognizing the existence of power politics through the Security Council.
But without drawing on the wisdom of the world’s spiritual traditions, and with an exclusive reliance on Governments, national interests, and economic and social affairs, the United Nations has a severe imitation. It can be compared to a person who has many abilities, resources, education and capacity – but lacks spiritual wisdom and maturity. It was for these reasons that the Universal Peace Federation is calling for the renewal of the United Nations by the establishment within its structure of “Peace Councils,” which could help in the establishment of Peace Nations. The Peace Council of course will only succeed in so far as we apply and practice the core principles and values of living for the sake of others. Most of all, we must keep God in the centre of our life. Without that, we all toil in vain.
As my friend and associate in the Universal Peace Federation – the Rt. Hon. Sir Lloyd Sandiford – former Prime Minister of the Republic of Barbados recently made clear in an in New York City – “We must continue to work patiently and with perseverance to gnaw away at the underlying causes of strife, discord, enmity, war and underdevelopment. We should therefore be clear on what we have to do. But, first of all, we must cast off what the Romans of old called, superbia. And what today we call pride.”
Mr Chairman, it is clear that our world in crisis requires prudent, judicious, balanced, wise and discerning leadership based on the following principles.
- All people should centre their lives on the dynamic of living for the sake of others.
- All people should aspire to live lives based on the highest moral and ethical principles, including honestly, truthfulness, unselfishness and love.
- No effort should be spared in working for the reduction and elimination of religious intolerance, bigotry, hatred, prejudice and all forms of discrimination.
- The virtues of tolerance, understanding, compassion, dialogue, cooperation and mutual respect should be promoted at all times.
- The value of diversity and cultural differences among individuals, groups and Nations should be espousing the search for a better and more peaceful, just and sustainable world.
- A global environment in which existing economic, social, cultural and other inequities and injustices are reduced and eliminated should be advocated.
- There should be a call for a spiritual, religious, moral and ethical reawakening among the Nations of the world and for the replacement of the current unconscionable greed and self interest by commitment to the common good of all mankind.
- All endeavours should be utilized to foster a culture of peace imbedded in respect for human rights, justice for all, economic and social development, the elimination of conditions that lead to war and the building of educated, wholesome and drug-free communities.
Mr Chairman, here in the Balkans we need to solve the problems of wounded pride and the feeling of no justice, if we are to dry up the water which hate swim. Dialogue and engagement are the only possible way to succeed, however impossible it may seem. Let us therefore move forward, not with instruments of external power, but with the instruments of internal power – i.e. through love, unselfishness and the promotion of a passion for peace.