To the Youth of the World: An Appeal for Resilience, Hope and Nonviolence as Mahatma Gandhi Bequeathed*
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Daisaku Ikeda
(On June 5, 2018, in Rome, Italy, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda released a joint appeal to young people worldwide, calling for a new world built on justice, solidarity and Gandhi’s nonviolence.)
We call on the young people of the world to unite to meet the challenges confronting humankind, to be the authors of their own lives and of the history of the new century. Our hope is infinite because we believe that youth will know how to resolve the many diverse planetary challenges in solidarity. We direct this message to young people, in whom we place our total confidence.
In the twenty-first century, humankind confronts a vertiginous dynamic of change, which brings with it immense challenges.
It is necessary to remember history. Such memory illuminates the present. Through it, we can see that people have the capacity and the strength to create new alternatives and to be beacons of hope demonstrating that “another world is possible.”
The twentieth century, its light and shadow, left profound marks on human history, generating asymmetries and injustice between so-called developed and developing societies, as well as growing wealth gaps within all societies.
Hunger is a crime. Combating poverty and hunger is essential. In order to eliminate misery from Earth, we must transcend differences of nationality, ethnicity, religion and culture, coming together in support of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its goal of “transforming our world.”
The Challenge of a New Era
Advances have been made toward the creation of a new era. one of these was the Paris Agreement, which established measures to combat climate change. Against the backdrop of the growing threat of extreme weather events and rising sea levels, the agreement entered into force in November 2016 and has been ratified by almost all of the world’s countries.
Another step forward was the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2017, an international legal instrument that establishes the absolute illegality of these weapons.
In November 2017, the international symposium “Perspectives for a World Free from Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament” was convened by Pope Francis at the Vatican. In pursuing the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, we must eliminate not only the threat these weapons pose, but also the urge to power and the desire to realize security for one’s own country even at the expense of the lives and the dignity of other peoples. There is an urgent need to disarm our ways of thinking.
The two of us have discussed global issues motivated by an unchanging and unbounded faith in the potential of youth. We have seen how young people worldwide worked as key agents of civil society in solidarity with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) to propel the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017. The future of humankind depends on the present, on young people who have the courage to confront reality, never submitting before adversity.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We are always on the threshold of a new dawn.” In this spirit, the two of us embrace the confidence that there exists always the hope and the will to bring about a new dawn for humankind and for the living beings with whom we share this planet Earth as our common home.
The refugee problem has reached crisis proportions. The lives and dignity of tens of millions of people are violated by war and armed conflict, starvation, social and structural violence. We must open our arms, minds and hearts in solidarity with the most vulnerable in order to rectify this grave situation.
Our Message to Youth
We direct our call to the young people of the world. There is no challenge that cannot be resolved if we unite in solidarity. We are confident that young people will take up the search for solutions, acting in solidarity from within their respective places of belonging across all differences of spiritual and cultural identity to generate waves of dynamic, shared action. We call on youth to take on the responsibility of walking together with the people, embracing the confidence that each of their actions will produce results in future.
The threat of nuclear weapons, the increasing number of refugees driven from their homes by armed conflict, extreme weather events caused by climate change, the greed of financial speculators that aggravates the gap between rich and poor… Underneath these problems lies an unrestrained vying for military, political and economic supremacy that casts dark shadows over our common home, our planet Earth.
There is a worrying trend in society: the extreme and unbridled ambition for power and wealth that embodies the belief that it should be possible to obtain all things quickly and easily. Eastern philosophy teaches that such benightedness is generated by three negative impulses: greed driven by runaway egotism, anger that gives rise to hatred and conflict with others, and ignorance that causes us to lose our sense of direction in life and society.
Mahatma Gandhi urged people to evaluate their words and actions by reflecting on the impact they could have on others, bringing to mind the faces of the poorest and most vulnerable among us. Gandhi was convinced that each society should develop keeping in mind the welfare of the most disadvantaged, never abandoning anyone. This perspective accords with the humanistic ideal of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to “leave no one behind.”
Appeal to International Society
With this joint appeal, we call for restraint of the excesses of civilization and a restoring of equilibrium between human beings and Mother Earth. We call on international society to promote the empowerment of young people through education for global citizenship in order to lay the foundation for truly inclusive societies.
We propose the implementation of a range of new efforts aimed at fostering global citizens toward the year 2030 and at empowering youth by unleashing their unlimited capacities and potential. These efforts should:
1. Promote a common awareness of a universal sense of history in order to prevent the repetition of tragedies.
2. Promote the understanding that Earth is our common home, where no one is to be excluded on the basis of difference.
3. Promote the humane orientation of politics and economics, cultivating the wisdom needed to achieve a sustainable future.
In achieving these three objectives, it is vital that young people unite in solidarity, generating a powerful dynamic of action to meet planetary challenges and protect Mother Earth.
With the Torch Held High
The two of us have lived through the storms of war and violence of the twentieth century. These experiences drive our insistent efforts to expand the bonds of friendship among peoples across ethnic and religious differences. We now feel compelled to reach out to the youth of the twenty-first century and to entrust to them the task of holding high, with courage and pride, the torch of friendship, unity in diversity.
We consider it to be of the greatest importance to human society today and in the future that young people commit themselves to working with the world’s peoples to usher in a new dawn of hope; that they unite in solidarity to protect the dignity of life, fight injustice and make equally accessible those things that are necessary for people’s physical and spiritual existence in freedom. By doing this, young people will create a precious and universal spiritual heritage for humankind, a new world of justice and solidarity.
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel,
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate,