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Launch of VIOLENCE-FREE CHARTER for The Timaru DC

Launch of VIOLENCE-FREE CHARTER for The Timaru District Council and Community 11 April 2003


Speech By Gregory Fortuin

Kororia ki te Atua. Enga mana, enga reo, enga karangarangatanga Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa

I am not here today in my capacity as honorary Consul for the Republic of South Africa. Neither am I here as the “Ex-Race Relations Conciliator”. I am simply here as a father, a husband, a brother, a cousin, a nephew, a son, a friend and more importantly as a member of the Human Race.

As fellow-members of the Human race I greet you all as equals here this afternoon and wish to express my sincere appreciation for the privilege of launching your Violence-Free Charter. (Although I am mindful that Jacqui and Jo in the invite said “you are our 2nd choice because the PM could not make it”). Well Helen’s loss is my gain.

Timaru is a very special place for the Fortuins. This is the home of our much loved foster daughter Sarsha. We are privileged that a stranger from Timaru became an integrated member of our family. Obviously Timaru is famous in its own right. There is the famous Caroline Bay and the much talked about family picnics. Then there is your very own Richard Pearce and his flying achievements and in spite of the belated Australian claim, this is the birthplace of Pharlap. Let me repeat how delighted and honoured I feel in being here today.

I salute the people of this tiny community down in the South Island for this initiative. It is pretty easy to mouth off about what we are against. It is even easier to destroy that which we don’t like or don’t agree with. It takes far more courage to stand up and articulate what one believes in. To then live those beliefs takes plenty more blood sweat and tears. To have those beliefs embraced as a Charter by the District Council and its people demands nothing less than awe and wonder. I applaud you!

For years Archbishop Tutu and the people of Southern Africa pleaded with the USA and UK to assist with their Liberation from the evil yoke of Apartheid and for years PW Botha and his oppressive regime smirked and called the Reagans and the Thatchers their friends. Botha was right – his friends never fronted. The UN Canadian general pleaded for intervention in Rwanda whilst a million people were being slaughtered. The Liberators sat in the comfort of their Western Living rooms while the bodies were floating down the river in Uganda. They never came. I wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that Africa could not offer any rich oil fields or lucrative wheat-contracts, but I can only wonder. Obviously one has to allow for the fact that in the 80’s the “liberators” were very busy supporting that tragic Despot Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran, The Taliban in its war against the Soviet Union and not forgetting their role in Nicaragua and so many other places.

We are the role models for our children and our children’s children. What we say count for squat / zilch / nothing, compared to what they observe and experience. So I was far from surprised two weeks ago when an innocent child took a hand grenade to school for “show and tell”. Why would we be surprised when their world is dominated by violent scenes of human carnage and suffering? Why would we be surprised when there is a whole industry trading in Human Misery? Why would we be surprised when on the very day 11 (according to Reuters) or 7 (according to CNN) scared woman and children are slaughtered in their own vehicle in their own country by the “liberators” at a so-called checkpoint, the Australian and USA Foreign Ministers debate who should get the wheat contracts? Why would we be surprised when we live in a new world order that says people are expendable, but let’s call it something more sophisticated like “Collateral Damage”? This is the new model for Peace - The model that says MIGHT IS RIGHT - The Model that says the SCHOOLBULLY and his Mates rule supreme. The model that says the STRONG can beat up the WEAK just because they are physically able. The history of the world does however teach us one thing, no super power or dynasty last forever, there will always rise a new strong one, crushing yesterday’s strong one.

Your charter on the other hand is not dependent on brute strength to endure. It affords the same respect to the weak as it does to the strong. It appeals to our common Humanity. It has morality on its side.

In February 2001 I spent 3 days at the Holocaust Memorial in Cape Town listening to gruesome stories of the victims of the Genocide in Rwanda. The Rwandan Minister of Justice told his own story and then in no uncertain terms proclaimed that the execution of the architects of the Genocide would continue – (todate 22 with more to follow). I said to the Minister that I would never be able to share or begin to understand his pain, neither would I ever attempt to speak for the victims, but I was wondering how these executions would heal Rwanda’s torturous past and build long term national unity. I reminded him that not only should justice be JUST, but it should restore HUMANITY to the VICTIMS and Perpetrators alike. 2 Weeks later I toured the Genocide sites of Rwanda – I will spare you the graphic details, but it is an experience that will forever be etched in my mind. Before delivering my address at their conference on National Reconciliation, I met first with the widows of the genocide and then had a follow-up with the Minister of Justice and Chief Public Prosecutor. I said to all of them “If they kill us and we kill them, WE BECOME LIKE THEM - Somebody must stop the cycle of violence or we will forever remain our own jailors”.

The night before I flew out of Rwanda, The Chief Public Prosecutor invited me to his house. Before I left, I prayed with him and his wife. I don’t know what other forces or influences were brought to bear on the powers that be in Rwanda, but to my knowledge there have been no more executions. Today the Ministry of National Reconciliation led by an once exiled freedom fighter woman is one of the success stories of Rwanda.

Violence in its ultimate form, namely murder is WRONG, whether perpetrated by the GOOD guys or the EVIL ones. There is no such thing as a JUSTIFIED ATTROCITY. I totally supported Desmond Tutu who would not allow Thabo Mbeki to dismiss atrocities by the ANC as “Justified” and ensured an appropriate acknowledgement and apology was forthcoming. Nothing less would have sufficed.

It is a shame that we now live in a world where the destructive forces are the rule and the norm as opposed to the exception. If you don’t believe me watch the news on any channel tonight and count which stories dominate. That is why we have to call this Charter VIOLENCE-FREE. Maybe one day we will call it the PEACE or HARMONY Charter. I do however stand in awe that in a town called Timaru you have the guts to take on the new world order. The courage to say NO MORE or as the world said after the 2nd World war “NEVER AGAIN”!

It is fantastic to see the amount of collaboration that has gone into achieving this outcome. The working party from a broad cross section of the community needs a special mention. It is never easy for passionately committed champions to agree. May I encourage you to continue to utilise existing structures. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Be Inclusive, particularly of those who might see things differently. Before we go and celebrate this amazing achievement, let me leave you with one caution – called DEHUMANISATION. The tragedy with CHARTERS and DECLARATIONS today is that it has been: Lawyerized; Theorised, Politicized, Scientificated, Sloganised and breaking news suggest even genetically modified. Can we please, pretty please SIMPLY PUT THE HUMANITY BACK INTO BEING PEOPLE? A humanity that will ensure we are not too proud to say SORRY, not too arrogant to be COURTEOUS, not too rude to say YES PLEASE and NO THANK YOU and heaven forbid, not too scared to say I LOVE YOU.

Here’s to a Violence Free Movement that might have its beginnings in Timaru, but will spread like a wild fire throughout this nation. We have no choice but to succeed. Ultimately the fight against Terrorism will not be won in the trenches and the streets of Baghdad and over the barrel of a gun. It must be fought in our homes, our schools, our places of work, our neighbourhoods and dare I say it even our places of worship. Unless we uphold the universal declaration that all people were created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights to life, liberty and having their dignity respected we will fail in our quest to make the world a decent place for our children and children’s children. In that spirit I welcome the opportunity afforded my Iraqi friends and their country men and women to experience respect for their dignity, I remember all those who paid the ultimate price for freedom and pray that at the very least, the same amount of energy will go into winning the PEACE as has gone into winning the war.

This world has been built by ordinary people passionately committed to their visions and pursuing their dreams. May I encourage you to keep alive the dream of a VIOLENCE-FREE society? Here’s to the success of your Charter becoming a way of life and a light on the hill. I salute the Champions of Timaru. UBUNTU Gregory - (021465254)

© Scoop Media

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