Opening Remarks by Dr Raphael Ogar Oko at the 4th ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON YOUTH AND INTERFAITH DIALOGUE, October 25 – 27, 2012, Jos
Let Us Understand and Learn from Others, Live with Others and Live for Others
Your Excellencies, Honored VIPs, Distinguished Delegates and Participants, Dear Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is again another honor for me and the Global Educators for All Initiative (GEFAI) to be represented at this historic event and for me to have the opportunity of making remarks at the opening session. I will like to join my dear brother and friend, Engr. Ambassador Emmanuel Ande and our colleagues with all other partners and collaborators to welcome all of you to Jos for the 4th Annual Conference on Youth and Interfaith Dialogue.
I believe that this conference is very timely and providentially significant in several ways. Our host nation of Nigeria is for the first time experiencing the fourth tenure of civil rule (2011 – 2015) and I believe that the outcome of our deliberations here will determine how this dispensation will move the nation either forward or backward. I also know that in terms of human relationship, we are born as children (son/daughter), we grow as siblings (brother/sister), we marry as couple (husband/wife) and we give birth to become parents (father/mother). As you can see, the first tenure is childhood, the second tenure is brotherhood/sisterhood while the third tenure is couplehood and the fourth tenure is parenthood. This 4th international conference is a conference that we should attend with the heart of parents and feel that the citizens of our communities and nations and the world are our children, who are looking up to what we shall give birth to. This is the heart that I have come here with and I feel that we can all become one in heart. I have come here with the heart of parents, with the head of teachers and with the hand of leaders. I welcome you to Jos, the home of peace and tourism, on behalf of parents, teachers and leaders.
On behalf of the Global Educators, I am delighted to convey our heartfelt gratitude to all of you and to the core organizers for honoring the invitation with your esteemed presence at this event. We are pleased to be associated with the organizers, the participants and all the activities carefully designed to inspire us, empower each of us, connect us to information, each other and to resources. We are proud to be part of this effort to utilize our abilities and ideas as well as this opportunity to celebrate those who have made outstanding dedication, commitment and accomplishment in promoting and practicing interfaith cooperation. I am hopeful that this event will elevate us to a higher level of consciousness and understanding of self, others and all things in our environment.
As you may be aware, Global Educators is a growing network of mutually interdependent educators (parents, teachers and leaders) who are committed to facilitating the realization of sustainable quality education of all people in order to establish a united, peaceful and prosperous world. We are guided by the vision of human beings are all members of One Global family under the Parenthood of a Common Creator. Our vision challenges us to become global citizens transcending religious affiliations, regional identity or resources availability.We are deeply committed to participating in all efforts and practicing all values that lead toward world peace and unification and which we believe begins from individual peace and unity.
We recognize the fact that peace is not merely the absence of wars and violence; we recognize that wars and violence begin with the existence of conflict within each individual and between individuals and groups through thoughts, expressions and actions. We admit that world peace is possible but it requires harmony, cooperation, understanding, selflessness, living with others and for the sake of others at all levels of human existence. As a participant in this historic event, I will like to say that this is again an opportunity that we should not misuse or abuse. Let us use this moment to translate our desires and intentions for peace to concrete expressions and actions for peace.
Without doubt, we live in a world characterized by conflicts, violence and all forms and levels of wars. Our world today is a world of wars despite the universal desire for peace by each of us, including the war lords. It is unfortunate that we have simply focused on reactions to the challenges and not doing much as a response to our situation. Our reaction to the unfortunate state of our world has been severe fighting all over the world. We are fighting within our mind, between our mind and body, between individuals and families and groups and we are even fighting against nature. The worst of our fights is the fight against the Creator’s creation which we have termed to be a fight for the Creator but against fellow human beings and the resources in our environment.
In several places around the world, fighting the fighters and killing the killers has become the culture and acceptable way of life and even national policies. This has turned numerous communities to become communities of fighters and killers. Huge resources provided at no
cost to all of us are being wasted in fighting and killings through warmaking and warkeeping practices. Unfortunately, fighting the fighters and killing the killers has failed over and over again to resolve our fundamental challenges of living in conflict, violence and wars. As we all have come to know, fighting does not resolve conflicts and defeating a fighter does not end the desire to fight again.
As I address this gathering now, several of our young people and fellow citizens have declared to fight and kill others. They are also being killed in reactionary approaches and this is very unfortunate when we realize that fighting does not resolve conflicts and killing the killers does not end conflicts nor end the killings. Operation kill the killers does not end the cycle of killing and never address the root causes of conflicts. The idea of killing the killers focuses only on dealing with the human body but we should recognize the fact that human beings have both body and spirit. So, if we kill the body and ignore the spirit, we have not done much and cannot assure that it is over.
As we have committed this day to discuss the ways to “Live In Peace” as a foundation for world peace and requirements to “Rest In Peace” in the future, let us go beyond mere dialogue and settlements but truly engage in personal self-reflection as individuals and as a group. Let us realize that we have not done enough to make our world good for all and let us individually and collectively repent for our past failures and renew our commitment to change from this day forward. I believe that genuine reconciliation is the way forward and this shows that our fundamental challenge is more of relationship building.
The theme of this conference is “Harnessing the Creative and Innovative Capacities of Youth and Women for Peacebuilding”. I believe that we can make a great meaning from here if we grow beyond fighting for peace, dialogue for peace and focus more on genuine reconciliation within each of us, between us and between our groups and other groups.
I am aware that peace is the presence of mutually beneficial relationship within each person, between people and with all things in nature. As in human history, efforts have been made toward relationship building for world peace. The theme of our conference this year is a call for us to seek for genuine reconciliation and how best to harness the creative and innovative capacities of women and youth for building a culture of peace. It is timely, and it is very innovative too. As I reflect on this theme, I am taken to the story of how human beings descended into the present state of living in conflicts, violence and wars. As some of us may have known, the story of the human ancestors show that the first woman led the man out of the garden of peace. Thereafter, they gave birth to children and without enough parental guidance, the children fought each other and the elder brother killed the younger one. The outcome has been a world where human capacities for peacebuilding have been diverted into warmaking, warkeeping and warbuilding.
Yet, every human being is born with an inherent potential for living in peace despite the reality of conflicts around us. What we need now is to build our capacity for peaceful living. I believe that women and youth were at the root cause of conflicts in the world. Therefore, women and youth must be at the center of the solution we seek for. This makes the theme very fundamental. Let us develop our potentials and achieve perfection in peace. We can not resolve the many conflicts around the world if we fail to empower the women and youth, who were the first champions of conflict and violence in the world. Women and youth hold the key to a peaceful future and we must invest in developing their capacities to return back the misled men back to the garden of peace and the fighting brothers to become friendly brothers.
We should develop the human potential to respond to the challenges emerging from differences in religions, regions and resources of the world. We need to reconcile our relationship with our common Creator, with fellow human beings and with the resources in our environment. I think this should form the basis of our discussion here. Our differences should not be mistaken to be inequality which makes some feel more valuable than others. Let us grow beyond a focus on our religions as points of identity and our regions as places of origin and the resources as our own wealth only. I know that 2 + 3 and 5 are different but yet they have same value and are equal. All religions are different but they are equal in value and in their intentions.
Let us grow beyond regarding our differences as conflict points. We may be different but yet live together in harmony. I pray that our participation at this event will offer us greater opportunities to come together and work toward interreligious cooperation, international integration and inter-resources utilization for peace.
Let us focus on ensuring purity of all religions, equality of all regions and utility of all resources. Women and youth representing Mother Eve and Brothers Cain and Abel have this historic task of resolving the challenges we have inherited. Let us never again allow the present reality grow into the future of hope.
I believe that peacebuilding begins in the family and I acknowledge the place of marriage in the family. Marriage opens the door to the family. My recommendation for your consideration at this conference is the issue of “marry your enemy” and serve him or her to become your best friend. This is the best way to build peace. Please, reflect on the wisdom in this short expression of “marry your enemy” and make it your daily study material. Share this with others and make efforts to put it into practice. I have done it and I can boldly recommend it to you today from the depth of my heart. I thank you all for your attendance and I urge you to be attentive, acquire more knowledge, develop and utilize your potentials for peace.
I wish you successful deliberations and hope that we can interreligious ambassadors for religious harmony and cooperation and to ensure that we are able to prevent religious world 3 by achieving world peace 1 declaration by 2014