20 October: In the third decade of the 21st Century humans are able to see into the furthest reaches and most distant times of the universe. We can produce literature, art and music of extraordinary resonance and subtlety. And yet, almost every day in the world we are faced with escalating barbarism, mostly directed against our closest neighbours. Vicious conflicts are currently affecting the whole world.
“PEN respects and defends the dignity of all human beings. PEN opposes injustice and violence wherever they are found, including oppression, colonisation, illegal occupation and terrorism.” Bled Manifesto of PEN International’s Writers for Peace Committee.
Revenge killing, acts of terrorism and retaliation against civilians can never be justified, however passionate the cause or sense of grievance. Any such acts remain an affront to humanity. Atrocity merely provokes more atrocity. Some of its perpetrators know this and find glory in their ability to sow carnage. In doing so they relinquish any claim to sympathy. Their wish to control territory is no excuse for cruelty and repression.
The behaviour of a depressingly large number of governments makes a mockery of United Nations ideals and commitments to which they have signed up to. When members of the Security Council openly flout its purpose, the world can only mourn their vain irresponsibility. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is at risk not only from such governments, who regard its provisions as optional, but from those resistance forces that believe that their cause justifies butchery. Neither are legitimate. Nobody will survive if we spend this century squabbling over inaccurate readings of history, spurious ideas of nationalism and chauvinistic and intransigent demands about names, territorial boundaries, and flags.
“PEN acknowledges that it is of primary importance to be permanently committed to creating conditions that can lead to ending conflicts of all kinds. There is neither freedom without peace, nor peace without freedom; social and political justice is inaccessible without peace and freedom.” Bled Manifesto of PEN International’s Writers for Peace Committee
PEN International reaffirms the ethical imperative of placing the rights of people at the centre of any action by governments or their adversaries.
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