And Peace Be With All of You.
As always, I am immensely pleased to be here to participate in the annual inter-faith conference for world peace.
Thank you, Community of Sant’Egidio.
After the disruption caused by the Covid pandemic, we are back again here.
Every time I come to participate in these meetings, it feels like a pilgrimage.
This is because we pray together. We think together. We dream together.
And we pledge to care together for Earth, Our Common Home, which is the theme of this session.
In the Rig Veda, we have a mantra or a prayer in Sanskrit:
समानो मन्त्र: समिति: समानी
समानं मन: सहचित्तमेषाम्
समानं मन्त्रमभिमन्त्रये व:
समानेन वो हविषा जुहोमि ||
samāno mantraḥ samitih samānī
samānaṃ manaḥ sahacittameṣām
samānaṃ mantramabhimantraye vaḥ
samānena vo haviṣā juhomi ||
May our purpose be the same; may we all be of one mind. In order for such unity to form, I offer a common prayer.
Today, what is the single-most important Common Purpose that is urging all of us from different religions, races and countries to be united?
It is Caring for our Common Home — Planet Earth.
Not just caring, but saving our Common Home.
This is because our Planet is facing an unprecedented danger.
The crisis is of three types. All three are inter-related.
First is the crisis affecting the climate and the fragile environment that sustains life on our planet.
Second is the crisis affecting peace in the world.
This is caused by growing militarism and antagonism between wealthy and powerful nations.
Third is the crisis affecting the wellbeing of the people, especially the global poor.
This is caused by the unjust and iniquitous economic, political and governance systems, both globally and within nations.
The severity of these three crises is well known.
Let me present a few ideas on what needs to be done, what must be done.
First, on Climate Crisis:
The COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference, hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy, will be held later this month in Glasgow.
It is extremely doubtful whether the participating nations, especially wealthy nations, will agree to a common collaborative action plan to limit global warming to 1.5°C.; mobilise adequate climate finance to help vulnerable countries and communities around the world; and share climate technologies.
One thing is very clear:
This crisis cannot be overcome merely by political, economic, social, financial and technological measures, even though these are extremely necessary.
Sadly, even these actions are woefully in short supply.
The most important action needed is in the spiritual sphere.
Our efforts to save the planet will not succeed unless we view the climate problem within the context of the disturbed relationship between Man and God — our Most Compassionate Common Creator.
The truth is, man has forgotten God.
Because man has forgotten God, he has also forgotten the ancient truth that all human beings are one single family, who should live in harmony among themselves and also with Nature.
Which is why, the Laudato si encyclical by His Holiness Pope Francis, released at the time of the Paris Climate Summit in 2015, is so very relevant and useful.
True, this document draws mainly upon the wisdom of Christian theology.
But the same wisdom about the Man-Nature-God relationship also resides in the teachings of all the other religions of the world.
In Hinduism, we are taught to see divinity in everything in the universe, in both animate and inanimate things.
Upanishads, which are a sacred Hindu scripture, teach each of us to take only that limited portion from the gifts of God, which we need, and to renounce the rest for the use of others.
Mahatma Gandhi used to say that human beings should act as the Trustees of the non-human creation, so that the bounteous gifts of God can be preserved and passed on from generation to generation.
Hence, two imperatives follow from this.
One, there should be an All-Religion Document on Climate Change, on the lines of Laudato si.
Two, we all should strive to make the religious and spiritual perspective on Climate Change become the guiding perspective of Climate Action globally.
This new perspective should inform and inspire the deliberations and agreements at governmental conferences such as COP 26.
Let us look at the second crisis before our Common Home — the World Peace crisis.
We are meeting here in Europe.
Europe, after two horrific World Wars in the last century, is enjoying peace and a reasonable degree of unity.
This is so commendable. Indeed, it’s a lesson countries around the world must learn.
Sadly, this lesson is not learnt in South Asia, from where I come.
All of us know that the situation is not very comforting in our part of the world, and in Asia as a whole.
America was recently forced to end its 20-years-long war in Afghanistan, on which it spent $ 2 trillion.
But where is the global cooperation to send much-needed humanitarian assistance to the suffering people of that war-torn country?
India’s relations with our two large neighbours, Pakistan and China, are highly strained.
Let’s not forget: All three are armed with nuclear weapons.
Now, a new kind of Cold War situation is developing in Asia.
The United States is shifting its focus from Europe to Asia in order to contain China.
In the recently announced AUKUS alliance, USA and Britain will supply nuclear submarines to Australia.
If this continues, our oceans and seas will soon be overcrowded by menacing warships and submarines.
Therefore, Asia, where 60% of the world’s population resides, must rediscover its spiritual and civilizational wisdom for a peaceful future.
The entire world must reject the militarist logic that nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction can make our COMMON HOME safer.
Third is the crisis afflicting people’s wellbeing.
A recent survey in India showed that just 10% of our population owns 50% of the assets, whereas the bottom 50% owns less than 10% of the assets.
Similar patterns of inequality are getting perpetuated in many countries around the world.
A home cannot be called a Common Home, if a majority of its members suffer from want, deprivation and discrimination, and if a minority suffers from consumerism under the false notion that material excess brings happiness.
One more thing: A home can certainly not be called a Common Home if the poor are left without vaccines even in the time of a life-threatening pandemic.
At the recent UN General Assembly, Secretary General Antonio Guterres used very harsh words.
He told the wealthy nations that, whereas they passed the Science Test in developing vaccines against the coronavirus, they got an ‘F’ in the Ethics Test.
He called it an “obscenity” that a majority of the people in the wealthier world vaccinated, whereas over 90 percent of Africans are still waiting for their first dose.
All this must change.
The conscience of humanity must rebel against these inequalities and injustices.
Our Common Home called Planet Earth needs CARE and EMPATHY for all its nearly 8 billion people without any discrimination on any ground.
Let me conclude with one last thought.
Every home, every family, needs a leader, a moral authority respected by all its members.
The leader of our Common Home is the UNITED NATIONS ORGANISATION.
Let’s strengthen the UN system to face the challenges of the 21st century more effectively, so that we can build a better and happier world for our future generations.