Dear colleagues, dear students of this university,

dear guests and professors,

dear friends

When I heard of the planning for the AstA peace-day from my much-loved coworker Genis, my first thought was „Wait, I have to say something to that“… as peace and how it can be reached is not only a topic of my studies but an issue close to my heart. So now I am standing in front of you, and I will tell you about my favorite scientific theory ever.

In his paper „Perpetual peace: a philosophical sketch“ Immanuel Kant, a german philosopher, outlined points that might lead to peace that will not only be sustainable but stable until the end of times, therefore being a „perpetual peace“. Kant pointed out that for peace to last all countries must be, what we today call democracies. His reasoning is that democratic leaders need to have the support of their electorates in order to stay in power, and it is obvious that this is the case.

However everytime I think about what Kant said about democracies I think of the responsibility of every individual to strive for a peaceful society and a peaceful world.

In front of me I see people from all over this world and I see them cooperating, making friendships and connecting with each other in a way that would have been outside the scope of imaginability several decades ago. I see people who show a great deal of respect towards each other and towards each others countries; and thinking about the way this Uni works the first word that comes to my mind is „peace“.

But not only did Kant talk about people not wanting to fight each other because that is not always the case. There are people in the world who hate each other, seemingly for no reason at all. We still see people committing horrible acts of violence like the recent attacks in Paris. Peace is still not in sight in the middle-east, in regions of Africa and seems to be in jeopardy in other areas of the world. Because violence is still a part of our world we should not only be happy about the peace that has lasted so long in Europe but think about those who have died or been displaced in recent conflicts.

Even when it is not our lives, our families or our homes that are endangered we need to express our concerns and our wish for peaceful coexistence. This coexistence means that every day we need to do our best to forgive instead of hating, to refrain from using violence in all its forms and to strive for a better understanding of one another. Peaceful coexistence also means extending our hands to those who are affected and provide help to victims of conflicts wherever we can.

The second definitive article in Immanuel Kants paper calls for a federation of free states on which a set of international laws is founded upon. In Kants times this idea was a great idea but one that was a fantasy alone. Efforts after the second world war to establish a european Union and the founding of the United Nations Organization have turned this philosophical idea into a realistic perspective for our future. With all the flaws that the UN have we can still say that the amount of conflict that is solved by peaceful negotiation instead of outright violence has increased significantly.

But not only this, originally a body for peace, as stated in the UN Charter, the UN have formed into an active supporter of Human Rights, the battle against climate change and other important issues.

Of course the UN is not a federation of states as its power is severely limited by the fact that coersion is almost never used and can not be used in most cases, but we are now closer to a globally responsible organ then would have seemed realistic prior to the world wars.

But not only have we developed an organisation; the Internet and the improved speed and reach of our travel has brought us a first glimpse at an evolving global society. If I look around now I would assume that there is not a single person here who has never left their home country. The same question 100 years ago would have lead to the almost opposite result.

More and more people realize that not only we are people of our nations but we are humans, citiziens of this world, and we should embrace that feeling as it symbolizes the overcoming of ideas that are not suitable for our future.

Today, I have the great luck to study, work and party with people from nations I have never been to, who have values and thougts that I might never be able to understand if it weren’t for those people. Occasions like the festival of tolerance or todays event show me that I myself already live in a global society. Today I will eat food from Pakistan, drink beer from South Africa and talk with great people from all over the world. For us this has become a part of our everyday lives, we have lost our fear of things that are unknown to us. Loosing fear of foreign things and foreigners is, in my experience from this university a great thing. We shape the view of our world by the experiences we make and the way I see the world today is different from the way I saw the world before I got here. Seeing that only by understanding each other we will ever be able to live in peace, I think Kant would be quite happy to see us here, but lets get back to his paper for the moment.

There are other demands and rules set up in Kants paper, most of which are in some form of existence already today. For example what Kant called „The Law of World Citizenship“ is very similar to what we call human rights today and includes the right to seek asylum in other states and other points.

In conclusion we can say that we are now closer to the perpetual peace as Kant imagined it. But we all can see in the news every day that peace does not currently exist in the world and has never existed for an extended period of time in history.

I think the fact that a lot of what Kant said in his essay is fulfilled without full effect teaches us the maybe most important thing about peace. Peace is not a fixed concept, not a recipe where we have to go through all the individual steps and reach perpetual peace. We have to reevaluate it again and again, we have to think about it again and again and we have to WANT it. Again and again.

As a collective effort we will have to determine for ourselves and for our societies how peace can be made, only if we tackle the tasks and conflicts of the future together we will avoid separation and clashes of culture and interests. One of my favorite sentences from Kant should make it clear what is needed from all of us and what is expected. „Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law“, which means that nothing we do, especially towards our fellow humans, should be something that we would not be okay with if it happened to everybody, including ourselves.

And this, in essence, is what is the core of every peace, between nations, groups or people. Understanding that the person you are interacting with is as much a human as you yourself, has the same rights, similar wishes and almost never harmful intentions out of themselves.

I really hope I could give you some food for thougt, I am grateful for the opportunity of speaking today and wish you all an inspiring experience at the AstA Peace-Day.

Advertisements