Aldous Huxley’s Expression “Man’s Inhumanity to Man” and its Relevance to Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s Messages on the Refugee Crisis

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933 - 2003). Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933 – 2003). Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

Excerpts from a selection of statements, interviews and speeches that the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan gave when he was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Links to a fuller version of this article as well as all his UNHCR speeches and statements are provided below. Please also read our earlier post (1) His Highness the Aga Khan visits UNHCR and (2) UN material related to his uncle, Prince Sadruddin, whose name became synonymous with UNHCR,

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“What is wealth without wisdom, or development without freedom? Every day selfishness, intolerance, lack of understanding and discrimination continue to add tragic pages to the history of our time.”

The late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan with Secretary-General U Thant at his home on 23 June 1971. Photo: Teddy Chan, United Nations.

The late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan with Secretary-General U Thant at his home on 23 June 1971. Photo: Teddy Chan, United Nations.

 “When I was watching television during the tremendous Apollo experience recently and saw the world as a tiny sphere, it seemed incredible that, after so many years, it had not learned to live in peace, that men were still fighting, perpetrating injustice, committing crimes against humanity and persecuting individuals. It is, as I say, incredible that despite all the tremendous progress which has been achieved, men still resort to violence instead of to mediation and dialogue, within or outside the United Nations, and that this violence should produce refugees.”

“This century has been greatly guilty in its disrespect for the inalienable rights of man. None know this better than the millions of refugees, the unfortunate human beings who have been forced to seek safety outside their own country because of persecution and intolerance.”

“It is just as important to translate the articles inscribed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into everyday practice as it is to spread science and knowledge or to build dams and create new sources of power. For what is wealth without wisdom, or development without freedom?

“All nations desire peace, progress and justice – yet every day selfishness, intolerance, lack of understanding and discrimination continue to add tragic pages to the history of our time. Indeed, this century has been greatly guilty in its disrespect for the inalienable rights of man. None know this better than the millions of refugees, the unfortunate human beings who have been forced to seek safety outside their own country because of persecution and intolerance. How were they received? The nations were not always generous towards refugees, and in the past untold tragedies sometimes followed the arrival in countries of asylum.

“If there were to be more tolerance and more justice and more respect for the basic rights of human beings everywhere, there would be fewer problems of refugees in the world.”

The Canadian Tribute to Human Rights Monument in the Nelson Mandela Square on Elgin Street in Ottawa. It bears an inscription from the 1st article of the Universal Declaration of Human Riights which states that All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

The Canadian Human Rights Monument at Nelson Mandela Square on Elgin Street in Ottawa which bears the inscription “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” This is part of Article 1 of the Declaration of Human Rights which goes on to state that we are all endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

“And what about the causes of refugee movements? Have they disappeared today? When asking myself this question I have in mind that persecution does not always take the extreme form of threatening life and liberty: it is also persecution when a person is hindered in the exercise of his economic activity because he belongs to a particular social groups or confesses to a particular religion or because of his ethnic origins; or when for the same reasons a group of individuals is segregated in crowded and unhealthy areas; or when parents are prevented from bringing up their children in accordance with their wishes.

“The resulting picture is a dark and wide canvas of human suffering that covers nearly all continents of our planet.”

Refugee children from Syria at a clinic in Ramtha, northern Jordan. Photo: Wikipedia.

Refugee children from Syria at a clinic in Ramtha, northern Jordan. Photo: Wikipedia.

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Confined to the wheelchair and blind in both eyes, the only important thing that Alia, below, brought with her ‘is my soul, nothing more – nothing material.’

Alia sits in her wheelchair in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The 24-year-old was living with her family in Daraa, Syria, when fighting forced them to flee their home. Confined to the wheelchair and blind in both eyes, Alia says she was terrified by what was happening around her. 'Men in uniforms came and killed our cow. They fought outside our house and there were many dead soldiers. I cried and cried,' she says. Alia says the only important thing that she brought with her 'is my soul, nothing more – nothing material.' When asked about her wheelchair, she seems surprised, saying she considers it an extension of her body, not an object. Photo UNHCR/B.Sokol. Copyright.

Alia sits in her wheelchair in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The 24-year-old was living with her family in Daraa, Syria, when fighting forced them to flee their home. Confined to the wheelchair and blind in both eyes, Alia says she was terrified by what was happening around her. ‘Men in uniforms came and killed our cow. They fought outside our house and there were many dead soldiers. I cried and cried,’ she says. Alia says the only important thing that she brought with her ‘is my soul, nothing more – nothing material.’ When asked about her wheelchair, she seems surprised, saying she considers it an extension of her body, not an object. Photo UNHCR/B.Sokol. Copyright.

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Ten-day-old Hawler is held by her mother, a Syrian Kurd who named her after a region in Kurdistan. The family's makeshift campsite in the park is situated next to a mosquite ridden pool of water. Photo: UNHCR/S. Baldwin. Copyright.

Ten-day-old Hawler is held by her mother, a Syrian Kurd who named her after a region in Kurdistan. The family’s makeshift campsite in the park is situated next to a mosquite ridden pool of water. Photo: UNHCR/S. Baldwin. Copyright.

“Here one is forced to admit that the causes of refugee problems are not diminishing, particularly when we remember that people also become refugees because of enmity between groups of different ethnic origin, or different religions, living in the same land; intolerance and hatred which create such tensions and personal conflicts that normal life for members of one of the groups becomes almost impossible and causes them to seek safety elsewhere. We must also remember the refugees who flee the repression and disturbances which accompany struggles for civic rights or national independence in several parts of the world. The resulting picture is a dark and wide canvas of human suffering that covers nearly all continents of our planet.

“We can only hope that gatherings such as this will bring the time nearer when Man will no longer have to fear what Aldous Huxley so well expressed as ‘Man’s inhumanity to Man’.”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadruddin Aga Khan, and Abel Alier, President of the Provisional High Executive council of the South Sudan visit the village of Kajo Kaji, South Sudan. Photo Credit: UN Photo/1972

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadruddin Aga Khan, and Abel Alier, President of the Provisional High Executive council of the South Sudan visit the village of Kajo Kaji, South Sudan. Photo Credit: UN Photo/1972

“There is no doubt that, if there were to be more tolerance and more justice and more respect for the basic rights of human beings everywhere, there would be fewer problems of refugees in the world. But the day when we shall not have to think of refugees, unfortunately, would still appear to be far off; we can only hope that gatherings such as this will bring the time nearer when Man will no longer have to fear what Aldous Huxley so well expressed as ‘Man’s inhumanity to Man’.”

Date posted: November 7, 2015.

Please also see our post published earlier today, (1) His Highness the Aga Khan visits UNHCR and (2) UN material related to his uncle, Prince Sadruddin, whose name became synonymous with UNHCR

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For a full version of this article, please click Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Some of the Causes for the Refugee Crisis – Injustice, Intolerance and Lack of Respect for Human Rights.

Speech excerpts compiled from UNHCR. Please click Speeches by Prince Sadruddin.

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