(Taking the call for peace to the middle of the conflict zone, renowned spiritual leader and founder of The Art of Living, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar addressed a peace conference in Erbil in Kurdistan, the violence hit province of Iraq. Below is the transcript of Sri Sri's address.)
I would like to thank the members of the Parliament, the Honorable Governor Dr. Mohammed Irshad, The President of the General Board of Authority, Dignitaries, and your Excellencies for having us here.
Usually peace conferences are held in places where there is already peace, but I think that peace conferences should be held where there is conflict. That is one of the reasons why I said that we will have this conference right here in the midst of conflicts.
Conferences are held to bring clarity in concept; they are held to improve the communication between various groups and personalities, and to bridge the gaps between different thought streams. They are held to re-establish the commitment towards peace and to empowering those who are in need of it the most.
In this conference, let us put our hearts and minds and see what we can do?
How can we establish communication with those who are misguided in the name of religion? And how we can prevent the youth from getting into a fanatic terrorist ideology? This should be our priority.
On this occasion, I would also like to remember the wonderful work done by our volunteers working here since the last two years.
As Ms. Mouwani has already mentioned, many agencies have come together to unitedly to uplift women and the plight that was caused by the armed forces. It is so painful to see that in this 21st century there are people who are trying to drag civilization to the dark ages and create havoc in the society and animosity between nations and peace loving people.
As mentioned earlier by the Honorable President, India also shares the same value. India has never been aggressive towards any country, but has been a victim of aggression many times. There is only thing that pulled India together, to move towards a progressive path, and that is confidence and unshakable faith in peace and non-violence. Mahatma Gandhi and many other leaders in the past had instilled this faith in the people during such similar situations.
Kurdistan is a bouquet of various religions and cultures and we must maintain this diversity. Even if one civilization, religion or culture goes missing, then there is something missing for the whole world. Every culture is a part of the world heritage and we have to preserve and maintain all of them.
In this sense, the Yazidis (one of the most ancient faiths of this region) need to be preserved. And Shabbat (another ancient culture) also needs to be preserved. We can all coexist and that is exactly the design of this planet: a world with differences coexisting and cooperating with each other. Commitment, compassion, coexistence and nurturing of the human values is most important at this hour.
Yesterday I visited a couple of the camps here and it was heart breaking to see the plight of the people. We didn’t speak the language but we could communicate and feel their pain. Many of them had left their homes; many youth had not completed their education and they are all languished in camps.
This is not what religion wants. This is not what Jesus or the Almighty wants. If anyone thinks they are doing God’s job, they are totally mistaken.
Yesterday I visited a couple of the camps here and it was heart breaking to see the plight of the people. We didn’t speak the language but we could communicate and feel their pain.
This is not what religion wants. This is not what Jesus or the Almighty wants.
There are very honorable religious leaders from all faiths, Christians, Muslims, Yazidis and other denominations of different faiths present here today, and we are going to discuss and send a clear message to all those people who think that violence is the way to please God.
Unfortunately, people who are aggressive have no value for peace, and peaceful people never get aggressive. We have to find a dialogue for them. In this conference let us put our hearts and minds and see what we can do? How can we establish communication with those who are misguided in the name of religion? What can we do to protect women and children? And how we can prevent the youth from getting into fundamentalist and fanatic terrorist ideology? This should be our priority.
We have great minds here, let’s put our thoughts together and see what concrete action plan we can take to ensure peace pervades over violence, love pervades over hatred, compassion pervades over cruelty and prosperity pervades over poverty.
In these few words I would again like to thank you all for taking out the time to be here and to come together to protect women and to bring peace in Kurdistan. Let’s work for this cause.