Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Struan Stevenson: I’ve seen proof that the world still wants peace

Demonstrators in Berlin protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine (Photo: Clemens Bilan/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
Demonstrators in Berlin protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine (Photo: Clemens Bilan/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

What can we do?

What can we do when a deranged tyrant invades a sovereign neighbour, shells Europe’s biggest nuclear plant, destroys cities, bombs hospitals and schools, forces mothers to give birth in tube stations, kills and maims thousands of men, women and children, forcefully displaces over three million refugees and then claims to be fighting a Nazi government, despite the fact its president is Jewish?

This repetition of the horrors of 1939 that triggered the Second World War is now happening on our doorstep, in real time. The dilemma of Ukraine has united world opinion against Vladimir Putin and Russia like never before.

By an act of providence, this month, while 200,000 Russian troops were pillaging Ukraine, a conference was taking place in Malta, where world leaders and high-level experts sought to establish the concept of “Leadership for Just Peace”.

Hosted by the renowned peace activist, President George Vella of Malta, and the Kuwaiti poet and philanthropist, Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain, the World Forum for Culture of Peace saw heads of state, world leaders, parliamentarians and civil society representatives attempting to tackle the unfolding horror in Europe, and the longer-term implications for peace.

‘Peace must become our way of thinking and acting’

President Vella said that the global pandemic had taught us all to work together and demonstrated the value of unity in times of great peril. Those times were here again, he said.

In a written address to the conference, António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, echoed this sentiment, stating: “Our world is in turmoil. Our response must be rooted in solidarity.”

President of Malta, George Vella (Photo: Marek Lasyk/Reporter/Shutterstock)

President Ilir Meta of Albania said that “peace cannot be achieved through violence” and outlined how religious accord in his country allowed many diverse faiths to live side by side in harmony. But, he continued, “peace must become our way of thinking and acting”.

The young and dynamic president of the Republic of Kosovo, Vjosa Osmani, exposed the mistakes the West had made in dealing with Putin. “Appeasement to dictators must end,” she said, clearly alluding to Western inaction following Putin’s military occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia in 2008 and annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol in 2014.

Vjosa Osmani of Kosovo said: ‘Without peace, there is no progress and, without progress, there is no peace’

She warned: “Never again must this become a reality. If peace in Ukraine does not prevail, world peace may fail.”

Osmani found agreement from Stjepan Mesić, the former president of Croatia, who railed against today’s leaders, saying: “Most of them are not real leaders. None of them think in a timespan of more than four or five years, or beyond the next election.” He concluded that, “without peace, there is no progress and, without progress, there is no peace”.

10,000 deaths in a week sounds a lot like WWIII

Khaled Khalifa, the regional representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) revealed that, in the first days following the invasion, over one million people had been displaced from their homes in Ukraine, mostly women and children fleeing for their lives. He said their numbers had added to the 84 million refugees worldwide, forcefully displaced by conflict, 86% of whom live in underdeveloped countries.

Displaced Ukrainians stand in a line on the train platform after arriving at the station in Przemysl, Poland (Photo: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Khalifa argued that it was shameful that the UNHCR, set up after WWII, was still necessary 71 years later, and he pled with everyone to make it their goal to put the organisation out of business.

Hanno Pevkur MP, vice president of the parliament of Estonia commented it was horrifying that over 10,000 people had been killed in Ukraine during the first week of the war. He said people asked if it could escalate into World War Three, but in his opinion, 10,000 deaths in a week, together with the massive shipment of arms from Nato countries in support of Ukraine, already qualified as WWIII.

The majority of the world wants peace

I had been invited to address the world forum as an expert on conflict resolution, and as an international lecturer on human rights in the Middle East. I told the conference about my involvement in BPUR International, a worldwide campaign to introduce a UN Treaty banning the political use of religion.

I said: “Everyone knows that one of the main messages of all religions is to be kind to each other but, unfortunately, religion has very often been used as a weapon. When we look at the world today and in the last few decades and indeed over the centuries, we see that the abusive mixing of religion and politics has been the main root cause of the worst conflicts.

“There have been thousands of attempts to solve this problem. But, very often, they end up doing more harm than good by giving ammunition to the extremists.

Aberdeen Amnesty International Society and Aberdeen University Student Association recently hosted a peace demonstration and vigil at Elphinstone Hall (Photo: Scott Baxter/DCT Media)

“I believe we have now the ultimate solution to set global rules to disarm religious extremism. Unlike all previous attempts, this historic mission comes from the utmost respect for all religions, with a unique understanding of all sensitivities surrounding this minefield and how to build a global and respectful consensus.

“The proposed treaty represents a new approach to introduce clear, simple and indisputable international rules to ban all political uses of religion that undermine human equality; all religious discrimination in rights and duties; all religious exclusion; and all restrictions to freedom of religion and belief.”

As Putin gloats over the horror and havoc he has created in Ukraine, the world can look to the overwhelming majority of 141 countries who voted in the UN General Assembly emergency sitting to condemn the invasion.

Putin has achieved the exact opposite of what he had hoped. He has united the West like never before and turned his country into a pariah state.

Struan Stevenson was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014. He is an author and international lecturer on human rights and the Middle East

Already a subscriber? Sign in