Presentations by Joanna Naegeli, Second Forum


Presentations by Young People
Joanna Naegeli, Switzerland

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear participants in the Second Forum of the Global Network of Religion for Children,

It is a pleasure and a privilege for me to be here in front of you and address this gathering. As a youth living in Switzerland, in an environment that is free of major conflicts, it is not easy for me to speak of children and conflicts. I am not going to describe the very difficult situation that many children face, who live in places of conflict and war. We are all familiar with those desperate situations. What I will do is try to present some ideas which are important for me and that can be considered in any context where there are children.

First of all, I would like to start by reading you a quote that I particularly like from the Baha’i:

“Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit there from.”

We can see in this quote the importance of education; but what I particularly like is the fact that we are all mines full of gems; no one is deprived of this valuable wealth. What is crucial for society is to find the way of bringing out, polishing and using these gems. Children in conflict zones as everywhere else should be encouraged and stimulated to reveal the treasures that are within them. This way, they will learn in their tender age to contribute to the well-being of humanity. The responsibility for education falls on the local authorities, but before that on the families and relatives of the children. Education is an essential pre-condition to the advancement of society; we should not lose sight of this.

Among the tools and qualities we should develop and promote in education – in order to allow us to evolve and create a more peaceful and conflict-free society – I would like to mention the following:

  • The recognition of the oneness of humankind. We were all created from the same stock, and in this context no one should consider himself superior to another person. With this understanding of the oneness of mankind, racial, national or gender discriminations cannot be used as an excuse for conflicts.
  • The necessity of open and frank communication in the resolution of any dimension. Through such a consultation, our diverse ways of looking at one same problem come together and we discover the best way to collective action. With consultation, we reach a unity of thought, and with this unity of thought we formulate creative plans to improve the world we live in. Among the qualities that should be promoted and used in such a consultation, there are: respect for the other, and his or her point of view; due consideration given to all opinions, including those of minorities; sincere and complete expression of our point of view in order to contribute to finding a collective solution to a given conflict; and finally keeping an open mind to the solutions that will come out of the consultation.
  • After the consultation, action is also important. Individual and collective action are necessary. Regarding collective action, the following quote is interesting:

The supreme need of humanity is cooperation and reciprocity. The stronger ties of fellowship and solidarity amongst men, the greater will be the power of constructiveness and accomplishment in all the planes of human activity.

This sentence full of wisdom shows us the way to cooperation, as well as the reasons why we should follow this path.

I would like to end by reading another quotation from Baha’i writings, which says:

“When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content. Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness.”

I hope that we will be able to do this personal effort of transforming within us the thoughts of war into thoughts of peace, and that by doing so we will influence the world we live in.

I thank you for your kind attention.

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