Speech by Dr. W.J.Deetman
Mayor of The Hague
At the inauguration of the World Peace Flame Pathway
April 27th 2004
Ladies and gentlemen,
Nearly a century ago, the first stone was laid for the building behind me, the Peace Palace. Those were the days of the famous Peace Conferences, the beginning of international judicial cooperation, which was inspired by the idea that disputes between states must be solved in the courtroom, not on the battlefield. On the 28th August 1913 the Peace Palace, the very symbol of this ambition, was completed. It was only one year before the outbreak of the First World War.
The age of progress showed its other face: tanks, trenches, and poison gas. At the dawn of the century, the participants in The Hague Peace Conference had hoped for enlightened, peaceful times. Instead, the twentieth century became the era of mass destruction.
However, Ladies and gentlemen, all these horrors only strengthened the striving for peace and justice.
During the post war years, international judicial cooperation was continued and extended - and with hopeful results. More than a lifetime after the exploding of the first gas shells on the fields of Ieper, there is an Organisation dedicated to the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. More than fifty years after the trials of Nuremberg, there is a permanent institution for the persecution of war criminals, the International Criminal Court. And half a century after its start, the European Union finally will include member states from behind the former Iron Curtain. More than ever, we have the proper tools to create a save, peaceful and just world.
But, when we watch the T.V. news or read the newspapers, we realize immediately that this ideal situation is still far away from us. Here, in Western Europe, we are enjoying freedom and peace for already more than two generations. But in the rest of the world, bloody conflicts still make victims every day. It is our moral duty to be constantly aware of this, to do all we can to stop the violence and killing, and to help the victims.
In the World Peace Flame, the fire of war and destruction was transformed into another kind of fire: the symbol of hope for a better, peaceful future. The World Peace Pathway, made of stones donated by more than hundred and ninety countries, completes this monument in a worthy and symbolic way.
Remember also, the Peace Palace was built and furnished by the international community. The Hague is very proud to be the one and only city to make a contribution to the Peace Pathway. The city of peace, justice and security donated a so-called 'golden clinker'.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The World Peace Flame Foundation, which took the initiative to create the World Peace Flame and also the World Peace Pathway operates under the motto:
'Transform the world by giving people the tools to transform themselves'
This motto reminds me of the words of the famous philosopher Baruch Spinoza, who lived here in The Hague. He wrote:
'Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind,
a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.'
In my opinion, these words, written more than three centuries ago, characterize very well the work of World Peace Flame Foundation which is so important to the whole of mankind.
It is my sincere wish that this World Peace Pathway will propagate this idea. May it contribute to the awareness that peace is a matter which concerns us all, always and everywhere.
I thank you for your attention.