International Association of Free Thought (IAFT)
13 April 2012

Ladies, Gentlemen, Dear Friends, Dear Comrades,

I’m convinced that everybody is well aware of how important our initiative is. In a world of never-ending war, in a country which has experienced it in its flesh and blood, which has suffered, we have come to speak about secularism.

Let’s make it clear, we are going to talk about peace. We don’t carry the germs of dissension, we want to hand out the branch of concord.

First of all I would like to warmly and publicly thank our friend, my friend Georges Saad who has made this symposium possible. Thanks Georges, Thank you so much.

The International Association of Free Thought is not at war with anybody. To the upraised, vengeful, vindictive fist we always hold out the hand to Humanity to shape a chain of universal union.

One of our great French writer, deeply secular and free thinker, Anatole France said about war: “We believe we die for our homeland, we die for industrialists”. This is both a fact and a tragedy. The peoples are often assassinated for causes and interests which are not theirs.

One of yours, the famous Amin Maalouf also wrote: “When men’s thought seems narrow to you say to yourself that the earth is large. Don’t hesitate to move away, beyond the seas, beyond all the borders, all the homelands, all the beliefs”.

He added: “when the faith turns into hatred, blessed be the ones who doubt” and more “the wise man’s words flow into light. But men have always preferred to drink water from the darkest caves.”

How couldn’t we be satisfied with these words “white minarets of Gammarth, noble remains of Carthage, in their shade I’m watched out for by oblivion. To them my life drifts after so many wreckages. Rome’s sack after Cairo’s punishment. Tombuctu’s fire after Grenade’s fall. Does misfortune call upon me or do I call upon misfortune?”

I’ll have the opportunity to say it tomorrow, the Free Thinkers haven’t come as missionaries to deliver a revealed truth. They are brothers who have come to meet other brothers. They are humans who have come to meet other humans. The Free Thought wants to discuss with the free thought which has managed so often to find shelter in this country.

We don’t represent any colonial power nostalgically thinking of a past which shouldn’t have been. A free people wouldn’t oppress another people. A great French revolutionary, Maximilien de Robespierre had predicted: “The peoples don’t like armed missionaries”.

On this subject we’ll quote a last time Amin Maalouf since we definitely share his point of view: “Contrary to what is commonly thought the ancient fault of the Europeans powers isn’t to have wanted to impose their values to the rest of the world but it’s exactly the contrary. It is to have constantly given up the idea of respecting their own values in their relationships with the dominated peoples. As long as this ambiguity is not cleared up we will be bound to make the same mistakes.”

The first of these values is universality that is to say Humanity is one, diverse but one. As a consequence this is an unforgivable mistake to compromise on fundamental principles pretending that the others wouldn’t be ready to accept them. There aren’t human rights for Europe and other human rights for Africa, Asia or the Muslim world. No people on Earth is meant for slavery, tyranny for the arbitrary, for ignorance, for obscurantism nor for women’s enslavement. Each time this basic truth is neglected, Humanity is betrayed and we betray ourselves.”

How could be better expressed the fact that secularism is a universal message because liberty is universal ? Democracy must indeed be a common good shared by all the peoples in all the countries, on all the continents.

This is what we want to discuss together in the next two days.

Here speech will be free, totally free. Nobody is compelled to accept a point of view which is not his. This is also secularism.

Thank you.