A Voice for Children.
Well, sometimes when we witness something that is atrocious and something that's horrible it is bound to change you; I mean if I haven't begun to scream out against the violence, I probably would have needed some kind of psychological help because it was such a horrible thing to witness but you know the three children (John, Joanna and Andrew Maguire) who died were my angels. I take them everywhere with me. So today I have very sensible and spiritual children. When I am really down or very tired and think that John, Johanna and Andrew are listening, it again gives me the strength, that's how I feel. I mean I still feel the horror of what I witnessed but I know they are in a place now as children they can help other children through me.
When I look around, I find hardly any other person of substance who empathizes for the children as passionately as you do. Even UNICEF has not been able to achieve much. Each one of the teeming millions of our children on Earth who is suffering from malnutrition, discrimination, hunger and exploitation has a story to tell. Madam, what are you currently doing for such children and what are your future plans?
I absolutely agree with you. You know the children don't have the political voice which they need .That's one of the works we are doing. We are creating a political voice for children .We opened the first city of peace in the world for the children on 25th June 2012 and His holiness Dalai Lama opened it. Former President Michael Gorbachev is hoping me to put together a lobby of children against armies and against all kinds of works; let's look at what is spent every year on arms and ammunitions and on ways to destroy humanity. We are to jointly attack the military budgets and demand a percentage of those military budgets to rectify the horror of what has happened to the children.
This is a long-term thing. I probably will not live to see this because I know this is probably 30 to 50 years of work to get this done, but we will do it. We will create a political voice for children and we create this model of the first city of peace in Italy; we are then doing our second city of peace in Ghana in Africa; we have already been asked to do there. So we are going to spread cities of peace across the world for God's little citizens. If you have plan to do something in this field you must create a model like we did in northern Ireland of how it is done and by building a city of peace in Italy we are actually showing this is what we do!
It is high time that the UN adopts a Universal Declaration of Child Rights and it be enjoined upon all nations to ensure that every child gets full opportunity of flowering and flourishing. For the under-privileged children, there should be State adoption so that equal level-playing field is ensured for all such children. How do you plan to achieve this?
Well, I believe that the UN itself needs a lot of adjusting to direct work correctly. The goal is to get one billion signatures on my declaration which will give us the strength that we need when we approach UN to have a task. So that's what we are doing right now. We are collecting signatures and we want to take it to one billion. As soon as we get it accomplished, I will be knocking the doors of UN.
Your famous quote "We should stop worshipping flags and respect the people, remember the people and forget the flags" clearly suggests of creating one family in the world. It has been on the top of the wish list of all the great thinkers of the world. What sort of initiative you have made to achieve it?
I think what we have to do it. It is just not an initiative from me, you know. It is all sort of people working together who can get this done but you know I say a lot of times in my lectures if you are really a patriot of any country please make sure that the woman next door has a loaf of bread on her table and not a flag, if she is hungry she is your sister. You need to feed her, that's being a true patriot in any country in the world.
You thundered in your speech at the Earth Dialogue Forums on July 24, 2006 "Right now, I would love to kill George Bush". One can understand your profound empathy for the children and justifiable anger against any atrocity committed upon them. But how do you justify such a strong emotion of violence in you notwithstanding your subsequent apology for the remarks on George Bush? Was it an aberration incensed by the pain of killing of children in the Middle East?
This is strange that one line that hit you; that is what usually happens with the newspapers; they use one line and don't use the rest of what you said. I didn't say that I would love to kill George Bush but I actually said ''I could kill George Bush''. I was so angry and I followed that through by saying as the matter of fact many hundreds of time I felt that I wanted to kill a person who hurt a child but that doesn't mean that I will do it, that's what actually I said. I conceal these things but it doesn't mean I can act to these things because I believe George Bush is a criminal. He is an absolute monster, a war criminal and he should be taken to the courts.
Few months back even Archbishop Desmond Tutu released the letter asking George Bush to be arrested as a war criminal but if we do that you have to arrest members of the US Senate and the US Congress because they all are along with it. Yes I can feel that kind of anger if someone hurts a child, yes I could honestly hold them for doing but It doesn't mean I will, I just feel the anger of what they are doing. If George Bush can slaughter hundreds of thousands of people including children, do I have not the right to be angry. It is a justifiable anger. George Bush is a man who had enormous power and became a monster, an absolute monster. He had made that decision to have a pre-emptive strike, my God, a pre-emptive strike! What does that mean? Does that mean that every government in the world if they are a little bit afraid of another government they can go and throw bombs on them. I think this is an absolute insanity and I take it to the highest level because Robert Kennedy said "Speak truth to power". I speak truth to power every day because that allows others to tell their truth.
Who is or has been your role model in public life? If there was one, how he or she has impacted your life?
I think if I were to look at anyone today, the heroes in my life are the Holiness Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, Dr Martin Luther king. They are my heroes, you know. It will be not a movie star that I will admire but these are people who have guided me -- the great people in our world who did make a difference.
Madam, what do you think about India as a people, as a nation and what role do you expect India should play in the comity of nations for effecting real, palpable and abiding world peace?
Well, I think India as nation is phenomenal. I have been to India many times and actually last year I was in Dharamshala to meet His Holiness Dalai Lama. I got to visit Indian families to see the kind of beauty India has but the horror of India is also very telling. You are not just climbing up an economic recession and now India is climbing up in fields certainly of technology and in fields of computerisation and all of that. India is beginning to take a very lead role in this but I don't like what's happening because what I see in India is what has happened in the rest of the world. You can't become like American, you know, a consumer society. You know what I mean yes you have hundreds of thousands of hungry Indians and India needs to look into her soul before it gets any worse and go back to when you were a Gandhian, go back when you were in the light of Mother Teresa, don't walk away, don't let this happen in your country because these people of India were the greatest role model the world has ever known.
Worse is that some children, generally girls are sold for a few dollars by their own parents for their own survival or abandoned by them on the roadside or elsewhere. Thus the very humanity is being eroded and corroded. We expect you to step into shoes of Mother Teresa and travel the whole world taking every soil-smeared child in your warm clasp and inspire privileged people to do the same. I hope I am not unreasonable in expecting such a role from you Madam. Am I?
I could never be in the same league of Mother Teresa, she was so pure. I mean I have a very bad temper I really get very angry when people hurt children. As you know in some of the remarks I just don't hold back what I feel. I had a joy of being with Mother Teresa when she came to Northern Ireland. This woman was a walking saint, she was an incredible human being and I actually learnt so much from her from her little humble ways and her strengths. People underestimated her a lot because she was so tiny and looked so frail. No, she was very strong woman. I don't know but I can never be as good as her. I talk about children constantly but you know something if you love me you can help my child you know what I mean and to help the children is to have pure love, I don't care about nationalities or what religion because when we come to birthing we all go through exactly the same thing.
Barack Obama is a novel soul and also a Nobel laureate for peace. Why is it so no effective steps have so far been taken by America for bringing about world peace?
Most Americans are good, most Americans are generous and most Americans believe in democracy but there is no democracy in America; you can't have a democracy in a two-party system; it doesn't work; they have Republican and Democrats and they have nobody in the middle to keep either side honest. I think politics in America is an absolute atrocity; to be elected President of USA one has to have enough money. We, in the real world, were overjoyed when Barrack Obama was elected. However, since his election many things have happened which are very 'unpeaceful' and I would challenge President Obama on the fact that he is a Nobel laureate and he should behave as one.
As I am an Indian I am keen to know as to what impact a feature written in that tumultuous week under the title 'What would Gandhi do in Belfast?' had on the Irish people in their struggle which lay ahead?
Well you know even when you say Gandhi I feel my heart lifting because there was a man, Oh my God, what a man and look how he died; you know it was India who produced the greatest peace worker and the greatest man of justice this world has ever known and then India destroyed him; you know this is so sad; what would have Gandhi said if he came to Ireland is exactly the same thing he said in India. Non-violence is the weapon of the strong, not the weak, that's what Gandhi had said. Even to take his name in my mouth is like a blessing because he is a hero to me and I pray to him for his guidance in this work.
Our world is plunging into an abyss of violence and lawlessness. Recent cases all over the world like killing of innocent school children in Connecticut (USA), rampant gang rapes in India and many more heinous acts have brought disgrace to all of us collectively. After interviewing Mrs Betty Williams, I got much emboldened and felt like doing something big, something substantial in life for the hapless children of the world. The message of Betty Williams is loud and clear and that is use every moment of your life for the welfare of the poor, deprived children who have no voice. We should become their voice like Betty Williams. We cannot neglect the very foundation of life. Women like her in thousands are needed to remove misery and agony of the children. If any woman picks up a thread which women like Betty Williams have picked, this world would change for the better; better for the children, for all of us together.
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