Inter-Cultural & Inter-Religious Forum
Celebration of the International Day of Non-Violence
3 October 2011
When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall - think of it, always. What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for." Mahatma Gandhi
The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1927
Salle: Mahatma Gandhi, Maison des Associations, 15 Rue des Savoises -
( Tram: 13, 15 Stop Plainpalais - Parking Plainpalais )
18 :00- 18h30 Film projection
18 :30-20 :00 Public conference
H.E. Mr. Mukhtar B. Tileuberdi, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the
Ven Abbot Geshe Thupten Legmen, Monastic Tibet Institute Rikon
Ms. Clare Amos, Programme Executive, Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation, World Council of Churches, Representative of Secretary General. Olav Tveit, Director
Chairman: Dr. Charles Graves, Secretary General, Interfaith International
Refreshments will be served after the conference
The meeting commenced with showing a film on the life of Mahatma Gandhi, followed by an introduction to the evening by Mr. Biro Diawara, secretary general of FICIR (Forum Intercultural Interreligious).
Dr. Charles Graves, President of FICIR, presented the speakers and gave some opening remarks as follows: the meeting room is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi and our topic relates to promoting non-violence in the contemporary world. What are the main types of violence today? Physical, including terrorism, family violence, torture, oppression; mental including propaganda, brainwashing; structural violence such as racism and discrimination in society. The theme today is the promotion of non-violence and how to achieve structural change in a non-violent way as Gandhi and Nelson Mandela did.
Included in our non-violent approach are ecumenism and interfaith action. These are needed to create united front's across ethnic, cultural and religious borders. The spiritual force behind such common action is the oneness of God and oneness of mankind. In combating violence the necessity of compensation for violence must not be forgotten e.g. compensation for the violence within the Atlantic Slave Trade. How do we overcome the sequels of violent acts such as pedophile, family violence, state oppression and torture? If we can overcome the sequels and learn to act in a non-violent way, we can see better how to overcome violence. If we cannot see this necessity we simply perpetuate the violence. Thus there is a continuum between the real (the violence) and the ideal (non-violence).
The ambassador of Kazahstan to the United Nations in Geneva, H.E. Mr. Mukhtar B. Tileuberdi , spoke about non-violence as related to Kazakhstan, noting that his country had a multitude of different ethnic groups, cultures and religions. At large interfaith meetings held in Astana, the capitol of his country, leading religions have been represented and have promoted interfaith dialogue and cooperation. His country is a leader in promoting relations between Muslim countries and the West. It has been a leader in supporting the project the Alliance of Civilizations and in 2010 supported the United Nations programme for Rapprochement of Cultures. In 2011 Kazakhstan was president of the Organization of European Cooperation and Security (OECS) and the Organization of Islamic Communities (OIC).
The Venerable Abbot of the Buddhist Monastery at Rikon (Switzerland) Geshe Thupten Legmen, spoke on the problematic of how to achieve a non-violent approach, especially as Buddhism teaches it. The main difficulty is our anger and its origin in attachment (Buddhist term relating to our link with daily life and its suffering). Anger appears in family life and in politics. And we tend to point the finger at others for our problems, needing an enemy.
In the search for expressing love, not anger, if we take a materialistic standpoint (exterior approach) we fail in non-violence. We must start with the interior first. Fighting violence with more violence does not promote the desired result.
Each religion and religious institution has its own special needs. If these needs are not satisfied it can easily resort to violence. This should be avoided. The satisfaction of basic needs is very important, regarding relations between the rich and the very poor. NGOs can held bridge this gap but not for everyone.
We must work together to reduce violence. Young people can learn to avoid violence. An international non-governmental movement can promote love (not violence) in the schools.
Wed Tibetans are living in exile, following the way of Mahatma Gandhi. In 1989 the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize. He is active in behalf of all humanity: he represents the teaching of "universal responsibility". Some young people have been radically changed through the concept of non-violence. Let us give each other "hands of peace".
Ms. Clare Amos, Programme Executive, Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation, World Council of Churches (WCC-Geneva) representing the secretary general of WCC, Rev. Olav Tveit, noted that tommorow 4th October is St. Francis Day, he who was an activist for peace among men and women, among peoples and in nature. She believed that Christians had insights about how to promote inter-religious dialogue and about religion as a source of peace. She lived five years in Lebanon during its civil wars. Religion must acknowledge its own violence and especially "uncritical confessional solidarity" and that religion is related to power. There is deep division and limits within religion and religions do not live by their ideals.
Ms. Amos also lived in Jerusalem and knows the tensions there. Jesus was crucified by the desires and aspirations of peoples. We also have longings and desires relating to "possession". Jerusalem is a sacrament which forces us to address the question of our possessions and our desire to control. St. Francis promoted Christian and Muslim peace against possessiveness. Remember the interreligious meetings at Assisi and their call for non-violence.
Period for discussion. Some of the comments:
- Respect for others should be taught in schools-respect for animals as well as humans
- Education of children today includes the information proposed by 'numerique' - some of ewhat can be read in Internet leads to violence
- The ambassador of Kazakhstan noted that Kazakhs were nomadic people who welcomed each other because distances between them were
so great. He noted the 2000 Millenium Development Goals as models for development He mentioned that the OECS was dealing with
the problems in Afghanistan and how to help young people there- some of them are coming to Kazakhstan for higher education. He
also mentioned his life in Jaffa (Israel) and contacts between Jews and Palestinians there. He believed that the "Arab Spring" showed
how many people suffer social injustice and unemployment
- Ms. Amos mentioned that the relation of religion to the state is important. Ashe believed it might be important even to be an "atheist"
in order to bypass religious tensions in the Middle East. At least she would not be tied to any state or political party.
- The Abbot of Rikon noted the relation between modern technology and violence. Stopping violence requires (1) through News channels-
show positive actions taking place in society by NGOs and international organizations ; (2) New channels can remote the philosophy of
non-violence, even using Hollywood actors. Inequality and injustice comes from the heart and mind. The intewllect is the most basic quality
in man and honesty is possible. Society should focus more on honesty and ethical principles.