The event was held at the Baitul Futuh Mosque in London and was attend by over 550 non-Ahmadi guests, comprising government ministers, ambassadors of state, members of both Houses of Parliament and various other dignitaries and guests. The full transcript of the address delivered by His Holiness on this occasion is presented below.
All distinguished guests, Assalamo Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahe Wa Barakatohu – peace and blessings of Allah be upon you all.
First of all, I would like to thank all of our guests, for joining us here at our Annual Peace Symposium.
For the past 15 years, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been organising and hosting this Peace Symposium, for the sake of promoting world peace. Perhaps, some of you may question the benefit of us organising this event each year, given that the peace of the world, both in Muslim countries and elsewhere, has not improved at all during this time; rather, it has deteriorated. Much of the world has been gripped by increasing division, hate and injustice. Society has become polarised, wars have taken place, nations have threatened one another and inequality has intensified in both the developing and the developed world.
Given this situation, your question is quite valid; however, our faith demands us to try and urge people, in all parts of the world, whether rich or poor, whether powerful or oppressed, whether religious or irreligious, towards peace and justice. Hence, we will continue to play our role in making mankind realise its duty towards respecting and honouring basic human values. The core teachings of Islam are to fulfil the rights of our Creator and to fulfil the rights of our fellow human beings.
With these brief words of introduction, I now wish to take this opportunity to speak about some matters that I consider to be of great importance in these turbulent times.
In today’s world, we often see the major powers and the international institutions make schemes or plans that are aimed at bettering the lives of people around the world. In recent times, one of the issues that many politicians and intellectuals have debated and campaigned about, is climate change and specifically a reduction in carbon emissions. Certainly, striving to protect the environment and to look after our planet is an extremely precious and noble cause. Yet, at the same time, the developed world, and especially the world’s leaders, should also realise that there are other issues that must be tackled with the same urgency.
People living in the world’s poorest nations do not concern themselves with the environment, or the latest figures on carbon emissions; rather, they wake up each day wondering if they will be able to feed their children. Their economic plight is truly desperate and their poverty levels are far beyond our comprehension. For example, there are numerous countries where the majority of citizens do not have access to clean drinking water and are forced to survive by using dirty pond-water to fulfil their basic needs. Even that too is not easily available; rather, women and children have to travel each day, for miles on end, to collect water for their families, which they carry home in big vessels, balanced on their heads.
We must not consider such hardship as other people’s problems. Instead, we must realise that the result of such poverty has severe implications for the wider-world and directly affects global peace and security. The fact that children have no option, but to spend their days collecting water for their families, means that they are unable to go to school, or to attain any form of education. They are stuck in a vicious cycle of illiteracy and poverty that is seemingly endless and hugely damaging to society. Today, their poverty and hardship is compounded by modern technology, through which, even people living in war-torn or deprived parts of the world, are able to see the comfort with which people in developed countries are living and the opportunities that exist for them. Witnessing the great disparity in their circumstances, compared to others, is cultivating further agitation amongst the local people and these frustrations are being preyed upon by extremists, who entice the impoverished with financial reward and by promising a better life for their families. Similarly, the targeting of illiterate youth means that the extremists have free rein to radicalise and brainwash them. The extremists take advantage of the fact that the rulers of those countries have, more often than not, failed their people.
Most regrettably, the ruling classes, in war-torn or deprived nations, are more often concerned about preserving their own status and power, than helping alleviate the suffering of their people. The result is that those who have nothing, come to view their own corrupt leaders with contempt and see the world’s major powers as the enemy. Tragically, we are seeing the horrific effects of this in Muslim countries as well, and it is after observing the desperate state of their countries of origin, that some Muslims brought up in the developed world have been radicalised and have perpetrated horrendous terrorist attacks here in the West.
Hence, I firmly believe that if we truly wish to protect our world and to ensure we leave behind a legacy of opportunity for those who follow us, it is essential that every effort is made to raise the standards of the developing world. Poor nations must not be looked down upon, rather we should consider them as part of our family – our brothers and sisters. By helping the developing nations stand on their own feet, and by giving their people opportunities and hope, we will actually be helping ourselves and safeguarding the future of the world. Otherwise, we are already seeing that the poverty and destitution in the developing world is negatively affecting the rest of the world as well.
Furthermore, as a result of recent terrorist attacks and widespread immigration to the West, there has also been a dangerous rise in nationalism in many Western countries, evoking fears of the dark days of the past. It is particularly disturbing that far-right groups have become increasingly vocal, and have seen their membership rise and have even made political gains. They too are extremists, who seek to poison Western society, by inciting the masses against those who have a different colour of skin or who hold different beliefs.
In addition, the rhetoric of certain powerful world leaders has become increasingly nationalistic and belligerent, as they have pledged to put the rights of their own citizens above all others. I do not dispute the fact that it is the responsibility of governments and leaders to look after their own people and to protect their interests. Certainly, as long as the leaders act with justice, and do not infringe upon the rights of others, attempts to better the lives of their citizens is a great virtue. However, policies that are based upon selfishness, greed and a readiness to forfeit the rights of others are wrong and a means of sowing discord and division in the world.
Moving on, another issue is the international arms trade. Today, the world considers itself far more civilised than at any time in the past, yet in 2018, there are countries that are being demolished and annihilated by weapons that can only be categorised as inhumane. In countries like Syria, Iraq and Yemen, government forces, rebels and terrorist organisations are fighting one another. Despite their divergent interests, they all have one thing in common – that the vast majority of their weapons have been produced externally in the developed world. Quite openly and proudly, the major powers are trading arms that are being used to kill, maim and brutalise innocent people.
Regrettably, such nations are focused only on attempts to boost their economy and to maximise their nation’s capital, without pausing for thought at the consequences. They desperately seek to attain the largest possible contracts to sell destructive weapons that, once fired, do not distinguish between the innocent and the guilty. They proudly sell weapons that make no exception for children, women or the infirm. They shamelessly sell weapons that engulf and obliterate towns and cities indiscriminately. Whilst the economies of the selling countries may attain short-term benefit, their hands are covered in the blood of hundreds of thousands of people. Countless children are seeing their parents being killed in the most inhumane fashion and all they can do is wonder why their parents have been taken away from them. Thousands of women are left widowed, hopeless and vulnerable.
What good can come of such devastation?
All I see is a generation of children being pushed into the arms of those who seek to destroy the peace of the world.
For a press release about the event please click here.