5/10 October 2017,
Marks the 15th Anniversary of The Global Peace Initiative of Women ( GPIW) that was born in October 2002, when a group of women from around the world belonging to all the world religions and traditional faiths met at the Palais de Nations in Geneva at the eve of the War in Iraq, to pray for peace and establish a worldwide women spiritual organization to promote Peace across the tribal, religious, and political divide.
I was honoured to have been invited to speak on this occasion on the Theme: Nature as the common Cathedral of the Spirit.
A copy of my words on that occasion is attached below
FROM MARIANNE MARSTRAND GPIW
Today marks the 15th anniversary of the Global Peace Initiative of Women. On this day fifteen years ago, 750 men and women came together at the United Nations Palais des Nations in Geneva to begin a journey we could not have imagined. We are still busy convening gatherings that explore the inner dimensions of the outer problems of our day and age.
But mostly we’re still here because of YOU.
Our global network includes extraordinary spiritual teachers, leaders of faith traditions, ecologists, contemplatives, economists, activists, proponents of human rights and justice, and emerging young leaders around the world. You have inspired each other, taught each other, explored critical issues together, laughed and cried together. Strangers you met at GPIW events have become your partners, mentors, and friends.
You have opened your hearts and minds and developed new ways of looking at the world. You have initiated projects and organizations that serve others. You have come up with new ways to relieve the suffering of humankind. It is your stories that we are celebrating. The way you have taken what we have offered and run with it. The work you’ve been inspired to do. The new paths you have found to walk. Please share more of your stories with us.
Anniversaries are a good time to reflect on the past, renew commitments, and forge a new direction. We at GPIW envision many more years of finding the inner directions that best serve the world so that together we can continue to awaken and serve other.
In gratitude and joy…
FOR THE GLOBAL PEACE INITIATIVE OF WOMEN RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL LEADERS
GENEVA, 5th/10th OCTOBER 2002
SPEAK TO THE EARTH
I come from Africa to talk for the ones who have no voice and who are always the unsung victims of any war.
I talk for the living creatures with whom we share this planet, the ones which we have abused, polluted, raped and wounded to the core.
I talk for the remaining forests and for the small lives that they protect; for the seas and oceans, for the birds and the butterflies. And for the wise elephants, patient witnesses of our
I talk for the savannah and the ancient, unchangeable hills.
I talk for the springs of fresh water that give life and for the great herds that once roamed the plains.
I talk for the rare, ever more endangered people who still live close to the source of all things and who still know how to speak to the trees and the animals that make up their world. Whose knowledge, and respect of their living environment, guaranteed their own survival.
I talk for children of Kenya – the ones who live on the edge of the valley of the Great Rift, from where we human beings all come from- who have, like all world children, a right to a Future of which unsustainable development, its pollution, and creeping deforestation, is robbing them for ever.
This is our mother Africa; our mother Nature; our mother Earth.
This peace meeting was conceived a while ago, but its timing is dramatically crucial.
A few people are at this time unilaterally deciding to take measures that will unleash a monster that we shall be unable to control; that will affect us all –the entire world- and the still unborn children of our children.
A war where there will be no winners.
Whose main victim will be our planet. and the children who will inherit an unmanageable world. The children who cannot yet vote, but whose voice must be heard.
But WE CAN do something about this because it is our planet, we uphold democracy, we vote for life and for peace and such decisions have not be taken in our name.
Margaret Mead once said:
“A group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’
It was never more true.
Over fourthy years ago , in 1964, Carl Jung wrote:
“As scientific understanding has grown, so our world has become dehumanized…No voices now speak to man from stones, plants, and animals, nor does he speak to them, believing they can hear. His contact with nature has gone, and with it has gone the profound emotional energy that this symbolic connection supplied.”
To find again this connection with the Earth is what people need and what they must look for:
These days we realize that the true monuments, cathedrals , temples, mosques, synagogues are not man-made.
They are the ones made by the timeless hand of nature; of the divine which is infinite, and beyond , and above us.
With the giant far too rapid steps on the world of technology, Humankind at large has lost the link to the crucial fact that we come from the Earth, we go back to the Earth and we owe the Earth respect.
We must understand that we are behaving like hooligans, destroying common property, a common heritage that does not belong to any of us as individual countries, even if physically situated in one or the other part of this planet:
Because, as Maurice Strong, the founder of UNEP once told me,’ planet Earth is like a spaceship, traveling through the Universe with a limited, finite amount of natural resources, that we all share’ .
If development does not go hand in hand with conservation, if we continuously find short cuts to bypass the laws that we have once made, we are all lost.
Indeed we shall be tomorrow’ fossils, and this tomorrow is not millions years from now. Extinction are real: they do not happen overnight, but what we are witnessing worldwide are signals that a global catastrophe is closer than we want to think- if, wrapped up in day- to- day, we think about it at all.
We cannot continue this trend any longer, but shall we? We must take responsibility.
Only a generation ago no one could imagine that what we had taken for granted, fresh air, clean water, predictable seasons, sufficient rains and sunshine in the Summer, a pristine natural world- could be tangibly changed in our lifetime, to show a suicidal pattern of that incredible world spread decline that our carelessness, short sided greed have brought about.
The slow death that we are inflicting to the Earth in a thousand ways generates spasms that affect us all:
Floods and droughts, famine and disease, ravage not just the valleys and the plains, the rivers and the oceans, but the cities and the villages. Global Warming and melting of glaciers, Earthquakes and hurricanes, tropical storms, unmanageable fires, are great equalizers, destroy the living forests we have forgotten the powers of.
Just look at the news: hurricanes in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Porto Rico Texas, Florida, We call them familiar names, Irma, Katia, Maria, The planet is showing its power.
We must be wise enough to remember that the Earth, the spiritual and natural world, is unconquerable and will always have the last word.
It is our responsibility to do everything we can to protect and nourish what has never been easier to destroy.
To join forces, and show the world some sense.
We need to return to simpler and more spiritual ways of life, to true values, to the conscious respect towards what surrounds us and of which we are only temporary tenants.
This is the true crusade without which there can be no peace and no future.
We must all find our journeys and our quests.
I, myself, have traveled a long way through the paths of the mind, trying to come to term with losses that seemed too hard to bear. I have been trying to fill the silence of my familiar voices, and have learnt to listen to the voice of my soul.
In the course of my journey I have learnt many lessons.
There was time, as a child in Italy, when “ I dreamed” of Africa.
My dreams became a reality when `I moved to Ol ari Nyiro, a vast estate on the Laikipia Highlands of Kenya, over thirty years ago, and a nightmare when first my husband, and then my son, died tragically there.
Then, it became a vision.
In most people’s life there is, sooner or later, a moment in which one feels at a dramatic turning point. A moment of truth, when the sense of our existence and the meaning that we should give it, is suddenly startlingly clear.
This was for me the time in which I looked down at the open, dead eyes of my son, and there I saw reflected the sky, and the sun, and the hills and the leaves of the tree above us.
The world had come to an end for me only.
The world -Nature- went on as ever.
The sky in Emanuele’ eyes, was the sky of Africa. This was the key.
In the weeks that followed I walked alone along the valleys and Savannah of my home in Laikipia, and one evening I stood looking down at the cliffs of the Great Rift, at endless vistas of volcanoes and hills and lakes.
There was something awesome and sacred in its majestic beauty, the ineffable feeling of being in a cathedral of the spirit, which could absorb my grief , and everyone’s grief, into a healing and transforming embrace.
Something that went beyond life and beyond death, because it was eternal.
In that moment I saw myself in the years to come becoming involved in the great movement to do something about our planet : the great quest, the final crusade to actively preserve and restore the natural world.
I had the intuition that to ensure its survival was more important than anything else, and making a positive difference to the environment and to the living creatures within it, with the means at my disposal, became my quest, and my mission.
I understood that what we call death is only the end of a stage, it does not need to be the end of a relationship with someone we have loved.
As a mother I had felt as if nothing would ever again heal my wounds: but I had been wrong: what remained was the magic of Africa, the purity of the landscape, its natural peace and tolerance, the aristocratic elegance of the African animals, the compassion and gentleness of the people.
All this was healing, inspiring, worth the sacrifice.
It went beyond life, and beyond death, because it was eternal.
I understood that what really mattered in the end was to have learnt that lesson, and accepted what I could not change, while concentrating in changing what I could.
Like many of the militants in the environmental crusade throughout the world, I deeply felt “the immense longing not just to protect, but to rejuvenate the Earth.”
I understood that the real voyage of discovery does not consist in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
So I started The Gallmann Memorial Foundation, which deals with preservation of natural resources, sustainable and creative use of the environment, education and community service.
I saw that one can make a difference in the outside world if one can make a difference for oneself.
And recalled the words of Chief Seattle:
“The earth is our mother.
What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.
This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth.
All things are connected like the blood that unites us all.
Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it.
Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.’
And the words of the Prophet:
“Speak to the Earth, and it shall teach thee. ”
Let’s hope we can learn.
Please help us fund the rebuilding of vital conservation infrastructure on Kuki’s Laikipia Nature Conservancy and equip the outstanding team of rangers with everything they need to restore order across the Conservancy and continue their fight to defend the wildlife.
With your help we can secure Kuki’s vision and legacy in perpetuity.
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