We can make humanism a reality - Dayan Jayatilleka
Dayan Jayatilleka participated as a panellist at the international
conference on "21stCentury, Towards the New Humanism" last week at the
Russian Centre for Science and Culture. The event gathered dignitaries
as well as Russian and French scholars and researchers.
The initiative was organised by the Permanent Mission of the Russian
Federation to UNESCO, the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of
Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and for International
Humanitarian Cooperation Mission Rossotrudni estvo in France, and the
Russian Centre for Science and Culture.
The event took place with the support of UNESCO, the International
Humanist and Ethical Union, and the European Humanist Federation Russian
The object of this two-day seminar was to support UNESCO in its
initiative for a new humanism for the sake of bettering conditions for
inter-cultural dialogue and solidarity. The discussion also intends to
prepare the possibility of holding together with the Spanish Forum 'NUNC!'-
a broader conference on New Humanism in Moscow in autumn 2012.
Dr. Jayatilleka's speech was delivered during the first session
chaired by Assistant Director-General for Strategic Planning of UNESCO
Hans d'Orville. Among the conference participants were Ion de la Riva of
Spain/UNESCO, Jean-Luc Nahel, Councillor, Conference of Presidents of
French Universities and Efim Pivovar, President of Russian State
Speaking on New Humanism, Ambassador Jayatilleka emphasised on the
need to place the human being at the centre: "humanism is the closest we
can get to universal good, to a universal idea. Humanism puts the human
being at the centre. And placing the human being at the centre means to
recognise that above all else, beyond national, ethnic, political,
civilisational, religious, systemic, and ideological differences, one
thing unites us and that is that we are all human."
He said: "So long as we respect that fact, that above all else, and
in the final analysis, we are human, we are able to connect, to
communicate, to seek common solutions.
"This is why I find the search for a humanistic worldview to be, not
only some ideal exercise, but a very practical answer to the global
crisis of today.
"I also feel that there are material reasons that make this possible
- namely the information revolution, the inter-connectedness that you
see in the world today through the new information technology.
"What does this mean? It means that we are relating to each other as
individuals, we are communicating as human beings to other human beings
real-time, across vast distances. So perhaps for the first time we also
have the material means, in terms of the means of communication, to make
humanism a reality.
"Because the technology exists, the means of production of ideas
exist, in a manner that they did not exist before.
"Now, what is, or should be, new about the New Humanism? The New
Humanism has to be universalistic.
"Of course, we understand and recognise the powerful roots of
humanism from within the Western and especially the Western European
tradition, but I would say that part of our project has to be to
interrogate all existing ideologies, ideas from all parts of the world
and seek out their humanistic kernel, the humanistic core, the
"I think a similar exercise is necessary to go through the heritage
of Latin America, Africa and Asia; the heritage in literature, the
heritage in political ideas, the heritage in social ideas, the heritage
even in forms of social systems, and try to uncover, try to unpack, try
to deconstruct them, so you can find a humanistic core, if it exists,
and carry it forward."