“The culture of peace is deeply rooted in the Catalan mentality and defines our way of doing things”, affirmed President Mas during this morning’s inauguration of the 15th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Barcelona. The acting president of the Catalan Government joined Mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau, the Chancellor of the University of Barcelona, Dídac Ramírez and Ekaterina Zagladina, president of the Summit’s Permanent Secretariat, among others, in delivering the event’s opening speeches to a room filled with Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and prominent global figures.
During his speech, Artur Mas highlighted Catalonia’s strong disposition to peaceful resolutions and its inherent pacific attitude, which has been seen more recently in the mass demonstrations celebrated “in an absolutely pacific and civic way” on the occasion of the country’s National Day.
In this respect, and to further emphasize the country’s peaceable quality, the President also appealed to the words expressed by Catalan cellist and humanist Pau Casals before the United Nations General Assembly in 1971: “All the authorities of Catalonia in the 11th century met in a city of France, at that time Catalonia, to speak about peace. […] Peace in the world and against, against, against war, the inhumanity of war”.
To illustrate Catalonia’s inclusive nature, Artur Mas also highlighted how “we have a country made up of very different backgrounds but with many people having a common project; this is why what is important is not where one comes from but where we want to go collectively". In this regard, Mas noted that with "70% of Catalans with origins from outside of Catalonia […] we are accustomed to living with people of other languages, other origins and religions". Moreover, "even in this time of heated debate and certain political tension between Catalonia and Spain, civility and a peaceful mentality still preside over us”, affirmed President Mas.
The acting president also explained to the Summit’s attendees that Catalonia, despite its peaceful nature, "is a country that has seen the horror of its own people”, alluding to the 1936-39 war, which saw "between 80,000 and 100,000 Catalans being forced into exile after the civil war”. But "despite the horror of having to go into exile, there is also the gratifying experience of seeing the arrival of millions of people who have chosen to come to Catalonia and fulfil their life project", added Mas.
Finally, in this regard, the President wished to emphasize that "in Catalonia and Barcelona we are ready to welcome, and with the highest dignity, the refugees who wish to come". “We are coordinating our institutions and, once again, are ready to welcome those who choose our home. […] These refugees are seeking what Catalans have had to search for many times: a country which will host them and provide decent conditions for them and their families", asserted Mas.
The annual World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, which is being held at the University of Barcelona and the Palau de Congressos de Barcelona until the end of this week, is an important venue for exchanging opinions, promoting international peace initiatives and developing concrete proposals to tackle global emergencies. This year, the central issue of the summit revolves around the refugee crisis and the mass displacement of persons caused by the war in Syria. Students, professors, NGOs and Nobel Peace Laureates will discuss, among other concerns, matters of cooperation and humanitarian aid.
The history of the annual World Summits of Nobel Peace Laureates dates back to 1999, the year marking the first Summit held in Rome, by proposition of the Gorbachev Foundation, an international NGO founded by the former leader of the USSR. Previous editions of the Summit have taken place in Rome, Warsaw and Chicago, Hiroshima, Paris and Berlin.
This year’s special guests include David Trimble, the first First Minister of Northern Ireland (1998-2002); His Excellency Frederik Willem de Klerk, former President of South Africa who brokered the end apartheid and Northern Irish peace activists Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams.