Message by Nelson Mandela to the Global Convention on Peace and Non-violence, New Delhi - India

31 January 2004

I offer these few words to this important conference deeply aware of the state our world is in. Peace and non-violence have not yet become the automatic or predominant modes for living with difference and diversity, in spite of all the progress humankind has seen and achieved in the last century.

Too much of our planet is still embroiled in destructive conflict, strife and war.

And unfortunately none of us can escape blame for the situation in which humankind finds itself. In almost every part of the world human beings find reasons to resort to force and violence in addressing differences that we surely should attempt to resolve through negotiation, dialogue and reason.

Development and peace are indivisible. Without peace and international security, nations cannot focus on the upliftment of the most underprivileged of their citizens.

Peace is not just the absence of conflict; peace is the creation of an environment where all can flourish, regardless of race, colour, creed, religion, gender, class, caste, or any other social markers of difference. Religion, ethnicity, language, social and cultural practices are elements which enrich human civilization, adding to the wealth of our diversity. Why should they be allowed to become a cause of division, and violence? We demean our common humanity by allowing that to happen.

The Global Convention on Peace and Nonviolence is a very timely initiative and I congratulate its organisers. It is indeed the moment to refresh the memory of the lessons taught by the lives of great apostles of peace like Mahatma Gandhi. The fact that this Conference is being held just one day after the death anniversary of the Mahatma Gandhi is an apt reminder of the fact that the path of those who preach love, and not hatred, is not easy. They often have to wear a crown of thorns.

It should, however, not always be the case.

South Africa, the country that inspired the Mahatma and that was inspired by the Mahatma, chose a path of peace in the face of all the prophets of doom. We chose his path, the route of negotiation and compromise. And we hope that we honoured his memory. And that in remembrance of that great tradition others will follow.

Human beings will always be able to find arguments for confrontation and no compromise. We humans are, however, the beings capable of reason, compassion and change. May this be the century of compassion, peace and non-violence: here in this region where you meet, in all the conflict-ridden parts of the world, and on our planet universally.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation