Establishing Global Ethics through Education

Although an important reason for establishing a global ethical standard is to counter and prevent the depredations of terrorism, this is not the only reason to do so. We need to pursue this goal in order to protect everyone, whatever their race, from threats of being harmed by others or causing harm to others. The aim is that every individual on this planet will be free from suspicion, misunderstanding, discrimination, and prejudice, and will receive respect, compassion and tolerance, and be able to learn from each other and help each other. Only in this way will we have universal and everlasting peace on this planet of ours.
The reasons for the emergence of terrorism in recent years are complex, involving a variety of racial, religious, political, economic, cultural and historical factors. Generally speaking, when a particular group seeks to protect its own interests or ensure its own security, it easily overlooks the interests and security of other groups. Given this situation, those groups who feel threatened, humiliated or victimized are particularly prone to viewing the use of violence in terrorist assaults as a means of retaliation, even to the extent that they perceive terrorism as a legitimate channel for achieving justice.

When it comes to defining justice, every group has their own interpretation, and this leads to confrontation as each regards themselves to stand on the side of justice, and their opponents to stand on the side of injustice. The ethical standards of most groups tend to be self-righteous, believing in the rightness of what they believe, and the error of all other alternatives. It is for this reason that we need to establish a common or global ethical standard. Rather than trying to enforce our personal interpretation of what is right on others, we should seek to understand their flaws, extending the hand of friendship to every person so that we can live in peace together and to learn and grow together.

What is global ethics? It is a respect for all life. It is the recognition that everyone has the right to live, and everyone has the responsibility to love and protect others. Global ethics cannot condone the harm of any persons from any group in order to protect one’s group. Such a system will exist only when we see all lives on this planet at large as our brothers and sisters, and work to foster respect and tolerance between each other. Thence, the question of whose cause is just and whose is not will no longer arise.

How should we go about creating a global ethics? The notion of global ethics is a system that is based on understanding rather than confrontation, on love and respect rather than force or the threat of force, on healing rather than revenge. If, in the sacred texts or ancient teachings of any peoples there are tenets that go against the principle of peaceful coexistence for all humanity, then these texts should be reinterpreted in the light of global ethics. In the 21st century, our world should be based on openness and diversity. It should be an environment in which all parts interact, one in which people respect one another and learn from one another. To quote an ancient Chinese saying, it should be a world in which “we seek unity, while preserving diversity.”

How should we go about creating a global ethics? The methodology of global ethics is implemented through educational institutions at the many levels— schools, community education organizations, religious institutions and families—so that these aims can be broadly promoted in a sustainable fashion over the long term. The focus should be on a respect for life, recognition that everyone has a right to live, that each and every one of us must learn to live harmoniously in diversity, and a sense of responsibility for protecting the peace and prosperity of human society. How can these be implemented? I recommend that we propose to UNESCO to take on board the educational program outlined above, and make it one of its primary missions for this century to promote it around the globe. We, the World Council of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, will wholly support and encourage religious leaders at all levels to share in this duty.

Today’s topic focuses on strengthening the tutoring on global ethics in the areas of formal school education and in parenting. We all know that formal education today tends to emphasize the transmission of knowledge and skills, often neglecting areas of facilitating the development of the sense of security or healthy personality within students. Parenting also faces many obstacles all around the world. Parenting should include the role of parents and children education, marriage education, financial planning and stages of life education, etc. Global ethics could also serve as the connection for an overall comprehensive parenting.

Education in global ethics, in addition to requiring everyone to respect all people with whom they share this environment, must also impose a responsibility for self-development, supporting others, and sharing our knowledge and resources with our family, relations, friends and everyone on this earth. The government and educators in each country should set up educational policy and administration to promote global ethics in formal school education. The major role in parenting is performed by the mother and father, who must teach their children to respect and love others, protecting their tender spirits from the seeds of hatred, terror and violence. They should teach their children to understand people different from themselves and to have a compassionate heart.

From my childhood, I still recollect my parents, admonition to me to have a harmonious relationship with all family members and also to show hospitality to strangers from afar. So, in my life, I have only ever met friends, never enemies.

(Presented on January 28, 2004 at Fighting and Preventing Terrorism: Education and Parenting for Peace and Global Ethics Global Conference, United Nations Dag Hammerskjold Library Auditorium, New York)