18 March 2004
At Core of All Religions Are Values of Compassion, Decency, Respect for Others, Says Secretary-General at Lecture by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
NEW YORK, 17 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of introductory remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the lecture on Gods Word and World Politics by Archbishop Desmond Tutu today:
Archbishop Tutu, let me say how wonderful it is to have you here.
I dont think he needs any introduction. The Archbishop is someone who enjoys worldwide respect, as one of the foremost moral authorities of our times. He played a vital part in bringing apartheid to an end without the civil war or genocide that could so easily have happened, and in creating todays multi-racial South Africa. The importance of his role was already fittingly recognized in 1984 -- in the very midst of the struggle -- when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
More recently, his inspired chairing of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission has helped strengthen the foundations of post-apartheid, democratic South Africa, and has been studied as an essential model wherever a divided society is trying to come together and heal the wounds of bitter conflict.
Preaching Gods Word, as taught by his Church and as he understands it, the Archbishop has been able to influence not only South African domestic politics but also international politics, steering them in more humane directions. Unfortunately, this is not always the way Gods Word is employed by those who claim to interpret His Word on earth.
For centuries, mankind has used Gods Word to create divisions in pursuit of power, territorial gain and other selfish ends. Time and again we have seen religion being used to encourage intolerance and discrimination, to mobilize hatred, and to justify horrendous crimes. Only too recently, we have witnessed this in places as far apart as the Balkans, the Middle East, and South and East Asia.
While different religions have different ways of interpreting the Divine Will, at the core of all of them are the essential values of compassion, decency, and respect for ones fellow men and women. Often, we seem to forget this basic truth.
The topic of todays lecture raises many questions. No one could help us answer them with greater wisdom, experience and clarity than Archbishop Tutu. We are honoured, and very fortunate, to have him among us today.
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