THE ROAD TO PEACE
Speech by Dato' (Dr.) Anwar Fazal, Chairman the Taiping Peace Initiative, at the 'Launching of Jalan Kedamaian (The Road to Peace) on March 28th 2003 at the Peace Park, Taiping Lake Gardens, Taiping, Perak, MALAYSIA.
The town Taiping is one of Malaysia's best kept secrets.
It has a setting and history that makes it unique and special. Resting cosily at one of the best preserved mountain and forest, a waterfall and river (with clean water), a lush garden and lakes and such regular rain that makes it easily among the cleanest and freshest town in the country.
I should know - Taiping gave me the best childhood I could imagine - 16 years from 1942 - 1957 is town that was a microcosm of the world - such diverse cultures and religions, so comfortably close, so many soldiers from all over the commonwealth of Nations - many buried in one of the best kept cemeteries in the region - a solemn reminder of war and peace! Taiping had among the best schools and (many people don't know) it even had an airport with direct commercial flights to Kota Bahru by Malayan Airways. Maybe the airport will be reopened one day for special events - an international kite festival or a "Raptor" bird watching centre.
Taiping was even more special then all that I have said. It was founded to mark Peace between warring tin mining clans and given the name Taiping - Everlasting peace! How wonderfully special and meaningful.
The history, the heritage, the ecological setting, that multi-cultural and multi-religious harmony of over a hundred years is unique not just for Malaysians but also for the world.
This is why on the 20th January 2001 (on the anniversary of the Pangkor Treaty) a number of us got together to launch a unique action oriented initiative to promote the Culture of Peace and to make Taiping a model for sowing the seeds of peace for Malaysia and for the world.
In a world that is wrecked by War and Violence, the meaning of Taiping is even more significant. We live in a global world where globally
- 1 person dies every 40 seconds from suicide
- 1 person dies every 60 seconds from murder
- 1 person dies from every 100 seconds from among conflicts from wars between countries and within nations
The Taiping Peace Initiative was launched to make a contribution to world wide efforts for a better world.
It was unique and unparallel partnership between the people and town of Taiping, the University Sains Malaysia and the United Nations. The secretariat was the Taiping Visitors Information Centre located at the historic clock tower / fire station building at Kota Road.
The Initiative has 3 main goals
- To promote the triple culture of peace; inner peace (within oneself), societal peace and peace with the environment;
- To bring together government, civil society and business to work closely in a constructive, sustainable way and
- To make Taiping a model for sustainable and peaceful living.
The Initiative in just a short period of 2 years or 25 months has had some remarkable achievements. It has even obtained international recognition including 4 international conferences linked with the United Nations, ecology and peace groups and The Taiping Declaration on the Culture of Peace adopted at these conferences is supported by many people all over the world and widely distributed..
We promote a very simple peace place: one you can as an individual can adopt and make a part of life. You can commit yourself to six simple principles.
1. Respect all life
2. Reject violence
3. Share with others
4. Listen to understand
5. Preserve the planet
6. Rediscover solidarity and community.
We have already undertaken or planned 12 or so specific projects that are practical, meaningful and give recognition to Taiping as a haven for peaceful living. Among those activities are:
- Launch a dedicated 'Peace Park' and 'Peace Promenade' in the Lake Gardens where you can see the words "May peace prevail on earth" in all major Malaysian and international languages.
- Launch the 'Peace Pole' which is part of a global movement. A miniature peace pole with a peace message made locally from wood of trees that have been cut and discarded is available for sale at the Taiping Visitors Information Centre in Jalan Kota. The centre itself is a historic tower and was the fire brigade and police station during the early days. A unique geodesic Peace Dome is planned for this park.
- A workshop on 'doing peace' which involved many schools and community organization. The one-day workshop had eminent speakers and many ideas for action were developed by the participants. More of such workshops are being planned.
- Peace Action Poster and Kit - 99 Ways to Promote Peace - a popular simple guide for making the culture of peace a part of your life.
- Peace Art programme - where over 100 art students from major universities spent some days in Taiping and painted the 'peace' in the town - the popular scene being the historic 'rain trees' caressing the lake.
- Peace Research Awards - 10 awards were given to students from various universities to undertake research about Taiping, peace heritage, its places, people and the past.
- The Annual Peace Lecture - to be given by an eminent person. This year, the lecture was given by Tan Sri Razali Ismail, the former president of the United Nations General Assembly.
- A lake education project as developed with Wetlands International. The Taiping Lake has so much meaning and we had overwhelming response to a one-day learning event. We hope to repeat this every year.
We will have this year some more programmes.
- Schools for Peace - Where we will help young people speak up on peace issues.
- Ambassadors for Peace - We will invite leading UN and other diplomats to Taiping for peace dialogues.
- Set up a Peace Heritage Centre, restoring the historic Sanitary Board building in Barrack Road.
- Award an Annual Taiping Peace Prize to outstanding individual or organisation.
We have also been host to launch the Malaysian Interfaith Network (MIN) on 'Common Values, Common Actions' and in August there will be an international workshop on Journalism for Peace.
Also some 50 vice chancellors from universities al over Asia will visit Taiping under a programme jointly with the University of Peace in Costa Rica and the University Sains Malaysia.
Today we are making history - are launching two things - a book that reminds us of Taiping's continued gentle vibrancy and the naming of the road - I would like to call it "the Road to Peace".
The people of Taiping can be especially proud today.
It is appropriate that we remember the words of Two great leaders of peace:
1) Gandhi Said
'I object to violence because when it does appear to do good, the good is only temporary - the evil it does is permanent.'
2) Martin Luther King Said:
'We must remember that darkness can never overcome darkness and hatred will never overcome hatred. Only light can pierce darkness, only love can soften hatred, only peace can defeat violence.'
Never forget it is little people in little places that can change the world. People of Taiping in a gentle way you can make a difference and make a better world.
May Peace Prevail on Earth.