At the Opening Session of The Petra Conference of Nobel Laureates
18 May 2005
Thank you very much. It is a pleasure and an honour to welcome all of you to Jordan.
In the ninth century, a remarkable institution opened its doors in the Arab world: the Bayt Al Hikma, the House of Wisdom. It was the global think-tank and data bank of its era. And it helped create an astounding community of seekers, seekers for truth, seekers of progress. They reached out to the whole world for knowledge. They pioneered new ideas – in medicine, science, human development and more. Historians tell us their work helped advance the human condition for centuries after.
This morning I look around this room and I see a House of Wisdom – a global House of Wisdom for the 21st century and beyond.
And I thank you for coming together, and coming here, at this critical time. A process begins here – a process that all of you will shape – and by your effort, help shape our world.
Surely, it has never been more important to reach out, to seek new understanding, to work together for a new and better reality. And no one can contribute more than you, who have refused to accept limits on human possibilities – who have pioneered new paths to the future.
Today, humanity is at a critical crossroad. Ours can be an open world of expanded horizons and new opportunities. Or it can be a closed world of endemic crises and lost chances.
The direction we go is especially critical for one important part of the global population: our youth. In the Middle East, more than half the population is 18 or younger. They have no memory of a time without regional conflict. They see a huge global gap between rich and poor. They see diseases that wealthy nations have wiped out, that are still crippling people in the developing world. They see gender inequality holding back the talents of half the world. They see the harm as well as the hope brought by globalisation.
My friends, these young people are tomorrow's citizens, tomorrow's teachers, tomorrow's Nobel Laureates. They won't accept empty words and promises. They want to make a difference. To share in the fruits of modern knowledge. To help create a positive and generous future – a future in which they, and all people, live in freedom and respect.
It is up to us to give them the tools they need. And we must make a beginning now – a taste of success that helps people see they can succeed: to create more freedom and opportunity, so people can fulfil their potential. To build peace, so people can move forward with confidence. To expand global cooperation, so that, working together, we can achieve the promise of this age.
Those who work for change don't face these tasks alone. We are joined by forward-looking people everywhere.
In my region, there's been a wave of reform aimed at democracy and development. These steps are vital to meet the expectations of our people, especially our young people, for freedom and opportunity.
The friends of Middle East peace are also actively working. And today, they have an unprecedented opportunity to succeed. The basic goals are shared by people on both sides: justice for the Palestinians. Security for the Israelis. Two states living side by side based on international legality. The challenge now is to help people to hold that vision – to believe in a future of peace despite the forces of violence.
Around the world, people are also struggling to confront hatred and division. The vast majority, East and West, North and South, reject the cause and call of extremism. They know it is profoundly anti-peace, anti-progress and anti-democratic. But we need to do more, on all sides, to reinforce the basic values of humanity.
Last November, Jordan released the Amman Message. It restates the core values of Islam: peace, tolerance and the essential unity of the human race. Islam calls on believers to reach out to others with respect and to be involved in the progress of the modern world. The Amman Message has been read and welcomed by Muslims on every continent.
The power of ideas is one of humanity's greatest sources of energy. And it is the power that lies behind the Petra Conference. Each one of you can advance this world by doing more of what you already do so well: think out of the box. We need you to help shift perceptions, develop solutions, recommend specific actions and make change happen. We need you to speak to our young people, to encourage them to achieve the greatness I know they possess. We need you to help forge a new process for global peace and security.
Can you make a difference? The Quran tells us, explicitly, that if a person saves one life, it is as if he saves all people. Such humanity is in the deepest spirit of all the People of the Book. Indeed, it's part of all great world teachings.
So I believe, that if the work you do here saves even one, it will be that beginning we seek – a beginning of peace, of progress, of human unity – a global House of Wisdom to which all can belong.
Thank you very much.