Global Citizenship

MUAC President’s Thoughts on the Concept of Global Citizenship

We often encounter knee-jerk reactions to anything linked to global coordination or “global governance” of any sort. On one level, I think this has its roots in certain interpretations of the Bible among the 3 Abrahamic religions. But on another, deeper level, I think this concept feels menacing to some, because it challenges one of the most deeply ingrained fears of human beings : fear of difference. Which I believe is connected to lack of awareness of our common Humanity.

Perhaps many have never even reflected on or discussed this idea, which is a major fault of our education systems, and maybe there are multiple approaches, which complicates the problem. In any case, it seems people don’t realize one can be profoundly proud of one’s particular, cultural/religious heritage, and at the same time, feel they are first and foremost a human being before their belonging to their other ‘identities’.

I’d like to cite here a speech which has been a guiding light for me about the concept of Global Citizenship, which I hope will help people understand my approach, and that of MUAC.

In his 1996 Columbia University Teacher’s College speech, Thoughts on Education for Global Citizenship,  Soka University founder Daisaku Ikeda said the following :

Both John Dewey and Tsunesaburo Makiguchi looked beyond the limits of the nation-state to new horizons of human community. Both, it could be said, had a vision of global citizenship, of people capable of value-creation on a global scale.

What then, are the conditions for global citizenship?

Over the past several decades, I have been privileged to meet and converse with many people from all walks of life, and I have given the matter some thought. Certainly, global citizenship is not determined merely by the number of languages one speaks, or the number of countries to which one has traveled.

I have many friends who could be considered quite ordinary citizens, but who possess an inner nobility; who have never traveled beyond their native place, yet who are genuinely concerned for the peace and prosperity of the world.

I think I can state with confidence that the following are essential elements of global citizenship.

  • The wisdom to perceive the interconnectedness of all life and living.
  • The courage not to fear or deny difference; but to respect and strive to understand people of different cultures, and to grow from encounters with them.
  • The compassion to maintain an imaginative empathy that reaches beyond one’s immediate surroundings and extends to those suffering in distant places.

I am thoroughly convinced these 3 points are profoundly essential. The first point, regarding interconnectedness, reminds me of the South African word so dear to the heart of Nelson Mandela, UBUNTU, who was determined to bring his nation into a new epoch using universal education. This word can also be translated as “Interdependence”.

The second one points strongly to the need of “encounters” with other cultures, which to me speaks of Intercultural Education, as the world-renowned musician Yehudi Menuhin understood, which led to the creation of the Menuhin Foundation, and MUS-E.

Finally, the last, and perhaps most important point in Dr. Ikeda’s list, refers to a profound change in the hearts of people. This is what I call Human Revolution, an inner change that produces the « imaginative empathy » Dr. Ikeda speaks of.  – For MUAC, this refers to : Education for Human Revolution. In our association, we are convinced that music and all the Arts are the primary means with which this can be accomplished, thanks to the intuitive level they work on, reaching beyond our conscious minds.

Michele de Gastyne, Présidente, MUAC