Through this conference, we are embarking on an important road map to achieve peace in the world. Peace, however, can be defined in various ways according to different contexts, cultures and traditions…..
I come from a relatively peaceful part of the world. This year, my country was designated the fourth happiest nation on planet Earth. A few years ago, for two consecutive years, we were designated the happiest nation. You may ask, “Why is that? Are there no conflicts or disputes in Vanuatu?”
Let me give you some examples of the difficulties we are facing in our country. We have a very unstable political system in Vanuatu. The term of a government in Vanuatu is four years; however, it is rare for a government to last that long. We change government nearly every year. Sometimes, we have four to five prime ministers in a period of four years. That is the challenge we face: unstable government.
To make it even worse, last year we had 14 members of Parliament, some of whom were former prime ministers and some leaders of political parties, sentenced by the Supreme Court. They are currently serving a period in jail. Those are the serious issues we are facing.
Yet, I can testify to you today that we have managed those issues very peacefully. We have never taken matters to the streets in protest or violence. We have never fought against other political parties. Even in Parliament, we have disagreements, but as we walk outside, we can still shake hands and greet each other as fellow human beings.
Fifty years ago, Vanuatu was colonized by the British and French. They jointly governed the country from 1906 until 1980. They were able to work together and share the same country. We had two separate administrations governing the nation, but they were able to work together harmoniously … and greet each other and talk freely each day.
When Vanuatu achieved independence in 1980, the Preamble of its Constitution stated that Vanuatu would be founded based on faith in God and on the observance of traditional of Melanesian values. We are very strong in upholding traditional Melanesian values. Regardless of how we work to achieve peace, values and principles are of great importance. If we disregard our values, we will end up doing things that are detrimental for our people and for the whole human family.
On my first day in Nepal, I had the chance to visit a palace which is now a museum. I came back to the hotel and thought, “It was a palace, but now it is no longer a palace — because the people decided to have a different political system.”
If peace could be achieved by simply constructing a monument or a building or a highway and calling it a monument to peace, then I believe most of our countries would already have done that. However, we cannot buy peace with money. We cannot achieve peace by constructing a building.
As we look to our left and right in this meeting today, we see human beings. Human beings are the most valuable creations on planet Earth. We have leaders from around the world gathered together here today and peace begins with each one of us. It starts with you and it starts with me. Peace begins when we change our way of seeing humanity. We must see humanity as ourselves. As Rev. Moon said, we “must live for others.” I believe if we go from this conference and begin to live by the values and principles of peace, this world will be a far better place.
Let me conclude by sharing with you a scripture. It is from the Bible because Vanuatu is a Christian nation. I am respectfully looking forward to hearing from other faith traditions as well. The passage goes: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” We all have a God to whom we direct our worship. But friends, if we become peacemakers, we will be called children of that God.
• The Honorable Andrew Solomon Napuat is a member of Parliament in the Republic of Vanuatu. These excerpts are from his remarks to the July 28-31 International Leadership Conference in Kathmandu, Nepal.
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