Commencement Ceremony of the University for Peace-Nippon Foundation Dual Campus Masters Program

Manlia, Philippines

Honorable Franklin Edelin, Undersecretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs; Father Bienvenido F. Nebres, S.J., President of Ateneo de Manila University; Assunta Cuyegkeng, Vice President of Ateneo de Manila University; Dr. Jose Cruz, Dean of the School of Social Sciences of Ateneo de Manila University; Mr. John Maresca, Rector of the University for Peace; distinguished guests, friends, and the first graduating class of 2008.

It gives me great pleasure to be here at Ateneo de Manila University at the first graduation for the UPEACE/Nippon Foundation Dual Campus Masters Program in International Peace Studies. The 28 outstanding students who are graduating today are making history. To each and every one of you, I offer my heartiest congratulations.

In this profit-driven age, where most people believe that “time is money,” these 28 hard-working individuals have committed themselves to serve society. For this, I would like to express my deepest respect and admiration.

For more than 30 years, I have been working in the field of international cooperation. One of the reasons that I chose this path was an incident I experienced at a young age. It was in 1945, when an air raid on Tokyo killed over 100,000 people in a single night. I was just seven years old, but I was given the task of identifying neighbors among the piles of dead bodies. Even now, after 60 years, the horrifying sights I witnessed, and the raw emotions I felt, are still with me. Because of this experience, my desire to realize a more peaceful and secure world has been strong and unwavering.

However, the world remains in turmoil. Every day, my heart aches when I see the news of hostilities around the world. Asia is no exception. We are currently facing many serious conflicts, including those in Thailand, the Southern Philippines, and Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka.

To solve these disputes, there is a pressing need to develop a group of people with exceptional abilities to build and sustain peace. In Asia, which has lacked human resources in this field, the need to train qualified peacekeepers is more urgent than ever.

In recent years, conflicts have greatly diversified. The ongoing violence has been fueled by political, ethnic, cultural and religious differences. It has proved extremely difficult to resolve these disputes through existing ideologies and frameworks.

To realize a more peaceful society, we must first deepen our understanding of the different value systems that exist in our world. This requires familiarity with language, culture, history and beliefs. From there, we must gather people from around the world and build a strong bond of trust and understanding, so that together we may solve the world’s problems.

What I would like you to do is: to build the courage to connect with people who have different values and perspectives; to have the perseverance to overcome these difficult times; and to take the initiative in facing the many challenges you will encounter.
I would like all of you to think of yourselves as role models, and take pride in your work. In this way, you can encourage others to follow in your footsteps.

Over these 19 months, you have equipped yourselves with the necessary knowledge, skills and field experience for peace building.
Each of you has forged strong bonds with your fellow students from around Asia. These bonds will be a valuable asset when you start your work on the frontlines. Let me also add that we have a worldwide network of people much like you, all with the same desire to make the world a better place. Whenever you need support, just get in touch and we will all be there for you.

I believe it is my duty to provide the foundations upon which you can realize your full potential. And so I give you my word that I will help you do this. Let us work together, playing our part in constructing a more peaceful, secure and prosperous Asia. A more peaceful world in general.

In closing, I would like to thank my friends at the University for Peace, and Ateneo de Manila University for sharing our dream and working tirelessly to make this program a reality. I would especially like to thank Dr. Jose Cruz for giving such strong support in establishing the second campus here at Ateneo.
Your unwavering faith in the program has resulted in 28 outstanding graduates.

Let us continue to work together to support the students of this program, and to do our part in promoting peace and development in the region.