Following by one day the celebrations for the 20th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 10th World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates took center stage today in the German capital. The event, under the theme “Breaking Down New Walls for a World Without Violence,” reunited Mikhail Gorbachev, Lech Walesa, F.W. De Klerk, Mairead Maguire, and Muhammad Yunus, among the Nobel laureates.
During the first day’s plenary session, the mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, took the opportunity to emphasize not only the many achievements reached in the world since the fall of the wall, but also the changes that remain to be made.
Continuing this theme, Gorbachev, President of the Summit, referred to an “invisible wall” that still separates Europe and Russia. “We are part of a greater, united Europe,” he stressed. “But there still remains a fear of Russia. This must change. “ Gorbachev also said that after the fall of the wall, the West believed that it was victorious and did not need to change. “That illusion, that mistake was very costly for all of us.”
“It is difficult to construct a world based on half truths,” said Walesa, the former president of Poland and leader of the Solidarity Movement, which contributed to the fall of Socialist rule. “We need new guides to help us find the truth.” Speaking to the 200 university students attending the summit, he offered the advice “When we fought our struggle, we achieved our victory because we did everything based on our values. This is something that new generations must not forget.”
De Klerk, former President of the Republic of South Africa, alluded to a report by SIPRI that noted that 25 of the 27 largest conflicts presently being fought throughout the globe are due to ethnic and cultural clashes within the same country. Resolving these conflicts peacefully is one of the major challenges currently facing humanity, according to De Klerk. “Forced integration of minorities is only producing alienation and generating violence,” he said. De Klerk emphasized the accelerated pace of changes in the world, brought on by globalization, and how events happening in one part of the world can set the condition for what occurs in far away latitudes. “We live in a world that is multi-polar, not bipolar as it was 20 years ago.”
Taking the discourse further, Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and a promoter of micro-financing, encouraged participants to always reach for the impossible. “In 1989 no one imagined the fall of the wall,” he explained, as an example. “No one imagined the internet, cell phones and laptop computers…today, much in the same way, we cannot imagine the walls that will fall in our lifetime.” Speaking optimistically, Mr. Yunus affirmed “Let’s go for the impossible. It’s much more likely to happen.”
Maguire, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for her mediation work between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, responded to a question from the audience regarding the need for establishing new institutions in order to bring about change. “No matter how much we change institutions, if we do not change our mindset, nothing will change.” Continuing, Maguire commented on the presence today of “a new consciousness that says we reject a world that teaches our young people to kill, and where children die of hunger.”
The first day of the Summit also included presentations given by Walter Veltroni, former mayor of Rome and Co-president of the Summit; José Manuel Durao Barroso, President of the European Commission, and Ahmed Kathrada in the name of Nelson Mandela.
The Summit will continue its program Wednesday, November 11, welcoming the International Base Team of the World March for Peace and Nonviolence. There will also be an official presentation of the Summit’s “Charter for a World Without Violence,” which the March has agreed to promote during its travels and meetings with world leaders, institutions, etc.,
Prior to the Plenary Session, at 9 in the morning Berlin local time, Mario Rodriguez Cobos—also known as Silo—thinker, founder of Universalist Humanism, and the inspiration for the World March, will give a discourse that underscores the most profound reasons for the World March for Peace and Nonviolence.
*[translation by: Hope Natalie Jolles]*