Editor’s note: Two weeks ago, CRCS was privileged to share a conversation between the Yogyakarta-based French writer Elisabeth Inandiak and the spiritual leader of the Sufi path (tariqa) Alawiyya, Sheikh Khaled Bentounes. The collaboration continues this week as we mark the inaugural observance of the new UN-recognized International Day of Living Together in Peace and the movement that will spread this significant and much-needed call for reconciliation within the human family. Events in Indonesia will be held in Solo by Taman Hutan Lemah Putih; on the slopes of Mt. Merapi by Padepokan Seni Tjipta Boedaya as well as by the Padepokan Lemah Putih; in Jambi by the Padmasana Foundation at Muara Jambi; and in Bali by Dharma Nature Time.
Today, after a long and careful reflection, we are facing your noble Assembly. I have come to you as the messenger of a great Sufi path that appeals to the generosity of your conscience as a decision maker of the present and the future. It is with your wisdom that we can build a society of Living Together and Doing Together so that our children can build their future with each other, and not against each other. Peace is not just the absence of war or conflict. Peace is, first and foremost, a state of being that each of us feels within ourselves, with a desire to share, uniting with all of our fellow beings, beyond our colour, our religion, or our nationality. A human being is initially a consciousness and this increases or decreases according to its attachment to the values of ethics, justice, solidarity and peace.
Those words were addressed by Sheikh Khaled Bentounes, spiritual leader of the Sufi path (tariqa) Alawiyya, to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, on December 6, 2017. Two days later, the UN declared May 16 as International Day of Living Together in Peace. 2018 marks the first year in which it is observed in countries around the world, including Indonesia.
This was a happy conclusion of a three-year global campaign initiated by L’Association Internationale Soufie Alawiyya (AISA) during the International Women’s Congress for a Culture of Peace held in Oran and Mostaganem, Algeria in 2014. The congress then launched the petition Desire for Peace addressed to political authorities.
As an Algerian citizen, Sheikh Khaled Bentounes has succeeded in convincing the Algerian government to submit this resolution to the UN. Thus Algeria stands now at the forefront for the promotion of the International Day of Living Together in Peace. This is both a political tour de force and an act of great mercy on the part of Sheikh Bentounes toward his native country which has, in the past, persecuted his family and the Algerian Sufis.
In 1968, a virulent press campaign was orchestrated by the Boumedienne government accusing the Alawiyya path of being a state within the state. Sheikh el-Mehdî, Sheikh Bentounes’s father—who was suspected of being an agent of the CIA, partly due to the many young Westerners in search of spirituality who stopped in his zâwiyyah (Islamic monastery) on their way to India—was jailed for nine months without trial in February 1970. The brutality he experienced precipitated his death five years later. It was the time when the socialist government of Algeria (National Liberation Front [FLN]) nationalized the land of all the zâwiyyah, thus destroying the vast network of schools and economic solidarity that the Sufis had woven for centuries all over the country. The Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) then rushed into this social and spiritual void, culminating in a terrible civil war which lasted for ten years (1991-2001) and resulted in more than 200,000 fatalities.
Having put an end to the atrocities of terrorism with the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, Algeria profoundly believes in this concept of “Living Together” and has committed itself to promoting it to other member states of the United Nations for its consecration, through a Resolution of the General Assembly, in the form of an “International Day of Living Together in Peace”.
The idea of the International Day of Living Together in Peace was born from Sheikh Bentounes’s diagnosis of the following diseases of our world.
The culture of “every one for one’s own self”, which has reached a level never seen before, leading to antagonism between individuals and between societies and to political, social and environmental conflicts that increase fear of the other, of the future, of the unknown, of the different, of poverty, of change.
Fears fuel self-centeredness. Self-centeredness increases insecurity. Insecurity increases intolerance.
Some people advocate responding to fear with fear. They claim their space in this world through violence. Others use exclusion to safeguard their space exclusively for themselves; to promote homogeneity; to restrict their world only to what they know.
A new vehicle is needed to offer a message of hope to humanity, a tool to express loudly this desire to learn to live better together, to ensure a better future for everyone everywhere in the world.
The actions of the International Day of Living Together in Peace (IDLTP) center on eight themes.
- Through citizen action and shared reflection, IDLTP seeks to synergize consciences through which the virtues and qualities of every man and woman are put forward.
- IDLTP seeks to build bridges. Through social networks, it promotes the brewing of fertile ideas and the transmission of skills, offering a message of hope to the youth of all countries.
- IDLTP organizes a platform on ecology, convinced that sustainable development promotes lasting peace by encouraging dialogue with all actors in the economy. It highlights the connection and interdependence between man and nature. It supports to inform, educate and promote innovative practices.
- IDLTP invites us to draw from the common heritage of the wisdoms of humanity to reconnect with peace and spirituality. By calling us to revisit the sacred texts, it highlights their universal character. It thus promotes reconciliation between the cultures and traditions of the human family while nourishing a living spirituality that gives meaning to life.
- IDLTP offers a stage for the music and art of the Five Continents. It calls on musicians and artists to celebrate this event and federate people through the richness, creativity and beauty of our differences.
- IDLTP is committed to promoting gender equality and harmony. It recalls that it is in the light of feminine energy, which is an essential source of peace, that the reconciliation between men and women and their complementarity in unity can be achieved.
- IDLTP promotes an architecture with a human face based on the notion of better living together. By creating a label, it wants to promote the construction of houses, villages and cities, based on innovative and ecological concepts, while safeguarding the architectural heritage proper to each culture.
- The IDLTP proposes the creation of an Academy of Peace. Its role will be to initiate and teach a pedagogy and a method to develop the Culture of Peace in all segments of society. It will bring together all the initiatives working in this direction. Each year, it will award an international IDLTP prize to an action for a better education in Living Together in the Culture of Peace.
May 16, 2018, will mark the first celebration of the IDLTP. Thirteen countries have committed to participating: Algeria, Swiss, Germany, France, Morocco, Cameroun, the Netherlands, Belgium, Congo, Spain, Benin, Canada, and Indonesia.
“We always have need of those smaller than oneself. No one can claim to have the whole; everyone has a part. Let us put ourselves in synergy; let us put our knowledge, our assets and our will at the service of peace for all. Let us increase our investment in the culture of peace to extinguish the fire of hatred by the altruistic impetus of love…. I address this humanity of which each one of you is depositary, and humbly ask you to make this “International Day of Living Together in Peace” a reminder of the preciousness and urgency of the reconciliation of the human family,” said Sheikh Khaled Bentounes addressing the UN Assembly, December 6, 2017.
Read the UN resolution on the IDLTP here.
Go to the official website of the May 16 IDLTP here.
Read the Indonesian translation of this piece here.
This post is also available in: Indonesian