Sunday, July 24, 2016

From the Archives: African ambassador calls for 'peace, love, and understanding' in D.C. speech

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on February 22, 2015. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site was scheduled to go dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

African ambassador calls for 'peace, love, and understanding' in D.C. speech

Recalling the Nick Lowe song from the 1970s, “What's so funny about peace, love, and understanding?,” the Gabonese Ambassador to the United States argued in a recent speech that peace, love, and understanding are necessary components of contemporary international relations.

Ambassador Michael Moussa-Adamo's remarks to the Universal Peace Federation and The Washington Times Foundation were published on February 20 by Sub-Saharan Monitor, a newsletter about African politics and culture. The occasion for the speech was World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Lowe's song (made famous by Elvis Costello), the Ambassador said, asks “why peace and love and understanding are remarkable concepts rather than mundane ones.”

'Inhumane acts'
He conceded that “if one picks up a daily newspaper, the front page headlines do not talk about peace or love or understanding. Instead, we read about war and terrorism and murder and sexual assault. We read about human beings performing inhumane acts against other human beings.”

While newspaper headlines and the evening news on TV may give people cause for pessimism, he said, a more nuanced approach to current events suggests reason for optimism.

Referring to Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker's 2012 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Ambassador Moussa-Adamo noted that “we live in the most peaceful era of human history. Not only are there fewer wars now than there were even in the recent, 20th-century past, but there are fewer violent crimes such as assault and murder.”

He added that this is true not only in the industrialized, Western democracies like Europe and North America, but also in so-called developing countries of Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

Nonetheless, he said, statistics that say violence is reduced to record low levels is small comfort to the victim of terrorism or sexual assault.

'Interfaith harmony'
The Ambassador asked, “What can we do to promote interfaith harmony and the triplet: peace, love, and understanding?”

He said there were three action items:

“First, we must learn how to agree to disagree...

“Second, we must sit down and reason together....”

And third, “We must not be afraid to dream.”

In concrete terms, the Gabonese ambassador said that “we must invest in education, especially but not exclusively in education for girls. It is proven that, in societies where girls and women are able to learn in school, their societies are healthier, more affluent, and more peaceful. Those who oppose education for girls oppose progress for everyone, including themselves.”

'Gabon Emergent'
He referred to Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba's program called “Gabon Emergent,” which posits that the country “must move beyond its reliance on a few natural resources – mostly oil, timber, and minerals – and create the conditions for a diversified economy that includes services like banking and insurance, high technology, and green industries.” The aim is to create jobs and new businesses and increase commercial engagement with overseas partners like the United States.

Concluding his remarks, Ambassador Moussa-Adamo said that “we must continue to pursue justice and peace through interfaith dialogue. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists – even agnostics and atheists – must continue to talk to each other, to share what we have in common, to analyze what divides us, and work toward a world dominated not by conflict and pain but by peace, love, and understanding.”

Michael Moussa-Adamo has served as Gabon's Ambassador to the United States since September 2011.


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