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Speeches

I. Odinga: The Beauty of Diversity

Address to the World Summit on Peace
New York, USA January 30, 2009


It is always my pleasure to congregate with Rev. Moon, whose religious and ecumenical work continues to inspire millions of people across the world. This 90th birthday anniversary of Dr. Moon reminds us of the tremendous contributions he has made to the cause of global peace as well as of real challenges we still have to surmount to realize a safe, peaceful world in our generation.

We are privileged that Rev. Moon’s immense energies are directed purposefully for the search of peace and prosperity for the world’s poor. In Asia and Africa, where more than two-thirds of the world’s poor live, he has been instrumental in anti-poverty and peace initiatives that complement national programs. We in Kenya just recently attested to the influence of Rev. Moon’s work.

Last August, at a time when the world was still confused by the terrible violence that had swept our country early in the year, leaving more than 1,000 dead, the Moon ministry was among our key international supporters.

A major prayer conference took place in Nairobi whose deliberations were central to the reconciliation process underway in Kenya. My husband, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, opened the conference. The conference marshalled the power of religion to promote human understanding. There were Kenyans and other nationals from various denominations of the Christian faith and even a few non-Christian believers. But all were unified by their unyielding hope in man’s capacity for forgiveness and the common destiny of Kenyans.

We also know the effort Rev. Dr. Moon has put into helping to alleviate the suffering of people in other parts of the world. Through his Church and other activities, he has been at the forefront of initiatives that aim to resolve conflicts. Marshalling the power of faith within religious groups and harmony across religions will be crucial to realizing peace that has eluded us for centuries.

Harmony is increasingly becoming scarce in the world, and it is a worrying trend. In my part of the world, the Eastern Africa and the Great Lakes Region, harmony has become very, very scarce indeed.

In neighboring Somalia, chaos has taken over as the country totters towards collapse. In Uganda, the Lord’s Resistance Army has refused to let go and is engaged in a deadly war with the government forces. It has claimed thousands of innocent lives.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, war rages between ethnic groups and the government is caught in between. Rwanda and Burundi are not entirely out of the woods yet. And my own country, Kenya, we still have thousands of people living as refugees in camps for internally displaced persons following last year’s election violence.

In Zimbabwe, thousands are starving and many are dying of preventable diseases, especially cholera, because the political and governance systems are breaking down as a result of a political stand-off. The victims are helpless ordinary men, women, and children.

In all these, the factor that cuts across is failure by nations, leaders, and citizens to appreciate and accept diversity as a necessity, not an evil.

Across Africa and other parts of the world, nations are at war because citizens and leaders have failed to accept diversity either in leadership or in the ethnic compositions of their nations.

In politics, citizens just want their tribesmen and women in leadership. Leaders just want to hang onto power or to hand it over either to family members or those who share similar views. It has only led to chaos.

Yet, if we embraced the teachings of Rev. Dr. Moon, which appear to be lessons from common sense, the world would surely be a great place to be in. Before we are a member of one nation or tribe or political faction, we are first and foremost children of God. That is what Dr. Moon’s teachings tell us. It is also what commonsense dictates because membership in the human family makes us brothers and sisters.

Therefore, our survival, prosperity, and peaceful coexistence demand that we not forget this. Discrimination of all forms is not part of nature. It is not part of God’s plan for mankind and His entire creation.

Just look at our game parks. No American or Korean or tourist from any country would go to the famous Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya more than once if all there is in the park is one type of animal. Nobody would hire a van to tour the entire park if all there is in the park are lions.

We tour the parks because we know that in this corner we will see the lion, the king of the jungle. We move on to another part hoping to meet the rabbit, the rhino, the antelope, and then the buffalo. We stare ahead knowing that somewhere in the park stands the giraffe. We stay in parks because of the variety.

We love our gardens more when they have a variety of flowers. We want to see the roses blossoming, but we are also happy to see that the rose is letting other plants flower in the garden.

We enjoy our world better when we accept that the Christian, the Hindu, the Muslim, the Jew, and the unbelieving are part of this planet.

In my part of Africa and in my country, Kenya, we stand to have a happier nation when we accept that the Luo, the Kikuyu, the Kalenjin, the Hutu, the Tutsi, the Acholi, and the Baganda exist in one territory not by mistake but as part of our Great God’s Grand Plan to make the world a diverse place to live in. In that diversity lies the beauty that God intended the earth to manifest.

That respect for diversity and embrace of one another is at the center of Rev. Dr. Moon’s teachings.

It is the lesson Americans embraced when they embarked on the extraordinary and unlikely political transition that took place right here with the inauguration of US President Barack Obama. That acceptance of diversity has emboldened the global march towards nondiscrimination and prosperity.