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G. Rajan: The Language of Peace

Address to UPF's World Summit on Peace
May 28-June 2, 2009, Seoul, Korea

It is a great honour and privilege for me to share some thoughts with you on a subject which is dear to me, indeed dear to every Indian.

The UPF call of “One Family Under God” resonates with an ancient Indian philosophical assertion of Vasudaiva Kutumbakam — a Sanskrit phrase dating back to more than 5000 years which means that the whole world is one single family (vasudha means the earth; eva means emphasizer; and kutumbakam is family).

This was a concept put forward by our sages long before it became fashionable for the world to be described as a global village, long before nations and peoples imagined that they would be as interdependent as they are today. The same Sanskrit texts urged all human beings to “live together, to listen to one another, care for one another.” Ancient India had already evolved a world view based on the motto “Loka Samasta sukhina bhavantu”---“let the world be happy.”

This belief in the world as one family is the underlying belief which has enabled India to receive with open arms all faiths and religions, including those fleeing persecution through the centuries, whether they were Jews, Parsis, Muslims, or Christians. It cements the diverse religions, castes, and languages of the 1.2 billion people of India into one secular, tolerant, democratic nation today.

And at the root of this vision is the respect for the family — husband, wife and their children — as an irreplaceable unit in a peaceful social order, a pillar of the society, community, nation and world.

You have probably heard of the tradition of a joint family in India, where several generations live together. This tradition took root not only because it made sound economic sense for children, their parents, and grandparents to stay together but because the family is a cradle of life and love, a divine institution which teaches peace, tolerance, compassion, respect for elders, loving concern for the weak or the sick, and protection for the vulnerable for every member almost from the moment he or she is born. The family is the child’s first school, temple, and playground. It is here that his character will begin to be formed and his capacity for self control, his willingness to share, serve and sacrifice forged. Here he gains his sense of values and his ability to discriminate between right and wrong, means and ends. His sense of pride, humility, his tendency towards stubbornness or defiance, his understanding of spirituality and rejection or otherwise of violence in resolving differences with others.

In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “the language of the family is the language of peace.” The community as a whole draws inspiration from the same values, as does the nation and indeed and the international community. And just as an ideal family depends on the cooperation and consent of its members for its survival and success, so also does the greater human family, whose home is this earth, depend on the cooperation, understanding and consent of its members---all of us, dear brothers and sisters---for its survival and existence as a peaceful and progressive world. We are above all a community of brothers and sisters of a great family, acknowledging God as the source of our existence---much more than we are black, white or brown, Hindu, Muslim or Christian or Buddhist or Jew, Indian or Pakistani or Israeli or Palestinian or North and South Korean.

And in today’s world, where human security is as much a concern as military security, let us recognize that only by conducting ourselves as members of one family can we tackle problems of environmental degradation or climate change, of energy security, of poverty and malnutrition, of insurgencies and indeed terrorism. We need to inculcate the same spirit of solidarity and sensitivity that we would display in our ideal family to our kin, to our common home, mother earth; to the underprivileged, hungry and weak; to people of other faiths and religions. Governments and leaders must understand that development has no meaning unless the strength of the family as a core institution is protected and promoted, by ensuring food and shelter, employment, education and health for young and old, and by applying “happiness” as the yardstick to measure development, and “service” rather than exercise of power as the currency of leadership. Nations too need to remind themselves of the common family norm when they interact with other countries, big or small, weak or powerful, in resolving trade or boundary disputes or when their arrogant conduct weakens the capacity of the United Nations for work towards a more peaceful world order.

The magnificent vision of Father Moon can and must be realized. It is for us to leave this Conference and work with our fellow Ambassadors for Peace, our communities and governments, and work with each other on the basis of the friendships we have made here, to achieve the ideal of One Family Under God, a world at last a peace with itself, Vasudaiva Kutumbakam.