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Speeches

M.M. Khimulu: Address to World Summit 2014

Cultural Diplomacy as a Tool for Fostering Peace, Security and Human Development
Address to World Summit 2014, Seoul, Korea, August 9-13, 2014


This paper defines cultural diplomacy from the lenses of the diverse religious practices and beliefs, the strengths that bind the people of faith together and the unity of purpose in the existing differences. There is need for an enabling environment for achieving peace and security which mankind, collectively must strive to develop and preserve for human development to prevail. God may have many names but He is one and it does not matter which religion one practices. Peace among religions is a precondition for world peace. Although people of faith are different in many ways, including   in the religions they practice and believe in, they must always remember that all mankind belong to one human race. The writer emphasizes that people who have faith in a religion have an inner and outer peace, giving them the ability to have a free mind to love, respect and accept other people. True religious human beings or families will strive to maintain peace and security, which results in facilitating human development.

I am indeed honored and I do feel extremely privileged to once again be given this rare opportunity by the Universal Peace Federation to present a paper to such a distinguished group of people. I would also like to remember the great work done for World Peace by the late Dr. Moon and pray for his soul to rest in eternal peace. He left us two years ago and it is impressive that his wife, Mrs. Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, has continued with the activities of the organization. Thank you, Dr. Moon, for inviting us here to participate at this World Summit. Thank you to you, your family and the members of UPF.

Taking a cue from the Summit theme, Peace, Security and Human Development, as an African I must add that in celebrating African unity last year under the banner of “Africa at 50,” Africa Member States should pause and reflect upon their collective unity of purpose, their aspirations at independence and their relationships with the rest of the world, taking cognizance of their different nations’ forefathers’ visions for an independent Africa versus what Africa has achieved today and what could be achieved tomorrow. There is still a need for maintaining peace and security in Africa as well as in the rest of the world, so as to achieve human development. Today we are here to review the role we all can play to achieve this peace and security, taking cognizance that we have come from different religious backgrounds.

I would also like to acknowledge the immense efforts that the organizers put into organizing a similar successful Summit last year. The theme of this year, Peace, Security and Human Development, is unique in its very nature, its deliberations, outcomes and its ultimate impact towards contributing lasting solutions for peace, human security and development. That we have gathered here from different corners of the world is in itself an exemplary manifestation of cultural diplomacy at play through the exchange of ideas and our distinct experiences in trying to achieve the aim of this Summit.

I chose, as a former Kenya Ambassador to UNESCO, to speak on cultural diplomacy through the mirror of cultural religious beliefs. You all might not be aware that by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 52/15 of 20 November 1997, the year 2000 was proclaimed as the International Year for the Culture of Peace and the decade 2001-2010, International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World. UNESCO was designated as lead agency for this Decade. This is an important area of interest for the organization since, when UNESCO was founded in the aftermath of the Second World War, the overriding objective was to lay the foundations for lasting peace. The Preamble of UNESCO’s Constitution therefore starts with the recognition“That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

So what does cultural diplomacy in the context of fostering peace, security and human development really mean to you and me? When I checked on the Internet to see what cultural diplomacy means, it said,

“…a type of public diplomacy and soft power that includes the exchange of ideas, information, art and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples in order to foster mutual understanding.”

This may seem an intimidating discourse; however, typically put, generations of mankind have embraced diverse sets of values that have over the years continued to shape their religious, social, political and economic ways of life. This is defined as “culture.” Through the interplay between man’s relationships, the environment and time, man has been forced to adapt to new ways of living in order to support his very existence. I suppose at this juncture, it is safe to say that cultural diplomacy has therefore, knowingly or otherwise, been at play and been practiced from time immemorial, evolving with time and exposure through the interplay of mankind and his environment. We must therefore harness our strength as people of faith to become the global economic powerhouse and the global economic pacesetter through ensuring that there is peace and security in this world. This is surely not asking too much of, or dreaming too much by, any one person, is it?

It is my humble submission that for “global people of faith” to realize and exceed our unimaginable capacity for human development and for us to foster an enabling environment for human peace and security, we must collectively strive to develop and jealously preserve the belief that God may have many names but He is one and it does not matter which religion we practice. Peace among religions is a precondition for world peace. Although we may be different in many ways and even in the religions we practice, we must remember that we all belong to one human race.

There is no shortcut and there will not be any in a very long time to come in this journey towards achieving interfaith commitment. It is also not difficult to see the various, different initiatives that religious groups/ organizations/institutions have put in place in partnership with the private sector, our development partners and the various international organizations to promote peace and security for human development. The various efforts inter-religious groups have put in place to promote harmony between humanity, and particularly harmony between the various religions, is admirable as these are efforts toward achieving peace and security. These are just but a few examples of cultural diplomacy at its best.

Human beings and families have created a global village through creation of easy movement from one place to another, from one continent to another. This has opened up, as witnessed, a complete paradigm shift in the masses’ everyday way of life. At times I look back at where we have come from and marvel at the many graces bestowed upon us by the Almighty. So then I pose another question to you: with such abundance of graces bestowed upon us, how can we better incorporate interfaith in the world to bring about peace, unity, understanding, tolerance and love, enabling communities to live in harmony? We all have a role to play in achieving this goal.

The answers lie in our very own culture, and probably most perturbing, in our lack of cultural integration to foster an environment that will increasingly enable all to live together in peace. You may be aware of what is happening in both Kenya and Nigeria—killing in the name of religion. The truth is, becoming violent is not a religious tradition. No religion causes terrorism acts. The President of Kenya, H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta, had this to say on 12 July, 2014 when he hosted Muslims for an Iftar dinner at Kakamega State Lodge, in Kenya. True cultural diplomacy was portrayed here. The President said:

Nobody will be allowed to misuse religion to harm others. The government will not tolerate individuals misusing religion to propagate an evil agenda. The people who murder and maim others in the name of religion are criminals who should be dealt with firmly according to
the law. In dealing with terror activities the government is not in any way targeting Muslims.

The President emphasized that he will not abdicate his responsibility of ensuring stability which is key to development:

The government will work for all Kenyans irrespective of their creed, tribal, or political affiliation. Terrorists are criminals and we have to treat them as such. We will show no mercy to those hiding under religion to cause havoc in the country. No true religion sanctions the killing of innocent people.

He urged the Muslim community in the country to help the government by identifying criminals who misuse religion to harm other Kenyans. He emphasized that the government alone cannot be able to secure peace without the support of its citizens. “You can help by identifying criminals who misuse Islam. When you identify them, then we, as the government, will know how to deal with them.” The President said his Jubilee Government has taken care of the interests of all Kenyans by ensuring that no community is marginalized in development.

The President was supported by the majority leader in Parliament, Hon. Adan Duale, who is a Muslim himself, in calling on Muslim scholars to defend the true faith of Islam, saying the religion does not condone shedding of innocent blood. I send a similar call to you all gathered here today.

To promote the act of unifying the people and bringing peace among the community, allow me to highlight one such noble and selfless gesture that truly inspired a nation and a continent to rally together as one. This gesture not only broke the political, racial, religious and economic barriers, but it also went a long way toward enhancing the healing of a nation striving to put her dark past behind her. The impact of this gesture and the founding legacy will forever live on, yesterday, today and tomorrow, not just in Africa but across the whole world.

In 1995, the rugby World Cup was held in South Africa. The rainbow nation had just broken away from the cruel pangs of apartheid and held an historic election ushering in a democratic government that represented the majority. Not only did President Nelson Mandela grace the finals, but he also wore the national team, the Springboks Rugby, shirt and cap. Mind you, rugby was not favorably viewed among the nation’s masses. After the match, in what became a global iconic moment, President Mandela, donning the Springbok Rugby shirt and cap, presented the William Webb Ellis Cup to the South African captain. This momentous yet kind gesture by one man shaped the journey towards reconciliation and galvanized a nation towards shaping her future. Who would have imagined the power of sports in transforming socio-political stability? This selfless act by President Mandela exemplifies how each one of us today can play a unique role in his/her own way, in making the world a better place to live in than we found it. It is most worthy to note that in Africa sports across many disciplines have played a big role in cultural diplomacy—in Africa and beyond—leading to peace and sustainable development. Let us use sports too, for peace and security.

Last year (2013), UNESCO organized the first-ever congress specifically focusing on the links between culture and sustainable development held in Hangzhou, China. It is indeed humbling to note that the theme of that congress tackled the role of culture in sustainable development through human development in view of the post-2015 development framework. I submit that cultural diplomacy, if used by us, the religious people of faith, will extend beyond the imagined boundaries. This is possible as people who have faith in a religion have inner and outer peace and play great cultural diplomacy roles.

I also note that through various regional and international organizations, people of faith have come together to mutually subscribe to the ideals that foster greater cooperation and values. International organizations like the commonwealth highlight the important role of our strengths in cultural diversity for prosperity and mutual development. While at UNESCO as Kenya’s Ambassador, my staff and I organized a “Kenya Week” with the theme of embracing and sharing the diversity of our country in products, music, art, dance and history. Many other Ambassadors held similar special weeks at UNESCO. We did so in appreciation of our unity and cultural differences and knowing we share a better future learning from each other. I can only imagine how useful these forums would have been if they were used also to promote interfaith acceptance. At UNESCO I participated in UPF programs. I personally left UNESCO last year with valuable lessons which I share with you today and will continue to do so with many others out there.

Evil practices of religion have been responsible for killings, violence, destruction, often scaring worshipers from attending their prayers; plus they lead to public disorder and deprivation and the worst forms of poverty. Insecurity continues to pose the greatest challenge to the   human development agenda. Peace, security and development are after all intimately interconnected. The greatest challenge today is to make all religions and spiritual paths originate and lead to the same place (this is a quote on what interfaith is from the internet).

Cultural diplomacy is the glue that binds all the unique and diverse religious beliefs together. Allow me to end by referring to my continent of Africa. The political stability in Africa is a turning point in our human development agenda and it is therefore gratifying to see regionalism play an important role in fostering unity and growth. We are all aware of the tragic cross-border effects of fragile states, and the lack of consensus and tolerance in society. It is a tragedy beyond human belief that the conflicts in the Central African Republic, Southern Sudan or the Katanga region of the DRC, Nigeria and Kenya can rise to their current levels in this day and age. Nigeria and Kenya are in the midst of religious killings and mass destruction. I salute the AU and the various regional bodies like Eastern Africa community, IGAD and ECOWAS for putting their foot down and saying enough is enough to these conflicts. We cannot hope to achieve our development goals, yet watch our productive and innovative resources butchered with impunity. We all should say: No! No! No! Let us here join this resounding “No” chorus to the evil in this world.

I humbly submit to you here today, that if we faithfully embraced the good of our culture, we would uphold fidelity to good governance, the rule of law, peace, justice, equality and religious tolerance. These are the basic covenants within which will germinate an enabling environment to realize sustainable religious and political stability and meaningful human development. If we are to realize the grand reality of a confederation of religions, we must begin to sow the seeds of trust, respect, love, fidelity to the rule of law, justice and embrace the universal codes of human rights wholeheartedly. The myth of the dictatorship of superior religions will not hold its reign; it will have no place at the table among peers who are harvesting from the seeds of love and prosperity. Tolerance of each other’s religious beliefs is nourished in collective responsibility, respect for our social dynamics and authority, looking out for each other, and sharing the ideals that are dear to us. Building on these paradigms, I believe that we can realize a better society across the globe.

Unless we walk out of this Summit with determined minds to contribute in our own unique way like President Mandela at the 1995 Rugby World Cup finals and like what UPF is doing by taking leadership in organizing these Summits to discuss peace and security in this world, we will remain prisoners of our own destiny. Cultural diplomacy remains the bridge towards our growth and we must embrace these ideals both from within and outside our religious stands.

 I thank you all very much for your attention and I wish you all God’s blessings. Thank you and “Kwaherini.” (Kiswahili word for goodbye)

References:

  1. Kenya Delegation to UNESCO, Annual Report, June 2012-July 2013.
  2. Wikipedia, Definition of “Cultural Diplomacy.”
  3. Dlamini Zuma, 22nd African Union Summit, Opening Address, 2014.
  4. http://en.unesco.org/themes/culture-sustainable-development.
  5. http://www.unesco.org/new/en/culture/themes/culture-and-development/hangzhou-congress
  6. UNESCO website.
  7. http//www.dgawalik.com/interfaith.php.
  8. http//www.religioustolerance.org/peace.htm.
  9. Article on "Race, Faith and World Peace" by Vijay Mehta, Dec. 2013.

For more information about the World Summit, click here.