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  • REMARKS AT THE PRESENTATION OF THE MADANJEET SINGH PRIZE FOR THE PROMOTION OF TOLERANCE AND NON-VIOLENCE

    We are here to celebrate human beings who have chosen making peace their way of stamping their presence on this Earth.

    Whoever decides to work under the sign of peace has the need to be doubly courageous.  This is because, on the one hand, he or she must overcome the cultural branding which makes violence the magical instrument of history, and, on the other hand, he or she must have the strength of character to stand firm before those who consider it cowardice or weakness not to join the outcry of those who proclaim that only violence defeats violence

    As the human being ascends through evolution, certainly not without difficulty, the four cardinal points of the new era appear: peace, dialogue, solidarity and justice.

    We live a decisive moment in which war emerges once more as the “civilizing option”.  If we follow this road, the time will come when the joy of living will be totally eliminated.

    For that reason, it is vital that we human beings, who consider peace, speak and raise our voices.  The audience must believe, because what is at stake is the survival of all of us and of all future generations.

    It is urgent that next to each statue glorifying warriors of the past, we place a monument to those who made peace their purpose, taking on the associated sorrows.

    It is easy to be violent: it is only necessary to allow instincts to replace intelligence.  A current war strategy summons death against the innocent. There are facts which show that all political action centered on violence produces enormous “collateral damage”, as the innocent civilian victims are shamelessly described today.

    For that reason, this is a magnificent day, because UNESCO has understood, and really understood, that now peace has, must have, the floor, and must feel the citizen’s joy, the world’s joy, with the nomination of Mr. Veerasingham Anadasangaree, member of the Sri Lankan parliament, to receive the Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence.

    As a teacher and a lawyer, he has always expressed his message of friendly and peaceful relations as well as respect for the opinions and positions of others but, above all, he has been able to say “no” at decisive moments, when others were weak and moved to the opposite side of peace and reconciliation, in order to reinforce the “never-ending war”.

    This man’s life speaks, not just his words.  His life endorses the value of what he speaks, and that is the secret.  There are many words of peace, but many times those who speak them are the first to promote wars. There are few “peace facts” because to produce them is to understand which way history is going.

    In addition to Mr. Anadasangaree, I would like to pay homage to other wonderful expressions of peace, non-violence and tolerance.  It is an afro-reggae musical group from Brazil, which has brought back the old truth that when the word is united with music, it grows and opens unexpected doors in human beings.  The message of these minstrels of today reaches places no one else has been able to penetrate.

    I also want to congratulate the city of Derbent, in Russia, because it is interesting that when a message of tolerance becomes that of the community, all the citizens live it.  It is an old tradition of “people speaking” because it shows that the values of friendly and peaceful relations are not only of individuals but also of all the citizens endorsing the purpose of peace.

    I also wish to dedicate some special words to professor Kelman of the United States. Like him and with him, many are growing with the purpose of guaranteeing the great ideals of North American democracy, and this should open new roads to non-violence and tolerance.

    And, I must also express my delight because the world of journalism, from which I proceed and which was my profession for many years, that world of information and news, is being honored with the prize presented to the Israeli-Palestinian newspaper from Jerusalem.  I am sure that poor journalists feed criminality and war and are at least as responsible as those who carry them out.  But (and I say this with conviction and optimism), a good journalist builds roads to peace, opens alternatives, creates a reason to hope within public opinion. There will be no peace in this world as long as the media are not deeply committed to peace.

    This biennial meeting conveys the spirit of great human beings who have made peace, non-violence and respect for others’ opinions and options, their way of life:  Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, Lanza del Vasto, Madanjeet Singh, and so many others who have dedicated their lives to creating the way for humanity to be able to live together in peace.

    I am convinced that peace is a fundamental right which allows the other rights (freedom, justice…) to grow vigorously.  As the former President of a country that is searching diligently for peace, I believe that right, which so many try to deny, is indispensable.  I know well, as you do, that peace activists have our eyes on the near future.  Whoever works for peace does not do so for his or her own benefit, but for the unrelenting love of life and mankind.  Violence never generated peace.  Every death of a human being is useless, and the day of reconciliation we will hear the lament of those who died in vain.

    Finally, I want to congratulate every nominee from all corners of the Earth. This nomination is in itself a reward for them and a mutual certainty that “we peace builders are not alone”.

    Thank you very much.

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