A man of Integrity and Honor; Jose Ramos-Horta Nobel Prizewinner speaks at CMU.

 Chiangmai Mail - Saturday, February 07, 2004

Though we are a little out of the way and it does indeed seem sometimes that we are far from the focus of things, there is the occasional ray of light that brings it all into focus once again. I am referring to the excellent lecture series going on at Chiang Mai University, entitled "Bridges; Dialogues towards a Culture of Peace" and put on by the International Peace Foundation, from Austria.

19 different events are being played out over the course of 6 months, from November last year to this April. What began with lectures by such notables as Jesse Jackson, suns through a clutch of Nobel Laureates, a dance performance and ends with a recital by operatic Diva Jessye Norman can't be all bad. Most of this glory is being played out on the stages of Krung Thep Maha Nakorn; however, Chiang Mai University plays host to seven of these, and we are the most grateful beneficiaries.

He spoke about his country's long struggle for independence and said that even now, East Timor "would not be free if not for the effort of many people around the world, including the King of Thailand." He told us that what finally worked was multi-lateralism, long and persistent negotiations, and pressure from many people around the world. "The one power in the world is civil society," that "makes us a world village."

He spoke about extremism in all its forms and called it "the plague of the world today." However, he did not believe that it "had its origins in poverty." If so, he noted then "two thirds of sub-Sahara Africa would be terrorists," or come from the "slums of Bangkok." He described a tribe in the Western Sahara, "living in tents for the last 25 years, poorer than the Palestinians. They do not say bad things about others. They have the same problems." Rather he noted that extremism has its origin in "Brainwashing from childhood, in texts and classroom, that distort history, creating generations of people prepared to kill."

Some of the worst crimes of humanity have been perpetrated by Christianity he noted. "Europeans invented modern slavery," and "imported it to Africa." He talked about the "moral bankruptcy of the West", how "Globalization is really a big casino. The biggest problems facing the world today are poverty, water, HIV, and terrorism."

What was important for the world was to "strengthen the UN. The body that was created in 1945 cannot be the same as today. The solution to many of the inequalities today is the US and rich countries (should) show more compassion and humanity."

Chiangmai Mail