The Spirit of Community The Solidarity of Peace

Address by Anwar Fazal, Chariman, Wetlands International Asia Pacific, at the Graduation Ceremony of the International Institute for Infrastructure for Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering (IHE) held at the Oude Kerk, Heilige Geestkerkhof, Delft, The Netherlands on 5 September 1996.


Brothers and Sisters


I greet you- “Asalamalaikum” – May peace be upon you.


I begin with the word “Peace” because, more than anything else, it is the core of the spirit of community. It forms the only permanent basis of meaningful solidarity. The solidarity of peace is built not by the sheer absence of war. It is the proactive, constructive building and nurturing of three dimensions:

  • Peace with ourselves
  • Peace with mother earth (the Greeks have a nice word for it – “Gaia”)
  • Peace with all other living things and with the profound and infinite space we call the universe.


Today, unfortunately, we live in a world that is dominated and shaped too much by three “terrible” cultures:

  • Culture of violence
  • Culture of manipulation
  • Culture of waste.


We are witnessing a world under severe and increasing stress.


What can we do? We need most of all a vision that promotes three “friendly” cultures:

  • Culture of balance and harmony,
  • Culture of stewardship and trusteeship,
  • Culture of accountability, to the community, to the future, to many of us and to God Almighty.


Let me share five thoughts that can help to contribute to that “friendly” vision:


Firstly, the fall of all great civilisations has been directly related to the unwise use and abuse of the environment.


Secondly, water issues will be the single most significant component in the struggle to sustain the global eco-system. The wars of the future, it is said, will be water wars – wars over water “rights” and wars over water “wrongs”. The wise use of “wetlands” will be critical. They are the wombs that are the cradle of life and as Prof. Patrick Denny recently reminded us, the kidneys of mother earth. If we do not deal with them constructively, they will deal with us destructively. Make the water issue a priority for your agenda.


Thirdly, the Netherlands has a very special place in providing global leadership. Not only has your country been rated as the leader in Sustainable Human Development in Europe by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report 1996, but you have been a consistent and strong supporter of sound and sustainable eco-friendliness. Keep that up.


Fourthly, this year, your country again demonstrated its commitment by providing a home and generous support to a new worldwide organisation, Wetlands International. Dr. Chris Kalden, and your Colleagues, we salute you for this caring and sharing.


Fifthly, there is nothing more greater than a solid investment in people – their education, skills, and sense of mission. Delft and IHE have become global centres of excellence in a capacity building. I hope the next 25 years will see Delft and IHE continuing this even more strongly and reaching out for partnership in the Third World, building together the values and skills needed for our future, for our survival.


For our new graduates and the many wonderful people of Delft, I like to share a blessing from a very special native people – the Chinooks. It is about the spirit of community and it is about learning.


“We call upon the earth, our planet home,

with its beautiful depths and soaring heights,

its vitality and abundance of life,

and together we ask that it

Teach us and show us the Way.


We call upon the waters that rim the earth, horizon

To horizon,

That flow in our rivers and streams,

That fall fall upon our gardens and fields, and we ask that they

Teach us and show us the Way.


We call upon the land which grows our food,

The nurturing soil, the fertile fields,

The abundant gardens and orchards,

And ask that they

Teach us  and show us the Way.


We call upon the creatures of the fields and forests

And the seas,

Our brother and sister the wolves and deer,

The eagles and doves, the great whales and the dolphins,

The beautiful Orca and salmon who share our Northwest home,

And ask them to

Teach us and show us the Way.


We call upon all those who have lived on this earth,

Our ancestors and our friends,

Who dreamed the best for future generations,

And upon whose lives our lives are built,

And with thanksgiving, we call upon them to

Teach us, and show the Way.

And lastly, we call upon all that we hold

most sacred,

the presence and power of the Great Spirit of love

and truth,

which flows through all the universe…

to be with us to

Teach us and show us the Way”.


Brothers and Sisters, thank you for sharing these moments with me.

Back to Speeches