President Chissano’s speech at 3rd Congress of World Elders
THIRD CONGRESS OF THE COUNCIL OF WORLD ELDERS
HIS EXCELLENCY JOAQUIM ALBERTO CHISSANO
FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF MOZAMBIQUE
AND GLOBAL ADVISOR TO THE COUNCIL OF WORLD ELEDERS
CONGRESS CENTRE KURHAUS BAD HOMBURG
ON THE THEME
GIVE TO THE CHILDREN OF THIS EARTH A HEALTHY AND PEACEFUL WORLD: ALTERNATIVE IDEAS AND SOLUTIONS FOR THE FUTURE
28 September 2013
Honorable Members of the Council of World Elders
His Royal Highness King Togbui Ngoryifia Céphas Kosi Bansah, the King of Hohoe Gbi, Traditional Ghana
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am honored to be here attending the 3rd Congress of the Council of World Elders on the theme: “Give to children of this earth a healthy and peaceful world: alternative ideas and solutions for the future”. In the same breath; I would like to take this opportunity to thank the World Council of Elders for their tireless work on preserving and sharing authentic indigenous wisdom to encourage world peace. I am confident that their wisdom will be shared for years to come in order to preserve a sustainable future for our children, as Plato once said; “Let parents bequeath to their children not riches but the spirit and knowledge of reverence.”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are having our meeting in Germany, where H.E. Angela Merkel was just reelected to serve a third term as Chancellor. I take this opportunity to congratulate her for her reelection, which gives her a clear mandate to continue to lead her country and play an important role in helping Europe to emerge from the economic crisis is going through.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The world we live in today is undergoing great transition. Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and other international human rights instruments, there has been a greater understanding and appreciation of the need to preserve humanity. Yet despite efforts to create a culture of peace, love and understanding through international diplomacy, the world still experiences, wars, hunger, disease, poverty, violence, and slavery.
We all know that these issues have a significant and lasting effect on our children’s lives. Children of today will face even greater consequences as a result of climate change than we do today; the world’s children will face greater risks of being associated with armed conflict. They are most likely to die of hunger, face displacement, and experience challenges in accessing health and education among other social ills. All this calls for a new approach to global problems.
More than ever, the predominant issue of debate nowadays is “security”. Nations and individuals are talking more about security in search for a peaceful world. States are paying more attention to preventive diplomacy. The United Nations has deployed peacekeeping missions to different states, and our efforts to support democracy and promote human rights and particularly child rights are also looking into children’s rights in emergencies. In addition, individual citizens everywhere, men and women in every society, are working to relieve suffering, and to build bridges between people of different faiths and cultures, and there is a vast potential for change. If we read between the news headlines it is apparent that people are more aware and concerned about the state of the rest of the world than ever before. The religious and traditional institutions, the international community and citizens alike are constantly lobbying governments to take action on issues such as climate change, hunger, poverty, disease, exploitation and conflicts. Global corporations are introducing community volunteering programmes, meditation and personal development schemes, at unprecedented rates. And in the past few years, more people have come forward to state their desire for peace than ever before in history. There is a vast potential for change to positively impact the societies we live in. Humanity has become closer than it has ever been to harness this vast potential for change. The degree of unity we have witnessed today is not an unexpected or an accidental occurrence. I believe it is typical of a new paradigm towards unity and cooperation that is sweeping across the world.
However, in addition to human rights and diplomatic solutions, I believe there are also alternative ideas and solutions to achieving world peace and this begins with an individual.
Ladies and Gentleman.
Creating world peace for the future of our children takes many forms, but surely it begins with an individual’s inner peace and quest for love and unity.
When the Taj Mahal was being built in India, one workman was heard to say, “I am building a wall with cement and stones” while another said, “I am building a monument to the greatness of the human spirit.” You could look at the need for peace and stability and say it is just a small aspect of human life. Or you could look at it as the greatest asset we can leave for our children – a culture of co-operation, unity and peace. It is essential that we help our children perceive peaceful alternatives. We need to consider these troubled times as an opportunity to create a new vision for the future.
I wish to ask the question which, I would like to think, many of us are asking.
What are the principles that govern our ability to achieve this goal of creating a healthy and peaceful world for children?
“Is it merely the absence of its opposite, violence? I would like to submit that we must aim for a world in which nations can live harmoniously side-by-side, with equal opportunities and development available to all.” However, if we seriously want this kind of world, we must undertake some self-scrutiny and ask why international peace negotiations sometimes do not achieve lasting peace. When we deeply understand what peace is, our actions arise from a state of inner conviction. Once the shell of negativity, prejudice, judgement and competitiveness are bypassed, this inner conviction lies like a pearl at the centre of every human being. External peace is the result of an inner peace. Angry people cannot negotiate peace. People who feel hatred cannot negotiate peace. Greed, ignorance, and intolerance, all contribute to barring our pathway to peace.
If we really want to achieve a global peace that makes life on earth a valuable and rewarding experience, not only for us but also for our future generations, we must look closely at the virtues that bring out the highest qualities within us. I am talking about honesty, integrity, non-judgement, equality, compassion, empathy and kindness, just to mention a few. “A culture of peace requires a commitment to dialogue and to mutual knowledge and understanding between civilizations, religions, cultures and peoples.” If we are to achieve a culture of peace, each of us must nurture and build on the principles of diversity and dialogue. We should consciously address old prejudices and overcome historical mistrust and suspicions.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
The human mind has proved itself to be capable of achieving great things, of taking us into space, of enabling us to stand on the moon and gaze back at our own beautiful planet. And perhaps if we could have been in Neil Armstrong’s shoes and seen our planet set like a jewel in the crown of the universe, it would be easier for us to entertain higher thoughts such as respect, gratitude and love for humanity. “Every human being carries these highly-charged positive qualities, and they carry a power all of his own. In contrast, anger or hatred diminishes the individual and family, eroding life wherever they occur. Empowered individuals need not manipulate anyone and their perspectives become far-reaching, visionary and effective.
Our decisions are based upon our judgements, yet when we make a negative judgement about a person or a nation we imprison them in a cage of limited perceptions, thus weakening the whole process of decision-making and denigrating ourselves. Decisions based on such negative judgements cannot create the best outcomes for children. When instead we honour and empower each other, all cultures, all religions and all nations, we bring peace both to ourselves and to others. When we live in peaceful existence, we are making a lasting impact for our children.
I would like to point out that, it is our choices that carve out our destiny. A healthy society is created by self-empowered individuals making strong and self-responsible choices about how they want to live and express themselves. Every day we wake up and are challenged to stand up for what we believe in. Every day we are asked to be honest, upright and true, and not betray ourselves in our business dealings and decision-making. To stand firm to our personal truth requires integrity, honour and endurance.
In my view, we can never operate harmoniously without an awareness of the greater whole, for as Gandhi said, no culture can survive if it attempts to be exclusive. When we are prepared to make our lives serve the larger community and not just ourselves, our separate, individual mind expands to encompass the greater, global mind, thus giving us access to the power of the whole. When we make a commitment to serve the interests of others, we transcend that illusion and gain access to an almost unlimited power for good. We depend very much on each other. We are so interdependent, so closely interconnected with each other, that without a sense of universal responsibility, a feeling of universal brotherhood and sisterhood, and an understanding and belief that we really are part of one big human family, we cannot hope to overcome the dangers to our very existence – let alone bring about peace and happiness for our children.
“We find that everyone who has harnessed this power to effect positive change has done so out of compassion and love.” Gandhi maintained that love is the only remedy for hate and Thomas Merton said, ‘If you have love you will do all things well.’ Instead of craving political or military power, we must learn to crave the power of peace and service to the whole. This is not weak sentimentality. Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and many others described this power as an unconquerable and irresistible force that eventually transforms everyone it touches. And when we study their lives, we find that each of these people have stated that any one of us can achieve what they achieved, if we have the same faith, trust and commitment that they had.
Ladies and gentlemen;
Dare we, as individuals sitting here today, tear open our hearts on behalf of our children and reach out for the same strengths they reached out for? “They too, often felt imperfect or inadequate of their tasks. Yet they changed history by not allowing political, religious, tribal, racial and class differences to cloud and influence their thinking and decision-making. We can each in our own way, also make an enduring contribution to the world, by taking after their good example”
Ladies and gentlemen;
We must want this peace. We must sincerely desire this peace. The power of our humanity lies in understanding fully that peace cannot be delegated. Peace begins and ends with you and I, and the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis impact the future of our children.
As long as children are affected by conflicts, as long as preventable deaths among children still remain unacceptably high; children suffer from chronic malnutrition; a significant proportion of children are excluded from secondary school or are unable to complete their school; adolescents remain ill-equipped and inadequately prepared for employment; children continue to face violence and exploitation in their homes, at school, in their communities and across borders; – we cannot rest and our collective efforts need to be accelerated, scaled-up and expanded to address both the existing challenges and emerging problems that threaten peaceful and healthy existence for our children.
With these remarks, let us now reflect further and deeper on why we must create a peaceful and healthy environment for our children. Children must be at the centre of our quest to achieve peace on this earth. We must personally confront violence, bigotry and hatred with the same determination that we attack the causes from which they spring – conflict, ignorance, poverty and disease. This will enable us achieve the world we seek, where every child can grow to adulthood in health, peace and dignity – in short, achieving a world fit for children.
Peace is a gift from God; but men and women must first accept this gift in order to build a peaceful world. People can do this only if they have a childlike simplicity of heart. This is one of the most profound aspects of the Christian message: “to become child-like is more than just a moral requirement but a dimension of creating a condition of peace and tolerance.”
So we should not leave a gathering such as this without pausing for a moment and making a commitment to take at least one new action, every day, that will add to peace, either in our family life, our work place or in the greater world around us. We must reflect on the notions of unity, togetherness and wholeness, which are common to all our cultures and religions. We must focus on doing well for our fellow human beings. We must take care of our families, our environment, and our communities.
As we gather in our assembly, let us each resolve to promote peace, to prevent violent conflict and to raise public awareness on creating lasting solutions for lasting changes for the benefit of our children. Today is meant to get people not just thinking of peace, but also doing something about it for the lives of our children and children’s children. Let us pledge our direct support for a peaceful and healthy existence for our future generations. Let us reflect further and deeper on the need for developing alternative ideas and solutions for the future of our children. Let us all take a moment to celebrate peace, love and unity. We owe it to the children we bring to this world to create a healthy and peaceful earth that they can also pass to other generations to come.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before I conclude, let me talk a little bit about my country and share with you some of our experiences. Mozambique was forced to endure long periods of violence, first in her struggle against the Portuguese colonialism and in less then 9 months into Independence a war of destabilization imposed on us by the minority and Apartheid regimes that then existed in then Rhodesia and South Africa using Mozambicans as instruments.
The agreement that put an end to the war was signed in 4 October 1992, in Rome, between the Government of Mozambique and the then rebel movement RENAMO. The war, with its chain of destruction and deep suffering, is always a catastrophe for the affected country. Only those who suffer the horrors of a war can fully appreciate the value of peace. When talking about peace, I think we have to resist being too simplistic or trying to draw some kind of magic and infallible formulae. Instead we have to accept the challenge of apprehending and understanding all facets of this complex issue, including particular historic features, idiosyncrasies and other characteristics of entire peoples, communities, families and individuals.
These features and characteristics combine and interact, quite often in a subtle manner, to produce unique dynamics, which need to be taken into account when dealing with peace matters. In the case of my country, from the dark nights of colonialism and the war of destabilization, the most common long standing desire of the Mozambicans was to fight and defeat those evils, with the aim of winning peace and take the road of national development.
The concept of national development, here perceived as positively affecting every citizen, community and the all nation, has always been assumed as the goal to be reached. Indeed, all Mozambicans were aspiring to live a better life. Thus, colonialism and the so-called civil war were seen as obstacles to be overcome, in order to reach that individual and collective goal of living better lives. In this context, in the common effort of searching for peace in Mozambique, everybody was involved, from political, religious and community leaders at different levels, to academics and simple citizens, all united in preaching for peace.
Even today, when the Government of Mozambique and RENAMO are engaged in a difficult dialogue, the message from different quarters of our society is to encourage both parties to commit themselves to responsible and productive dialogue, avoiding to put the hard won peace in danger. We can say that today peace is gaining deeper roots as a cultural value in our society.
In the tortuous process of searching for peace those days, the Mozambicans received valuable contributions from different parts of the world, ranging from political entities, academics, religious and civic groups, including NGO’s and business. These contributions did encourage them to pursue a difficult, quite often, frustrating path for peace in the country. One of the most important contributions I will mention here came from the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who sent a team to introduce the practice of the Transcendental Meditation in Mozambique, in late 1992.
Although the peace agreement had already been signed between the Government of Mozambique and the then rebel movement RENAMO, in 4 October 1994, its successful implementation was a formidable challenge ahead, given a deep lack of trust and other negative feelings between the parties, in a process with so many uncertainties. To complicate the matters further, the peace process would culminate with elections, with the associated risks of reopening the wounds and scars of the recently terminated war.
The practice of the Transcendental Meditation by many groups, including the police and the armed forces, decreased the level of stress in the society during that sensitive period, thus creating an environment conducive for the tenure of peaceful elections and its aftermath.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
When I retired from the Government, I decided to create, in 2003, the Joaquim Chissano Foundation, as an instrument to help me to continue being active in the Mozambican society and beyond, through philanthropic work. The objectives of the Foundation are as follows:
- the promotion of peace, in Mozambique, the African Continent and the world at large;
- The promotion of economic and social development, as a way to strengthen peace. This deeper-rooted peace will, in turn, foster more economic and social development, in a virtuous cycle;
- The third objective of the Joaquim Chissano Foundation is the promotion of the Mozambican culture, which is essential social glue, uniting together all Mozambicans of the different ethnic, linguist, religious and racial groups who compose our society.
In the area of peace promotion, we have been involved in Guinea Bissau, assisting the political actors to create an environment conducive to peaceful elections in the year 2005, following the coup d’état that overthrown the Government of the late President Nino Vieira in 2003, as the culmination of a rebellion against him. In the Democratic Republic of Congo the challenge was similar to that of Guinea Bissau for their 2006 general elections: here too, it was necessary to persuade and lead all parties to agree on the basic conditions for the tenure of peaceful elections.
In the Northern Uganda the objective of our participation was to persuade the Lord Resistance Army to stop fighting and sign an agreement with the Government of Uganda. This objective was almost reached, but it collided with the decision of the International Criminal Court to indict the leadership of the rebel movement, in spite of their acceptance to sign a peace agreement and being judged by the national courts of Uganda. For this reason, the conflict, which could had been stopped back in 2007, still continues this day, which is very much to regret, to say the least. However our efforts succeeded in pushing the area of operations of the rebels to regions far from the borders of Uganda which enabled the Government to start a process of reconstruction and development in the north of the country. But killings still occur in the neighbouring countries such as the Central Africa Republic, DRC and South Sudan.
In 2009, I was invited by SADC to lead the mediation team for Madagascar, following the overthrow of the Government of President Marc Ravalomanana. After a long negotiating process, the Roadmap paving the way for a shared transition culminating with the holding of the presidential, legislative and local elections was signed in 2011. The presidential and legislative elections will take place this year in 25 October and 20 December respectively, while the municipal elections have been scheduled for the first semester of 2014.
In another peace initiative, in 2012 I was invited to lead a team of three former Heads of State and Government, from the SADC region, who are members of the Africa Forum for Former African Heads of State and Government that I chair, to mediate the border dispute between Malawi and Tanzania, in the Lake Nyasa/Malawi..
This dispute is an illustration that colonialism, although has come to the end some time ago now, its legacy is still there, haunting the peoples of Africa. Indeed, the agreement which originated this dispute was signed in 1890, between Britain and Germany (the called Heligoland Treaty). The mediation process has started, with the mediation team assisted by a group of seven legal and other experts, to advice in technical matters.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Joaquim Chissano Foundation takes a long term view on peace matters and sees education as a key factor in producing citizens embedded with values of peace and social justice and harmony. In this framework, the Foundation has established with a local university the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, whose objective is self-explanatory.
Another initiative is the annual participation of the Foundation in the Ukraine Festival for Children, which takes place in the city of Artek, with a delegation of around seven children. The Festival is aimed at the promotion of the ideals of peace and non-violent behaviour to the world’s youth.
For us this is an important event, for exposing our children, at an early age, to the values of peace and tolerance, in a multicultural environment. Through these children the mentioned values permeate their families and peers, in their schools, churches and neighbourhoods. In order to multiply the impact of this education, the Foundation is looking at ways and means to create an annual national festival, to be attended by children coming from all districts of the country.
In the environmental front, one of the challenges Mozambique is confronted with, is the degradation of the wildlife, due to poaching of rare species of animals, particularly of rhinos and elephants, for the extraction of their horns. Rare species of flora are also being decimated, through the cutting of logs, without replanting the trees.
Recently, the Joaquim Chissano Foundation has signed an agreement with the Government of Mozambique, which creates the conditions for its active participation in the national efforts to protect the areas of conservation, through the implementation of community development projects, aimed at reducing the vulnerability of those communities, particularly the youth, to recruitment for poaching. The second objective is the promotion of the security for those areas, being the third one the promotion of research and policy studies aimed at increasing their sustainable development.
In November, the Foundation is going to launch “The Joaquim Chissano Foundation Wildlife Initiative”, with the objective of raising the necessary resources for the implementation of this program.
At the regional level, I am a board member of the Peace Parks Foundation, based in South Africa, which was created in 1997 with the objective of facilitating the establishment of trans-frontier conservation parks (also known as “Peace Parks”) in the SADC region and develop the human resources in those areas.
In short, I can say that environmental protection is an important concern for our Foundation, but we need your support to successfully carry out the mission we have assigned to ourselves.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
By sharing some of the Mozambique’s experiences with you, I just wanted to illustrate the fact that our individual and collective actions, no matter how small they may be, they can make a difference for the many. Therefore, I believe that we all have an important part to play. We can build a better world for succeeding generations, if we only summon the will. You are all, in your own way, nurturing the culture of peace for the sake of our children and grandchildren. I appeal to each and every one of us to use some of the greatest gifts we as human beings have been given, those of compassion and kindness. Unlike the stock market, these commodities can only increase in value the more we spend them.
To the World Council of Elders, I say thank you once again for contributing to building the future for our children and generations to come. We appreciate your efforts for being the world’s ambassadors for peace.
I wish to leave this podium with a profound statement by Dr. Kofi Anan:
„There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace.“
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The greatest gift we can give to our children is to raise them in a culture of peace.