Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The Power of Words

There are numerous Biblical verses that enunciate how powerful our words are. One that I am particularly drawn to is in the book of Proverbs 18 verse 21 which begins ... "Death and Life are in the power of the tongue ...".

This has been on my mind lately for two reasons. Firstly, Pastor Colin Dye of Kensington Temple in London, where I have worshipped for more than 10 years has been preaching a captivating series on this subject over the last few weeks. The second reason why it has come to the forefront of my mind is because I have just attended a one day conference titled "A Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone" where quite frankly there have been many words.This conference, the 4th in a research series that has been run annually was hosted by the Centre of International Studies and Diplomacy of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) where I'm studying.

When Ambassador Dhanapala, a former Under-Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs of the UN, gave his keynote address, I sat comfortably in my skeptics chair. Settling in, I thought to myself this was going to be another long line of speeches by eminent people (all with CV's as long as my arm) saying what we 'need' to do to rid the world of nuclear weapons. The speeches wouldn't make any difference. However Proverbs 18:21 came back to my memory and Pastor Colin's message about how our words determine who we become made me start to see things in a different light. Is there really anything as 'empty words' if what we say really has that powerful an effect. My mind started to wander back to great Orators, past and present and what they might have achieved with their words ... Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King and of course, my main man, Barack Obama. On the other side of the spectrum I also thought of Adolf Hitler and how he used his communication skills, albeit negatively, to influence the history of the 20th century. It then dawned on me that there are no such things as empty words. There is always an impact, small or big, postive or negative.

I shifted slightly in my skeptics chair, now feeling a little uncomfortable and decided to pay more attention. Ambassador Dhanapala was recollecting his Presidency of the 1995 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference, a landmark event in disarmament history. 5 of the nuclear states have ratified the treaty. The other 3 nuclear states in our world today, India, Pakistan and Israel are yet to do so. The conference also allowed the extension of the NPT and resolutions on the Middle East were passed. Maybe the thousands of words that will be said today will have an impact somewhere sometime beyond my wildest imagination ... I better pay attention.

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