Thursday, 25 September 2014

USA president Obama's UNGA address: World stability and co-existence of religious communities excerpts

Excerpts mainly dealing with world stability and co-existence of religious communities from USA president Obama's UN General Assembly Address, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/24/remarks-president-obama-address-united-nations-general-assembly, are given below along with some comments of mine. [You can see the speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiI6crx4Z9k, 38 min 47 secs.] I have focused on the parts of the speech that may be acceptable to most people:

Around the globe, there are signposts of progress.  The shadow of World War that existed at the founding of this institution has been lifted, and the prospect of war between major powers reduced.  The ranks of member states has more than tripled, and more people live under governments they elected. Hundreds of millions of human beings have been freed from the prison of poverty, with the proportion of those living in extreme poverty cut in half.  And the world economy continues to strengthen after the worst financial crisis of our lives.

Today, whether you live in downtown Manhattan or in my grandmother’s village more than 200 miles from Nairobi, you can hold in your hand more information than the world’s greatest libraries.  Together, we’ve learned how to cure disease and harness the power of the wind and the sun.  The very existence of this institution is a unique achievement -- the people of the world committing to resolve their differences peacefully, and to solve their problems together.  I often tell young people in the United States that despite the headlines, this is the best time in human history to be born, for you are more likely than ever before to be literate, to be healthy, to be free to pursue your dreams.

[Ravi: I think the above sentence, in general, is true. However, youth unemployment along with sky-high expectations of some youth, seem to be a significant problem in many parts of the world today. It is vital for unemployment issues in general, and youth unemployment issues in particular, to be resolved. The sky-high expectations may not be as big an issue as ultimately, they will have to get adjusted to ground reality.]

And yet there is a pervasive unease in our world -- a sense that the very forces that have brought us together have created new dangers and made it difficult for any single nation to insulate itself from global forces.  As we gather here, an outbreak of Ebola overwhelms public health systems in West Africa and threatens to move rapidly across borders.

...

Fellow delegates, we come together as united nations with a choice to make.  We can renew the international system that has enabled so much progress, or we can allow ourselves to be pulled back by an undertow of instability.  We can reaffirm our collective responsibility to confront global problems, or be swamped by more and more outbreaks of instability.  And for America, the choice is clear:  We choose hope over fear.  We see the future not as something out of our control, but as something we can shape for the better through concerted and collective effort.  We reject fatalism or cynicism when it comes to human affairs.  We choose to work for the world as it should be, as our children deserve it to be.

[Ravi: It feels real nice to hear one of the most powerful world leaders speak these wonderful words from the UN podium. Yes, sometimes it is difficult to follow up the words with suitable actions. But, at least, the stated intention is great.]

There is much that must be done to meet the test of this moment.  But today I’d like to focus on two defining questions at the root of so many of our challenges -- whether the nations here today will be able to renew the purpose of the UN’s founding; and whether we will come together to reject the cancer of violent extremism.

First, all of us -- big nations and small -- must meet our responsibility to observe and enforce international norms.  We are here because others realized that we gain more from cooperation than conquest.  One hundred years ago, a World War claimed the lives of many millions, proving that with the terrible power of modern weaponry, the cause of empire ultimately leads to the graveyard.  It would take another World War to roll back the forces of fascism, the notions of racial supremacy, and form this United Nations to ensure that no nation can subjugate its neighbors and claim their territory.

[Ravi: Well said!]

...

As we speak, America is deploying our doctors and scientists -- supported by our military -- to help contain the outbreak of Ebola and pursue new treatments.  But we need a broader effort to stop a disease that could kill hundreds of thousands, inflict horrific suffering, destabilize economies, and move rapidly across borders.  It’s easy to see this as a distant problem -- until it is not.  And that is why we will continue to mobilize other countries to join us in making concrete commitments, significant commitments to fight this outbreak, and enhance our system of global health security for the long term.

[Ravi: From what I seen and read in the media it does seem that the USA is at the forefront, from a top-level point of view, of combating this scary Ebola outbreak. Of course, the African nations affected would be making major contributions, especially at the ground level, as it is their countries that are affected. But, in terms of know-how and top-level planning and execution to combat Ebola spread, I think the USA is playing the lead role. Kudos to the USA!]

...

Of course, terrorism is not new.  Speaking before this Assembly, President Kennedy put it well:  “Terror is not a new weapon,” he said.  “Throughout history it has been used by those who could not prevail, either by persuasion or example.”  In the 20th century, terror was used by all manner of groups who failed to come to power through public support.  But in this century, we have faced a more lethal and ideological brand of terrorists who have perverted one of the world’s great religions.  With access to technology that allows small groups to do great harm, they have embraced a nightmarish vision that would divide the world into adherents and infidels -- killing as many innocent civilians as possible, employing the most brutal methods to intimidate people within their communities.

...

At the same time, we have reaffirmed again and again that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam.  Islam teaches peace.  Muslims the world over aspire to live with dignity and a sense of justice.  And when it comes to America and Islam, there is no us and them, there is only us -- because millions of Muslim Americans are part of the fabric of our country.

[Ravi: Wonderful!]

So we reject any suggestion of a clash of civilizations. Belief in permanent religious war is the misguided refuge of extremists who cannot build or create anything, and therefore peddle only fanaticism and hate.  And it is no exaggeration to say that humanity’s future depends on us uniting against those who would divide us along the fault lines of tribe or sect, race or religion.

...

It is one of the tasks of all great religions to accommodate devout faith with a modern, multicultural world.  No children are born hating, and no children -- anywhere -- should be educated to hate other people.  There should be no more tolerance of so-called clerics who call upon people to harm innocents because they’re Jewish, or because they're Christian, or because they're Muslim.  It is time for a new compact among the civilized peoples of this world to eradicate war at its most fundamental source, and that is the corruption of young minds by violent ideology.

[Ravi: I think proper teaching and exploration of harmonious co-existence of religious communities including atheists & agnostics, which is referred to as religious pluralism, is the crying need of the hour in the world today.]

...

There is nothing new about wars within religions.  Christianity endured centuries of vicious sectarian conflict.  Today, it is violence within Muslim communities that has become the source of so much human misery.  It is time to acknowledge the destruction wrought by proxy wars and terror campaigns between Sunni and Shia across the Middle East.  And it is time that political, civic and religious leaders reject sectarian strife.  So let’s be clear:  This is a fight that no one is winning.  A brutal civil war in Syria has already killed nearly 200,000 people, displaced millions.  Iraq has come perilously close to plunging back into the abyss.  The conflict has created a fertile recruiting ground for terrorists who inevitably export this violence.

[Ravi: I recall the words of the great fakir Shirdi Sai Baba, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sai_Baba_of_Shirdi: (in Hindi) Sabka Maalik Ek, which translates to, the master of all is one.]

...

My fourth and final point is a simple one:  The countries of the Arab and Muslim world must focus on the extraordinary potential of their people -- especially the youth.

And here I’d like to speak directly to young people across the Muslim world.  You come from a great tradition that stands for education, not ignorance; innovation, not destruction; the dignity of life, not murder.  Those who call you away from this path are betraying this tradition, not defending it.

You have demonstrated that when young people have the tools to succeed -- good schools, education in math and science, an economy that nurtures creativity and entrepreneurship -- then societies will flourish.  So America will partner with those that promote that vision.

...

So this is what America is prepared to do:  Taking action against immediate threats, while pursuing a world in which the need for such action is diminished.  The United States will never shy away from defending our interests, but we will also not shy away from the promise of this institution and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- the notion that peace is not merely the absence of war, but the presence of a better life.

I realize that America’s critics will be quick to point out that at times we too have failed to live up to our ideals; that America has plenty of problems within its own borders.  This is true.  In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri -- where a young man was killed, and a community was divided.  So, yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions.  And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear.

But we welcome the scrutiny of the world -- because what you see in America is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems, to make our union more perfect, to bridge the divides that existed at the founding of this nation.  America is not the same as it was 100 years ago, or 50 years ago, or even a decade ago.  Because we fight for our ideals, and we are willing to criticize ourselves when we fall short.  Because we hold our leaders accountable, and insist on a free press and independent judiciary.  Because we address our differences in the open space of democracy -- with respect for the rule of law; with a place for people of every race and every religion; and with an unyielding belief in the ability of individual men and women to change their communities and their circumstances and their countries for the better.

[Ravi: I think the above paragraph has to accepted as largely true, and that is quite an achievement for a country, especially a large country like the USA. The freedom to criticize, a free press and an independent judiciary - USA is renowned and admired in the world for these aspects of its governance.]

After nearly six years as President, I believe that this promise can help light the world.  Because I have seen a longing for positive change -- for peace and for freedom and for opportunity and for the end to bigotry -- in the eyes of young people who I’ve met around the globe.

They remind me that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what God you pray to, or who you love, there is something fundamental that we all share.  Eleanor Roosevelt, a champion of the UN and America’s role in it, once asked, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin?  In small places,” she said, “close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.  Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works.”

Around the world, young people are moving forward hungry for a better world.  Around the world, in small places, they're overcoming hatred and bigotry and sectarianism.  And they're learning to respect each other, despite differences.

The people of the world now look to us, here, to be as decent, and as dignified, and as courageous as they are trying to be in their daily lives.  And at this crossroads, I can promise you that the United States of America will not be distracted or deterred from what must be done.  We are heirs to a proud legacy of freedom, and we’re prepared to do what is necessary to secure that legacy for generations to come.  I ask that you join us in this common mission, for today’s children and tomorrow’s.

[Ravi: Rousing words from a world leader who is an awesome speaker!]

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