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Remarks by H.E. Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania, at the Ninth National Prayer Breakfast

Excellencies,
Distinguished Ambassadors,
Dear Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have gathered for the ninth time here in Vilnius to attend the National Prayer Breakfast. We continue the meaningful tradition of coming together in collective reflection and conversation about the place of Christian and universal values in the world of today. The Christian dimension is unique because it encourages us to elevate our hearts and minds by inviting to meet openly and resolutely the challenges we face now and here. It calls on us to remember the ideals that have always given us a sense of balance to deal with temporary although painful difficulties.

Today's global and national problems as well as the current economic downturn indisputably reflect, in all possible aspects, the difficult times we are facing. But is it right to perceive an individual person, a nation and a state only in terms of economic welfare? Has the financial crisis brought us, Europeans and the civilization built on Christian principles, only a feeling of universal disappointment, uncertainty and emptiness?

 

As I search for answers to this question, I would like to talk about the crisis as a process of creation. And yes I mean creation because from a religious and spiritual perspective this crisis offers a possibility to grow, mature and create a qualitatively new way of life. It is said in the New Testament that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Today we have to understand what the things in our life are which like a grain of wheat have to die to bear much fruit.

 

What surely must die is unrestrained egoism, restless desire of profit, and false assurance that personal responsibility and commitment may be replaced by other values and principles. I would say that our approach to the formation of the young personality also propelled us towards the crisis. We replaced education and wisdom with delivery of knowledge although we realize, all of us, that it is not the same to know about sacrifice and to sacrifice, to discuss morality theories and to behave morally, to speak about solidarity and civil society and to be responsible citizens.

 

I have said it many times: every person must make an effort, particularly in the face of difficulties, to rise above daily problems. Why is it that we keep complaining about the crisis without ever contemplating what we will be after emerging from it: Will we stand together in solidarity and compassion or will we stand divided feeling wronged and resentful? I would therefore ask you to always accentuate the word "temporary" when speaking about "temporary difficulties." Let us look at the history of Lithuania, one thousand years old, and let us think: If we view the present time as a major crisis, how should we speak about the end of the 18th century, the middle of the 20th century, or the night of January 13?

Therefore, I will not describe the present day as a misfortune sent by destiny; I prefer to define it as an opportunity given to test the principles laid at the foundation of our state? What is the ultimate goal of our endeavors? Are we not wasting our efforts for trivial and petty things? Do we not ignore and underestimate the individual person when speaking about the state?

 

Although the crisis has hit the economy, its most painful consequence is the reemergence of deep social problems: alienation, differentiation, and lack of solidarity. Did it not happen because we have prized too highly material interests, economic interests in particular, and thought little of values and ideals? Was it not that in pursuit of comfortable and convenient life, we fell into a moral abyss? An honest answer to these questions is a given opportunity to recover our sight and comprehend the eternal principles and concepts that guide us through life. It offers us an opportunity to return to the roots of Christianity and human togetherness; an opportunity to stop self-destruction and remain strong as people, nation and state. Faith and trust is the pathway to escape uncertainty and fear.

 

I would like to ask myself and you: what is the destroying force behind trust among citizens and their confidence in our state? I believe that it is the huge discrepancy between our words and actions. People will forgive mistakes, but they do not tolerate lies. It is not mistakes that push society to low depths of disappointment, but their aftereffects. It happens when we have no courage to tell the truth, and we shift responsibility and blame onto others. It happens when the Constitution and the law are used as levers of manipulation, when double standards prevail and when rights are perceived as merely tools. Is this the pathway to unity and harmony by a nation with almost two decades of independence? Making or spending billions is not the solution because it is our own choice whether or not to respect the European Christian principles.

 

I well understand that the elevated prayer-breakfast feelings do not allow us to linger over such particulars. However, I would like to point out that the current crisis is first and foremost the result of our moral crisis and spiritual devaluation. History teaches us that nations comprised of self-centered people are destined to doom just like the financial system built on naked self-interest. The fathers of liberalism lived in a society built on the principle of solidarity. They could not have ever imagined that human egoism would overstep the boundaries of decency. They believed that individual persons should seek only common benefits and common development. Regrettably, the world has moved away from such notions and ideas - a tendency which is perilous in the highest degree. If the state acts only as an arbitrator who favors the victory of the strong, it means that we are on the road to self-destruction.

 

Therefore, I ask you today: Is it not the right moment to re-orientate our thinking towards positive togetherness? Competition relates to trade and commerce, certainly not to human relations in society. It is only though creative work and harmonious ties between society and its citizens that public life can be improved. But as I have already mentioned, for this we need to have understanding and goodwill among all social groups.

 

By the way, it is not only ambition that is the driving force behind our movement forward: we see countless acts of human and civil solidarity all around us. Our people donate generously to important projects in various TV marathons; they open their homes to young Christian pilgrims; they are creating a socially responsible business environment; and they place the human being, his dignity and security high above profits.

 

This is living Christianity and living humanism. Let us be openly proud of it and let us promote it. By bringing public, cultural and business leaders together to celebrate Christian values, the Prayer Breakfast should serve as a keeper of the moral identity of society and an adviser on how to deal with problems and difficulties. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of centers in Lithuania to bring those who work together, to ease social tensions and depressing tendencies, and to strengthen the foundations of democracy, national security and spiritual identity. We need such centers to continue the commitment made by the Sąjūdis movement twenty years ago.

 

And one more thought. When I speak to different audiences about the future, my glance always falls on young people. We project our hopes and expectations onto the young generation. During his apostolic visit to Lithuania sixteen years ago, Pope John Paul II said: "Young people of Lithuania, you face a difficult but honorable task: to build the future of your country starting on a foundation, not windows." Today I would like to repeat these words to those who have grown up and matured since the historic visit of John Paul II. This is the task that awaits you all, your children, and your grandchildren. Nation building is a never ending process. Crises begin and end, but Lithuania and Lithuanians are forever. That is the way it must be. Therefore, we have to be strong. In times of downturn, we will be as strong as our faith in core values is in times of prosperity.

 

These core values are strong faith in Lithuania, our Nation and its people.


H.E. Mr. Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania

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