BUILDING COLLECTIVE PEACE THROUGH INDIVIDUAL PEACE

Dean of the University,
Distinguished guests,
Students joining us online…

Good morning to you all.

Thank you for your kind invitation to address you today, on the occasion of your Peace Congress. I must point out that you have chosen an auspicious day to speak about peace, as today also marks the start of the United Nations’ ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence’ Campaign. Today, 25 November, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and the Campaign runs until 10 December, which is Human Rights Day.

As I am sure you are well aware, there can be no peace without nonviolence, or without the realisation of human rights.

As President of the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, I represent an organisation that has been working towards the pursuit of peace, nonviolence, and the realisation of human rights, for more than 20 years. Our organisation provides a global platform for Nobel Peace Laureates to engage and share their unique peace-making knowledge with the world. Through exploring the heritage of Nobel Peace Laureates, the Permanent Secretariat also aims to engage minds on real matters impacting global affairs, ethnic conflicts, a world without violence, racism, global environmental problems, proliferation of weapons, and more, so as to encourage humanitarian and non-violent thinking.

It is also a priority for the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates to promote peace leadership opportunities, so that young people can take the lead on global initiatives and social matters of our time. This is why we created the Leading by Example program, launched at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in 2012.

The Leading by Example program connects young people with the experiences and teachings of the Nobel Peace Laureates through educational workshops presented at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates over the days of each Summit. In addition, we have also developed an educational Curriculum that is the product of more than 20 years of experience in the field of peace-making, based on our collaboration with Nobel Peace Laureate Individuals and Organizations.

To date, our Leading by Example network is comprised of some 3 000 students and young professionals who are making a difference in the world every day. They come from over 100 universities, from different corners of the world. Among them we have young environmentalists, social business entrepreneurs, artists, journalists, lawyers, politicians, doctors and nurses. This diversity with a collective aspiration is what makes our Leading by Example program so special.

We strongly believe all young people should have the opportunity to positively contribute to society in the regions where they live. We think the best way to achieve these goals is to encourage initiatives by those who have already lived these experiences. The unique knowledge of Nobel Peace Laureates and other well-known leaders of world history may help the young generation to build a common understanding about peace, and to tackle the problems that they face in their communities, and in the world generally, more effectively.

In order to build collective peace, one first needs individual peace. This is why we draw from, and are inspired by, the many life-changing stories of the Nobel Peace Laureates, who forged the roads to peace, often in the darkest hours of their path.

Today, more than ever, the most promising members of our society, our children and our youth, are needing to claim the heritage of these peace-makers.  As millennials, you are not responsible for the troubles of our world, for the unrestrained industrialization, or the highest levels of inequality among nations and within societies, but you are the ones inheriting the environmental degradation, the insecure world, and the war- and climate-related massive migrations of the century. 

The heritage of these peace-makers offers lessons on how to cultivate personal peace, that will form the building blocks for collective peace. 

Take Peace Laureate Nelson Mandela and his extraordinary humanity, a man who, despite decades of imprisonment for fighting apartheid, emerged as a beacon for peace in South Africa, and inspired his fellow countrymen and women to transition peacefully from oppression to democracy. Jody Williams, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, is proof that an individual pursuit of peace can change the world. She began her career as a schoolteacher, but after seeing the devasting impact of landmines while working in Central America, she began working towards an international effort to clear existing mines and outlaw their future use. And age is not a barrier to achieving personal peace – in 2014, teenager Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her belief in the importance of education, and the personal sacrifices she made standing up for the rights of children – particularly girls – to be educated.

In the words of Jody Williams:  “For me, the difference between an ‘ordinary’ and an ‘extraordinary’ person is not the title that person might have, but what they do to make the world a better place for us all.” This means that each of us – no matter who we are – can make a difference, and contribute towards peace.

To close, I would like to refer to draw on the wisdom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, talking about our universal responsibility to build peace.  I QUOTE:  

“Each of us is a member of the world society and is morally responsible for helping to prevent continuous sufferings. The most important thing is to find a peaceful and non-violent way. The serious problems that we have faced require from us to work not only for one’s own family, nation, but for the whole humanity.  Therefore, universal responsibility is the key success for the survival of human beings. It is crucial to consider the interests of all, which means that our interests are also taken into account. Compromise is the best solution, as sometimes the ideas that we use to settle the dispute can cause other dispute. Why don’t we use compromise often? The answer is simple – because we forget that we are interdependent and that in order to survive we need to work together.  In the current circumstances no one else will resolve our problems and each of us shall take own portion of responsibility. With this approach unavoidably there will be positive changes, but they will require a permanent action.”  END QUOTE.

I would like to wish all the students participating in the Peace Congress contest the very best, as they strive to create collective peace by creating personal peace.  One of them is the Peace Network, an international platform that helps the diffusion and development of our peace message. I also commend you for your Peace Network, and the work you do with different communities to prepare them and teach them to become peace messengers.

Thank you.