MALAYSIA - A MODEL FOR PEACE AND HARMONY
Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Gandhi, King, Ikeda - A Legacy of Peace exhibition at the Bukit Tambun Culture Centre, Penang, Malaysia on 4th June 2006
Mrs Yap, distinguished guests, brothers and sisters, Assalamualaikum, which means 'peace be on you.' In Malaysia, we have so many beautiful greetings. We say "Selamat Pagi," "Selamat Datang," "Selamat Petang," "Selamat Malam," "Selamat Jalan." All the root words of 'assalamualaikum', 'Selamat Pagi," "Selamat Datang," Selamat Jalan," are the words of 'salam'. And the word 'salam' means peace. And it is the most important, most significant word for all of humanity. Because if there is no peace, then, there is no life.
But what is peace? Peace has a triple dimension - i.e. three dimensions. The first and most important one concerns what Mrs Yap has spoken about. It concerns our soul. The first peace is inner peace - peace with ourselves. If we don't listen to our soul, if we don't listen to our body, we cannot understand ourselves. There can be no peace with ourselves or other people.
The second dimension of peace is peace with other people - peace with our brothers and sisters of all different tribes, different colours and all different dimensions. We must share this world and we must learn how to respect and live with each other. So this second dimension of peace with other people is extremely important.
And the third dimension of peace is peace with the environment - learning to live with Mother Nature, mother earth. Have you noticed that I used the word 'mother'? It is because it is mother who gives life; it is the mother that nurtures our growth. We must respect all living things and the dynamics of how this earth operates. If not, we destroy the very life that we live, the water that we drink, the air that we breathe, the forest that give us life - we hope all these will not become extinct. So, peace is about these very special things - peace with ourselves, peace with other people and peace with the environment.
But what kind of world do we live in now? I don't think we live in a world where there is peace. There is so much war and so much violence that we have unfortunately a terrible culture of violence.
One suicide occurs every 40 seconds, one person is murdered every 60 seconds in the world and one person dies in a war every 100 seconds. That is the kind of world that we live in - it is a violent world. And we have people all over the world - especially the world leaders who unfortunately don't understand and are by themselves violent.
We also have a culture of manipulation, of cheating, of hypocrisy. Let's take for example the biggest of wars that occurred recently - in Iraq. Iraq is a country like Malaysia that has a population of about over 20 million. A war was declared based on excuses. The Secretary-General of the United Nations stated that it was an illegal war, an unnecessary war. It was an unfair war. Who were the people who died ultimately? Nowadays, we have wars where they use smart bombs. They don't kill only soldiers. They kill civilians. Are they so smart? It is so very, very sad. So, many civilians have died. So many children have died of starvation. So, what kind of war is that - where innocent people, human beings, little children die as a result of the great lying leaders of the world? The war was said to be because Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It was a big lie. Unfortunately, we have a world where the most powerful people who develop weapons of mass destruction are saying that other people cannot have them but they are improving their own ones.
There are people who have "weapons of mass deception". That means, they are very clever with lies. They control the television; they show you what should be seen and what should not be seen. It is that kind of power.
Then we have also the "culture of waste" in the world. We tend to waste - no matter whether it is water, oil, etc. We waste all kinds of resources. So that we even destroy our mother earth and its capacity to give us life. So, that is the kind of world we are living in. And when we are searching for peace, we must work at all these three ways. We must work to change the kind of people who run this world.
There are all sorts of people who unfortunately promote violence.
So, we need peace. We need universal peace - real peace - peace also for justice in our world. That is why this exhibition is very special. These three people - Gandhi, King and Ikeda are so special. It is also very special that we are having it in Malaysia. This is because Malaysia itself is a model of all different races, cultures. We have been living in diversity, yet in harmony. We are like a United Nations. People from all over the world who come here are amazed.
In Penang, e.g. we have a wonderful "street of harmony". There is a church, a temple, a mosque, the clan houses all on one street - Jalan Masjid. And people say that there is no such place in the world. People of all communities are doing things together - drinking, eating - Penang laksa, char koay teow, tosai - all in one small little corner. This is something special about Malaysia, about Penang. We have all kinds of food - we can have Chinese noodles, mamak mee, Malay laksa, Chinese laksa, etc. We have eaten each others' food, putting in our own dressings and flavours. So, through food itself - it is such a beautiful culture of respect. We consume things that are a part of our beautiful life. So, in Malaysia - we should be leaders of peace - we should be a demonstration [model] to the world - saying "come and look at Malaysia".
This is the kind of message that we want to send. But working for peace is not easy. It is hard work. If we forget many simple things like care, respect or love, we can lose that peace - it is just like that.
That is why we must be proactive. We must think ahead and work for peace. We must have structures for that. We must look at where we have tensions or differences. We must have dialogue where we can talk and listen to each other. So, in Malaysia, our diversity and harmony are very, very special. It is also special that we have something like Peace Malaysia - an organization that is working for peace. And recently, we had a World Peace Forum where there was a resolution that war must be made illegal. This campaign was started in Malaysia and it is headed by our former Prime Minister - Tun Dr Mahathir - it is a campaign that will go worldwide.
We are also very special in that not far away from here, in a town where my wife and I grew up - is a town - a very special town - people forget about this special town - it is called Taiping which means 'everlasting peace' or 'eternal peace'. So, we have in Malaysia a town called "Everlasting Peace" and this town was not just named "Everlasting Peace". There was a reason why it was called "Everlasting peace". Because, back in history, there were mining camps which battled with each other. The Ghee Hins and the Hai Sans - the different groups that worked with them were always fighting. But in the end, peace was made when they said, "Let us build a new town and call it "Everlasting peace.""
Isn't it wonderful that we have such a place? In this town where we grew up with the mountains and the environment, where we have different cultures, we have these war graves to remind us of how people came from thousands of miles away to die. They cannot go back to their hometowns but are buried in the cemeteries, at the bottom of the Larut Hills.
So, this town is where we have a Peace Park now. We have peace lectures where we invite journalists from all over the world, where we talk about peace journalism so that they will write after thinking carefully - so that they won't write in a way to create problems to hurt other people. If we have problems, we have to work them out carefully. And we have the Soka Gakkai who internationally is an organization working for peace all over the world.
I am hoping that in Taiping - because one of the founders of the Taiping Peace Initiative - Mr Beh Yang Toh, a member of the Soka Gakkai with whom I am working closely with - we will be able to continue with this effort.
What are some of the core things that we do really in this Peace Initiative? All of you here today will have the opportunity to have a little booklet that gives you 99 ways you can do peace. It is in English but I hope one day, Soka Gakkai can have it translated into Chinese, Bahasa Malaysia or even Japanese - different languages. The material is actually from the United Nations.
Basically, it talks about 6 things.
Firstly, we have the principle of "respect all life". We need to respect the life and dignity of each human being without discrimination or prejudice.
Secondly, we must "reject violence". We must proactively work to reject violence - physical, sexual, psychological, etc. Particularly, we must be very sensitive to people who have disabilities, people who are deprived or poor and vulnerable such as children and women. We must be caring to them.
Thirdly, we must learn how to "share with others". Like in the Soka Gakkai, you are sharing your time and your resources. We must make sure we are always there to give help. Whatever it is, we are all human beings. We must help where we can. If we hurt any person, we are hurting the whole of humanity. There is a saying in Islam. If we save anybody, we are saving the whole of humanity.
Fourthly, we must "listen to understand". Many of us have forgotten the art of listening. To understand, we must learn how to listen. We must give time for other people to explain - what is hurting them? What is their problem? What is the issue?
The word "listen" in Chinese is "ting". It consists of 3 characters - the eye, the ear and the heart. People ask why I carry this card [character 'ting'] around. In listening, you must have all these. Listen with the eye, ear and heart. We must always have this culture of listening if we want to understand others.
Fifthly is to "preserve the planet" - the environment. There are many wonderful things we can do. But sometimes we become blind. We waste so easily. But now, we are learning how to use things. I grew up during the war. Mrs Yap also grew up during that time. Every piece of paper [used or otherwise] we kept. We never threw them away. So, there was no rubbish. Leftovers were used for organics. Used paper was for wrapping things. Anything metal we would reuse. Even a rusty nail would be retrieved, straightened and kept until it would be of use. That was the culture. Then there was no rubbish.
Now what has happened? We are going to drown in rubbish. we must learn to have zero waste!
One of the most beautiful examples is in Penang where we have many movements doing this kind of work. That group collects all things that can be recycled and based on that, they get nearly RM 1 million a year. They have a very good system. Based on the RM 1million, they have set up a dialysis centre with 4 or 6 machines with a doctor who is one of the most qualified in the field. He is a young person who is from Singapore who has given up his own practice to come and work here. This shows us what we can do with our life.
We can therefore use our waste. Many places in the world, many communities, are doing that. But we must change first our mindset.
The place is run by a Buddhist community but it is open to people from all races. One person who goes there is an old Muslim gardener. He goes there for dialysis and while waiting he does the gardening for them in return for the free dialysis treatment he gets. He says "When I come here, while waiting, I don't want to waste my time. Can I do your garden for you?" So, this is sharing.
The sixth principle is "rediscover solidarity". We must never forget our communities. We must have time for our neighbours. Many societies in the world are losing their community. They are becoming too selfish. They don't care. One day, it will come back to them. Because if something happens to them, nobody will care for them. Things go round. So remember these 6 principles and the 99 things listed in the small booklet. They are things we can do.
Apart from these 6 principles, in all of life, if we want only one principle,
what would be that one principle? It is called the "Golden Rule".
"Treat others as you would like to be treated." Whatever you do will
come back to you. So don't treat others as you would not like to be treated.
This is the same for all religions. It is easy to remember to treat people like
you would like to be treated. We must develop this habit - this golden rule.
I would like to end by sharing with you two things - how I came to be connected to the Soka Gakkai.
In the year 2000, a group came together to compile a booklet entitled "Prayers for a thousand years". Various people from all over the world were asked to contribute. One of them was Daisaku Ikeda, the President of Soka Gakkai International.
"Let us move from suspicion to trust.
Let us move from hatred to love
Let us move from powerlessness to strength.
If we can do this, we can have a new century of life."
I contributed to the same book. What we said were similar. My contribution was entitled "Remember, We are One."
"We all drink from one water
We all breathe from one air
We rise from one ocean
And we live under one sky
Remember we are one
The new born baby cries the same
The laughter of children is universal
Everyone's blood is red
And our hearts beat the same song
Remember we are one
We are all brothers and sisters
Only one family, only one earth
Together we live
And together we die
Remember we are one
Remember we are one
Peace be on you
Brothers and Sisters
Peace be on you."
With these words, I have great pleasure in declaring this exhibition open.
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