Peace In Our Time: SOS Founder's Words Still Resonate 33 Years After Death
Last June 23rd, we celebrated what would’ve been the
100th Birthday of Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Austrian Philantropist and SOS
Children’s Villages Founder, Hermann Gmeiner. In his honor, we take a look back
on one of his most important speeches, a testimonial in 1979 about the
principles SOS upholds, and the impact of our good actions to the world of
children and peace.
Original Transcript of a Speech By Hermann Gmeiner in
All the children in the world are
our children. The day we can support a total conviction that all children are
our children, peace will reign on earth. As long as parentless and abandoned
children all over the world are rejected by society, and are neglected by it,
there will be no peace.
It was Innsbruck in 1949. For the
first time I met children who had no parents, children who were growing up on
the fringes of society, children who were placed in institutions and homes.
Many children became mentally ill, despairing individuals. Looking after these
children was not primarily about educational reform, but about an act of love,
of healing, of gathering these children into the fold of humanity, of
integrating them into society.
That was when I developed the four
educational principles. They were the most self-evident things, the simplest
things in the world.
The first principle: The SOS
Mother – we have to give the orphaned, abandoned child a new mother. The mother
is a person to whom they can permanently relate. This was the beginning of a
new profession for women: motherhood at a social level, a mother who says yes
to a child who is not her own, who not only takes this child in, but accepts
Second principle: Brothers &
Sisters – The SOS Children’s Family consists of 6 or more children of different
ages, boys and girls, just as in any other large family. In earlier days, other
organizations used to separate siblings.
Third principle: The House – a
newly-structured SOS Children’s Family is given its own house. It is their
house. For the abandoned child, this is a lasting and profound experience.
An SOS boy says goodbye to his
classmates on the way back from school, “Peter, I’ve got to go home now, or
my mum will be angry.” In other words, I have a home and a mother just
children want is to be like everyone else. They want to be no more and no less.
Having one’s own home is a mark of security and safety.
principle: The Village – around the SOS Children’s Village Family, we create
another protected area. In the world of a small village, everyone knows about
everyone else. There are neighbors, women and children, there is the village
caretaker, the kindergarten. However, there should be no school and no separate
church in the village. The children are integrated into the parish of their
denomination. They attend state schools and go to any type of school, depending
on their talents. From special school to university, they are integrated.
One of our
children wrote to one of his friends, “You know, we live just like normal
children in the world are our children. Will we one day look after the millions
of children with no home as if they were our own?
I often ask
myself how “good” could be defined in this world of ours, and I think the
definition of “good” is to be seen as doing more than one has to do—to do more
than we are paid for, more than what we are asked to do.
always happen when people do more for one another than they absolutely have to.
Doing more is perhaps the grace that people can exercise for one another.
[in 1979], 30 years after the foundation of the first SOS Children’s Village,
we want to take stock, we can say that nearly 5 million people have understood
not only the appeal to their social awareness, but also our plea to do more
than they have to. […] At the end of the day, our belief in the good is also
decisive in the matter of war and peace.
really the case that only those holding power can decide on war and peace? Is
it the case that we are fully at the mercy of others, or is there something we
can do? I believe there is a lot we can do. We can prepare a peace that will
last longer than paper treaties. We can strive to teach peace in our families,
in the schools, in the villages, in all our living communities.
something that needs to grow, and if this peace grows in the houses, in the
villages, and all the communities that people work and live together, then one
day there will be a generation of statesmen who not only want peace but are
capable of putting it into practice.
there are  SOS Children’s Villages in the whole world, this means there
are  models of peace. If there are millions of people who have joined
hands to build SOS Children’s Villages, to bring up an erstwhile potentially
dangerous minority of children to become peaceful people, then this is an
important contribution by many people to peace. Thus, across all spiritual and
continental borders, through the reconciliation and rapprochement of millions
of adults and children, a large peace movement has dawned.
But this is
only the beginning. Soon there will be SOS Children’s Villages in every country
in the world, and ever more millions of people will join hands and be disciples
for the peace that needs to grow in the houses, the schools, and the villages.
This all would give us hope that the day will come perhaps when all children
have become our children and that in our common home, this earth of ours, we
are closer to peace than we are to war.