On Human Rights and Peace - Case for a world summit of Islamic-Christian dialogue
Universal respect for human rights undoubtedly creates social peace in nations and peaceful relations between countries because, very often, conflicts arise from the lack of respect for human rights and the failure to accept democracy as a basic rule in mediating between opponents. In as much as respect for the rights of all men leads to popular rule, which must be respected through the notion of the will of the majority and pluralism of opinion, political pluralism must be a priority, for there is no better way to reconcile people than through recourse to norms that are rooted in their philosophy as universally moral.
Our era has defined new concepts of peace to which more content must be given: political mediation, dialogue, arbitration and, beyond that, peacekeeping efforts by the international community. The international community has thus endowed itself with the means to avoid conflicts, to nip them in the bud, or to create the conditions for dialogue that will lead to peace. In extreme cases, it has the military wherewithal to impose peace on parties in conflict. That is why we must reinforce those international institutions whose role essentially is to re-establish peace in the world. Unfortunately, despite such efforts, there are still severe human rights violations—ethnically and politically driven genocide—that go unpunished.
Let’s be frank with each other. The [U.N.] Security Council is, after all, a political institution where political interests indispensable to international order mingle with the economic interests of sovereign states. And we know that the world is made up of very unequal states. For this reason, I would like to propose the establishment of a high-level observatory for international human rights and peace that would include eminent persons who themselves are moral references in terms of human rights and the fight for peace. This body would have no decision making or sanctioning authority. Instead, its role would be that of a moral institution representative of the ideals of humanity. As such, it would call attention to unpunished crimes and instances of genocide that are not prosecuted for political reasons. In this way, I believe that citizens’ awareness of humanity, supported by international human rights organizations and NGOs, could constitute sufficient moral force to lead decision makers to take up international justice for crimes and cases of genocide that otherwise will benefit from the impunity with which they are committed.
I believe a man’s actions are the product of a matrix that explains the relations of those actions. This matrix is nothing more than doctrine in as much as it is true that individuals of different doctrines do not treat the same questions in the same way because their intellectual reactions and ethics are different. Thus, doctrine is the link between man and action. This doctrine itself has its roots in a philosophy that some people call ideology, since it would be a matter of a higher system of reference.
My philosophical conviction is that the concept of the individual is a value in itself and that freedom is its attribute, as seen by the revolutionaries of 1789. In history, not everyone shares this conviction because every political system has establish ed a relationship system between power and the individual, between groups and the individual, between the individual and his or her peer. Some people consider the group paramount, and that the individual must be subordinate to the group. This dangerous concept, which has been the cause of all abuses, must be struck down.
In our diagram for peace, it behooves us to consider the problem of religion and the misconceptions that surround it. We must work so that the “clash of civilizations” has no substance. This is possible because all religions preach peace. Only false adherents seize religion and use it for political purposes. Islam is a religion of peace. When two people meet, the first words spoken are “peace be unto you.” Deviants who use religion do not belong to Islam. It is up to us to stand against the use of our religion for other purposes than those in the Holy Koran and in the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed (s.a.w.). That is why I proposed a world summit of Islamic-Christian dialogue. I did not invent the notion, but I am attempting to raise it to the level of world decision makers who hold our fate in their hands. This being so, I have the blessing of the pope and the support of a number of Muslim leaders. For practical reasons, the summit, which was previously planned for the end of 2005, will now take place at the end of 2006.
His Excellency Maître Abdoulaye Wade is president of the Republic of Senegal. The above is an excerpt (translated from the French) of the speech he delivered upon accepting the 2004 Human Rights Award of the International League for Human Rights in September in New York.
By Maître Abdoulaye Wade