"Be an instrument of peace," an article in Sri Lanka's The Sunday Times, includes excerpts from a speech delivered at Trinity College in London by Dr. Rama Mani on "The responsibility of an artist in a turbulent world." The article is beautiful and I urge you to read it in its entirety. Here's one excerpt I particularly like in which she talks about artists' responsibilities:
First to yourselves
You have a responsibility to remain true to this gift that Trinity, in its impeccable long standing tradition, has helped you to develop to a high degree of perfection. You owe it to yourselves and to your family and society around you to respect this gift that you were born with and have worked so hard to hone, and to use it always with creativity and with passion. Always know whatever the path of your lives, that you have already crafted the best tool to cope with life’s greatest challenges, the best method of emerging from each personal crisis you might face or see your friends, your company face, you can turn to your gift of music, theatre or other art form and find a creative solution.
Second to communities and countries
Through the harmony that your artistry creates you can remind divided communities that their beliefs of their differences are but illusions hiding our essential unity as a human species. You can help your communities and your country remember and celebrate what is common.
“Why this great war between the countries — the countries — Inside of us?
What are all these insane borders we protect?
What are all these different names for the same church of love
We kneel in together? For it is true, together we live, and only
At that shrine where all are welcome will God sing
Loud enough to be heard.”
-(St Teresa of Avila)
You have the responsibility through the beautiful harmony your music creates, through the unity sown by your theatre, to remind your countrymen that like the notes of music that make up a harmony, like the diverse actors playing their distinct roles that make up the unity of a play, so too they are one.
Whatever shape politics may take, they cannot change our essential human nature which is fundamentally the very same. At no time has this responsibility been more important than today when violence and fear creep across the land, and across the world.
Third to the future of the world
Sri Lanka is an island, one of the most beautiful in our exquisite planet Earth. And afloat on the ocean, it has ripple effects for the Earth as a whole. Your actions here will carry the ripples far and wide. And your paths, like those of thousands of Sri Lankans before and after you, will take you to far flung places. Your capacity to impact upon this world goes far beyond the contours of Sri Lanka. Be aware of this and make wise and gentle use of this knowledge.
Inspired by the poetry of that great saint who tenderly loved all living beings, St. Francis of Assisi, allow yourselves to be the unique ‘instruments of peace’ that artists can be. Recognize and fulfil the words of the Earth Charter, a unique universal document of human aspiration for the future like no other.
“Recognise that peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which we are all a part.”
Note (added February 2, 2008, 8:45 PM Mountain): From The Sunday Times Online (Sri Lanka): "Govt. cancels Dr. Rama Mani’s visa."