|At the High-Level Dialogue on Inter-religious and Inter-cultural Understanding And Cooperating for Peace By Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam|
|Friday, 05 October 2007 13:08|
The High-Level Dialogue on Inter-religious and Inter-cultural Understanding and Cooperation for Peace is taking place at an opportune moment. The decision by the General Assembly to convene this event is a manifestation of the interest of the international community and the United Nations to promote a dialogue on this important issue. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate the delegations of Pakistan and the Philippines for spearheading the adoption of the GA Resolution 61/211 which paved the way for this event. This initiative will no doubt build on several similar initiatives undertaken by the Untied Nations in the recent past including the dialogue among civilizations. The fact that this meeting takes place on the eve of the 60th Anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of human rights and at the commencement of the 62nd Session of the General Assembly makes it doubly significant.
We humans inherently possess both diverse and common values and ethics based on specific circumstances and age old traditions. While commonality of our beliefs can unite us, the diversity of our views and traits can enrich our knowledge and life experience. Hence our diversity need not be a cause for division or conflict. As human civilization began to advance, the great teachers and messengers of peace had identified in very early years of human advancement, the need for human beings to cooperate for co-existence and to promote peace in society and community. All pre-dominant religions in the world have, at their core, compassion and promotion of peace. It is in this setting that the international community needs to focus on inter-religious and inter-cultural cooperation for peace and it is timely that this Assembly gives a sense of direction to this dialogue.
The key to success is to promote common values and aspects in all religions and cultural traditions that promote understanding between cultures and religions, engender respect for diversity and for the other. In this effort it is essential to emphasize the word ''tolerance'' in its broadest possible sense. Tolerance implies our respect for the unknown and even empathizing with dislike. Several great religions in the world have taught us the essence of tolerance in different manifestations.
My country Sri Lanka, in its 2500 year recorded history has remained multi-cultural and multi-religious. The creed of tolerance taught in Buddhism has been ingrained in our society ever since the teachings of the Buddha took root in my country under the patronage of Emperor Asoka of India. Tolerance and compassion towards the other has been the key to our civilization. As an Island nation it has been our tradition to welcome all new ideas and influences and to integrate new trends into our society, complementing the existing and promoting understanding and cooperation with the new. Religious diversity has never been a cause for division. In fact, in Sri Lanka, it is common to find Buddhist temples, Christian churches, Muslim mosques and Hindu temples, all situated in close proximity and often in the same street. They co-exist in harmony, worshipers of each shrine assisting the other. Tolerance of others’ religions is a tradition that we hold steadfast.
While Buddhism, the predominant religion in my country, has contributed to the mainstream ethos in Sri Lanka, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and other religions too have co-existed and enriched the values of our people, thus making inter-religious cooperation and understanding a fact of normal life. The key to this trend has been tolerance and understanding displayed by those who adhere to all religions in my country.
It is essential that we understand the unity of thought and the essence of truth in all major religions that promote similar values for the good of the human being. No religion promotes hurting the other for any purpose.
- Buddhism says, ''Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful''.
- Taoism says, ''Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss''.
- Christianity says, ''All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them''.
- Confucius says,''Do unto others what you want done for yourself.''
- Islam says,''Do unto all men as you would they should do unto you and reject for others what you would reject for yourself''.
- Hinduism says, ''Let no one do to others what he would not have done to himself''.
In this age of exponentially advancing technology and inter-connectedness, there is a tendency for predominant economic and political power to manifest itself as a force of cultural domination, overwhelming vulnerable and weak societies. Such a trend, when perceived as unwelcome, can act against understanding and cooperation, thus making societies and peoples to militate. It is therefore essential to be sensitive to such phenomena and take cognizance of the right of each individual, each community, each society to stand on its own and to cooperate and understand at its own volition.
In this context, we welcome the Dialogue taking place today at the General Assembly. It is our belief that frank exchange of views on all aspects of religious and cultural commonality and diversity too will assist peoples of our globalizing world to promote peace and understanding.
We have just celebrated the International Day of Non-violence at the General Assembly as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi in recognition of his efforts at popularizing the creed of non-violence in the modern world. It is auspicious that this meeting is taking place in the wake of that event. A view expressed by him can be very relevant to our discourse today.
These words of Mahatma Gandhi sums up an approach that we need in order to promote inter-religious and inter-cultural understanding and cooperation for peace.