The Words of the Shihab Family

A Timely Call for a Spiritual Dimension at the UN

Alwi Shihab
January 31, 2009
Special Envoy to the Middle East, Office of the President, Republic of Indonesia
Address to the World Summit on Peace
New York, USA

Starting from the opening ceremony of the conference, we have been learning a great deal of invaluable lessons and tapping insightful ideas to bring back values to be shared with our respective environments.

This is a testimony of the great advances made by the Universal Peace Federation. The UPF went from strength to strength in its commitments to play an important role in bringing peace all over the globe. The UPF seeks to establish ever more consistent links among various groups, in order to achieve the great dream of bringing together all people of faith, overcoming barriers, conflicts, and prejudices.

One of those noble efforts is the renewal and the reform of the UN, including its call for an inter-religious council and the creation of a new intergovernmental organization rooted in universal spiritual principles.

The honorable Rev. Moon believes that the wisdom and vision of great religious ideas will substantially supplement the political insight, experience, and skill of the world's political leaders. He also believes that solutions to world problem can come about if religious leaders join hands with political leaders and diplomats of the current United Nations.

This call for the UN to move forward to acquire a spiritual dimension is timely at this critical moment. The current unpleasant condition of the world serves as a solid evidence to the need of such reform in the UN.

In this connection, we were and still are saddened by the plight and suffering of innocent Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. Indeed the international community rejects all kinds of violence permeating Gaza as a result of the military operation of the Israeli military in response to the Palestinian missiles.

The Security Council as the organ entrusted with the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security demonstrated its failure to stop the violence. Resolution after resolution was issued related to the Arab-Israeli conflict since the wars of 1948, 1956, 1967 as well as 1973 onward; all those resolutions were issued without implementation.

In addition to the UPF's call for the UN to acquire a spiritual dimension it is also imperative to call for the involvement of the peace-loving people individually and collectively to empower the moderate majority of the Palestinians and the Israelis to come up with a viable and acceptable mandate for coexistence and to achieve consensus for conflict resolution at the grassroots level.

Both groups must be able to recognize the pain of both sides, condemn all violence that is practiced, and affirm a desire for a two-state solution. Through this effort, both societies will ultimately be able to reach an honorable compromise on all key issues.

While we see that the reality in the region is full of violence, hatred, and disharmony, at the same time we must envision the world as it should be, namely a world of peace, harmony, and well-being for all.

In this regard, we are fortunate enough to learn that President Obama has responded positively to a request to call for an international conference to resolve the larger Israeli-Arab issues.

Indeed, there was much to be appreciated in President Obama's inaugural speech, one of which was the reaffirmation of the importance of judging outcomes in terms of "the common good." Articulating the notion of "the common good" could provide a leverage for future policy directions. It is, therefore, hopeful that he promises to work "aggressively" for peace between Israel and Palestine. It is, indeed, a marching order for both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

His very words are ringing in the air when he says "Our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. The key words were "humility and restraint." In other words, brute force and brutal threat, armies, and military might are not the solution to all problems.

What has been said is precisely in line with the theme of the UN's 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, namely "From Words to Deeds." In other words, this means to carry the words of reconciliation into the realm of actual deeds. The bridge of peace symbolizes the underlying commitment to address the deeper issues that consistently impede the accomplishment of real peace.

I am confident that once the Arab-Israeli conflict is resolved, many other world problems will follow suit. Radicalism, extremism, and terrorism in the world will be significantly reduced, to say the least.

To conclude, allow me to echo most speakers that indeed, there is no possibility to maintain peace and to create a new world if humankind is not filled with a new spirit. To allow this spirit to develop within us is the task we have taken upon ourselves, individually and collectively. God bless all of us. 

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