I am from India and today is a very special day for Indians.
Today is Diwali, the Festival of Lights.
Let me begin by conveying to all of you my hearty Diwali greetings.
And I do so with a prayer that is special to this festival.
Om Asato Maa Sad-Gamaya |
Tamaso Maa Jyotir-Gamaya |
Mrtyor-Maa Amrtam Gamaya |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||
Om, (O Lord) Lead us — Lead all the people of our world —,
From Untruth to Truth;
From Darkness to Light;
From Mortality to Immortality.
Om, Peace, Peace, Peace.
The topic of this session — MOTHER EARTH: ONE PLANET ONE HUMANITY — attests to the greatest crisis, hence also the greatest task, before humankind today.
Let’s begin with some questions, because questions often are more illuminating than answers.
Question one: Do the ruling elite of the world really believe in the ideal of ONE HUMANITY?
Are the political and governmental masters who take decisions in the leading nations of the world truly committed to the idea that we need to save Mother Earth from the Climate Crisis, which impacts every country in every part of the world every single day?
No. Barring a few exceptions, there is very weak commitment. Their actions do not match their speeches. Indeed, even the speeches of some leaders are disturbingly polarising. They don’t even pretend to believe in the ideal of one humanity.
Since the commitment of governments is weak, there is hardly any collaborative and coordinated global action to address global challenges such as poverty, injustice, hunger, development imbalances, wealth disparities, drought, reckless exploitation of the earth’s resources, pollution, and enforced migrations.
Neither are they setting ambitious Climate Action goals, nor are they implementing those goals in a collective manner, and with a sense of urgency.
Question two: If we are ONE HUMANITY — and we indeed are ONE HUMANITY —, why have we learnt no lessons from the world’s bloody history of wars and conflicts?
Right now, deadly new wars are going on in Ukraine, Yemen and Syria. There is also potential for conflict in other parts of the world.
Question three: Since we are in Europe, I would like to ask: Why is NATO not disbanded, like the Warsaw Pact was? And why are there attempts to create an Asian NATO?
All this is happening because the mechanisms to resolve disputes between nations peacefully are few and they aren’t working.
The United Nations has been made powerless to act against the offenders. Indeed, a cruel irony is that the worst offenders in several wars have been the permanent members of the UN Security Council. They easily veto any action against them by the UN.
Question four: Why are the leading nations of the world continuing to stockpile ever more deadly weapon systems and spend more resources on military year after year, than on people’s welfare?
Take the case of the USA. It is the world’s greatest military spender. It spends more than all the nine other countries in the Top Ten combined, even though there is no proportionate threat to its security.
Militarism inflicts violence not only against people, but also against the planet. There is ample evidence to show that conflicts between nations severely damage the environment.
Question five: Why do the rulers in some countries, like the president of Brazil, think that Mother Nature’s priceless gifts such as the Amazon Forests belong only to them, and not to humanity as a whole? Why do they believe they can plunder, pillage and destroy such irreplaceable ecological resources for short-term profits, with no concern for what this might do to the ONE COMMON INDIVISIBLE CLIMATE of our ONE AND ONLY PLANET?
Lastly, Question six: And this I ask as an Indian, because I am deeply worried about what is happening between India and some of our neighbours.
The Vedas, the ancient sacred scriptures of Hinduism, teach us that the Entire World is One Family — Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, as we say in Sanskrit.
Similarly, Islam also preaches Oneness of Humanity.
Yet, one of the most dangerous and most enduring enmities in the world is between India and our neighbour Pakistan.
India and Pakistan did not cooperate even when the entire humanity was battling the Covid pandemic.
Similarly, when over one-third of Pakistan was recently under water because of the worst floods in its history, the Government of Pakistan refused help from India.
I myself offered to send medicines, but the Pakistan government said NO. A team of Indian doctors wanted to go and help, but the Pakistan government said NO.
I don’t fully blame Pakistan, because when massive floods had caused havoc in the Indian state of Kerala in 2018, the Indian government refused help offered by Pakistan.
The example of the floods in Pakistan highlights one more uncomfortable truth. Climate change has been caused by carbon emissions from industrialised countries. But poor, developing countries with high population densities and limited resources are the first to suffer the devastating effects of climate change.
We can multiply such questions, but the conclusion we can draw from them is clear.
Mother Earth is in danger.
The Children of Mother Earth are in deep distress.
So what should be done?
Permit me to briefly present five ideas for action.
First idea: We must boldly, and unhesitatingly, spread the truth that the era of nation-states with exclusive sovereignty is over. This is the era of global inter-connectedness and inter-dependence. Therefore, national exclusivism must give way to global inclusivism. Irrespective of our national, racial or religious identities, all should be made aware of our primary identity as members of ONE HUMANITY.
Second idea: Consistent with the idea that the sovereignty of nation-states should be curtailed in order to accept the higher sovereignty of ONE HUMANITY, the world should move towards a new era of effective global governance.
Which means, we should strengthen multilateral platforms for regional and global cooperation. Above all, the time has come to radically reform the United Nations and make it effective, truly representative and genuinely democratic.
Let me give an example to show why the UN today is blatantly unrepresentative and undemocratic.
India is the second most populous nation in the world. Before the end of this decade, India’s population will overtake that of China. Yet, it has no place among permanent members of the UN Security Council. In contrast, two European nations, Britain and France, each of whose population is less than 1/20th that of India, are permanent members of the UNSC with veto powers.
Isn’t this absurd?
Indeed, I would argue that no country should have a permanent membership on UNSC and no country should have a veto power either.
In a truly democratic world order, there cannot be a norm that says all nations are equal but some are more equal than others.
Third idea: Politics by its very nature is divisive. It creates divisions among nations, and divisions even among people belonging to the same nation.
Therefore, political consciousness is incapable of cultivating the belief that Earth is our Common Mother, that Planet is our Common Home and that Humanity is One.
Only enlightened religious consciousness can give birth to the belief in the sacredness of Mother Earth, and in concept about One Planet and One Humanity.
Therefore, religious leaders and religious institutions of all faiths should intensify their efforts to push governments, businesses and societies towards Climate Action, towards Social Justice, towards Sustainable Development, and towards ending wars and militarism.
It is in this context that we see the enormous and pioneering importance of the encyclical letter — Laudato si’ ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME — released by His Holiness Pope Francis in 2015. Other religions should emulate this noble example.
Ideally, all religions should prepare, issue and campaign for the implementation of a common spiritual manifesto to Save Planet Earth and Save Humanity.
Fourth idea: Science, technology, innovation and green businesses are indispensable allies in the mission to overcome the Climate Crisis.
It is heartening to note that promising strides are being made in solar, wind, green hydrogen and other renewable sources of energy. Some countries, such as China, have also taken resolute measures to increase the forest cover and de-pollute water bodies.
We should welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent statement about the need to restore harmony between human beings and Nature, and move from Industrial Civilisation to Ecological Civilisation.
My fifth and last idea: To save Mother Earth and to save humanity, the world has to abandon models of economic growth based on consumerism and greed. We should recall the wise and cautionary words of Mahatma Gandhi, one of the earliest votaries of the Green Movement, who said, “Mother Earth has enough to satisfy everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed.”
I thank the organisers for inviting me once to participate in this International Inter-Religious and Inter-Cultural Meeting for Peace.
Before I conclude, I would like to make a fervent appeal to the Community of Sant’Egidio and all the participants in this meeting. Let’s undertake a peace mission to stop the war in Ukraine. Let’s go to both Ukraine and to Russia and urge for an immediate cessation of hostilities. Let’s also appeal to the international community to end its passivity and make effective efforts to bring the war to an end.
I thank you all for your attention.
Jai Jagat in Sanskrit means Victory to Humanity.