Some of us must build bridges

“Some of us must build bridges, when others are building walls,” I said when a man who sells flowers in our neighbourhood warned me not to go into the Muslim world. He had asked me where my travels would take me next. “To the Muslim lands of North Africa,” I said. He was shocked. “That’s dangerous. Be careful. Why are you going there?”


I told this story during a 90-minute online broadcast on The Open Heart Project  founded by Susan Piver, which now has a global audience of 20,000. It was an opportunity to reflect on the huge challenges facing our global society, lead a real-time “Enlightened Society Meditation” and answer questions. One listener asked me a question that’s on a lot of people’s minds these days: “Do you find it hard to believe in the basic goodness of people when terrible things are happening in the world.”

Our Sacred Responsibility

Statement to the
“Marrakech Declaration” Conference on
The Rights of Minorities in Muslim Lands
Morocco, 25 – 27 January 2016


Distinguished leaders and guests,

We are gathering at a time of rising hatred.

Our family – the human family – is being torn apart.

The fires of hatred are not only claiming the lives of thousands of people and driving millions from their homes. Hatred is poisoning minds and hearts around the world.

Read the full statement in Arabic or French

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The woman who rose above the hate

“I have the sincere belief that if people get to know each other, one on one, that they’ll stop being afraid of each other, and we’ll be able to get rid of all this hate in the world,” said Rose Hamid, the 56-year-old Muslim flight attendant who stood up in silence during Donald Trump’s campaign rally last week – and was ejected.

The Woman Who Rose Above the Hate 1The incident occurred at a Trump rally in Rock Hill, South Carolina, attended by more than 2,000 of his supporters. Wearing a white head scarf and a turquoise shirt that read “Salam, I come in peace”, she was reported to have said in advance, “I figured that most Trump supporters probably never met a Muslim so I figured that I’d give them the opportunity to meet one.”

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War Crimes in Paradise

In the year 1400 John de Marignolli, the Papal Ambassador to the Court of the Mongolian Emperor, wrote about Sri Lanka, then known as Seyllan: “From Seyllan to Paradise is a distance of forty Italian leagues, so it is said that the sound of waters falling from the fountains of Paradise is heard there.”

Six hundred and fifteen years later, the United Nations is due to publish a detailed report on war crimes and other serious abuses in the country. At a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday this week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the report’s findings “are of the most serious nature.”

War Crimes 1

“It is absolutely clear, given the findings in this report, that there must be a great deal of soul-searching that needs to take place if Sri Lanka is going to ensure non-recurrence,” said High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. “It is crucial that this historic opportunity for truly fundamental change not be allowed to slip.”

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Cultural Carnage and the Triumph of the Spirit

Sometimes, at the moment of death, a human being becomes immortal. Their spirit triumphs over their mortality. Thus it was this week for the tortured keeper of the treasures of the ancient city of Palmyra.

Three months ago Islamic State fighters overran it.

This week, Khalid al-Assad, the 82-year-old archaeologist who was instrumental in the effort to save the site’s priceless antiquities, was publicly beheaded and his headless corpse hung from the remains of a Roman column.

He endured torture for a month, but still refused to disclose where the city’s sacred relics had been hidden.

Cultural Carnage

“His work will live on far beyond the reach of these extremists,” said UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova. ”They murdered a great man, but they will never silence history.”

Before being seized and tortured by Islamic State, he was urged by fellow archaeologists in the Syrian capital, Damascus, to flee for his life. He is reported to have told them he was born in Palmyra, had devoted his life to the world heritage site and would die there.

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