“Peace is not the absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice”
A quote from a very wise man, whose statue is here right around the corner: Baruch Spinoza. He speaks of a state of mind, a virtue and a conscious decision to be benevolent, to have confidence, to seek justice.
Compassion as Miss Karen Armstrong always tells us, is not easy.
It does not come by its own,
it is a conscious decision,
it is hard work
it is: daring to ask questions ánd to question ourselves,
to be aware of our vulnerability – and to accept that.
I am very fortunate to be Honorary Professor Human Rights at The Asian University for Women. The Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh is a place where over 700 young women, form the most underprivileged parts of fifteen Asian countries get a chance to learn, to develop their talents and their leadership capacities.
Imagine girls from remote rural areas in Afghanistan or Pakistan, the garment industry in Bangladesh and India, refugee-camps in Gaza or Rohingya girls from Myanmar. They have overcome huge challenges and are determined to become the leaders their communities, their counties, their continent and our world needs: female leaders.
These strong young women are deeply aware of their vulnarability.
What I have seen is that one of the most difficult things in our times, in our small country, The Netherlands, in te broader context of Europe and also in our world, is to dare to be vulnarable.
Vulnarable in the sense that we accept that we do not know, that we do not have all the answers.
One of the most difficult things is to accept that vulnerability and then to act, to actively take the decision to learn. With the aim
to open our mind,
to listen and
to be curious.
And dare to do that, not oly in our camp or group, but also with regards to the “others”, in other camps or groups.
Also right around the corner here is the Town Hall of Amsterdam.
It was there that, late last year, the decision was taken that there should be a National Dutch Slavery Heritage Facility.
It was the right moment for that decision: stronger than ever before perhaps, we feel the need to create, delibarately, a place where we can face our past, where all can learn from our shared history and to, deliberately, work on recognizing what that common past is and means to individuals and communities and by doing so, to create a shared future.
At the occasion of Miss Armstrong’s delivery of the 2018 Annual Pluralism Lecture at the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa last October, His Highness the Aga Khan remarked: “One of the greatest challenges for the entire world will be finding ways in which we can all achieve a deeper understanding of the other – and what makes us distinct, as human beings and as commnities”.
This understanding can only come about when we, as individuals and as communities consciously and deliberately want to understand, dare to be vulnarable and to face the past to, deliberately, create a truely, truely shared future.
We come from far, the road ahead is long, it will be bumpy ride. Therefor, we need the determination to want it, to face the past and to learn from it.
If we do not do that, and if we do not do it NOW, we will all be slaves.
Slaves again or continue to be slaves, because we will not be FREE.
As this wise man, Baruch Spinoza already knew: “The highest activity a human being can attain is learnig from understanding, because to understand is to be free”.