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Women in Leadership: Toward an Ethic of Compassion and Cooperation

Global Peace Convention 2013
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
“Unity in Diversity: Building Social Cohesion for Sustainable Peace through Universal Aspirations, Principles, and Values,”

Your excellences, Honorable guests, women leaders from around the world, ladies and gentlemen,

And I really want to thank all of the gentlemen who are gathered here. Thank you very much for coming. A couple years ago when we started, at first, this women’s session, there was no man in the room. But every year, I see more men attending. I don’t know why, but they start to come. And this year, I think about one-third of the room is occupied by men, so thank you very much for coming.

Salam Sejahtera

Good afternoon.

Today, we mourn the passing of a great leader from South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who was not only a political leader, but a spiritual leader from whom we can learn much about forgiveness and service. I also see many representatives here with us from our neighboring country, the Philippines.  I would like to take a moment of silence to send our prayers to the families and communities that are recovering from the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan-Yolanda. Our heart goes out in solidarity to the women who are sustaining recovery efforts. We are with each of you as you rebuild your nation to emerge even stronger.  Bangon Pilipinas Kaya Natin To. We know your spirit will never be defeated. Can we observe a moment of silence for the Philippines, and also for Nelson Mandela. (Few seconds of silence)

Ladies and gentlemen, We have an amazing group of men, women, and young people gathered from around the world for this 5th annual Global Peace Convention. The moment could not be more timely nor the place more fitting for this year’s convention theme: “Unity in Diversity: Building Social Cohesion for Sustainable Peace through Universal Aspirations, Principles, and Values”, than Malaysia today.

Malaysia has been pioneering  a path towards social cohesion and harmony amongst the many faiths, cultures, and ethnicities  who call this nation home.  While faith and cultural differences have often been at the heart of conflicts around the world, Malaysia is trying to create a tangible precedent of inter-religious, inter-cultural and international cooperation based on common aspirations for the betterment of the greater community, nation, region and world.

I believe peace, harmony and unity are the essence of the Malaysian spirit. I was inspired by your custom of Rumah Terbuka, “Open house”.  During the cultural celebrations and holy days of your many faith traditions, Malaysians open their house to welcome any person as a valued member of their family – no matter their belief or ethnicity.  It is a moving example of the most devout practice of faith – to make one’s holy day a time to embrace and serve the human family.

I would like to thank the people of Malaysia for the “Rumah Terbuka” that they have created for this Global Peace Convention. You have embraced us from all over the world, from many faiths and ethnicities, as part of your family. Thank you.

The task before us for the short time we have together is critical. I know that Malaysia is not the only nation looking for real solutions for creating lasting social cohesion and harmony.  In this room, each of us are seeking to address similar challenges in our nations and regions. This convention is our opportunity to open new paths for a better tomorrow.

As I reflect on the goals of unity, appreciation of diversity, and social cohesion based on universal principles and values, I know with certainty, that none of this can be accomplished unless women play a central role.

These goals resonate deeply with the precious role women play in our families, communities, nations and world and bring into play the characteristics and strengths of women as the mediators, healers, and communicators in all facets of society. 

In the family – the most essential unit of society–women are the daughter, sister, wife, mother and grandmother.  As a girl grows up, she grows not just in physical strength or intellectual ability, but also, she grows her heart.  Within the family, she receives and gives love, and she deepens and widens her ability to understand others as she passes through each stage.  Mothers, nurture and raise the next generation, as they model and educate children in living a life of service and love for others.  The grandmother is often the person who can be the confidant of every person in the household—because her heart is big enough to relate to every different situation.

The family is, thus, the school of love, and its graduates will form the basis of vibrant communities and stable nations. They will be the responsible citizens, and the moral and innovative leaders of tomorrow. Without instilling such a moral and spiritual foundation within the family—nurtured largely by women– the vision of One Family under God will remain an idealistic dream.

To give substance to this vision calls for leadership that is both moral and innovative, that takes ownership of the vision and strives to make it a reality. Leadership takes many forms and many women today are playing important roles in public life. But in the emphasis on careers for women we sometimes forget the unique and essential role that women play that is equally an act of leadership. That role is the formation of qualities of character and habits of the heart within the family.

The ability of women to perceive the intangible aspects of life—the unspoken emotions, the characters of each person, the spiritual dimension—is part of what equips us uniquely for the work of building peace.

As many people have observed, peace doesn’t come by force, and it doesn’t happen by just signing papers.  Peace is a state of heart that is manifested into action.  Peace ultimately comes from putting the benefit of all others first, and then receiving the benefit into one’s own life.

This role, responsibility, and heart expands as women take roles in the larger society whether it is as administrators and teachers in schools, community organizers and peace advocates, or leaders in politics, business, or faith communities.

We have examples of the great women of GPW, playing these roles all around the world. One year ago, here in Malaysia, three hundred women gathered for a grand launching of the Malaysia chapter of GPW. It was said that women have “a natural sense of nurturing, solving conflicts with compassion, tolerance, and tender-heartedness, which can offer a lot more toward the betterment of our society.” The women and organizations present pledged to work together to empower women to contribute to peace in areas such as women’s rights, women’s leadership, strengthening of the family, and community service.

In Indonesia, Global Peace Women helped flood victims and enlisted college students to serve residents of a home for the elderly.  IMG_1818They have hosted Parenting trainings for top public officials. Our women leaders from Indonesia have joined us at this convention.

In Nepal, GPW has organized projects to safeguard the water supply and begun to provide clean cookstoves for mothers.  The Cookstove Project has also been working in Uganda, teaching women to construct clay cookstoves from local materials, eliminating indoor pollution and reducing the need to gather fuel.  Since half the population of the world cook over open fires, this one project has the potential to transform the lives of billions. The workshop tomorrow will feature this project and I hope you will give it your interest and support.

In the Philippines, GPW has been active with the solar-powered lanterns and street lights of the All Lights Village project­­, and most recently, with the rebuilding and relief work following the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan-Yolanda. Many women leaders working in the Philippines are also present with us here today.

In Nigeria, the wife of the vice president, Hajiya Amina Namadi Sambo, launched our newest national chapter, Global Peace Women Nigeria, at the recent Global Peace Leadership Conference in Abuja. We are graced with her attendance and her words today.

In Kenya, GPW helps encourage moral and ethical character development for youth in schools throughout the country.  Professor Leah Marangu is receiving this year’s Global Peace Award for Strengthening Families for her pioneering work in this area.

In Latin America, Global Peace Women have been working in Uruguay and Paraguay, addressing the issues of family breakdown.

In Taiwan, Global Peace Women have been active in sponsoring Global Child Peace Clubs, creating libraries and youth empowerment projects.

In Korea, Global Peace Women have played a key role in supporting  the AllLights Village project.

I hope you will take the chance to connect and share with each other throughout the duration of this convention. I want to thank all the women of peace who are bringing the vision of One Family Under God into their communities and nations.

From these examples of what women are capable of and the passion and heart they bring to the table, I think we are all in agreement that women are natural bridge-builders and a critical part of the peacemaking process.  I believe that is what has drawn us all here today.

I want to use the opportunity of this annual convening of women leaders to pull together our talents,professions, and projects under a unified theme that I hope will guide the coming year. We can find that theme in the title of this session: Women in Leadership – Toward an Ethic of Compassion and Cooperation.

I believe these two elements, compassion and cooperation, reflect the nature of our Creator and His culture of love and service to others.

In order to achieve global peace we need a vision that encompasses the aspirations of the human heart, and finds expression in universal principles and shared values that bear fruit in qualities of character. GPW is connecting and encouraging women who are already active to a larger network of women who share such a common aspiration.  The vision of One Family under God has become the foundation for partnerships and cooperation in practical service projects that are making this vision a concrete reality.

I hope that the collective efforts of our grassroots network worldwide will result in a cultural shift, transforming a culture of self-centered values, conflict and division into one of compassion and cooperation.

Women in Leadership: Toward an Ethic of Compassion and Cooperation.

Thank you for bringing your expertise and experience to grow this body of knowledge. It is both hard-earned and invaluable.  I sincerely hope that you will gain substantially by hearing from each of our speakers, but also, by sharing with each other in the informal moments as well.  Every moment of our short time together is precious. I thank you for being here, and for all the work that you are doing to build peace in your homes, your communities and your nations.

My father-in-law used to say that women are like water, flowing into those in-between spaces, finding ways into every crevice and fissure, to soften hardened hearts and smooth rough edges.

The hearts of women united together can create a tidal wave sweeping away the mightiest obstacles. I hope that when you leave here for your homes you will do so with renewed energy and with the firm conviction that the work you are doing is one brick in the building of a great vision that can bring peace to the world across all existing boundaries.

I ask you to join together with me, dream together with me, and build together with me. Let the world witness the transformative power of women for peace.

Before I leave, I would like to say a word to all the gentlemen who gathered here. When you think about peace, the true peace starts from home, and it starts from husband and wife. So when you go back, you show how much you appreciate your wife, and tell her you love her, because you know what? If you make your wife happy, not only is she going to become a great wife, but she’s going to be a great mother, because happy women makes a great mother.

And I’d like to also say something to the women. Pease appreciate your husband. Love him, tell him you love him, you really appreciate the efforts that he does for his home and children. That will give him strength to do better when he goes out. So when we all do that as husband and wife, that is going to be the greatest start to make peace, and eventually it’s going to bring peace all around the world.

So thank you again for coming today. We really appreciate all the speakers today for their great words and wisdom. And when we go back home, let’s try to build one family under God.

Thank you very much.