2023 “Diwali Stamp – The Power of One Awards,” aka “Oscars of Diplomacy,” Remarks by H.E. Mohan Pieris, P.R. of Sri Lanka

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11 December 2023

As Sri Lanka’s Ambassador, it is a privilege and honour to be part of ‘The power

of one Award,’ the Oscars of Diplomacy. 

SG Ban and Mrs. Ban, Head of Delegation of the European Union to the UN H.E Olof Skoog, Excellencies, distinguished guest, and Ranju and Ravi Batra, both of whom have put in their best to make this event happen.

Deepawali has become truly a secular festival in the world since its message is not exclusively restricted to any religious creed. This festival has united the global community with the central message that we need more than ever the humanistic ideals to engage the inglorious wars which are bleeding the innocence of humanity.

It is important for the world peace that the whole world must be united to save the higher ideals of humanity which have evolved since the millennium in various religious traditions. The principles of Human rights are not the by-product of artificial reason rather their developments have historical and cultural context. The world witnessed many upheavals like world wars and genocidal cruelty, etc. before agreeing on the common moral and legal language for the humanity. This achievement was no less extraordinary in the context of immense diversities of norms and practices shared by the global village of humanity. But the moral progress of humanity has failed to awaken the deeper psychological dimensions of human beings. The biggest failure for the human community is their failure to establish a compassionate society.

Deepawali may be an occasion to introspect the thoughts and deeds of human beings which have ushered the brooding presence of dark evil practices. The world is suffering from many existential crises like climate change, pollution of rivers and oceans, depletion of underground water, arms race, potential nuclear warfare, cruel wars of nation-states and killing of innocent civilians, terrorism, and refugee crisis, etc. In this testing time of our age, Deepawali gives us a pious hope that to defeat the dark forces against humanity a single ray of light is required. Which will not come from the heavens. Its source would be inner-voice of humanity which may be listened by a meditative mind and a compassionate heart.

In philosophical discourse it is asked if light is the presence of light or absence of darkness? Perhaps, darkness is one of the contours of light or it is the seed which has to grow towards its potentiality to be a burning star. There is a Taoist saying that knowledge is what we accumulate and wisdom is what we subtract. The relationship of darkness and light is like unlearning the darkness of ignorance to discover the light within. This message is central to the festival of Deepawali.

Under Hindu mythology, it is believed that Deepawali is celebrated on the day Lord Ram returned back to his Kingdom Ayodhya after conquering over Ravan, as was observed by my colleague Amb Ruchira of India, the demon King of Lanka. On that great occasion, the residents of Ayodhya lighted their home and celebrated Deepawali. It is also believed that Lord Krishna killed Narakasura on that day, therefore, people celebrate it as a festival of light. Indian epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata explore the possibility of human harmony with and within nature. The victory of Ram over Ravan does not symbolize a war of ego or persona. It is about the ideological victory of sattva guna over tamas. Ram returns to Ayodhya after victory over evil signifies the celebration of victory of truth and justice. Deepawali as a festival should be celebrated to harmonize the thoughts and deeds of the being and communities, so that one may find peace and harmony within. Only peaceful world citizens can transform the world towards “perpetual peace,” to borrow the terminology of Immanuel Kant.

Suffering is our common existential fate whose understanding can be instrumental in transforming human societies as communities of compassion as recognized by Buddha. In machination of human life we are losing our ability to listen to the whispers of a suffering soul. The growing anxiety among the youths, the suffering in old age, the anarchist sense of individualism are causing spiritual crisis. It is therefore a befitting time that we reconcile the polarity of Ram and Ravan within, so that we may save our soul from the anarchist overgrowth of egotism. 

Let’s celebrate Deepawali in right spirit with a brightful hope, since hope is not a cause of action, as rightly said by Harvard Prof. Roberto Unger, the Brazilian philosopher. It is the culmination of action. And those who fail in hope must act, so that they may live life in hope. 

May I wish you the greetings of Deewali. Thank you


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