The San Bushmen represent a 100,000 year-old culture that we should consider one of the world’s treasures. And while progress is necessary, it cannot be that the only way to achieve progress is to remove the San from their ancestral lands and drive their traditions away.
We’ve already seen this with the American Indians, the Aborigines, and it is also happening with the Tibetans. When a culture is destroyed in the name of progress, it is not progress, it is a loss for our world. Hundreds of thousands of years of wisdom, knowledge of nature, medicines, and ways of living together, go with them.
I am concerned by reports from journalists that the San have been forcibly removed from their ancestral lands and placed in resettlement camps under unacceptable living conditions, and that those resisting resettlement have been abused, cut off from food and water, and deprived of their most basic human rights. Alcoholism, prostitution and AIDS have become issues with the San for the first time in their existence. I am concerned about reports that journalists have been cut off from the areas where the resettlement of the San is taking place.
There are ways to bring about progress that is real progress for humanity. In East Timor, the government has placed the mineral rights to their offshore oil in a trust that will be used only for the education and health care of the Timorese people. Each country needs a model that works for their country. The Botswana government has always been for us a showcase democracy in the way that it cares for its people. I appeal to them, and the world, to find new ways to help solve these issues in a manner that respects the lovely, spiritual culture of the San Bushmen and that truly cares for all of the people of Africa, especially its oldest inhabitants.
Humankind cares about the future of the San Bushmen. The Botswana government has always shown that it cares for its people and we pray that this may continue to be the case. We urge the Botswana government to finds new ways to achieve progress, a model for Africa and the rest of the world.