Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Language of peace versus language of hate

At first I thought the peaceful feeling was a result of the altitude of 1000 meter. Then I considered it could be the general atmosphere, an old castle-hotel turned conference center in the mountain village of Caux, perched on top of the city of Montreux in Switzerland. This large mountain house feels like a metamorphosis of all its participants, diverse, proud and strong. Although it is abuzz with a series of conferences throughout the summer, it is the quiet reflection and the moments of silence that speak louder than words here.

Mingling with the more than 400 men and women of all colors, ages, nationalities and walks of life coming together for the purpose of advancing human security, has been a feat for me. The diversity is amazing here and the human spirit prevails. It probably helps that participants, no matter what their role is at the conference, take turns to cook in the kitchen, serve food around the meal tables, wash dishes, as well get served food made by others and served by others while their dishes are also washed by others.

Isn’t that the main theme of community? Each one plays a role to bring the group together and helps it to thrive and advance peacefully, successfully and harmoniously.

Having spent about ten days in Caux with a few more days left, I was struck by how peaceful things are. Despite the turmoil embedded in each and every one’s life, there is a sense of community and responsibility that makes one speak peace and act it too.

Listening to Switzerland’s twice former President, Micheline Calmy-Rey, it dawned on me that to be neutral means to be powerful in a unique kind of way. Loving one’s country does not mean fighting over it to the point of breaking it and tearing it into pieces. Love of country means preserving it and serving it to become one of the best nations on earth. It means highlighting its strengths and working hard to resolve its conflicts and challenges.

“The politics of human security is the answer to very complex conflicts that replace oftentimes the traditional wars,” said Calmy-Rey at the opening of talks on human security in Caux. She explained that Switzerland’s foreign policy goes beyond national interests to promote a political vision of “humanitarian tradition of humanist principles and ethics in political actions.”

Nations are deemed to fail without true human security whereby a citizen’s rights and needs are at the center of a government’s agenda. This is a thought worth pondering as we painfully watch politicians in our Arab world who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. With very few exceptions, Arab politicians talk about peace, inclusivity and human rights but rarely do they uphold those noble principles. It’s a reality that led many to the streets demanding change. While some countries have begun the long painstakingly process towards the change they desire, others remain in the darkness, hostages of authoritarian leaders that have no appreciation for the individual’s rights and security.

If I take one lesson from Caux, it is this: To achieve peace one has to make a commitment to bettering our world by creating nations that are efficient and relevant. This can only happen by building strong communities with a high sense of integrity, transparency and vision. This effort starts with us as individuals within ourselves and within our families. If we don’t cleanse ourselves of hatred and selfishness, we cannot be peaceful community builders.

This may be a very optimistic outlook, but it’s not impossible to achieve. I believe in the fresh energy of our youth in the Arab world, especially the young leaders I met here in Caux who hail from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon. I watched proudly as their participation at the Caux Initiatives of Change has empowered them and brought out their best personal and political practices.

I can only hope that when they return to their home countries, they can apply what they learned and influence others by practicing true community building. May their voices not be stifled and may their actions not be blocked. Most importantly, may they not be corrupted by decades of decay and carelessness that have hopelessly been plaguing our region!


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