Francis Yeoh on Poverty of the Heart
In 1994, in this very spot we had the rare privilege of hearing Luciano Pavarotti sing. It was pure magic combining, as it did the God given talent of this great tenor with the most idyllic backdrop God and Nature could provide. Mr. Pavarotti himself was the first to bestow on this island the name O’Paradiso.
This is one of the greatest performers of all time. To hear that glorious voice is to be in the presence of the ineffable power of beauty. Music which speaks in a universal language, like all great Art, brings us nearer to God. Great Art is granted immortality well beyond the reach of terrorism to despoil and destroy.
We could not wait for the day when we could invite Mr. Pavarotti back to Paradise to repeat the magic. Tonight we have achieved that dream. On behalf of the sponsors and all of us here I’d like to express our appreciation of his having accepted our invitation. We also acknowledge the presence here tonight of our beloved Prime Minister Datuk Sri Dr Mahathir and his gracious wife Datin Sri Dr Siti Hasmah – both music lovers, both I suspect under the spell of that same glorious voice they have come to hear. Thank you for being with us.
It was singularly appropriate to have Pavarotti with us on this occasion for another reason. What many of you may not know is that he is himself an Ambassador for Peace and dedicates his talent every year to a concert in aid of the orphans of war.
But there is yet another reason we chose to stage this concert now and here. We have been made painfully aware of late of another side of life – an ugly side that is the very antithesis of beauty and of creative expression. This ugliness is spreading like a cancer throughout the whole system. An infection of hatred. The events of September 11th were but one symptom of it. We can only combat ugliness with beauty. We have called this performance a Concert for Peace and a Celebration of Life – almost as an act of defiance to repudiate whatever is demeaning and life destroying, and to reaffirm our belief in the beauty of life, and in the power of goodness and love.
This is not an attempt at escapism. We are still very disturbed at the turn of events that prompted our Forum for Peace, and accept the need to analyse what was behind it. It is all too easy – even convenient to lay it at the door of the poverty and despair in people’s lives that can then lead to acts of desperation. But we should also look into our own hearts. The ugliness that spawned terrorism is of a different provenance – not just material want, but an abject poverty of the heart that drives out all compassion. Only a total abdication of love could have brought forth the tragedy of September 11.
The time honoured remedy for poverty is nourishment. For spiritual malnutrition and the poverty of the heart we need the healthy prescription of love. God through John reminds us that anyone who hates his brother is a murderer and God through Paul reminds us that Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
We are now in Asia. We shall not have to look far to find examples of Asian wisdom that echo John and Paul. Be it our Statesmen like Mahatma Gandhi who reiterated that “Love is the strongest force the world possesses and counselled us” when confronted with an opponent to “conquer him with love”. All great religions teach the message of love. For love comes from God – be it as our Muslim friends describe it, from “Allah the Most Merciful, the Most Forgiving, the Most Compassionate”. Or from the teaching of the Buddha.
Tonight however we are able to banish all thought of the ugly side of life. Tonight we are in Paradise to hear the paeon of praise to Love, which is found in opera. The performance comes from a great artist endowed with one of the most blessed of God’s gifts. Here on this island we are showered by His blessings.
Tomorrow we shall assemble at the Pangkor Forum again refreshed in spirit to discharge the stewardship we hold in the realms of politics, business and academia for the bounty of life. But how can there seriously be paradise without peace and the charity of the heart?
We have good reason to know this in this country. Malaysia has always espoused the cause of constructive engagement as a nobler alternative to confrontation. And here we salute our Guest of Honour whose philosophy and policy in international relations has always been to “Prosper Thy Neighbour” not to “Beggar Thy Neighbour”. We have in Malaysia never beggared our hearts.
We salute the Peace Initiative of this Forum. May God bless this humble endeavour towards Peace on earth, and goodwill to all men.
We salute Luciano Pavarotti and his tribute tonight to Love and Peace.
Recently I was given one of the best gifts for my birthday. It is the rights to a beautiful song called Angel Tears. It was written by a New York artist and painter who resides in Malaysia called Vy De Fonsey. It was written in memory of the victims of the September 11 tragedy. In a few moments, her very close Malaysian friend Patrick Leong will sing this beautiful song for us.
In the name of love, I dedicate this song to all of you. In the name of love, I also dedicate this Concert for Peace by my good friend and world renowned tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, to all of you.
Thank you and God bless.
Delivered by Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, MD of YTL Corporation,
at Luciano Pavarotti’s Concert for Peace in conjunction with
the Asian Global Leadership Forum at Pangkor Laut, Malaysia
Saturday, 7th September 2002