Vienna, Austria - Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchú delivered the keynote address at a celebration of the International Day of Peace on Sept. 20, 2013, at the Vienna International Centre.
The Chairperson of the conference, which was held in the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) multimedia room, was Dr. Leo Gabriel, a social anthropologist, journalist and filmmaker who has lived and worked in Central and South America for several decades and initiated many social projects. Welcome messages were given by Mr. Janos Tisovsky, Director of UNIS, as well as Mr. Desmond Doyle, founder of the Art of Reconciliation. The third welcome message was given by H.E. Antonio Roberto Castellanos Lopez, Ambassador of the Republic of Guatemala.
Mrs. Rigoberta Menchú gave the keynote address with translation from Spanish to English. She is an indigenous Guatemalan woman of the K'iche' ethnic group. Mrs. Menchú has dedicated her life to publicizing the plight of Guatemala's indigenous peoples during and after the Guatemalan Civil War (1960–1996) and to promoting indigenous rights in the country. She received the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize and Prince of Asturias Award in 1998 and is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. She has also become a figure in indigenous political parties and ran for President of Guatemala in 2007 and 2011.
In her speech at the conference she emphasized the importance of education for everybody because "We need to know who we are and where we go." She continued: "In order to attain peace we need dialogue and negotiations. This needs people in the background who work hard and don’t give up. We want all the organizations in the world to become active in helping those who suffer the most, like mothers helping their children. I spent 14 years of my life walking down the corridors of the UN in Geneva and New York. I think my work opened the doors for millions of people to enter the UN."
To the Refugee Protest Camp spokesman of Vienna she gave the following advice: "I understand the life of refugees. You must always keep your goal in mind to go back to your country eventually and change things there. I fought hard to be able to return to my country. Finally I became a candidate for the elections. We need to be an example when it comes to be leaders. We cannot remain victims forever. We must have self-esteem."
She continued: "Have we achieved changes in Guatemala? Yes, we have made changes possible. How can we live in peace? If I am spiritually and socially well I can help other people."
After this meeting, there was a Ceremony at the Peace Bell at the Vienna United Nations Plaza. Then the Peace Day message of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was delivered by Mr. Dennis Thatchaichawalit, Director of the Division for Management, of the United Nations Headquarters in Vienna, followed by Mrs. Menchú's Peace Day address, in which she summarized the principles of peace as she learned them from her ancestors, which turned out to have universal character:
1. Respect: If all people respect each other we can build a better world together.
2. Gratitude: We need to be thankful over and over again if we want to live in peace.
3. Reciprocity: Others give to me, but I have to give as well (give and take), under equal conditions.
4. Unconditional love: If we do our work with unconditional love, we can create a different world.
After her speech a special recognition from the United Nations Women's Guild-Vienna was given by Ms. Dalila León-Kostal to Mrs. Menchú. Finally, the Peace Bell was rung, marking the end of the official program. Unfortunately, and to the regret of many who wanted to talk to her personally, Mrs. Menchú had to leave quickly for other meetings in Vienna. The event ended with two beautiful dances performed by the Ensemble Jeroky Paraguay.
Organizers included UPF-Austria, Academic Council of the United Nations System (ACUNS) and Art of Reconciliation with media partner The Best of the World Network and the support of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna and the Embassy of Guatemala.