Statement by HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal and Idriss Jazairy* following the terrorist attacks in New Zealand, March 15th 2019

By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Mar 18 2019 (IPS-Partners)

Words cannot express adequately the pain and anguish we feel at the heinous attacks in New Zealand. We share the anguish of our fellow Muslims at those who have orchestrated such diabolical carnage in a place of prayer. As husbands, fathers and grandfathers, both of us can only imagine the pain and suffering felt by the families affected by this tragedy. In the weeks and months ahead, we must all stand together and raise aloft those values that must form the core of Islamic belief that we share with People of the Book– compassion, respect and dignity. If we fail in this, then terror is victorious.

Those ideologues and demagogues who set themselves above the rights of man and the laws of God have no place in our world, no matter who their victims or what their ideologies are. Their targets reflect the increasing polarisation of people worldwide, where hatred and fear can be spread and exacerbated at the click of a mouse, and where atrocities are streamed live for the voyeuristic thrills of criminal extremists and white supremacists. If it is true that ‘evil only wins when good people do nothing’, then let us now raise our collective voices, both Christians and Muslims alike, in repulsion and condemnation of these attacks.

Let us move away from the insidious culture that allows everyday hatred to creep into how we think about each other. Let us remember that it is empathy and not ethnicity that creates a community. Let us instead focus our thoughts on the shared humanity, which ties us to each other more deeply than any superficial differences might suggest.

We echo the words of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who spoke about the ostracisation of immigrants and the Muslim community. “They are us,” she said and we would add, “and we are you.

This is a time not only for good government, but more importantly, for good governance. We must face up to the divisions blighting our world. We must all work together to defeat hatred and give hope. This is not a mission of optimism, but one of necessity.

We may never properly come to terms with the senseless hatred that fuelled this outrage. However, we must offer our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims who lost their lives and our support to the wounded survivors of these attacks as they struggle to recover from the physical and mental trauma. Let us draw strength from our faith and our shared values. Most importantly, these terrible attacks must not be allowed to feed the hateful inhumanity of the few. Rather, these images of death and destruction must strengthen our compassion and elevate our common humanity. Instead of retribution and prolonged vitriolic responses, let us call now for peace and decency, standing together as one. When all is said and done, our conscience may question, “What part did I play? Did I help or was I part of the problem?” Now is the time to cling onto our shared ideals, our hopes and to the ties that bind us all, no matter where we come from or who we are. Now we work to overcome this darkness and remember that, in the words of Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.’

In these dark moments we wish to assure the peace-loving government and people of this exemplary nation that we are all New Zealanders.

*The signatories are HRH Prince Hassan Bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, Executive Director of the Geneva Centre on Human Rights and Global Dialogue

Climate Strike: Hundreds of Thousands Unite for the Planet’s Future

Thousands of youth gather in Rome on Friday, Mar. 15, to join the climate strike, a global movement that aims to make governments and institutions aware of taking serious steps to implement the Paris Agreements and save the planet. Credit: Maged Srour/IPS

By Maged Srour
ROME, Mar 16 2019 – Friday, Mar. 15 saw hundreds of thousands of young people across the world take to the streets to join the climate strike. “We are demonstrating today for our planet and for our future. This is the place where we and those who come after us will live,” Jennifer, a 16-year-old girl from Rome, the Italian capital, who opted to join the protests, told IPS.

The climate strike has become a symbol of the global movement that aims to urge governments and institutions to take serious steps to implement the Paris Agreement and save the planet.

It is a unique voice that united over 125 countries in more than 2,000 places around the world. Protestors want to ensure that actionswhich include reducing CO2 emissions, eliminating the use of plastics, promoting more sustainable agricultureare wisely managed within the United Nations deadline of 2030. In a nutshell: take concrete action today to save the world of tomorrow.

Jennifer was following the example of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish 16-year-old girl who, without realising it, gave birth to a global movement. Indeed, this wave of youth activism began in August when Thunberg camped outside the Swedish parliament. She accused politicians of failing to uphold their commitments to fight climate change as agreed to under the Paris climate accord.

In a short time word of her civic engagement spread worldwide and the young Swedish teenager became an international celebrity who was invited to speak to climate negotiators in Poland in December, as well as to the global elites at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Thunberg has become an example for many young people across the world who have begun to organise themselves to promote similar initiatives. Her name has even been proposed to the Nobel Committee as a candidate for the Peace Prize. “We have nominated Greta because the climate threat may be one of the most important causes of war and conflict,” parliamentary representative Freddy Andre Oevstegaard said. “The mass movement that she has triggered is a very contribution to peace.”

Not only a responsibility of the youth

Although it was an event mostly organised by young people, some did not like the fact that adults are seemingly handing over the responsibility of caring for the planet to the youth. “Thanks to the efficiency of healthcare, those who are 60 years old today could still live for another 20 or 30 years. So it is not true that the future is ‘ours alone’. The future belongs to all of us,” another young protester in Rome told IPS.

Politics was not exempt from criticism.

“I think that this global ‘climate strike’ is important for the whole community because the environmental problem has a strong political component in it. If it is true that a lot is in the hands of individual initiatives and in the commitment of each of us, it is also true that there are mechanisms which are very complex and that can only be managed by politics,” Matteo Cappello, a naturalist from Sapienza University in Rome and specialised in environmental sciences and sustainable development, told IPS. “Not only ordinary young people and not only ordinary adults: responsibility must be universally shared and it obviously must include those who manage the decision-making processes,” he added.

The climate strike was embraced by a wide and varied audience in Rome. Among the mass of people, there were large numbers of teenagers and also university students, young workers, families and the elderly.

Lodovica Cattani, a graduate in Political Science who has been specialising in Arctic studies and sustainability, participated in the event not just as a citizen but also as a worker who aims to deal with these issues in her professional life.

“I am 28 years old and have been volunteering with the organisation Climate Reality Leaders for six years now, precisely because when I was in high school I could already see that global warming was becoming a problem and that we were going to see the results in the next decades to come. I felt there was need to be informed and take action,” she told IPS.

“The youth who have the power to succeed”

“In my opinion, the Earth has a spirit that occasionally manifests itself when it really cannot bear any more. This time it manifested itself in the form of Greta and of these thousands of young people,” Sandro, a 60-year-old farmer who came from Tarquinia, a town 100 km away from Rome, to demonstrate in the capital city, told IPS.

“I really hope that these young people will go ahead and continue to pursue their dream because it is truly in their hands. My generation is responsible for many of today’s environmental disasters and often has no open-mindedness or ability to reverse this course. It is young people who have all the potential to succeed.”