The Peace Building Prince El Hassan bin Talal: institutionalize the values of compassion, respect and generosity

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Wed, 2020-04-01
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HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal - (source: IPS news)​


The only way in dealing with the coronavirus crisis, HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal [al-Ḥassan bin Ṭalāl] of Jordan states, is through institutionalizing the values of compassion, respect and generosity in the days, weeks and months ahead. Researchers warned that the lockdown measures will only be effective if they would last 12 to 18 months. Let no one think that this crisis will be over in a few weeks’ time.


Prince El Hassan bin Talal is an Oxford graduate in history and economics and described his philosophical position as that of a humanist. The Prince launched the Electronic Network for Arab-West Understanding in 2008 in Amman, Jordan. The editors of Christianity Today, at the time, agreed to describing the Prince as the Peace Building Prince for his devotion “to bolstering the Christian community, one of the most threatened religious bodies in the region, especially in Muslim-majority nations.” Please note that the description “Peace Building Prince” is very close to that of “Prince of Peace,” a designation Christians use for Jesus Christ. The title of the article shows the high esteem the editor of Christianity Today had for the positions of the Prince. The Peace Building Prince, however, prefers to talk about religion in cultural rather than theological terms. I full heartedly agree with him. Religions help in the formation of the communities and give comfort to members of their communities but, sadly, religions also have been used to divide people. But religions are not alone in this. We now see a fragmented world, with the coronavirus crisis even deepening divisions, states and institutions first thinking of their own interests. Can this last? The answer for the Prince is a firm no.


In an article for Inter Press Service a news agency providing News and Views from the Global South, the Prince notes that “humankind has outlived multiple pandemics in the course of world history.” But each time humanity was faced with a devastating pestilence the social order changed. “If the past is prologue, then continuity and survival command that we change,” Prince El Hassan bin Talal writes.

Our doctors, nurses, care-givers, pharmacists, sanitation workers, farmers, supermarket cashiers, truck drivers and others are in the front lines of the crisis. If we look at past pandemics in history we that these were always linked to recessions and collapsing economies since it is in these pandemics that we discover the value of human life over material wealth.


This, however, has severe consequences. Prince El Hassan bin Talal asks “In the absence of state support, what will happen to the hundreds of thousands of people who have already been laid off, while millions more face looming hardship as the numbers of layoffs grow?”


The Prince responds to his rhetorical question “Some will continue to ignore the vulnerable and marginalized, those who have least access to humanitarian assistance, while others will continue to exploit them. The calls for social distancing have grown louder and more frequent over the last couple of days, and as we begin to separate from one other we must remember our humanitarian duty to each another.


Security, far from being individual, is collective and global. The current crisis calls for transcendent thinking between politicians on both sides of the aisle. Grey areas in politics in which zero-sum games and the perverse logic of mutually assured destruction proliferate will not protect and promote human dignity and welfare. Conservatives and reformers must now move beyond the tournaments and arm-twisting of politics. The logic of mutually assured survival cannot accept grey areas. If conflict resolution transcends political beliefs, nationality, ethnicity, gender, and religion, then human dignity and welfare is the benchmark of the humanitarian commitment to life.


Reliable brokers in the management of this crisis and other crises do exist as in the International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières. Corporate social responsibility requires developing a public platform of health facts so that people-to-people conversations and consultations can be promoted through civil society, the media and educational institutions. We cannot cherry-pick energy and climate change without talking about health or education and human dignity. Migrants and refugees must be an integral part of the national response for halting the spread of the novel coronavirus. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia reports that 55 million people, in West Asia region, require some sort of humanitarian assistance and that the vulnerability of displaced women and girls is especially heightened in a pandemic. Post-conflict insecurity – whether in countries ravaged by war or across the urban centers and countrysides of advanced economies overwhelmed by disease – can only be addressed in the careful terrain mapping of humanitarian access. Yemen, Syria, Gaza and Libya are frighteningly vulnerable to the onslaught of epidemics – what will peace uncover there when the wars end?


Regional insecurity is heightened in the absence of cooperation, but the multilateral system is not at a loss in facing an existential crisis. European solidarity has been sharply damaged by the onset of widespread disease although China is performing through the swift and effective action that has come to the aid of the people and government of Italy. Multilateralism today can only be revisited with a focus on the interdisciplinary priorities of the twenty-first century that include addressing the need for a Law of Peace. We draw humanitarian concessions from the law of war in times of conflict, but have no recourse to legal instruments that can secure the dignity and welfare of all in times of peace.


The current crisis is as much a global health crisis as it is a crisis of the globalization that has come to undermine the foundations of modern society with its rampant inequality and rising injustice and which threatens the very survival of our species with climate change. The planet that we share with other organisms is fragile and prone to crises. A resolution to our predicament will take nothing short of extending the ethic of human solidarity beyond the contours of our immediate response to the outbreak of COVID-19. Real success lies not in the taming of a pathogen or in re-discovering the value of compassion, respect and generosity, but in institutionalizing these values in the days, weeks and months ahead.”


For the full text of HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal, click here.


The financial crisis is deeply affecting hundreds of millions of people all over the world. Father Jo’annis [Yūʾānnis] of Qufada, a village 200 km south of Cairo, told us how their Ikhwāt al-Rab (Brothers of the Lord) program for the poorest of the poor has come to a halt. People no longer receive support to buy food. “Churches loose support to help these people,” the priest says, “and it will result in people dying, not from corona but lack of support.”


Humanity needs to unite, Dr. Hamdi Zaqzouq [Ḥamdī Zaqzūq], former Egyptian Minister of Endowments, said (Arab-West Report Newsletter, March 26, 2020). Arab-West Report was created to create bridges of understanding between peoples regardless what their convictions, cultures or nationalities are. Arab-West Report was at the core of the establishment of the Electronic Network for Arab-West Understanding, ENAWU, the Prince said in 2008 “What is the new vector for change is an initiative like ENAWU, a network of understanding that starts with comprehension. As we say in Arabic, “Comprehension leads to understanding”.


Understanding between Arabs and the West, and I think it is also a safeguard against losing our most precious heritage, the heritage of a shared faith with all its glorious ritual and intellectual and cultural manifestations throughout more than 2,000 years. Noah created an arc for the salvation of humanity. Can we create an arc for the salvation of our common humanity? I believe in moving from a culture of existing and surviving to a culture of participating, if we have any hope of arriving at a cultural peace.”


We need this unity to institutionalize the values of compassion, respect and generosity compassion, respect and generosity.



Cairo, April 1, 2020


Cornelis Hulsman

Editor-in-Chief Arab-West Report