May 2023
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M. Bin Hassan: Leadership of Peace

According to the report by Jacques Delors, Chairman of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century, education is “learning to live together.” We learn to know, we learn to do, we learn to be, and we learn to live together.

Education plays a fundamental role in forming human and social value systems, fostering awareness of rights and responsibilities, and ensuring the ability to move with the times. Education represents a common ground enabling us to understand one another; deepen the philosophy of tolerance; and end the onslaught of extremism, intolerance, and violence. Intellectual and political reform are, therefore, linked to educational reform, whatever the conditions and challenges that have to be overcome in order to put an end to ignorance in its many forms.

It is a universal duty for us to teach our children in school that others who belong to other cultures are people just like them and have their own share of knowledge and culture. It is a universal duty for us to teach our children that the peoples of the world—whether in the East, West, North, or South—have their own cultural achievements that will go far in safeguarding the course of human civilization. It is a universal duty for us to teach our children that they should not be content to read only the books that are an expression of their own culture. We must teach them to read the other books as well, regardless of differences in creed, culture, or language. In the words of Thomas Carlyle, “in Books lies the soul of the whole Past Time … All that Mankind has done, thought, gained or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of Books. They are the chosen possession of men.”

The media and information and communication technologies are, in my view, the most suitable means with which to support the values of peace. The media can play an effective part in starting a dialogue. The press is a force that can transcend divisions every bit as much as it can reinforce them. In the words of Russian author Leo Tolstoy, the press is: “a clarion of peace, the voice of the nation, the trenchant sword of justice, the refuge of the oppressed, a bridle on the oppressor, which shakes the thrones of emperors and humbles the arrogant.”

Every day, reports reveal the increasing danger that the Internet may be used to spread crime and child trafficking and to promote terrorist acts. This is perhaps one of the main challenges of the day for humanity.

We must examine closely the causes of terrorism and shed light on its origins. The rise of fundamentalism of a terrorist nature, using religion as a cover—whether within the same country or across borders—is in my view the result of the failure of political systems to reinvigorate the principles of economic and social justice. This may be why the threat of political and religious extremism has emerged, together with ways of thinking that call for violence. The danger knows no borders, and it extends to different continents and countries. If we do not find effective ways to clamp down on it, it could spread further.

It follows that some of the most powerful antidotes are education, cultural and intellectual action, and the creation of a culture open to diverse ideas, democratic values, and humanitarian principles as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. UNESCO has worked to encourage dialogue between peoples. It feels the growing anxiety of the international community in the face of terrorist acts of every shape and form. It seeks to define mechanisms that can shape the ethics of dialogue and strengthen solidarity among countries and peoples. To that end, it aims to improve awareness of cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and religious diversity, so that the concept of culture can become a force for coexistence. And even though terrorist acts are completely unjustifiable, regardless of their motives, the international community needs a wide-ranging, comprehensive vision of development. This vision should be founded on promoting human rights, ensuring mutual respect, fostering the dialogue between cultures, and lessening the impact of poverty.

It is essential to involve teachers, journalists, artists, writers, spiritual leaders, and the relevant governmental and non-governmental organizations, and to depend on men and women alike. All must work together for peace. We must create a drive for honest self-knowledge among our youth and foster a spirit of respect for others. That process should extend to issues of women’s rights, women’s empowerment, and gender equality. Women and men should take part together in dialogue and building peace. Women have a vital part to play in spreading the culture of peace. For as Balzac put it: “The life of women is a succession of feelings, love, pain and self-sacrifice.”

I would like to end with a quotation from the Buddha: “All living beings, whether weak or strong, small or large, visible or invisible, have the right to seek happiness.” I wish you all constant happiness.