The 20th century saw the powers of the Old Continent, inflamed by nationalisms and colonial greediness, plunge the world twice in the most monstrous wars. With the Shoah, which will forever remain painful and indelible in our memories, humanity reached the extreme limit of barbarity.
From Yalta, in February 1945, until the fall of the Berlin Wall, in November 1989, the world was caught in a Cold War between East and West that made humanity live under the constant threat of a nuclear catastrophy. In Cuba, in October 1962, exactly 50 years ago, the missiles were indeed armed and the countdown was launched.
This century that witnessed all the evil and the worst of threats, finally saw the light and managed to start a long journey towards peace. The Franco-German reconciliation was an essential step for this; it opened the way for European construction and thereby the strengthening of a peace process in the world. In this move, writers were among the first and the most committed. Some of them are among the signatories of this appeal; they were involved in these historic events that revived hope. We would like to particularly welcome them.
But the peace project involved only the West. We had forgotten about the rest of the world, the dozens of countries gathered at the periphery, which yet accounted for more than four-fifths of the world population, delivered to underdevelopment and dictatorships. Because peace was not for all, it could not be sustainable. And here we are again faced with immense dangers. Pollution and global warming may soon destroy as much as the nuclear storm threatened to do in the old terror scheme. Poverty, disease, endemic delinquency will take care of the rest. Terrorism, a shocking novelty at this scale, advances at an appalling speed; and the ideologies that feed it attain new ways, in particular through the instrumentalisation of religions to serve political purposes.
The developments in some countries make us fear the worst. Barbarian fundamentalism rooted in Taliban Afghanistan has continued to expand and cause backlash in states of quasi-war in the rest of the world. Spots of tension multiply, in particular in Africa, and the pockets of radical Islamism that develop in many Arab and Muslim countries, and even in democratic countries far from the epicentre, threat to spread all over the world. Already now, basic values such as freedom of religion and of conscience are in danger.
Faced with this, the international community remains incredibly inefficient. America and Europe dither, Russia and China practice blocking, thus paralysing any possible action from the United-Nations.
The “Arab Spring” has created hopes and opportunities, especially as regards democratisation, but has also unleashed enormous internal tensions in the Arab and Muslim countries, which keep worsening and pushing towards extremism. The emergence of very organized Islamist parties, with heavily armed militias, and their coming to power in these countries are a sign of the movement towards fundamentalism. In the looming chaos, Iran accelerates its nuclear programme to achieve its hegemonic pretensions on a political, military and religious level, and Arab countries in the region might be driven to follow a similar path.
In this context, Israel is more directly threatened than ever. Faced with a complex and dangerous situation, it might be tempted to act alone. The decision to strike Iran is on the table, even if by doing so Israel might find itself on the edge of existential danger. The already fragile situation in the Middle East will deteriorate. Once again, the peace-loving Palestinians and Israelis will pay for the pursuit of interests they are not a part of.
Israel maintains the Palestinians under occupation for more than 45 years, and this inhuman and immoral situation must stop. Both sides are putting unrealistic conditions to resume negotiations, and meanwhile the Israeli government is building more and more settlements, which prevent achieving sustainable peace. We urge both parties to enter immediately into sincere and serious negotiations. The present blockage endangers peace in the region and in the world.
It is urgent that the international community intervenes firmly to bring the Iranian nuclear programme under control and steadily commits to the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, pushing the parties to immediately establish a true direct dialogue, leading as soon as possible to the creation of a Palestinian state next to the State of Israel, both with secure borders, on the basis of painful compromises for both parts though necessary for peace, such as the abandonment of settlements or their exchange against land, the renouncement to the right of return of the 1948 refugees, the sharing of Jerusalem. This is still – but maybe not for long - a possible solution and there are men and women on both sides capable of achieving it. Let us help them do so.
In Syria, the Arab Spring has resulted in a crisis of exceptional severity, which threatens the country itself and its people’s very existence. Al-Assad's regime is methodically killing his people. Sixteen months – and almost 30.000 deaths - after the start of the Syrian revolution, he continues his crimes in complete tranquillity, encouraged firstly by Iran, Russia and China, and secondly by the hesitations and procrastination of the international community. Human consciousness will long remember the aftermath of this tragedy.
Against this background, we writers are signing our commitment to peace and declaring the following :
Peace is a common and irreplaceable good and its defence is a common obligation. By making it everyone’s affair, we can prevent that the global peace we strive for may end-up being the peace for some at the cost of others.
Writers have their part in this fight and we hereby express our determination to take it firmly and objectively. We urge all writers in the world to join us. Together, we can influence decision makers and public opinion and thereby also the course of events, ensuring that the values of peace are strengthened throughout the world. Our methods in this fight are literature, debate and vigilance. Maybe it is not much, but it is our way of maintaining our dignity in a world of violence and cynicism.
The global gathering of writers for peace is not a political party and does not intend to interfere in the internal political affairs of a specific country. This is each one’s affair according to his or her own personal convictions and commitments. However, peace and the values that underpin it - human rights, democracy and culture – are not only internal affairs : they are universal. This is why the gathering will express itself on these issues. It will do so without concession. Here is its scope; there is its line.
The gathering works as a network, as wide as possible. It will provide itself a secretariat to optimize the flow of information among its members and the organization of its actions. Every two years, it will appoint a “primus inter pares” to represent the gathering and manage its activities.
The gathering will, as soon as possible, set up working groups to formulate proposals - and develop actions - for addressing the most urgent situations.
The gathering will seek all possible synergies with national and international organizations for which peace and culture are the missions.
Strasbourg, 11 October 2012