- 22nd Niwano Peace Prize Commemorative AddressTokyo, November 5, 2005
There are dreams that never come true, and on the other hand one can experience realities in life which one would never have dreamt of. Indeed, when I first traveled to Japan as a young professor in 1964 and later when I visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters and had the privilege to meet founder Nikkyo Niwano in 1982, it never came to my mind that I might once stand here as a laureate of the prestigious Niwano Peace Prize. This prize is an extraordinary honor for me and I am deeply grateful to the Niwano Peace Foundation for having selected me as this year's laureate. I consider this distinction as a threefold encouragement:
1. For me personally as an acknowledgment of my life-long activities for ecumenism among the Christian churches and for dialogue among religions.
2. For the Global Ethic Foundation for intercultural and interreligious research, education, and encounter, of which I am the president.
3. For all those around the world who strive for a global ethic as a basis of harmony among human beings and thus a more peaceful world.
I receive this prize precisely for my efforts to promote a global ethic and I would therefore like to recall some of its dimensions. Certainly you are all aware that:
4 Global Ethic is not a new ideology or superstructure.
5 It will not make the specific ethics of the different religions and philosophies superfluous; it would be ridiculous to consider Global Ethic as a substitute for the discourses of the Buddha, the sayings of Confucius, the Bhagavadgita, the Torah, the Sermon on the Mount, or the Qur'an.
6 Global Ethic is nothing but the necessary minimum of common values, standards, and basic attitudes. In other words, a minimal basic consensus relating to binding values, irrevocable standards, and moral attitudes that can be affirmed by all religions despite their undeniable dogmatic or theological differences and should also be supported by nonbelievers. [End Page 203]
This consensus is formulated in the Declaration Toward a Global Ethic (Parliament of the World's Religions, Chicago 1993). The Global Ethic as presented in the Chicago Declaration is based on two principles without which no human community or society can survive. First, what is common to all human beings is their humanity, and therefore "Every human being should be treated humanely," according to his or her inalienable human dignity, a foundation also of universal human rights. This principle still remains very formal and therefore the declaration recalls a second principle, "which is found and has persisted in many religious and ethical traditions of humankind . . ." This is known as the "Golden Rule" of reciprocity: "What you do not wish done to yourself, do not do to others," or, in positive terms, "What you wish done to yourself, do to others." It is striking to discover that this basic rule of human behavior appears already in the Analects of the Chinese master Confucius, five centuries BCE, and can indeed be found, in slightly differing formulations, in the teachings of all religions.1 In the scriptures of Buddhism it reads: "A state that is not pleasant or delightful to me must be so for him also; and a state which is not pleasant or delightful for me, how could I inflict that on another" (Samyutta Nikaya).
These guidelines of humane behavior exist in all religions and also in nonreligious ethics and can therefore form the basis for a humanist ethic, in the sense that it should be acceptable for all human beings. A Buddhist leader at the Chicago Parliament told me that through the four directives he could hear the voice of the Buddha. He certainly thought of the four precepts formulated in the Dhammapada (183): "I vow to abstain from killing living beings. I vow to abstain from taking what is not given. I vow to abstain from sexual misconduct. I vow to abstain from lying" (a fifth precept—"I vow to abstain from taking intoxicants"—does not encounter consensus among religions; it only occurs in Buddhism and some other religions and is therefore not included in the Global...