Nobel Laureates coming to Malaysia

Forward, September, 2008

Having grown up during the cold war and behind the Berlin all, poet Uwe (pronounced “oohweh”) Morawetz realized the need for people of all professions to talk to each other to achieve peace.

“A scientist speaks one language, a doctor another and politicians speak their own language,” says Uwe. He is not referring to language perse, but more on the art of communicating effectively.

He says that in order to attain true peace in the world, people need to “speak” to each other and hold dialogues. With that goal in mind, he started the International Peace Foundation (IPF), now the facilitator for “Bridges — Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace”.

The Austrian-based foundation is led by Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein as chairman of its International Board of Advisors. In Malaysia, the Regent of Perak, Raja Nazrin Shah is the honorary chairman, while former deputy Prime Minister Tun Musa Hitam is the chairman, for the Bridges dialogue.

IPF is a politically and religiously independent organisation. Through the Bridges dialogues, mainly by Nobel Laureates, IPF facilitates an independent platform where “experts” of science, politics, economics, culture, religion, media and the youth can meet, share their viewpoints and find mutual ways of fostering cooperation. Among the names that have been part of Bridges are Oscar Arias, Dalai Lama, Henry Kissinger, Frederik Willem Dc Klerk and John Nash.

Celebrities Woody Allen, Elton John, Sophia Loren, Paul McCartney, Beastie Boys, Pink Floyd and Queen have also joined to support the foundation's humanitarian efforts, like the reconstruction and reconciliation programs between conflicting groups in Serbia, Montenegro and Albania after the war in Kosovo, the construction of schools and hospitals in Thailand, and the provision of education for street children and victims of the Andaman Tsunami tragedy.

“To have peace, you have to have dialogue, and before you can hold a dialogue, you need respect.”

The Philippines and Thailand were selected as host countries from November 2007 to April 2008, with Nobel Laureates from all fields flying in to conduct public workshops and lectures in the fields of politics, economics, science and culture.

Malaysia is chosen as the next in line and the programme will start off with the only Muslim woman Nobel Laureate Dr Shirin Ebadi in November.

Through the Nobel Laureates, the event aims to build ties with local universities in the region to establish long-term relationships, which may result in common research programmes and other forms of collaboration.

Uwe hopes that the visit to Malaysia will enhance cooperation between a Muslim country and Nobel Laureates from all over the world.

“Most of them have never set foot in this country and it will be an eye opener on Islam as well for them,” says Uwe.

Uwe recalls that it was his opportunity to meet Dalai Lama that opened the doors for him to the other Nobel Laureates.

“I am not a Budhhist. I was born a Christian and I believe that all religions preach peace and love,” says Uwe.

As Nobel Laureates excel in their own fields, they are the best ambassadors of peace, says Uwe.
Uwe hopes that the talk is just the beginning and that the Nobel Laureates would be able to continue a lasting and fruitful relationship with the countries.

“We only play the role of facilitator and work hand in hand with various institutions in the host countries. It is up to the hosts to continue the relationship.”

More like a matchmaker, hoping the marriage works out.

Education has been chosen to be the theme for Malaysian Bridges talks after much research and discussions on concerns of Malaysia and Malaysians.

The dialogues are open to the public and are free of charge. It will begin in November and end in April next year. After that, it will move on to Cambodia.