War and Peace

March 2016
By Jose-Ramos Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate, Former President of East Timor

The following article is part of the SFG publication “Big Questions of Our time: The World Speaks”. To access the full publication please click here.


There are two issues that I believe will impact the world. The first is the growing problem of the Middle East refugees in Europe leading to a demographic, ethnic and religious transformation. As the European population is aging, a significant influx of young non-Europeans from different cultures and religions will raise tensions. This will lead to the strengthening of right wing parties.

The conflict is not between Islam and the West. It is a battle within Islam where Sunnis are killing Shias and other Muslim minorities. There are many more people being killed in Pakistan and Afghanistan than in Europe. However, the manner in which the West handles this conflict can cause it to spill over from a battle within Islam to a battle between the West and Islam. And in such a situation, the moderates suffer doubly, as they are targeted by the extremists and they are viewed with suspicion.

We must not forget history. The religious wars in Europe lasted for hundreds of years and led to the formation of the United States. We are witnessing wars within Islam. Wars of today are leading to the transformation of social and economic fabric of Europe. But despite this, the Christians are co-lateral damage. The non-Islamic societies should show solidarity towards victims who are in the Arab world.

The other issue that is of concern is that of clean water supply. This is a huge human, political and social issue. Water is diminishing over time due to climate change and overuse. Very few countries have abundance of water. The African continent and Asia have a major problem due to shortage of water and overpopulation. Water is closely linked to peace and security.

The survival of human beings is dependent on drinking water and agriculture. If there is no water, agriculture will be finished. This will lead to fighting and wars. In Asia, over 4 billion people are dependent on water resources that are depleting due to climate change. If the Himalayas melt, there will first be flood, and then there will be less water leading to famine.

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