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Albert Schweitzer (January 14, 1875 – September 4, 1965): Reverence for Life

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Social Rights, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace on January 14, 2021 at 10:51 PM

By René Wadlow

The human race must be converted to a fresh mental attitude, if it is not to suffer extinction… A new renaissance, much greater than that in which we emerged from the Middle Ages, is absolutely essential. Are we going to draw from the spirit enough strength to create new conditions and turn our faces once again to civilization, or are we going to draw our inspiration from our surroundings and go down with them to ruin? — Albert Schweitzer

January 14 was the anniversary of the birth of Albert Schweitzer and a special day at the hospital that he founded at Lambaréné. Alsatian wine would be served at lunch, and conversations over lunch would last longer than usual before everyone had to return to his tasks. In 1963, when I was working for the Ministry of Education of Gabon and spending time at the Protestant secondary school some 500 yards down river from the hospital, I was invited to lunch for the birthday celebration. As the only non-hospital person there, I was placed next to Dr. Schweitzer, and we continued our discussions both on the events that had taken place along the Ogowe River and his more philosophical concerns.

I was interviewing Gabonese staying at the hospital on what they thought of schools, of schoolteachers, of their hopes for their children. When Schweitzer was not busy writing, I would go sit with him and discuss. Since many of the people who came from Europe or the USA to visit him would always say “Yes, Doctor, I agree”, he had relatively little time for them. But since I would say, “But no, you also have to take this into account…” he was stimulated and we had long talks. On his basic position of reverence for life, I was in agreement, and I have always appreciated the time spent on the river’s edge.

As Norman Cousins has noted,

“the main point about Schweitzer is that he helped make it possible for twentieth-century man to unblock his moral vision. There is a tendency in a relativistic age for man to pursue all sides of a question as an end in itself, finding relief and even refuge in the difficulty of defining good and evil. The result is a clogging of the moral sense, a certain feeling of self-consciousness or even discomfort when questions with ethical content are raised. Schweitzer furnished the nourishing evidence that nothing is more natural in life than a moral response, which exists independently of precise definition, its use leading not to exhaustion but to new energy.”

The moral response for Schweitzer was “reverence for life”. Schweitzer had come to Lambaréné in April 1913, already well known for his theological reflections on the eschatological background of Jesus’ thought as well as his study of Bach. As an Alsatian he was concerned with the lack of mutual understanding, the endless succession of hatred and fear, between France and Germany that led to war a year later.

Since Alsace was part of Germany at the time, Schweitzer was considered an enemy alien in the French colony of Gabon. When war broke out he was first restricted to the missionary station where he had started his hospital and later was deported and interned in France. He returned to Gabon after the First World War, even more convinced of the need to infuse thought with a strong ethical impulse. His reflections in The Decay and Restoration of Civilization trace in a fundamental way the decay. He saw clearly that

“the future of civilization depends on our overcoming the meaningless and hopelessness which characterizes the thoughts and convictions of men today, and reaching a state of fresh hope and fresh determination.”

He was looking for a basic principle that would provide the basis of the needed renewal. That principle arose from a mystical experience. He recounts how he was going down river to Ngomo, a missionary station with a small clinic. In those days, there were steamboats on the Ogowé, and seated on the deck, he had been trying to write all day. After a while, he stopped writing and only watched the equatorial forest as the boat moved slowly on. Then the words “reverence for life” came into his mind, and his reflections had found their core: life must be both affirmed and revered. Ethics, by its very nature, is linked to the affirmation of the good. Schweitzer saw that he was

“life which wants to live, surrounded by life which wants to live. Being will-to-life, I feel the obligation to respect all will-to-life about me as equal to my own. The fundamental idea of good is thus that it consists in preserving life, in favoring it, in wanting to bring it to its highest value, and evil consists in destroying life, doing it injury, hindering its development.”

Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben, — reverence for life — was the key concept for Schweitzer — all life longs for fullness and development as a person does for himself. However, the will to live is not static; there is a inner energy which pushes on to a higher state — a will to self-realization. Basically, this energy can be called spiritual. As Dr. Schweitzer wrote

“One truth stands firm. All that happens in world history rests on something spiritual. If the spiritual is strong, it creates world history. If it is weak, it suffers world history.” The use of Schweitzer’s principle of Reverence for Life can have a profound impact on how humans treat the environment. Reverence for Life rejects the notion that humans can use the environment for its own purposes without any consideration of its consequences for other living things. It accepts the view that there is a reciprocal relationship among living things. Each species is linked to many others.”

Aldo Leopold in his early statement of a deep ecology ethic, A Sand County Almanac, makes the same point:

“All ethics so far evolved rest on a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts…The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soil, water, plants, and animals, or collectively, the land.”

War and the potential of the use of nuclear weapons is the obvious opposite of reverence for life. Thus, in the mid-1950s, when the political focus was on the testing in the atmosphere of nuclear weapons, Schweitzer came out strongly for an abolition of nuclear tests. Some had warned him that such a position could decrease his support among those who admired his medical work in Africa but who wanted to support continued nuclear tests. However, for Schweitzer, an ethic which is not presented publicly is no ethic at all. His statements on the nuclear weapons issue are collected in his Peace or atomic war? (1958). The statements had an impact with many, touched by the ethical appeal when they had not been moved to action by political reasoning. These protests led to the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty which bans tests in the atmosphere — an important first step.

Schweitzer was confident that an ethic impulse was in all people and would manifest itself if given the proper opportunity.

“Just as the rivers are much less numerous than underground streams, so the idealism that is visible is minor compared to what men and women carry in their hearts, unreleased or scarcely released. Mankind is waiting and longing for those who can accomplish the task of untying what is knotted and bringing the underground waters to the surface.”

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Khalil Gibran: The Forerunner

In Arts, Being a World Citizen, Literature, Middle East & North Africa, Spirituality, The Search for Peace on January 6, 2021 at 11:06 PM

By René Wadlow

Khalil Gibran (1883-1931), the Lebanese poet whose birth anniversary we mark on January 6, was a person who saw signs in advance of later events or trends. The Forerunner is the title of one of his books, though less known than his major work The Prophet. As he wrote, “Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.”

Khalil Gibran

Lebanon is a country rich in legend and Biblical references. It is the traditional birthplace of the god Tanmuz and his sister Ishtar. Tammuz is a god who represents the yearly cycle of growth, decay and revival of life, who annually dies and rises again from the dead – a forerunner of Jesus. Ishtar is a goddess who creates the link between earth and heaven – the forerunner of Mary, mother rather than sister of Jesus, but who plays the same symbolic role. As Gibran wrote “Mother (woman), our consolation in sorrow, our hope in misery, our strength in weakness. She is the source of love, mercy, sympathy, and forgiveness … I am indebted for all that I call ‘I’ to women, ever since I was an infant. Women opened the wisdom of my eyes and the doors of my spirit. Had it not been for the woman – mother – the woman – sister – and the woman – friend – I would be sleeping among those who seek the tranquility of the world with their snoring.”

To Ishtar, for Gibran, the Great God placed deep within her “discernment to see what cannot be seen … Then the Great God smiled and wept, looked with love boundless and eternal.”

Yet, like Jesus, Gibran was moved by women but never married and was not known to be in a sexual relation with women. Gibran felt that Jesus was his elder brother. The life of the soul, My brother “is surrounded by solitude and isolation. Were it not for this solitude and that isolation, you would not be you, and I would not be me. Were it not for this solitude and isolation, I would imagine that I was speaking when I heard your voice, and when I saw your face, I would imagine myself looking into a mirror.”

For Gibran, Jesus died “that the Kingdom of Heaven might be preached, that man might attain that consciousness of beauty and goodness within himself. He came to make the human heart a temple; the soul an alter, and the mind a priest. And when a storm rises, it is your singing and your praises that I hear.” (1)

Like Jesus, Gibran was at odds with the established conservative institutions, the clergy and the politicians of his day, those concerned to preserve their inherited power and privileges. He sought out of his experience a general critique of society, concentrating on the hypocrisy of its religious institutions, the injustice of its political institutions and the narrow outlook of its ordinary citizens.

However, Gibran saw his role as a poet and not as a prophet. As he wrote “I am a poet am a stranger in this world. I write in verse life’s prose, and in prose life’s verse. Thus, I am a stranger, and will remain a stranger until death snatches me away and carries me to my homeland … Do not despair, for beyond the injustices of this world, beyond matter, beyond the clouds, beyond all things is a power which is all justice, all kindness, all tenderness, all love. Beauty is the stairway to the thrown of a reality that does not wound…Jerusalem proved unable to kill the Nazarene, for he is alive forever; nor could Athens execute Socrates for he is immoral. Nor shall derision prove powerful against those who listen to humanity or those who follow in the footsteps of divinity, for they shall live forever. Forever.”

Notes:

1) See Khalil Gibran. Jesus. The Son of Man (London: Penguin Books, 1993) This is the longest of Gibran’s books. It was first published in 1928. Through the device of imagining what Jesus’ contemporaries who knew him, Gibran portrays Jesus as a multi-faceted being, a mirror of different individuals’ strengths, convictions and weaknesses.

2) The painting that accompanies the article by Khalil Gibran.

3) Also from Rene Wadlow in Ovi magazine:

Khalil Gibran: Spirits Rebellious & Khalil Gibran: The Foundations of Love

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Maurice Béjart: Starting Off the Year with a Dance

In Africa, Arts, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Europe, Spirituality, The Search for Peace on January 1, 2021 at 3:09 PM

By René Wadlow

January 1 is the birth anniversary of Maurice Béjart, an innovative master of modern dance. In a world where there is both appreciation and fear of the mixing of cultural traditions, Maurice Béjart was always a champion of blending cultural influences. He was a World Citizen of culture and an inspiration to all who work for a universal culture. His death on November 22, 2007 was a loss, but he serves as a forerunner of what needs to be done so that beauty will overcome the walls of separation. One of the Béjart’s most impressive dance sequences was Jérusalem, cité de la Paix in which he stressed the need for reconciliation and mutual cultural enrichment.

Béjart followed in the spirit of his father, Gaston Berger (1896-1960), philosopher, administrator of university education, and one of the first to start multi-disciplinary studies of the future. Gaston Berger was born in Saint-Louis du Sénégal, with a French mother and a Senegalese father. Senegal, and especially Leopold Sedar Senghor, pointed with pride to Gaston Berger as a “native son” — and the second university after Dakar was built in Saint-Louis and carries the name of Gaston Berger. Berger became a professor of philosophy at the University of Aix-Marseille and was interested in seeking the basic structures of mystical thought, with study on the thought of Henri Bergson and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, both of whom were concerned with the basic energies which drive humanity forward. Berger was also interested in the role of memory as that which holds the group together writing that it is memory which allows us “to be able to hope together, to fear together, to love together, and to work together.”

Gaston Berger

In 1953, Gaston Berger was named director general of higher education in France with the task of renewal of the university system after the Second World War years. Thus, when Maurice-Jean Berger, born in 1927, was to start his own path, the name Berger was already well known in intellectual and administrative circle. Maurice changed his name to Béjart which sounds somewhat similar but is the name of the wife of Molière. Molière remains the symbol of the combination of theater-dance-music.

Maurice Béjart was trained at the Opera de Paris and then with the well-known choreographer Roland Petit. Béjart’s talent was primarily as a choreographer, a creator of new forms blending dance-music-action. He was willing to take well-known music such as the Bolero of Maurice Ravel or The Rite of Spring and The Firebird of Stravinsky and develop new dance forms for them. However, he was also interested in working with composers of experimental music such as Pierre Schaeffer.

Béjart also continued his father’s interest in mystical thought, less to find the basic structures of mystic thought like his father but rather as an inspiration. He developed a particular interest in the Sufi traditions of Persia and Central Asia. The Sufis have often combined thought-music-motion as a way to higher enlightenment. The teaching and movements of G. I. Gurdjieff are largely based on Central Asian Sufi techniques even if Gurdjieff did not stress their Islamic character. Although Gurdjieff died in October 1948, he was known as an inspiration for combining mystical thought, music and motion in the artistic milieu of Béjart. The French composer of modern experimental music, Pierre Schaeffer with whom Béjart worked closely was a follower of Gurdjieff. Schaeffer also worked closely with Pierre Henry for Symphonie pour un homme seul and La Messe pour le Temps Présent for which Béjart programmed the dance. Pierre Henry was interested in the Tibetan school of Buddhism, so much of Béjart’s milieu had spiritual interests turned toward Asia.

Maurice Béjart

It was Béjart’s experience in Persia where he was called by the Shah of Iran to create dances for the Persepolis celebration in 1971 that really opened the door to Sufi thought — a path he continued to follow.

Béjart also followed his father’s interest in education and created dance schools both in Bruxelles and later Lausanne. While there is not a “Béjart style” that others follow closely, he stressed an openness to the cultures of the world and felt that dance could be an enrichment for all social classes. He often attracted large audiences to his dance performances, and people from different milieu were moved by his dances.

Béjart represents a conscious effort to break down walls between artistic forms by combining music, dance, and emotion and the walls between cultures. An inspiration for World Citizens to follow.

Maurice Béjart’s dancers performing Pierre Henry’s Messe pour le Temps présent at the Avignon festival in 1967. © Jean-Louis Boissier

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Jacques Maritain (November 18, 1882 – April 23, 1973), World Citizen Philosopher

In Being a World Citizen, Spirituality on November 20, 2020 at 5:29 PM

By René Wadlow

Jacques Maritain was a French intellectual who spent the years of World War Two in Princeton in the USA. He was a friend of the anti-Nazi German author Thomas Mann who also lived in Princeton. Both men were among the active advocates of world citizenship. When Thomas Mann’s daughter, Elizabeth Mann Borgese, was editing the world citizen journal Common Cause from the University of Chicago in the 1947-1950 period, Jacques Maritain wrote a number of articles for the journal along the lines of his thinking set out in his Man and the State.

At the time that he was writing for Common Cause, he was the Ambassador of France to the Vatican, having been named ambassador by Charles De Gaulle from 1945 to 1948. Maritain had supported De Gaulle during the war when many French Catholics had sided with the Vichy government or were silent.

Jacques Maritain had become a well-known French intellectual in the 1930s for his writings on a wide range of topics but always in a spirit of spirituality in the Roman Catholic tradition. However, he was born into a Protestant family with anticlerical views which were common at the start of the Third Republic in the 1870s.

Maritain was converted to the Roman Catholic faith in his early twenties after a period of depression linked to his search for the meaning of life. He had married young to his wife Raissa, who came from a Jewish Ukrainian family who had come to France due to a persistent anti-Jewish atmosphere in Ukraine. Both Jacques and Raissa converted to the Roman Catholic faith at the same time as a result of intense discussions between the two.

Raissa became well known in her own right as a poet and writer on mystical spirituality, but she also always worked closely on the writings of her husband. Their spiritual Catholicism was always colored by their early friendship with unorthodox Catholic thinkers, in particular Charles Péguy and Leon Bloy. After Raissa’s death in 1960, Jacques Maritain moved back to France from Princeton to live in a monastic community for the last 12 years of his life.

His writing on the spiritual background for creative actions for the benefit of the world community can be an inspiration to us all.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Velimir Khlebnikov (November 9, 1885 – June 28, 1922): The Futurian and World Citizen

In Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Literature, Poetry, Spirituality, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace on November 9, 2020 at 1:02 PM

By René Wadlow

Let Planet Earth be sovereign at last. Planet Earth alone will be our sovereign song.

Velimir Khlebnikov.

Velimir Khlebnikov was a shooting star of Russian culture in the years just prior to the start of the First World War. He was part of a small creative circle of poets, painters and writers who wanted to leave the old behind and to set the stage for the future such as the abstract painter Kazimir Malevich. They called themselves “The Futurians”. They were interested in being avenues for the Spirit which they saw at work in peasent life and in shamans’ visions; however, the Spirit was very lacking in the works of the ruling nobility and commercial elite.

As Charlotte Douglas notes in her study of Khlebnikov “To tune mankind into harmony with the universe – that was Khlebnikov’s vocation. He wanted to make the Planet Earth fit for the future, to free it from the deadly gravitational pull of everyday lying and pretense, from the tyranny of petty human instincts and the slow death of comfort and complacency.” (1)

Khlebnikov wrote “Old ones! You are holding back the fast advance of humanity. You are preventing the boiling locomotive of youth from crossing the mountain that lies in its path. We have broken the locks and see what your freight cars contain: tombstones for the young.”

The Futurian movement as such lasted from 1911 until 1915 when its members were dispersed by the start of the World War, the 1917 revolutions and the civil war. Khlebnikov died in 1922 just as Stalin was consolidating his power. Stalin would put an end to artistic creativity.

The Futurians were concerned that Russia should play a creative role in the world, but they were also world citizens who wanted to create a world-wide network of creative scientists, artists and thinkers who would have a strong impact on world events. As Khlebnikov wrote in his manifesto To the Artists of the World We have long been searching for a program that would act something like a lens capable of focusing the combined rays of the work of the artist and the work of the thinker toward a single point where they might join in a common task and be able to ignite even the cold essence of ice and turn it to a blazing bonfire. Such a program, the lens capable of directing together your fiery courage and the cold intellect of the thinkers has now been discovered.”

The appeal for such a creative, politically relevant network was written in early 1919 when much of the world was starting to recover from World War I. However, Russia was sinking into a destructive civil war. The Futurians were dispersed to many different areas and were never able to create such a network. The vision of a new network is now a challenge that we must meet.

Note

1) Charlotte Douglas (Ed.) The King of Time: Velimir Khlebnikov (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Mali: More Instability in an Unstable Region

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on September 4, 2020 at 8:35 PM

By René Wadlow

The August 18, 2020 coup by Malian military leaders brought an end to the unstable government of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, widely known by his initials IBK. He had come to power on March 22, 2012 in another military coup which had ended the administration of President Amadou Trouré. This 2012 coup highlighted the weakness of the government structures and the narrow geographic base of the administration’s power. This realization led to a revolt in the north of the country led by two rival Tuareg groups as well as Islamist militias of non-Tuareg fighters coming from other Sahel countries and northern Nigeria. Mali was effectively divided into two roughly equal half, each half about the size of France.

French troops were sent from France in January 2013 to prevent an expansion of the territory held by the Tuareg and the Islamists, but were not able to develop a stable administration.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

Mali had been poorly administered since its independence in 1960. Economic development had been guided by political and ethnic considerations. During the French colonial period, from the 1890s to 1960, the French administration was based in Dakar, Senegal, a port on the Atlantic with secondary schools, a university, and an educated middle class. Mali was considered an “outpost” (called French Sudan at the time) and largely governed by the French military more interested in keeping order than in development.

IBK’s administration was widely criticized by much of the population for its incompetence, favoritism, and corruption especially by family members such as his son Karim Keita. Islamist groups remained powerful in parts of the north and central Mali. The whole Sahel area, in particular the frontier area of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso still has powerful and violent Islamist militias. This instability is an increasing menace to the coastal countries of Togo, Benin, and Cote d’Ivoire.

Over the past year, discontent with IBK has led to a loose coalition of opposition groups known by the title M5 – RFP, of which the conservative Islamic imam Mahmoud Dicko is a leading figure.

French soldiers deployed in Mali

For the moment, the Mali military leaders have formed the Comité national pour le salut du peuple (The National Committee for the Salvation of the People). It is led by Col. Assimi Gaita, a special forces leader. The Committee has said that it is forming a military-civil transitional government that will lead to elections in nine months.

The challenges facing Mali and the wider Sahel area are great, in large measure linked to the lack of socio-economic development, economic stagnation, and poor administration. The situation is made worse by the consequences of global warming and persistent drought. The military are not trained to be development workers. A broad cooperative effort of all sectors of the population is needed. Will the military be able to develop such a broadly-based cooperative effort? Mali and the Sahel merit close attention.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Taiwan, Etat non-membre de l’ONU, se dote d’une Commission nationale des Droits Humains en suivant les règles des Nations Unies

In Anticolonialism, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, NGOs, Religious Freedom, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on August 2, 2020 at 9:26 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry

 

La Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme ayant été proclamée par l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies, faut-il être citoyen d’un Etat membre de l’ONU pour s’en réclamer ?

Absurde, comme question ? Elle ne l’était pas tant lorsque la Déclaration fut adoptée, en 1948, dans le monde de l’après-Seconde Guerre Mondiale où le colonialisme existait encore et des centaines de millions d’êtres humains vivaient encore sous l’autorité d’un pays européen qui avait un jour pris leur terre par la force.

René Cassin et les rédacteurs de la Déclaration savaient ce qu’ils voulaient. Le Préambule précise que les Droits de l’Homme, aujourd’hui Droits Humains, doivent être respectés «tant parmi les populations des Etats Membres eux-mêmes que parmi celles des territoires placés sous leur juridiction». L’Article 2.2 se veut tout aussi explicite en affirmant qu’ «il ne sera fait aucune distinction fondée sur le statut politique, juridique ou international du pays ou du territoire dont une personne est ressortissante, que ce pays ou territoire soit indépendant, sous tutelle, non autonome ou soumis à une limitation quelconque de souveraineté».

Tout être humain était donc titulaire des droits énoncés par la Déclaration, la colonisation n’y devant apporter aucune différence. Mais pour ne citer qu’elles, les réponses de la France et de la Grande-Bretagne aux velléités d’indépendance allaient bientôt démontrer une réalité tout autre, en particulier pendant la guerre d’Algérie.

Au début du vingt-et-unième siècle, la terre était entièrement composée d’Etats membres de l’ONU. Parmi les Etats mondialement reconnus, seule la Suisse ne l’était pas, ayant toutefois fini par rejoindre les Nations Unies en 2002. A ce jour, seuls trois Etats reconnus à travers le monde ne sont pas membres de l’ONU – l’Etat de Palestine, cependant membre de l’UNESCO, le Saint-Siège, Etat que dirige le Pape au sein de la Cité du Vatican à Rome, et Taiwan, ou plutôt, selon son nom officiel, la République de Chine.

En fait, pour l’Organisation mondiale, Taiwan n’est même pas un Etat. En 1949, à l’issue de la guerre civile opposant le Gouvernement chinois aux troupes communistes, l’île devient le seul territoire restant à l’Etat chinois reconnu et qui, à l’ONU, le reste bien qu’ayant perdu la Chine continentale. Ce n’est qu’en 1971 que les Nations Unies reconnaissent le régime de Beijing et retirent sa reconnaissance à Taiwan. Depuis cette époque, Taiwan se considère comme une province de la République de Chine, qu’elle estime être l’Etat légitime chinois en lieu et place de celui représenté au Conseil de Sécurité de l’ONU dont la Chine populaire est l’un des cinq Membres permanents.

Inexistante aux yeux des Nations Unies, Taiwan y a donc perdu tout droit – mais aussi tout devoir, notamment envers les normes internationales de Droits Humains. Pour autant, les Taïwanais sont loin d’avoir cessé d’y croire et viennent même de remporter une considérable victoire.

Des principes universels – mais qui ne lient pas Taiwan

A Taiwan, la situation est tendue, tant du fait de la Chine populaire qu’à l’intérieur même des frontières. Aux menaces de Beijing qui, s’employant à réprimer la révolte contre le projet de loi ultrasécuritaire à Hong Kong, annonce à Taiwan qu’elle est la prochaine sur laquelle viendra s’abattre sa force armée, viennent s’ajouter les poursuites judiciaires et fiscales contre le groupe spirituel Tai Ji Men, en cours depuis les années 1990 et qui ont fait descendre Taipei dans la rue.

Tout se prête à une crispation tant externe qu’interne des dirigeants, et dans de telles conditions, autant dire qu’espérer en une avancée sociale ou sociétale majeure relève au mieux du vœu pieux. Or, le «vœu pieux» vient précisément de devenir réalité.

Le 1er août, la République de Chine s’est dotée d’une Commission nationale des Droits Humains, placée sous l’autorité administrative du Yuan de Contrôle qui œuvre à l’observation du bon fonctionnement des institutions au sein de l’exécutif. Selon la Présidente taïwanaise, Tsai Ing-wen, souvent citée en exemple pour sa gestion de la COVID-19 avec plusieurs de ses homologues féminines comme Jacinda Ardern ou Angela Merkel, la Commission aura pour tâche de rendre les lois nationales plus conformes aux normes internationales de Droits Humains. Et à l’appui de sa revendication, la cheffe de l’Etat taïwanais choisit une référence frappante.

Tsai_Ing-wen_20170613

Tsai Ing-wen, Présidente de la République de Chine

Lors de la cérémonie de création de la Commission, Tsai Ing-wen a invoqué les Principes de Paris, créés par une résolution de la Commission des Droits de l’Homme de l’ONU, ancêtre du Conseil du même nom, en 1992 puis validés par l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies l’année suivante, également l’année de la Conférence de Vienne sur les Droits Humains qui créa en la matière le poste de Haut Commissaire.

Instaurant le concept d’Institution nationale des Droits Humains (INDH), rôle que remplit en France, par exemple, la Commission nationale consultative des Droits de l’Homme créée en 1947, les Principes de Paris fixent des buts fondamentaux à accomplir pour toute INDH : protéger les Droits Humains, notamment en recevant des plaintes et en enquêtant en vue de résoudre l’affaire, en œuvrant à titre de médiateur dans des litiges et en observant les activités liées aux Droits Humains dans la société, mais aussi assurer la promotion des Droits Humains à travers l’éducation, l’information du public dans les médias réguliers et à travers des publications propres, ainsi que la formation, la création des aptitudes et, in fine, le conseil et l’assistance au gouvernement national.

Mais attention. N’est pas une INDH qui veut. Afin d’être reconnue comme telle, puis autorisée à rejoindre l’Alliance mondiale des Institutions nationales des Droits Humains (Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, GANHRI), une INDH doit remplir, toujours selon les Principes de Paris, six critères incontournables :

– Disposer d’un mandat large se fondant sur les normes universelles de Droits Humains,

– Disposer d’une autonomie réelle de fonctionnement envers le Gouvernement,

– Disposer d’une indépendance garantie par son statut ou son acte constitutif,

– Assurer en son sein le pluralisme,

– Bénéficier de ressources financières suffisantes pour accomplir sa tâche, et

– Bénéficier de pouvoirs d’enquête effectifs pour obtenir des résultats probants.

Il est facile pour un gouvernement, surtout sentant la pression internationale, de créer une INDH de complaisance. Mais il sera moins facile pour celle-ci d’être reconnue par ses paires. Au demeurant, la Chine populaire reconnue par l’ONU n’a pas créé à ce jour d’INDH …

Non membre de l’ONU, Taiwan n’est en théorie pas tenue par les normes internationales auxquelles se réfère la Présidente Tsai. Autant dire que le choix est risqué. S’il est risqué, c’est parce qu’il est courageux. Et s’il est courageux, c’est parce qu’il est subjectif.

Taiwan sait quels risques elle veut prendre

Entre 1949, année de la scission du peuple chinois sur le plan politique, et 1975, date de son décès, Tchang Kai-chek, ancien général puis dictateur de type fasciste en Chine continentale, aura dirigé Taiwan d’une main de fer face à Mao Zedong, patron de la Chine populaire, à laquelle il imposera un règne tyrannique ponctué par une sanglante «révolution culturelle» et qui ne survivra que quelques mois à son adversaire taïwanais.

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Tchang Kaï-chek

Jusqu’alors démocratie de façade, Taiwan en devient progressivement une plus réelle et, dans les années 1980, l’Etat insulaire émerge comme l’une des grandes puissances économiques de l’Asie, formant avec la Corée du Sud, la cité-Etat de Singapour et Hong Kong, alors toujours colonie britannique, les «Quatre Dragons».

Pour la Chine populaire, la fin de la Guerre Froide n’est pas symbole de liberté, le Printemps de Beijing et les manifestants de la Place Tienanmen étant réprimés dans le sang en juin 1989. La décennie voit le pouvoir central poursuivre et accentuer ses manœuvres d’intimidation contre les minorités ethniques et religieuses, Bouddhistes au Tibet et Ouighours musulmans au Xinjiang. Quant à Taiwan, sa position unique de non-Etat membre de l’ONU apparaît plus que jamais problématique, au sein d’un nouvel ordre mondial introuvable et pour lequel l’interminable exclusion de l’Etat insulaire fait figure d’épine dans le pied.

C’est aussi l’époque où, sous le leadership de Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan parachève sa démocratisation et entame une vaste campagne diplomatique mondiale pour trouver de nouveaux alliés. L’un des effets les moins connus de cette campagne est que, lorsque le Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unies est appelé en 1999 à renouveler le mandat de l’UNPREDEP, force déployée à titre préventif en Macédoine – aujourd’hui République de Macédoine du Nord –, Beijing met son veto en raison de la reconnaissance accordée par l’ancienne république yougoslave à Taiwan, une opération de l’OTAN devant prendre la relève.

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Mao Zedong

Ayant suivi depuis la fin de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale un parcours politique semblable à celui, en Europe, de l’Espagne et du Portugal, avec un régime de type fasciste disparaissant avec son créateur dans les années 1970 et une démocratisation qui va de pair avec une envolée économique, entre un modèle communiste disparu presque partout ailleurs dans le monde et celui de la démocratie de libre marché, certes imparfait mais non moins plébiscité à travers la planète, Taiwan a choisi. Entre un Etat qui se donne droit de vie et de mort sur ses citoyens, la dernière forme en étant celle de Ouighours parqués dans des camps et de femmes stérilisées de force qui confèrent à cette campagne tous les traits d’un génocide, et un Etat qui se dote d’une Commission nationale des Droits Humains en dépit même de convulsions internes et d’une menace militaire externe plus criante que jamais, Taiwan sait quels risques elle veut prendre.

Organisations intergouvernementales : un modèle à revoir ?

Une organisation comme l’AWC n’est pas là pour soutenir une idéologie politique précise, que ce soit le communisme, le capitalisme ou aucune autre. Nous ne sommes pas là non plus pour prendre parti pour un Etat contre un autre, notre but étant le règlement pacifique des différends entre nations.

Mais les contextes politiques permettant ou non le respect des Droits Humains sont une réalité. Deux Etats se veulent la Chine, l’un à Beijing, l’autre à Taipei. A présent, l’un d’eux possède une Commission nationale des Droits Humains. Et ce n’est pas celui qui, juridiquement parlant, est tenu par les Principes de Paris.

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Lee Teng-hui

Douglas Mattern, Président-fondateur de l’AWC, décrivait notre association comme étant «engagée corps et âme» auprès de l’ONU. Elle l’est, mais envers l’esprit de l’Organisation mondiale, la lettre de ses textes, et non envers la moindre de ses décisions politiques. En l’occurrence, l’exclusion totale de Taiwan du système onusien, déjà battue en brèche par la COVID-19 qui remet à l’ordre du jour la question de l’admission de Taiwan à l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé où elle a perdu son statut d’observateur au moment de l’arrivée au pouvoir de Tsai Ing-wen, apparaît plus incompréhensible encore avec l’accession à un mécanisme onusien de Droits Humains de la République de Chine quand la République populaire de Chine, Membre permanente du Conseil de Sécurité, s’affiche de plus en plus fièrement indifférente à ses devoirs les plus élémentaires.

L’expérience taïwanaise qui vient de s’ouvrir devra être observée avec la plus grande attention. S’il vient à être démontré qu’une institution de fondement onusien peut se développer avec succès sur un territoire et dans un Etat extérieurs à l’ONU, et on les sait bien peu nombreux, alors une révision du modèle des organisations intergouvernementales du vingtième siècle s’imposera, avec pour point de départ, du plus ironiquement, une leçon de cohérence donnée à l’une d’entre elles par un Etat-nation. 

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’Association of World Citizens.

Hagia Sophia: The Divine Spark in All

In Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Middle East & North Africa, Religious Freedom, Spirituality, The Search for Peace on August 2, 2020 at 3:20 PM

By René Wadlow

 

There is a certain irony in the return of the Hagia Sophia to being an Islamic mosque which it had been from 1453 to 1934. From 1934 till today, it was considered a museum and was visited by many especially for the fine quality of its artwork.

Sophia is the incarnation of wisdom in a feminine figure, providing light in a dark, material world. Only the feminine, the channel of creation in the world, has the power and compassion necessary to overcome the darkness of ignorance.

Sophia as the incarnation of wisdom was a concept among the philosophers of Alexandria and from there entered Jewish thought. (See the Book of Proverbs) The Sophia myth was widespread in the Middle East at the time of Jesus. (1) Sophia was also an important part of Manichean. The Sophia image was also used in various gnostic systems and underwent a great variety of treatments.

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Probably developed independently, the feminine embodiment of wisdom and compassion is Shakti in Hinduism and Kuan Yin, the compassionate Bodhisattva in Taoism and Chinese Buddhism.

In our own time, Carl G. Jung highlights the Sophia myth as a many-layered structure of an individual’s search for health and wholeness. Jung stresses the archetypal fall into darkness and the return to light in related myths such as the Egyptian Isis and the descent of Orpheus into the underworld to rescue his wife Eurydice.

It is not certain that all who go to pray at the newly restored mosque will know of the cultural and spiritual meaning of Sophia. However, the central theme of Sophia is that wisdom is the divine spark within each person. That spark is there if one knows the myth or not.

Note: (1) See James M. Robenson (Ed), The Nag Hammadi Library in English (San Francisco: Harper Collins).

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

June 21: A Day of Balance and Harmony

In Being a World Citizen, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II on June 21, 2020 at 5:11 PM

By René Wadlow

 

Our earth is a small star in the great universe
Yet of it we can make, if we choose, a planet
Unvexed by war, untroubled by hunger or fear,
Undivided by senseless distinctions of race, color, or theory.

Stephen Vincent Bennet

The 21st of June, the Summer Solstice, is in many cultures the cosmic symbol of balance and harmony: balance between light and dark, between the universal and the local, between giving and receiving, between women and men, and between our inner and outer worlds. History records humanity’s preoccupation with the sun’s annual cycle. Sites such as Stonehenge in England are thought to have been erected specifically to trace the path of the sun through the heavens.

The sun has always had symbolic meaning. As that most ancient Sanskrit prayer, the Gayatri, tells us, the sun is a disc of golden light giving sustenance to the universe, and Plato used the image of the sun to represent the idea of the One, the Good. In the age of the Old Kingdom in ancient Egypt, the concept of harmony, order, and balance were personified by the goddess Ma’at, the winged woman who replicated on earth, the celestial balance of order and beauty.

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There is an old tradition attributed to Hermes Trismegistus and the Emerald Tablet which says, “that which is below is like that which is above, and that which is above is like that which is below.” Thus, the cosmic growth of light should be reflected in our lives in greater light, greater awareness, greater understanding.

June 21 is a day of recognition of the worldwide increase of light which destroys ignorance. It is a day in which we celebrate illumination as it dispels darkness. It is a day during which we can all recognize the growth of greater consciousness and concern for the common good. Therefore, the Association of World Citizens stresses cooperation and visions of a better future. Harmony and balance include tolerance, acceptance, equality and forgiveness of past pains and conflicts.

Due to the efforts of those with a world vision, people throughout the world are recognizing their responsibility to each other are attempting to revolve ancient and entrenched global problems. Today, we see a new spirit of cooperation as we move toward a cosmopolitan, humanist world society. We see a growing spirit of forgiveness, reconciliation, and dialogue. We are one human race, and we inhabit one world. Therefore, we must see the world with global eyes, understand the world with a global mind, and love the world with a global heart.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Education for Global Citizenship

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Development, Human Rights, Korean Peninsula, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on April 22, 2020 at 7:59 PM

By René Wadlow

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has taken a lead in Education for Global Citizenship, starting in 2013 with the UNESCO Forum of Global Citizenship Education. Global Citizenship refers to a sense of belonging to the broader community of humanity. Global Citizenship emphasizes political, economic, social, and cultural interconnectedness between the local, the national, and the global. Education for Global Citizenship aims to develop an education based on creative and critical thinking that enables all people to contribute actively to political and development processes in a complex global society.

While it is important that Global Citizenship Education be implemented in the school system at all levels, Global Citizenship must also be carried out by those who are not directly part of the school programs such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Thus, the United Nations Department of Public Information’s yearly conference for NGOs in 2016 was devoted to Education for Global Citizenship. The conference was held in the city of Gyeongju which had been the first capital in 900 AD of a unified Korea. The conference was able to draw on a larger-than-usual Asian NGOs.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) which supports fully the Global Citizenship Education process was able to play an active role and continues its efforts.

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Prof. René Wadlow, President of the Association of World Citizens, addressing the UN DPI/NGO conference in Gyeongju.

Education for Global Citizenship is an essential strategy to address global challenges as well as to promote gender equality, facilitate the eradication of poverty and hunger, build skills, eliminate corruption, and prevent violence. Education for Global Citizenship promotes truly sustainable production and consumption, mitigating climate change and its effects, protecting our waters and biodiversity.

The AWC stresses that Education for Global Citizenship needs to highlight the importance of the human spirit in educational philosophy and practice. World Citizens hold that there are inter-acting dimensions of existence from the physical to the mental and to the dimension of the spirit. Education should consider all these dimensions and not just the physical and mental which is today the focus of most education systems.

We are still at an early stage in the creation of an Education for Global Citizenship. (1)  Education for Global Citizenship is part of a long-term process to build the defenses of peace in the minds of women and men. The Constitution of UNESCO states “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

Education for Global Citizenship often means changing deep-set attitudes and behavior. Yet there is much on which we can build. There is a rich body of knowledge and experience which helps students gain in self-confidence and harmony within themselves, harmony with Nature and harmony with their fellow humans.

Education for Global Citizenship requires a comprehensive system of education and training for all groups of people at all age levels, both formal and non-formal education. This is a process of awakening a sense of responsibility for the destiny of humanity as a whole.

The AWC stresses that our oneness with humanity and our acceptance of the whole planet as our home involves a process of change both in the attitudes of individuals and in the politics of States. Humanity is clearly moving towards participation in the emerging World Society. An awareness of the emerging World Society and preparation for full and active participation in this World Society is a necessary element of Education for Global Citizenship at all levels from primary schools though university and adult education.

The AWC highlights that a World Citizen is one:

– Aware of the wider world and has a sense of his role as a world citizen;

– Respects and values diversity;

– Has an understanding of how the world works economically, politically, socially, and culturally, and is willing to act to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place;

– Participates in and contributes to the community at a range of levels from the local to the global.

Note

(1) See Luis Cabrera. The Practice of Global Citizenship (Cambridge University Press, 2016)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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