A Vision for Peace building in the 21st Century

Politicians with visions should see their medical doctors, I was told. Politicians without visions have the only target to get re-elected and to stay on top of the polls. Predicting what will be the world in which our children will grow up is impossible. Technology is changing so fast, that today we cannot even tell young people what will be theirs jobs in the next decade.

Geopolitics has moved in an unforeseen way. After fighting the evil, the last decade produced uncertainty and new dangers. Fighting violence with weapons has not eradicated the evil, neither has the worldwide control of people restored stability and trust.  

The century we left 16 years ago shows more than 100 million deaths, if we add to those killed by two World wars, also those injured under communist regimes and Dictatorships all over the world.

65 million refugees world wide, due to wars, poverty and climate change are on their way for safety, health and economic welfare.

The founding of the EU in 1957 stopped the killing of civilians in its Member States; peace has been installed since more than half a century, the longest period ever seen on the continent.

Nevertheless the great idea of the founding father of the EU, Robert Schuman, has not expanded beyond some 500 million people, actually 7% of the world population.

Addressing the long-term vision this conference aims at, I suggest three scenarios,

  • The political.
  • The humanitarian and
  • The religious

The humanitarian

I recommend the program of the IAHV, (International Association of Human Values) based in London, working in 150 countries at treating violence by soft power.

Life is a fact, living is an art, is their slogan.

It starts with peace building training, Trauma-Relief, Resilience and Empowerment. The activities concern also rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-combatants, terrorists, prisoners and war veterans. The methods are based on the psychosocial aspect. The UN and the EU recognize its activities in intercultural understanding, youth leadership training and prevention of radicalisation.

Of course there are so many initiatives and individuals committed to the humanitarian issue, this one is addressing preventive and healing actions. Peace building should not only start when violence has escalated! Prevention addresses everyone, as well crowded prisons, as young people in danger of radicalisation.

The Political

The geopolitical analyses show a clash of civilization, joint to the financial crises of 2008.

The economy plays a key role, when 62 individuals are as healthy as half of the world population, there must be something wrong.  The origins of the troubles are numerous; their origin goes back to the end of the two world wars and decisions taken after the colonization.

Powerful leaders maintained fighting groups, as happened in Libya, but there was no peace.   Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks said in his speech in the EU Parliament in 2009 the following about governance and nation states:

"You can have a society without a state – that has happened at times in history – but can you have a state without a society, without anything to hold people together?  You can hold people together in many different ways: by force, by fear, by suppressing cultural difference, by expecting everyone to conform. But when you choose to respect the integrity of many cultures, when you honour the dignity of difference, then to create a society you need a covenant. A contract is about interest, a covenant is about identity. A Covenant restores the language of cooperation to a world of competition. It focuses on responsibilities, not just on rights. Rights are essential, but rights create conflicts that rights cannot resolve: Rights without responsibilities are the subprime mortgages of the moral.

So far some extracts of the speech.

Rights without responsibilities, have you seen people on strike fighting for their responsibilities? The dignity of difference, and now we are asking Muslim women to conform on the beaches of the Mediterranean?

Identity includes many aspects, linked to family, home, language and culture, deeply rooted in a place or a way of living. 

Looking at the world map, Nation states have been created, sometimes by drawing the borders on a map, by the colonizers, or the winners of wars. By ignoring the culture, the language and the religion of the people, conflicts were to be expected.

Should we now try to agree on new borders, or adopt what the EU is trying to do? Robert Schuman aimed at uniting citizens and not only coalescing states.  The leaders of the EU agreed by the Paris Agreements in 1980 not to change borders, not an easy decision, maintained during the enlargement in 2004, in spite of many debates.

 The only peaceful revolution of the last century in Europe was the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. And let me pay tribute to conductor Kurt Masur, who played a key role when he called on the people for a peaceful behaviour, preventing violence and civil war. "We are the people" was the slogan of Germans from the eastern communist zones.

Governance by the people, the achievement of the French Revolution, what has it become today?

The question of the legitimacy of the heads of state might be the right question in so many worldwide conflicts. Unfortunately establishing Democracy instead of dictatorships has had poor success.   

The European Union is still seen by so many as a refuge of peace and mutual respect, as it is fixed in the Charta of fundamental rights. This was submitted with the Lisbon treaty in 2007 to the agreement of the member states, voted by national Parliaments. All citizens are to live in a space of common jurisdiction, ensuring each person’s individual rights in respect to culture and religious beliefs. The gap between generations about this new paradigm, especially after the financial crises and the settling of refugees, has created a profound disease, which has shown up in our democracies. It has not really been addressed. Euro scepticism is increasing, so do extremist parties.

Trust has vanished, governance is by controlling, investigating the privacy, whereas fundamental problems remain. How can we eradicate corruption? How can democracy and governance be improved? The right to vote includes the responsibility to stay informed and to make up one's own mind, and finally to take part in the voting. Social media promote a new type of taking influence, for the better and the worse.

"Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed" Unesco Constitution

This has not yet happened, there is a huge work to do: Building up the minds, but also cultivating the hearts.

This is the huge challenge ahead, beyond the crises of the economy and climate change. Looking at budget figures in all the countries, it is obvious how poorly governments finance culture and education.

Religion

Now what is it about the killing in the name of God? Our history is full of examples, the crusades, the inquisition, and the religious wars in Europe, the Ottoman Empire, shaping the borders of Nation States. The ban of Religion during the Communist period in the Soviet Union did not have a lasting success: the Orthodox Church has again a strong leadership in Russia; such as it has in Greece. In Rumania since the Dictator war banished, 200 new churches have been built, and an Orthodox Cathedral of almost similar size than the Dictator's palace in Bucharest. The gathering in Crete of all the orthodox churches was not a full success, no peace among the leaders!

About Muslim's relations with the Christian Monks of St.Catherine's Monastery of the Mount Sinai, a document written in 628 is archived at this Monastery. It says: "Their churches are to be respected; no compulsion is to be on them.... Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet… "

A look back at the roots and the texts of the founders of religions tells how much interpretation of the original and the situation in which it occurred, is bound to personalities and power.  Sometimes translation transformed female names in male ones, advocating in this subtle way that women have to be excluded. More knowledge about religions, and their origins could improve the relationship and build bridges.

States and the international institutions of the global community need to understand the danger, the power and the positive role of organized religious life.

The golden rule, reciprocity and altruism are common to nearly every religion.

On this common ground, peace could happen, if there is the will.

Hon. Erna Hennicot-Schoepges

Author: Hon. Erna Hennicot-Schoepges

Former President of the Parliament of Luxembourg

Mrs. Hennicot-Schoepges, after a career as a concert pianist and a professor at the Luxembourg Conservatory, stepped into politics. She became the first woman president of the Luxembourg Parliament and held several government portfolios including Culture, Religions, Education, Higher Education, Research and Public Works. As a member of the European Parliament she was appointed Rapporteur to the EP on the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue in 2008. She was the founder of the University of Luxembourg and is currently the Vice President of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin.

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