Peace or Not Peace... Whose choice is it?

Guide of Bangkok - Monday, December 01, 2003

Thailand has been chosen by the 'International Peace Foundation', under the patronage of 21 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, to host a series of events promoting peace from November 2003 until April 2005, entitled 'Bridges - Dialogues towards a Culture of Peace'. These are a contribution to the 'Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence' initiated and promoted by the United Nations' General Assembly.

This series of events was inaugurated with lectures given by HSH Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein and the Reverend Jesse Jackson with the intention of raising our collective consciousness to shift from a culture of war to a culture of peace.

The main obstruction to peace seems to be man's desire for money and power, fuelled by greed and consumerism. If such is the case, then the solution for peace needs to come from the heart of every individual. Policies and education should serve the idea of peace, yet, if we look at the very language used in the education process, we are taught from a very young age to 'compete', 'crush' and 'take-over' our neighbor.

Peace or not peace begins at home, at the office, or anywhere we are. It is rooted in every decision we make every moment of our lives. Simple acts of daily respect and courtesy, to our family, colleagues, or the environment, can initiate a change in our collective mindset. But, it will not be easy, as decades lacking civic education and thoughtfulness have eroded some very basic human traits, especially love and compassion.

Peace is like the color of the desert. If you desire the color of the desert to change, first the color of each grain of sand must change.

Introspection is the best place to start! So, this Christmas Season, if we truly believe in the age-old phrase "Peace on Earth - Goodwill Towards Men", then take a good look inside (looking yourself in the eyes in the mirror is a good way to start), and ask yourself; "What do I really want in this world?"

HSH Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein
Chairman - International Advisory Board, 'Bridges - Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace'

"A culture of peace is a society, a civilization which is organized with the main purpose of promoting the realization of every human being. So, the self-realization of every human being is up to the choice of every human being. Peace has an inner dimension and an outer dimension. So, basically, if you don't find peace in your heart, or mind, then it is very unlikely that you will interact with other human beings, or with nature, with your environment, in a peaceful manner. But, on the other hand, we also have to say that there's an outer dimension of peace. These are the structural conditions that are necessary to treat human beings like human beings and not animals, giving them the opportunity to live their lives in dignity and express themselves, fulfilling their basic needs. This structural dimension of peace is something that we have to collaborate on and concentrate our efforts on to create a world which gets rid of poverty."

Reverend Jesse Jackson

"The world is a rainbow of people. The real world today is black, yellow, young, female, non-Christian, and doesn't speak English. We must learn to live together, if, as moral human beings, we want to end violence in the world. Unilateralism is a dead end. Multilateralism is a necessity, with development not destruction as a key objective. All nations must play by one set of rules. Last February 15, 2003 one of the largest antiwar rallies in history took place. On that day, a new global peace movement was born. It is our job to keep that spirit alive in the months and years to come. Peace requires a tough mind and tender heart. Peace is more difficult than war. You have to think, you have to build, rather than destroy. Peace is practical. Peace attracts investment. Peace requires the capacity to reconcile opposites and find common ground or create synthesis. Peace increases productivity. Peace extends life, love and family. It's worth the journey."

Uwe Morawetz
Chairman of the Board of Directors - International Peace Foundation

"The Thai nation and its people with their self-confidence, open-mindedness and tolerance provide a creative pathway towards peace which could serve as an inspiring role model for the prevention, mediation and solution of conflicts. Under the wisdom and spiritual leadership of his Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej as the shining example for inner and outer peace, a democratic Thailand has the ability to promote peace and the potential to stabilize the region. It has a rich diversified network of national and international organizations including business, diplomatic corps, media and NGOs which provide the foundation for an enhanced intercultural dialogue. Dialogue, a culture of peace and non-violence are deeply rooted in Thai society, not only as concepts, but as common practice in the form of, and the process towards, the Middle Way. Based on its knowledge and wisdom, Thailand could become an international platform from which the spiral of violence and racism which dominates the world of today could turn into a deeper understanding towards aspects of peace and pluralism which have been neglected for far too long."

Prof. Paul J. Crutzen
Nobel Laureate for Chemistry

"One of the great worries is what we see happening in the Middle East, in Iraq, and terrorism is rising. And you can't say that all of this is the fault of the Muslims. It's our fault all together. There would not be this wave of terrorism if we would not have, in the West, contributed to it. The laws of cause and effect in some ways. We have to learn to understand each other, the Muslim world and the Christian/ Jewish world. The atheists also. We also have to split up world natural resources wisely for mankind. We have a large 'poor' world on one side, and the 'rich' world on the other side. In some ways, it's a war between the poor and the rich. We need to have respect for each other. People should learn to be more human. All people are equal, that's what all religions say."

Prof. Surichai Wun'Gaeo
Director - Center for Social Development Studies,
Chulalongkorn University

"The first thing everyone should start doing, is to look inside oneself. To be attentive to the sufferings of others. The world is becoming more complex, and if we start by demanding an understanding of the complexity, it may be too much. We should start by doing something positively and also joining with others, moving forward together. The main logic of the world is greed and power. I think it is based on very individualistic interests, without compassion for other beings. The only way is to be aware, to be compassionate for other beings as well. We need to act and do something, even on a small scale. We get empowered and we see people doing good things, beyond their own interests. The crazy thing is, these days we have witnessed the capacity to do evil things, in human beings, more than the capacity to do good things. War, violence, too much. We need to create environments where more people can feel more positive things. We need to really put in our efforts. I don't think it can be a zero sum game. But the dynamics of the positive side is a big stake for the future."

Prof. Jerome Karle
Nobel Laureate for Chemistry

"We have to be very careful about the way that children, young people, are trained. You have to teach young people to get satisfaction from doing good things, from doing the right things. You have to teach them to be respectful, for the dignity of people. Today, the school system, and the parents, and television are all pointing in the wrong direction. I find that television, at least in my country, needs an awful lot of improvement. The standards of behaviour that it encourages are just exactly the opposite of what you need to have a decent and respectful world. It's not easy because the business world controls these things. And one of the observations that one can make is throughout the world there are too many people for whom money and power are the only goal. They will do anything that it takes to achieve money and power. We have to object to the behaviour of people who seem not to want peace. How do you teach them and convince them that there are other better things in this world? It really is a difficult question. Maybe good people, and good governments in the world need to get together to interfere with the business that goes on in countries that don't seem to be behaving themselves. A powerful United Nations is what we need. Also, people who are scientists and medical people who are very concerned about the state of affairs on this earth, they should speak up and try to do things! But, these are not the people in charge. That's the problem, if you think that this world is worth saving, you have to try!"