Her Excellency Mrs. Samantha K. Jayasuriya
Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Thailand
on the occasion of
UN International Day of Peace
21st September 2020
Embassy of Sri Lanka
Bangkok – Thailand
(Check against Delivery)
Dr. Pornchai Mongkhonvanit, President of Siam University,
Distinguished guests & Academic Staff of Siam University,
Thank you very much for this honour bestowed upon my country –Sri Lanka, by inviting me to deliver this peace message, as the Siam University hosts the UN International Day of Peace in Thailand for the 10th consecutive time. I am pleased to be among a distinguished gathering this evening, as we share our thoughts on how best we can contribute in ‘Shaping Peace Together’.
Each year on 21st September, the UN member States has collectively and at country level been celebrating the International Day of Peace highlighting the importance of non-violence and strengthening the ideals of peace, including urging warring parties to engage in ceasefires. All these years since 1981, when the UN General Assembly endorsed the Day of Peace, our objective is to cease wars with known and visible foes. However, this year is quite peculiar in that sense, the whole world is on a common fight against an invincible threat, a virus that tells us “unless your neighbour is safe, you are not safe”. So, ironically, this common foe has reminded that with all differences, we are equal as well- we are equally vulnerable, fragile and none has super powers. It is only through common efforts and practices, safety measures and perseverance in finding a permanent solution that we will be able to control and defeat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that threatens our health, economy and the most basic way of life. Hence, it has become more crucial than ever, to set aside all our differences and work in unison to win this new, but very real fight.
When we consider Peace, the attention obviously goes to peace among nations, peace among disputed parties, and on how to promote non-violence. In that scence, ‘Right to Peace’ is considered one of the fundamental human rights. Forging global partnership for peace, beseeching parties in conflict to choose peaceful paths for resolution of international conflicts, and to avoid any devastating wars in future were the underlying reasons for the formation of the United Nations. Although it has managed to prevent another world war, despite serious efforts, conflicts around the world continues-within countries and among countries, perishing valuable human lives and brining enormous destruction to material and natural wealth. Although the year 2020 marks 75 years since the end of the WWII, there is still more than 40 active armed conflicts around us – and over the years, the warfare has got more sophisticated and indiscriminate in terms of the damage and destruction they have brought in. Hence, the need for peace and non-violence has become ever more imperative. How do we begin to search for peace? Do we have a solution?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO declares that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” So, we need to decide whether it is easier to Hate? Or Love? Why do we hate someone in the first place? The most simple answer could be that he or she does not agree with me. Have we ever asked the question why the other person should necessarily agree with me? Isn’t the problem being my inability to tolerate differences, or accept an alternative view point? If I wished to be loved, why don’t I begin to spread love? Message of peace and love towards others is at the heart of all the major world religions. The principle that you should treat others as you would like to be treated yourself, is found in one form or another in every major religion in the world. Most religions prize forgiveness as a strength, and discourage people from taking revenge on those who have wronged them.
• the golden biblical concept for achieving peace, be it with your family, neighbor, community or the entire humanity says it “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
• Turn to the holy Quaran- Islam itself means ‘peace’ or the greetings “Assalam Alaikum” means ‘may peace be upon you’.
• This eternal truth in Buddhism, which is closely cherished by both Thailand and my own Sri Lanka and as it says in ‘Dhammapada’, with no uncertain terms;
Sabbe tasanti dandassa
sabbesam jivitam piyam
attanam upaman katva
na haneyya na ghataye.
(All are afraid of the stick, all hold their lives dear. Putting oneself in another’s place, one should not beat or kill others.
• Coming to more contemporary terms- We all have the sacrosanct responsibility to assure that no one is subjected to ‘cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment’. This is a fundamental right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and in the national Constitutions of many of our countries.
At the heart of building a culture of peace lies learning to tolerate, accepting the strength in diversity. On this Day of International Peace, and beyond, we need to pledge to ourselves individually and collectively that making or breaking peace is with us. Our responsibility should be building bridges between states and peoples and facilitating intercultural dialogue. International academic centers like Siam University are in a unique position to reinforce a system of collective security and to make the world a safer place. So, dear friends at Siam University, you deserve our appreciation for raising this awareness.
As a country that has gone through an agonizing 26 years of internal armed conflict, Sri Lanka will join readily all efforts to prevent wars and build peace. In fact, way back in 1951, at the historical San Francisco Conference following the WW II, Sri Lanka pioneered in sharing the message of peace in support of Japan and reconciling differences between the Parties to the Conference. It was on the proposal of Sri Lanka that the Indian Ocean Peace Zone has been declared by UN in 1971. It is the policy of the Government of President Gotabhaya Rajapakse to assure a policy that helps build safe navigation, peace and prosperity in the Indian Ocean countries, given Sri Lanka’s strategic location in the region. Our soldiers are part of UN Blue Helmets, serving in many troubled-spots around the world risking their lives and supporting UN Security Council mandates. The overriding principle in our path to peace must be the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is very much a narrative of all the core principles taught in our religions and naturally practiced in our cultures.
Promoting peace will be impossible without social justice, and addressing inequalities. In this regard, we note the efforts being made in promoting sustainable economic and social development, reducing inequalities and contributing to poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. The United Nations has established universally agreed instruments to protect the rights of all, but especially the most vulnerable, aiming at eliminating discrimination, inequality between women and men, and advancing the values of tolerance and solidarity, particularly by promoting the ‘Declaration of Right to Development’ and the 2030 Agenda on ‘Sustainable Development Goals’.
The young people in a society, if engaged and mobilized properly, can be active agents in peace building in every country. With their youthful energy and capabilities, and ability for adaptation to new environments and technological trends, youths could act as mediators, community mobilizes, humanitarian workers and peace brokers. This is what the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security adopted in December 2015 recognized for the first time. Bringing the celebration of International Day of Peace to Siam University, and continuing it for 10 consecutive years, as we see, is a ray of hope in this regard.
As we celebrate the UN International Day of Peace today, let us pledge to work hand in hand, both young and old, to build a culture of peace in our respective societies. A culture which embraces far more than absence of violence. A culture which encompasses tolerance, equality, disarmament, sustainable economic and social development and more importantly a way of life build on empathy, love and loving kindness.
May you all be well and happy!