Today, I will reflect on moral leadership, not as opposed to religious leadership, although often moral leadership has a religious dimension or foundation, but it doesn’t have to; and it doesn’t have to oppose it either. But a set of principles is required for our moral values and standards.

I want to reflect on moral leadership as opposed to economic, military and other forms of leadership and dominance. Strength in those fields doesn’t necessarily give one the moral upper hand and the right to one’s leadership either. Historical and other traditions do not give one the right to lead forever either.

Yesterday on, September 21, we marked the International Day of Peace. The slogan this year was ‘Sustainable Development: Building-blocks for peace’. It is clear to all that it is not necessarily the biggest and strongest countries that have the moral leadership in those key fields. It is also not necessarily the modern, Western-oriented, mostly capitalist countries that are the best custodians of sustainable development. It is not even certain that it is we who live today who have the deepest insight into living in harmony with nature; old Indian or indigenous American cultures may rank higher.

We should remember that most conflicts between countries are about resources rather than about moral and politics values and ideologies. Hence, the topic of this year’s International Day of Peace is indeed important for the future; we need to live in harmony with nature, we need to be better custodians; we need to use more renewable resources rather than resources that will come to an end; we need to share better within and between countries; we need to be become constant gardeners – knowing that we all live in ‘God’s garden’ and that we have been given freedom and responsibility to tend. Religious leaders should teach us more about this, especially in our time when technology has become so advanced in taking out resources very fast and in great volumes – and polluting the earth on the way.

Moral leadership is about sub-sectors; it is about different levels; and it is about everything from top to bottom combined, today and in future. Yet, our world leaders have to focus on the broad issues; we expect that of them, even if they may rather wish to put short-term issues on the agenda rather than presenting long-term roadmaps.

When the Pope or a Muslim leader expresses concern for certain moral issues, they don’t have to tell us their conclusions. As a matter of fact, maybe it is better if they don’t, but instead appeal to each of us to consider the topics ourselves. That could, for example, be gender equality; it could be social and economic equality and more. Moral and other leaders should express concern for the imperfect situations in our world, but they don’t have to tell the secular leaders, politicians, organisations, institutions and companies what the practical solutions should be – yes, because it is the latter ones that must find the concrete solutions.

We expect that politicians to exercise leadership; that is intrinsic in their role as politicians. We want them to do what we think is right and fair (for ourselves and also others), and we want them to draw the right conclusions when there are unexpected events and crises, including manmade or natural disasters. Whereas, we want leaders to do what we agree with, we also want leaders to make decisions on issues that we don’t quite comprehend, or where there are several choices and nobody quite knows what is best. True, we may criticise the decisions afterward, yet, if we pause, we will also appreciate what the politicians did – as long as they did it all in good faith and with good intentions. In other words, we want to be able to trust our politicians; we want their values to be transparent and their judgment to be sound.

This week, as the United Nations General Assembly meets in New York, we have the opportunity to listen to national leaders. Yet, we should remember that to be a leader on the world stage is important, but it is also important to be a leader on the local and national levels.

I have had the opportunity to listen to some of the speeches on TV; it is evident that Barrack Obama is a true moral leader, as we remember from his election campaigns eight and four years ago, and as we have seen from time to time later, and more so now, in the late hours of his presidency. I don’t think USA can and should be the ‘world’s moral leader’ because the country is often not doing the right thing, neither at home or abroad. Yet, great leaders like Obama can focus on key issues of importance to us all, even more so now when his term in office is coming to an end.

The new British Prime Minister, Theresa May, gave a good speech, too, focusing on the UK’s international role and commitments, including in humanitarian and development aid, with renewed focus on the United Nations. After the ‘Brexit’ vote, many may think that the UK is ‘pulling away from the world’ and that it will become more inward looking. But the PM said the UK wants to continue to play a central international role, also with regards to refugee and migration issues. She came out as a good leader, with moral leadership qualities.

As I write my article, I haven’t heard the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s speech. However, she is the kind of leader that I trust even before she speaks! I have been impressed by her moral leadership in Europe with regards to the refugee situation. With at least 65 million displaced people, we expect that all the national and international leaders will consider the situation compassionately, the way Merkel has done.

In a CCN interview two days ago, Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan shouldered moral leadership on behalf of her country and beyond, underlining that we should not see refugees as ‘problems’, the way we so often do in our time. We should realise that they become refugees because of no fault of their own; they have lost everything and they need the help of neighbours and the international community; and they need us to treat them with respect and give them hope. She said she was impressed by the way her country and her people have welcomed huge numbers of refugees, mainly from Syria. Only 35 percent of the cost is covered by the UN Refugee agency and other donors, and Jordanians are often poor themselves.

At the late summer garden party in the gardens of the Royal Palace in Oslo, King Harald gave an all-inclusive speech, underlining that Norway is for everyone, Christians, Muslims, believers in other religions or none, people who live in traditional or new family relations, immigrants, and those who have hardly moved from their birthplace. He mentioned that his family had immigrated to Norway from Denmark and England about a hundred years ago. His speech became an instant ‘bestseller’ on the Internet and in foreign media. The King of Norway showed his moral leadership qualities in our modern world where values change, but tolerance and inclusiveness are constant. A true moral leader emphasises this with an open mind, admitting, too, that many moral answers can only be found by you and me, not by others on our behalf.