Deel Op

Oded Wiener

Voormalig directeur-generaal van het Groot Rabbinaat van Israël

 Dear colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.       

It is a great honor and privilege for me to chair the discussion on this important issue: "Development is the name of Peace"   .
We all joined last night at the very impressive opening ceremony, organized so successfully – as usual – by the special people of Sant'Egidio community. We had the privilege of listening to important ideas and messages in the context of our panel.
With your permission, I want to go all the way back to the beginning of human history, and to the first megalomaniacal attempt at technological development, that the Bible tells us, at the beginning of Genesis.
At that time, there was unity among all people. They all lived together and everyone spoke the same language, and here they decided they wanted to build a tower that would reach heaven. The idea behind building the tower, as our sages tell us, is the will to beat the seated God in heaven.
As the tower became the supreme goal and obsession of everyone, what happened during the construction process was, that if a person fell and died, nobody noticed, and didn't care. But if a brick fell on the way, they began to cry, who would bring us another brick instead of the one that fell.
That is, because the people have lost all sense of morality, their
concern and responsibility for their brothers disappeared. And only the technological development and the construction of the tower were before them.
No wonder their punishment was that God destroyed the tower, scattered them all over the world and confused their language, ever since each group spoke a different language.
The lesson we can learn and should teach from this story is that technology and development are immensely important, but provided we do not lose God image within us and our humanity we are committed to.  We must remember that we were all created in the image of God, and the concern and responsibility for others, regardless of their gender, race, color or religion, must come before anything else.
There is no doubt that technological development has raised mankind to unbelievable heights, which our ancestors did not even dream of - in ancient times. Humanity has been able to reach far into space, and develop incredible nanotechnology. We can count for many hours the wonderful things in modern medicine that help save so many lives.
One can remember how our forefathers lived only 150 years ago: without electricity, cars, airplanes, phones, and all the means of modern communication that make the world a small global village. For all the good and bad implications that these inventions and developments have brought.
We must not forget that on the other side of the equation are the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, for mass destruction, intercontinental missiles and more.
Therefore, there are reservations and limitations that all of us, and mainly the leaders, must maintain in this context, especially in time of rapid technological development. First and foremost, we must remember the human being. How should we help so many people in the world, who are suffering from poverty, and discrimination. It is undoubtedly easy to exploit the situation of these poor people to incite them to extremism, violence, terror and murder, which ended with wars and mass loss of life.
The advanced and developed nations must be mobilized and encouraged, jointly and internationally, through the financial and technological tools available to them, to create a climate of peace, reconciliation,  and significant education, to help meet technological challenges and near-future developments, Accepting the other and different - in terms of religion, race, color and gender.
We must also remember that in the age of globalization, governments and international organizations have largely lost their influence on global trends.
So we must mobilize for this vital issue, global factors that are not limited by bureaucracies and borders. For example, huge business companies are located all over the world, and social networks are reaching every corner. 
The leaders of the various religions also have a cross-border global influence, and it is essential to mobilize their influence for positive trends, and unequivocal messages against the use of religion to justify terror. 
Certainly to encourage their believers to acquire education, knowledge, and tools for employment, in order to exit the cycle of poverty.
We live in times of dramatic changes and tremendous openness;
Information is infinitely accessible with the internet, equality is more advanced than ever before, schools conduct joint studies, and many restrictive frameworks have been abolished.
Therefore, the most important emphasis should be given to education.
Educators everywhere must ask themselves, what tools and values, what spiritual capacities they are able to instill in their students, especially in the younger generations of students, in order to prepare them to cope with the challenges of the renewable world, and how to encounter with those of other color, race, gender or religions; to teach them how to hold a dialogue with others, while faithfully embracing and maintaining their identity. 
We must understand that we live in a global village, and the relations that we share with each other, are extremely important for the future of world peace.
All the leaders of the world must cooperate to advance and foster the values that we all share, the values of justice, charity, compassion and of course peace.
The darkness that comes from lack of education and poverty is the cause of violence, and cannot be chased away with sticks, certainly not with knives and guns. A little light repels much darkness! The light of faith and the light of positive action on the part of state men, politicians and religious leaders, as a living and dignified personal example- will help chase away the darkness and the evil in our world.
As J. F. Kennedy, who was a great American president said, and I quote:
"So, let us not be blind to our differences--but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link, is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal. "
If the message that emerges from here today is the vital need to use the modern technology for global mobilization to help the weak, and provide appropriate education for the disadvantaged, for dialogue and mutual understanding among us, it will be of tremendous value.  
Let us hope and pray, that we will be able to create more diverse society with a rich culture, which being a symbol of coexistence to the entire world.
I would like to take this opportunity once again, to express my appreciation to our distinguished hosts from Sant'Egidio community, who are an endless source of inspiration in their struggle for justice, diversity and world peace.    
Thank you very much,