H.E. Dr. Moncef Marzouki‘s speech during 2nd Conference for Global Peace Media Network session in 2018 HWPL World Peace Summit (footage is below the page)
- 2001 – 2011 : Chairman of Congress of the Republic Party
- 2011 – 2014 : President of Tunisia
- 2015 – Present : Chairman of Harak Tounes Al Iraada Party
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great honor for me to attend this meeting and to share with you some thoughts about your important mission to promote peace and friendship in this violent and turbulent world.
Let me begin by the dark side of a profession when it fails to stick to universal values. Fortunately, this story is the exception and not the rule. However, we must always remember it to measure the power of the media as much to promote peace as to promote war.
Last August, I attended a meeting of former African heads of state in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, to discuss development issues in Africa.
Most of the participants had a long history of fighting for national reconciliation, such as the presidents of Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia and South Africa. When I was head of the Tunisian state between 2011 and 2013, I myself participated in all the efforts to protect the civil peace and to prevent the country from pouring into the violence that tear apart all the other countries of the Arab Spring.
Our annual meeting this year in Kigali was not a random choice.
Some of you may recall the horror of the civil war in 1994 in this small country in central Africa. It killed one million people and more than two million fled the country to seek refuge in neighboring countries. This terrible civil war was in fact a genocide where part of the population was slaughtered for being an ethnic minority in a delirium of frightening violence
A study by a Harvard University researcher estimates that 9.9% of the participation in the genocidal violence was due to the broadcasts of a Rwandan radio station named “Thousand Hills Free Radio and Television”, which broadcast from July 8, 1993 to July 31, 1994.
The estimate of the study suggests that approximately 51,000 deaths were caused by the station’s broadcasts. Widely listened to by the general population, it projected racist propaganda against Tutsis, moderate Hutus, Belgians, and the United Nations mission. It is widely regarded by many Rwandan citizens (a view also shared and expressed by the UN war crimes tribunal) as having played a crucial role in creating the atmosphere of charged racial hostility that allowed the genocide to occur.
Twenty-four years after this genocide, Kigali has the appearance of a quiet, clean, prosperous city, where children of victims and criminals live in perfect harmony.
I am not going to talk here about the wonderful work that brought the country out of chaos, violence and hatred, but rather about the lessons of this terrible episode in the long history of human conflicts.
The first lesson is that you can never know for sure how prone to violence any given society may be.
In Kigali, so peaceful today, a quarter of a century ago, neighbors killed their neighbors. People murdered babies. Priests, doctors and journalists participated in the massacre of innocents simply because they were from another ethnic group.
The same phenomenon was observed in the war of Yugoslavia in the 90s. In villages where various ethnic groups had lived in harmony for decades, ordinary peoples killed neighbors, friends, and relatives.
We can multiply examples showing that any society can slide into a terrible and unexpected violence.
Human societies resemble those volcanoes that can remain quiet for a long time but can explode at any time causing enormous devastation.
Peace is so precious because it is so fragile.
The second lesson I learned from the Rwandan genocide is that human wars are rarely the inevitable result of objective factors such as the scarcity of resources or territories. Rwanda today still has the same area and the population is even denser than in 1994. Despite this, it is a country in peace. The first determinant of the terrible genocide was a nationalistic delirium fostered by irresponsible politicians and media that preached hatred and rejection.
This is why the Preamble to the UNESCO Constitution declares, “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed”.
The question is then: how can we increase these defenses in people’s hearts in order to enjoy peace as long as possible.
When we consider the causes of the Rwandan genocide, we find the same reasons as those that caused so many wars.
In most cases, there are myths of difference and superiority that justify either ethnic cleansing or a war of conquest.
However, these are only myths, that is to say a set of errors and fantasies created by imagination and fear.
On the contrary, science teaches us that all the components of the human race originate from the same human group that left Africa a hundred thousand years ago. Genetics tells us that all humans share 99% of the same genetic material.
Therefore, we are all brothers and sisters; different but similar, notwithstanding what racist and nationalist myths contend.
We cannot build a world in peace if this simple idea based on science does not prevail over racist and nationalist myths everywhere.
Of course, we must not be naive. The causes of the conflict can be objective as the scarcity of resources. Of course, we must respect the right of everyone to belong to a respected nation, religion and culture. However, you do not look at these problems if you think that others are also your biological brothers whose rights must be taken into account.
We need more than ever to promote this idea everywhere, because unfortunately we are witnessing the return of racist and nationalist myths, not to mention the eternal religious intolerance.
South Korea has been in the throes of war and all the dangers of unstable peace. Today the country is facing unexpected problems of the wars taking place in the Middle East. The arrival of Yemeni refugees has suddenly awakened xenophobic feelings as well as humanist sentiments.
It is the same problem in Europe, in North America, and even in our Arab and African countries that we forget; they receive the majority of refugees in the world.
Today’s wars are no longer isolated phenomena. Their impact, whether through terrorism or migration crises, makes it a global problem whose treatment must be global.
Here comes the role of organizations such as HWPL and the role of persons like Chairman Lee.
A famous French leader Georges Clemenceau said that the war is too serious a matter to be entrusted to the military.
In the same way, we can say that peace is too serious a matter to be entrusted to politicians.
It is the business of civil society organizations like the … It is the business of all men of goodwill like Chairman Lee.
I would like to express here all my admiration for the incessant work of a man who has been fighting for half a century for the cause of peace in his country and in the world. As not only a former head of state, but also as a human right activist, I do appreciate all the work done by himself and his followers to promote the ideas and values of peace.
Allow me to end my thoughts by reminding you that humankind is a dangerous species for humans as well as for all the species that populate the world.
By destroying living species because we consider ourselves different and superior to them, we are committing on a larger scale the fatal error that has led to intra-human violence.
Peace should not be only that which humans establish with other humans. We must also declare peace with all living species because true peace is a global attitude.
This implies a total change in the way we think about our relationship to the world and to ourselves.
Who can help this awareness today so necessary to our survival? Of course the media and of course in synergy with education.
The tragedy of Rwanda has shown the power of the media in promoting war and hatred. However, we do know also that such a power can be put at the service of peace.
Fortunately, the media is playing an increasingly decisive role in the fight for peace and human rights.
By showing the horrors of wars, especially those that are forgotten, they contribute to awareness and pressure on decision makers to end conflicts.
As a human rights activist, I know how much I owe to the independent press that has always unveiled the violations of the dictatorship in Tunisia and the Arab world and thus contributed largely to the Arab Spring.
Today there is a new mission. In the face of the surge of hatred, rumors and false information that infect social networks, only honest and serious journalists are the guarantors of the truth, which is the essential condition for peace in hearts and minds.
I am sure you will live up to the immense task ahead and wish you good luck in this vital mission.