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Elie Wiesel’s words: Paving the road to peace

by Archives November 22, 2006

Having lived through the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, battled against apartheid in South Africa, commiserated with victims in the former Yugoslavia, Cambodia and the Middle East – Elie Wiesel can perhaps lay claim to knowing the difference between a just and unjust society.

But, as the philosophy professor admitted in his speech last Tuesday, while he may know the difference, he finds it is much harder to define a just and moral society. And harder still to try and build a world without hatred.

“It is your century”

First-ranked among world peacemakers, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel gave a two-part speech: ‘Building a Moral Society’ and ‘The Urgency of Hope’ to a packed audience at the Spectrum. Montrealers of every background and political leaning filled every one of the 900 seats to hear the renowned speaker.

In a speech as remarkable for its tender storytelling as for its fearless look at the application of universal principles, he talked about the persistence of racism and hatred, the “faith of fanaticism,” how humans must deal with their fear of the ‘other’, the indiscriminate nature of suffering and how humans must help one another to freedom.

“It is your century,” he said in French to the audience. “I can only transmit to you my experiences, my dreams, my nightmares.”

Wiesel expressed many times how thrilled he was to be part of an initiative that had been brought about by the collaboration of so many groups.

“It is a big challenge and a big joy. to be here at the beginning of this project,” Wiesel said at a press conference earlier in the day. “I can’t tell you how happy I am.”

Among the organizers who began organizing the project in September were: SHOUT (Students Helping Others Understand Tolerance), Hillel UQAM, Forum Jeunesse de l’

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