The Words of the Reyes Family

Building a Global Culture of Service

Catalina Soberanis Reyes
January 31, 2009
Political Advisor, UN Development Program, Guatemala
Address to the World Summit on Peace
New York, USA

The 1945 Constitution of UNESCO declares that "since war begins in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defenses of peace must be constructed." Nevertheless, after many years, that objective is far from being attained, now that conflicts within nations are supplanting wars between states.
According to Federico Mayor, former General Director of UNESCO,

Peace has found havens here and there, but its defenses are still weapons, and in many instances, they are nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. We have grown almost accustomed to those words that crop up throughout non-proliferation or banning treaties, almost forgetting the terrifying reality hidden behind them. Mass destruction: how many victims -- men, women, and children -- must there be for a weapon to be qualified as such? Nuclear, chemical and biological weapons whose use was controlled, until the very recent past, by the highest authorities of a handful of countries but which, as we know too well, are today within the reach of a growing number of states and even individuals, even if they are members of a terrorist organization.

Although it is true that all these obstacles exist, peace has been built gradually, thanks to the major development of international law in many fields. It has advanced, especially in countries where societies have succeeded in maintaining their cohesion and progress in the observance of human rights, by acquiring democratic structures and making development a joint undertaking: that is, by ensuring that its fruits are shared fairly. But those faceless enemies such as unemployment, poverty, and exclusion, which become worse each day in spite of emergency measures, also threaten many societies today. Even in places where tolerance used to be the rule, xenophobic tendencies are asserting themselves and chauvinistic or racist statements, previously considered things of the past, are becoming increasingly common.

Now we must combat the real threats posed today to international security: exclusion, poverty, rural decline, environmental degradation, new pandemics, and arms and drug trafficking. Today, we are weak against these real enemies, and we need to take global measures.

We all know that we must put in today's agenda the need to overcome inequalities and to stop the spiral that makes the poor poorer and the rich richer. It is necessary to promote lifelong education and vocational training and to foster scientific and technological development so that each country may become the architect of its own destiny. It is also necessary to facilitate urban rehabilitation as well as rural development. Finally, it is necessary to ensure respect for the law and freedom of expression, the independent functioning of justice, and the realization of democratic principles in everyday life.

Those purposes can only be achieved if we are to build a new culture: a global culture of rights and responsibilities, a culture of accountability, a culture of service, even a culture of love.

Recently, Dr. Hyun Jin Moon has been advocating the formation of a "global service corps," a new cross-sector international alliance to promote peace and reduce global poverty by growing and nurturing a global culture of service. This initiative is coherent with the fundamental teaching of "living for the sake of others," which is at the heart of Rev. Moon's life.

In the past, the Peace Corps was the way to promote awareness in the young people of the United States about the situation of poor countries and to motivate them to engage in volunteer social service in order to contribute to the human development in those countries. Later, the business world also proposed the concept of a culture of service to the customer and the social responsibility of the enterprises. Now, the international community, governments, civil society, the media, and the private sector all recognize the importance of volunteerism to achieve development goals and to promote a global culture of peace. The United Nations Volunteers program is the UN organization that contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide.

In general, we used to associate volunteerism with the young people. In Guatemala, for example, we have benefited from the Religious Youth Service work in Santiago Atitlan, an indigenous village, and in other places in the urban areas. We think that young people have time, idealism, and courage to do the hard tasks. But volunteerism does not only refer to young people nor does it grow by itself. We are all responsible to build a better world. Consequently, we have to revise our point of view concerning the role of adults. In particular, Ambassadors for Peace are called to make a significant contribution.

At the national level, we can develop strategies and specific plans, precise objectives, and actions in order to advance toward those necessary changes. Adults should work in volunteerism, giving a good example themselves. At the international level, working in the Universal Peace Federation, we can find many initiatives, sharing our knowledge, resources, and values, following the initiative of Dr. Moon and the inspiration of the teaching of Rev. Moon. Working globally and locally, we will have the capacity to transform threats and difficulties into challenges, cooperation, and growth. Individuals and institutions that learn new attitudes and behaviors and that act with a spirit of solidarity and collaboration can solve the new problems.

A culture of service is more than compassion. It is companionship, brotherhood, and sisterhood. A culture of service means solidarity in action. Solidarity is more than cooperation. It means commitment to the aspirations of thousands of millions of human beings on all continents whose present conditions of life must be made better. We have to enable people to work towards a culture of dignity.

Doing this, we will encounter the special feeling that comes with making an impact in someone else's life. That feeling is immeasurable. 

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