On August 28th through 31st of the year 2000, two thousand of the world's preeminent religious and spiritual leaders representing the many faith traditions, gathered at the United Nations, Geneva for a Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders.
On 29th August 2000 Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati, in the capacity of leader of the Hindu delegation, speaks on the given topic of ‘Forgiveness and Reconciliation’. The speech is transcribed below with a few minor changes.
‘Respected Chairperson, friends,
Salutations to all of you. We have listened to a lot of learned people. One thing nobody had mentioned was about the wonderful work done by a team of scholars from Harvard. In this very important document there was a mention that the various religious leaders have to look into their own theologies to find out whether the theologies themselves have caused conflicts.
It is one thing to forgive what has happened. Who am I to forgive for the cultures that got wiped out in Egypt, in Greece, in Africa, in South America? Who am I to forgive whom? I can’t forgive, because I am not in a position to forgive. Not that I don’t want to forgive. I have no powers to forgive. I need to be forgiven, being a part of humanity that mindlessly destroyed the cultures, live cultures. What was the culture which made all those pyramids? What was the religion that moved the people to create such wondrous monuments of human endeavor human ingenuity, human genius?
And we have the great legacy of people who have destroyed those live cultures. in Greece we have monuments. If any Egyptian government were to supposing , pull down a pyramid to put up a housing complex, I don’t think United Nations Organisation, the humanity, will allow that to happen. It is no longer the property of Egypt. It is an ancient monument of human genius. And it belongs to all of us.
We have to day live cultures. Let us not make monuments of these. Let us listen to those scholars who had really put their heads into this. One pertinent suggestion was – look into your theology ; see whether you have something which disturbs people, which moves people to disturb, which has destroyed cultures.
I want to have religious freedom. You must have that freedom. Everybody has a right to be free, well you should let me. Otherwise I can’t be free. Or I have to resist you. Here starts violence.We are free. We don’t need to stand on each other’s toes. If you don’t let me be free, and I am constrained to fight you, I cease to be a human being. I become a living being. I become a living organism which has got this natural instinctual urge to survive. All my human values disappear. And therefore I say, look into the theology.
Your practice of freedom of religion definitely is only to live you religion. You cannot destroy any other religion. You have no right. It is violence against other religious sentiments. It is violence against cultures, violence against religions and this violence has been going on for centuries and it continues to go on.
Therefore after ten years, when we meet, this subject should not be there, this subject of reconciliation and forgiveness. We forgive ourselves. OK. Whom do I have to forgive? We forgive ourselves for our follies, for our mistakes.
A standing ovations greets the speech.