OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL
ORGANIZATION OF THE SCOUT MOVEMENT 1993
The principles of the World
Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) and of the World Association of Girl
Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) have been agreed to by all member countries who
belong to each association. In light of the recent discussion of religion in
Scouting, I thought it would be useful to examine the religious principles of
each. First, the Scouts:
World Organization of the
Principles of the Scout
The principles are the
fundamental laws and beliefs which must be observed when achieving the purpose.
They represent a code of conduct which characterizes all members of the
Movement. Scouting is based upon three broad principles which represent its
fundamental laws and beliefs. They are referred to as "Duty to God", "Duty to
others" and "Duty to self". As their names indicate, the first refers to a
person's relationship with the spiritual values in life; the second, to a
person's relationship with society in the broadest sense of the term; and the
third, to a person's obligations towards himself.
Duty to God
Under the title "Duty to
God", the first of the above-mentioned principles of the Scout Movement is
defined as "adherence to spiritual principles, loyalty to the religion that
expresses them and acceptance of the duties resulting therefrom." It should be
noted that, by contrast to the title, the body of the text does not use the word
"God", in order the make it clear that the clause also covers religions which
are non-monotheistic, such as Hinduism, or those which do not recognize a
personal God, such as Buddhism.
When asked where religion
came into Scouting and Guiding, Baden-Powell replied, "It does not come in at
all. It is already there. It is a fundamental factor underlying Scouting and
Guiding." A careful analysis of the Founder's writings shows that the concept of
a force above man is basic to Scouting. The whole educational approach of the
Movement consists in helping young people to transcend the material world and go
in search of the spiritual values in life.
World Association of Girl
Guides and Girl Scouts
From "Basics" published by
WAGGGS, revised 1983:
The World Association is an
educational organization based on spiritual values, and is "open to all girls
without distinction of creed, race, nationality or any other circumstance."
An Ideal and a Spirit
. . . The Promise and Law is
the pivot of the Movement. . . . [The original Promise and Law] remain as valid
today as when the first members repeated them. . . . it was at the 21st World
Conference in 1972 that a "degree of latitude" in the wording of the Promise and
Law was approved, and it was agreed that in those exceptional cases where the
wording appears to show that the Promise and Law of an Association differs in
important ways from the original Promise and Law as laid down by the Founder,
they shall be deemed acceptable if together they contain the essence of the
fundamental principles defined as follows:
A. The essence of DUTY TO GOD
is the acknowledgment of the necessity for a search for a faith in God, in a
Supreme Being, and the acknowledgment of a Force higher than man, of the highest
[Three more essential
The essence may appear in
either the Promise or Law provided that there is a definite commitment, that is,
a promise to do one's best to adhere to the principles. . . .
Thus the ideals expressed in
the original Promise and Law have been retained and re-defined in response to
recent and contemporary issues and developments. For example, the essence of
DUTY TO GOD encompasses all world faiths represented in the World Association; .
Principles of Membership
Membership is voluntary and
the free decision to join implies voluntary acceptance of its principles.
SPIRITUAL DIMENSION IN SCOUTING
Extracts from speeches of Dr.
Jacques Moreillon, Secretary General, World Organization of the Scout Movement
the 2nd World Scout Conference (Paris, July 1990):
. . . in the course of my
recent Scout missions, I believe, I sometimes found less importance given to the
"Duty to God." I hope that I am mistaken since it seems to me that the
spiritual dimension is essential in Scouting; I would say that it is a
fundamental of Scouting to such an extent that, were it to weaken, the very soul
of Scouting would be threatened. At the dawn of the age of Aquarius, at the
gates of the 3rd millennium, Scouting can, through its "spiritual dimension,"
bring a decisive contribution to the building of a century which Andre Malraux
said would be religious or not at all.
Of course, to each his own
spirituality; but let this open mindedness towards all forms of divine
expression not be a trap! Let us not be frightened to clearly affirm, in our
words and acts, that there is no Scouting without a spiritual dimension, even if
the phrase "Duty to God" may be interpreted in various ways.
It is also for this reason
that one of my first actions was to get closer to the International Catholic
Conference of Scouting. Together with its Secretary General, we were able to
discuss, in unity and harmony, delicate formal questions and rapidly put things
in order. Thus with the good will of everybody concerned, we were able to
resolve old problems dating back several decades and were granted the
satisfaction of having our brother Scouts from Argentina as well as from Uruguay
united in their respective countries for the first time. We heartily
congratulate them on this here.
Having said this, I must note
that in certain countries, particularly in Europe, religious affiliations are a
source of discord, and even of dissidence among those of the same confession.
Faced with these trends, we must do our best to have an open mind so as to be
able to work imaginatively and creatively for the unity and universality of the
Movement, while respecting the fundamental principles of our Organization ...
the World Meeting of the International Catholic Conference of Scouting
Belgium, August 1990):
1. My Personal Scouting
I have chosen to start with
my personal experience, not only because we are dealing with the spiritual
dimension, which is always of a very personal nature, but also, because Scouting
is first of all an affective experience.
When I'm asked to explain the
difference between the Red Cross and Scouting, I cite a whole series of factors,
one of the most important of which is that Scouting is something experienced as
a child or adolescent, in other words, at an age when one can still be
influenced and marked by one's experiences.
I firmly believe that the
pride one feels as a young Scout in one's adolescence is a determining factor in
the formation of one's character! Indeed, as an adult, one will perhaps never
know the sort of healthy pride that one can experience as a young Scout, to
pitch one's tent in the snow, to excel oneself in a Scout activity or in being
of service to others. Whence this personal experience with which I shall begin.
I asked myself this question:
"Why do you think the spiritual dimension is indissociable from Scouting?"
I asked this question
because, when I think about it, I don't actually recall special and concrete
attention being given to spirituality in what was and still is known as the
"Vieux Mazel Brigade". So in what way do I recall the spiritual dimension of
this period of my life between the ages of 7 and 20, as a Cub Scout, Scout,
Patrol Leader, Troop Leader and Rover?
Beyond the anecdote, the
answer to this question is a general one. It was really through my day-to-day
or, at any rate, weekly Scout activities, particularly those which brought me
into contact with nature, that I experienced this spiritual dimension.
In his address this morning,
our friend stressed the importance of programs, of doing something exciting in
order to get a young person to take part in Scout activities.
I believe that if one really
wants Scouting to have a full spiritual dimension, this dimension must be fully
incorporated into Scout activities at the outset, and not be only the subject of
a separate formal activity.
Thus, for me, the spiritual
dimension was mountain hikes, watching the sun rise - very early, in a very cold
wind; it was a team effort in the fog and snow, it was arriving tired at the
hut... Yet no one ever spoke of spirituality at these times.
But it was also - and here
there are formal elements - the importance devoted to the promise - the symbol
of which I still wear around my neck - preceded, on May 2nd, 1953, by a ceremony
which took place in a very precise setting and solemnity.
A few weeks ago, I relived
something of the importance of the solemnity of the promise with the Soviet
Ambassador to UNESCO, Mr. Vladimir Lomeiko, with whom I visited a camp organized
by the Scouts de France to welcome children from Chernobyl.
At the camp, there were a
group of Sea Scouts, whose leader - who was about 18 years old - explained to
the Ambassador that the next day they would go out to sea, where two members of
the patrol would make their commitment. I asked him if "commitment" meant the
same as "promise", to which he replied that, yes, it was. I asked him to read
the text of the promise to the Ambassador, so he ran to his tent to fetch it,
and in quite total silence, amidst the great ferns of Brittany and under the
shelter of the pine trees, and with the undivided attention of everyone present,
he simply read out the law and the promise.
However, the moment was more
than just a recital of words. In this natural setting, with the attention of
those young people, and, in particular, the seriousness of this 18 year-old
leader, I truly felt a divine presence.
I do not know what the
Ambassador felt at that moment, but there was a solemnity which formed an
essential condition of the commitment. Certainly, Mr. Lomeiko - of whom I don't
know if he is a believer or not - was very impressed. And the moment certainly
also marked the young people around him. For me, it symbolized the importance of
the formal element of the promise, which I will come back to later.
Therefore, to return to my
Scouting childhood, I can say that the spiritual dimension came to be from two
sides: on the one hand, through contact with nature, and, on the other hand,
through the solemnity of the act of making the promise and reciting the law.
Furthermore, I should add
that our brigade has a particularity which, in my opinion, answers the question
that you were asking this morning regarding how to remain faithful. Each year,
those who have made their promise, are invited to gather at St. Martin's Temple
in Vevey for a religious service. It's a Protestant temple, but the brigade is
multi-denominational, with about 70% Protestants, 30% Catholics and a few Jews.
Each year, the brigade, which is composed of 3 troops (about 80 Scouts), and
about 100 adults meet to celebrate their promise. I believe that this is a very
concrete way of remaining faithful and of showing that one has not made one's
promise once and for all but that one is expected to renew it and strengthen it.
So much for my personal
experience. Together, nature and the solemnity of the promise gave me this
spiritual experience in Scouting, with very little preaching, very few religious
services and very few Church activities.
2. An Observation In Respect
Of The Movement
My observation after 18
months? I would say that it can be resumed by my impressions of the gathered
assembly when Pastor Henry Babel addressed the World Scout Conference in Paris.
Perhaps for some, he spoke a
little too bombastically, as an orator in front of a Scout audience used to a
more sober style. But, style aside, I believe that all those who listened
carefully will have recognized that the address contained a deep personal
reflection, not only on spirituality in Scouting, but also on spirituality short
It was interesting to see the
different degrees of attention in the hall. Some people were concentrating very
hard, others sitting further back were reading the paper, while others were
talking among themselves. I believe that these attitudes are very symbolic of
the extraordinarily variable degree of importance (or lack of importance) of the
spiritual dimension in Scouting.
I have been struck by the
fact that, in many Asian countries, particularly those descending from
philosophies such as Confucianism, which are not really theologies but rather
lifestyles - Taiwan or Singapore for example - the non-Christian parts of these
countries do not seem to accord a very great importance to the spiritual
dimension of Scouting.
I also believe that the
importance accorded to the spiritual dimension in Catholic Scouting is stronger
than in Protestant Scouting. This does not, however, mean that this dimension is
absent in Protestant Scouting, but there is a greater and more systematic
emphasis on it in Catholic Scouting. But I also believe that all kinds of
varieties exist within Catholic Scouting.
In other words, within
Scouting, there is a whole range of attitudes towards the spiritual dimension.
And for this reason, we should seek a common denominator, to try to identify,
assemble, stimulate and emphasize the spiritual dimension of Scouting.
My observation is therefore
simply that the spiritual dimension is much more natural and much more important
in some associations than in others, and is present in a very unequal way within
3. The Spiritual Dimension At
This brief observation
naturally leads me to make some general observations on what the spiritual
dimension of Scouting should be at World level. I have already expressed my
views on this at the World Conference: 'I believe that the spiritual dimension
is consubstantial with Scouting.' I am inventing nothing new in making such a
statement; I am only following the straight and highly orthodox line of
Baden-Powell on this subject.
Be that as it may, we need to
dig deeper. First, I think that a distinction needs to be made between what
could be called the formal and the reality, notably concerning the question of
Charles Celier is here with
us, I am pleased to say. As you know, he has played a key role at two recent
World Conferences, during which this subject was dealt with. At both
Conferences, it was reaffirmed that the so-called "alternative" promises (in
other words, those where one can choose to promise with or without the help of
God), remain an established right for those associations which had been granted
the right before 1934, but that in the case of any new association or
constitutional amendment, the spiritual dimension should be included in the
As you know, this subject
caused long debates and, in particular, long discussions between the World Scout
Committee and our Dutch friends, when their association merged with the Girl
Guide Movement. A similar problem has now arisen with the merger of our Swiss
Scout friends. The Girl Guides had the "alternative" promise and the Scouts
didn't; and I think that it was in totally good faith and after careful
consideration that they chose the smallest common denominator: instead of "going
up" to the level of a promise "with the help of God", the whole of the
association has the choice with the alternative promise of referring to God or
And the same problem arises
particularly with the Eastern European associations. It is an extremely concrete
problem in the case of the two Hungarian associations, and the problem is also
being faced by the Czech federation.
We have solved the problem by
adopting a very firm line, in accordance with the decisions of the World
Conference and World Committee, insisting that the promise includes a reference
to God's help.
We must, however, be aware
that in certain Eastern European countries, we are going to find ourselves
opposed to people who will argue that, by insisting on the spiritual dimension
of the promise, we are forcing into hypocrisy young people who live in countries
which have experienced 40 years of atheism and who have never had religious
education, and that, therefore, we are preventing the Scout ideals from
spreading by wanting to maintain this consistency at any
In reality, it is indeed a
question of choosing between consistency and expansion. This choice has already
been made by the World Conference and cannot be changed without another decision
by the World Conference. Furthermore, we are not proposing to make such a
change, and therefore, at this stage, there is no other policy to consider.
However, we should be aware
that by adhering to this policy, we are perhaps closing the doors of Scouting to
a whole section of Eastern European youth, not by deliberate exclusion but by
the requirements we set, by the level at which we place the bar. Be that as it
may, let us not forget the figures. Although in Europe we have a penetration
rate of 3.5% in contrast to a world average of 2.6%, I think that by the time
we reach this order of proportion in the Eastern European countries, we will
have gathered up those who are willing to make a commitment with a spiritual
My second comment refers back
to the personal experience I spoke of earlier: a distinction should be made
between the formal and the integrated elements.
Earlier on, I particularly
stressed the formal aspect and the solemnity of the promise, which are
indissociable and important, but insufficient. I would now like to consider in
more depth the spiritual dimension as an integral part of the activities
themselves. This morning, we were reminded of the importance of the program.
As I think you all know, the
program is not only what Scouts do; it is also why and how they do it.
The promise and law are not
external elements of the Scout method; they form an integral part of it. And on
this point, I feel we need to take a concrete and perhaps more extensive look at
all the programme activities which allow a spiritual dimension to be introduced
- which has surely already been done, but which needs to be done in a more
At 15 years of age,
adolescents want to play, they don't want to listen to sermons, they want to
have adventures. Therefore, it is important not to be untimely and not to
introduce the spiritual dimension at the wrong moment. The leader must be on the
watch to perceive the moment when the adolescent's soul opens enough to allow a
grain of spirituality to be placed there.
One of the reasons for which
I always plead in favour of real camp fires (that is to say, camp fires with a
fire!), has nothing to do with nostalgia, because there were camp fires when I
was a Scout, but because fire is one of the elements which brings us closer to
God. The fascination of the flame, this intangible yet present thing, is what we
can imagine as being closest to the soul. It was not without reason that at
Whitsun there were flames on the heads of those who received the Holy Spirit.
The flame symbolizes something which rises towards God, which is the hottest at
its highest point. Nature thus becomes a channel between man and God. I firmly
believe that if you bring together a group of young Venture Scouts around a real
camp fire - as opposed to having a sing-song without a real fire in the middle -
there will always be a moment of silence, a moment of fascination, during which
a good leader will say a word or two, which will remain in the young people's
This is just one example;
there are others. Water, for example, a symbol of baptism for Christians, but a
symbol of something else in other religions, is an element which forms part of
Scouting life and which can also be integrated not only into Scout symbolism but
also into the raising of awareness of the spiritual dimension of Scouting.
Therefore, it seems to me
that we should and could take this reflection one step further: program,
natural elements, symbolism. And it is perhaps here that we are more likely to
find the universality of the spiritual dimension in Scouting.
Careful though, I am not
promoting animism or ecumenism in any way. To each his or her faith, to each
his or her religion - but let us try to find common denominators in the Scout
symbolism which can be found in each religion, and perhaps we will find an
answer to a certain indifference shown by part of our Movement towards its
In my opinion, it is
therefore at the concrete level of camps, programs of activities, Scout
symbolism and contact with nature that we are more likely to succeed in giving a
truly universal dimension to the spiritual dimension in Scouting. But without
making a muddle."
the 4th Islamic Scout Conference (Islamabad, Pakistan, August 1992):
This is indeed an important
and auspicious day. Your presence in Pakistan and on Asian soil symbolizes the
breadth and universality of your Conference, or, I should say, of "our" Islamic
Scout Union, since all its members are also members of the World Organization of
the Scout Movement. As its Secretary General, it is my privilege and pleasure to
bring to you here the greetings not only of my colleagues on the World Scout
Committee, but also of more than 16 million Scouts around the world, many of
whom follow Islam.
Indeed, although we speak of
an official figure of 16 million members in our World Scout Movement, we all
know that, in reality, there are more than 20 million Scouts in the world,
possibly close to 25 million, many of whom are of Islamic faith. For let us not
forget that, out of every eight Scouts in the world, four are in Asia - yes, one
out of every two Scouts is in this Region of the world. Two out of eight are in
North America, one is in Europe, and one Scout out of every eight is in the
other Regions: Arab, Africa or South America.
Indeed Islamic Scouts are to
be found throughout the world, and not only in the Asia-Pacific, Arab and Africa
Regions. There are also Islamic Scouts in Europe and in the USA, and, in the
future, there will be many more in other countries, such as Albania or
Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in particular in the vast territories and Republics of
the former Soviet Union.
This is one of the reasons
why we should celebrate the fact that this Conference is taking place on Asian
soil. For the biggest challenges of your Union lie perhaps in this Region, north
of us, in those Republics of the Commonwealth of Independent States where Islam
is very much present.
One of the main dramas of
seventy years of communism is that it has often left behind it a youth that
believes in nothing, neither in God nor in politics, and not even in itself.
Scouting has some important answers to the questions put by these young people.
It offers them a system of values founded on a self-imposed code of conduct, our
promise and law, with its triple duty: to God, to others and to oneself; and it
proposes them the Scout method, through which they can acquire a sense of
self-responsibility, a confidence in themselves that no political theory can
ever bring to them. With the patrol system, with such notions as "learning by
doing" or through close contact with nature, also with its genuine and permanent
spiritual dimension, Scouting can structure the personality of many a young
person who is desperately seeking a meaning to life.
And even if we only train two
or three out of a hundred, we will be training twenty to thirty percent of
tomorrow's leaders. For experience has shown that, in "all" societies, the
percentage of former Scouts is about ten times larger amongst decision-makers
than in society itself. You only have to look at your own nations: how many of
the key leaders of your countries, at "all" levels - national, provincial and
local - are former Scouts? I am sure that it is never less than twenty percent
and often more than 30 percent. And yet, the percentage of Scouts in your
societies is mostly around two or three percent. This clearly demonstrates that
"producing" a good Scout today increases tenfold the chances of having a good
This is the kind of
mathematics that your Conference must bear in mind when it considers the birth
and growth of Scouting among the Islamic populations around the world,
especially in the former USSR.
Of course, we are not talking
of simply "importing" your Scouting into the Commonwealth of Independent States.
This is not a neo-colonialist enterprise, and we must be highly sensitive to the
local specificities of these newly independent countries of the CIS. Nor does
anyone claim that we are "models" to be just copied or blindly followed.
But Scouting from your
regions can serve as examples, examples from which these new Republics will be
able to create their "own" Scouting; moral examples first, of fine boys,
faithful to God, ready to serve others, duly proud of themselves; examples in
behavior and citizenship; but also examples in the type of Scout activities
which you practice, especially when it comes to "community development", such as
fighting illiteracy or leprosy, promoting better health or habitat, or finding
answers to unemployment and ecological problems.
Of course, such examples do
not come only from Islamic Scouts, and many of our brothers of other faiths can
and should propose good examples to newly independent countries. This is indeed
one of the beauties of Scouting, without being a religious Movement as such, we
are a Movement with a "built-in" spiritual dimension. Some have it stronger than
others; some link themselves closer to religion than others, so much so that
even in a Conference like yours or like the International Catholic Conference of
Scouting, it is not always easy to find just the right common denominator. After
all, even if Islam itself remains as one, its presence in the tissue of society
is not the same throughout the world. So it is with Scouting, which is always a
local expression of each society. For instance, the programs which French
Islamic Scouts are proposing to the youth of French "inner cities" are bound to
be different from those proposed by Scouting in Pakistan to its youth. Scouting
takes into consideration the concrete needs of young people and the aspirations
of "their" societies.
Therefore, your challenge is
not only external: it is not only a matter of bringing Scouting to Islamic
populations that do not yet know Scouting. It is also an "internal" challenge:
you must find the best ways, within the Islamic Scout Union and in accordance
with the WOSM Constitution, to establish specific links with each other and to
build on what you have in common, while respecting your differences. Here, as
within WOSM, the motto should be: "Think globally, act locally".
Constitutionally, you must
make room in your Conference for various types of Islamic Scouts, of which there
are basically four:
* First, there
are the Scout Organizations in countries that have a majority of Moslems and
consider and/or call themselves "Moslem Scouts".
there are the Scout Organizations in countries that have a majority of Moslems
but who are pluralistic, even if they often have a majority of Moslem Scouts
among their members.
* Thirdly, there
are Moslem Scouts in countries that do "not" have a majority of Moslems, but
that have constituted themselves into Moslem Scout groups of whatever shape and
* And fourthly,
there are Moslem Scouts who are fully integrated into the existing national
All of these should find a
fair footing in your Union, in a similar way to that which has been established
by the Catholic Scouts under the Constitution of the International Catholic
Conference of Scouting, a constitution which has been duly approved by the World
Scout Committee, so that it could grant consultative status to the ICCS, a
status which, I believe, your Union should also be accorded in due course, if
not by the Bangkok World Conference in 1993, then at least by the Oslo one in
Bangkok! Oslo! Towards the
year 2002! There are great challenges and great opportunities facing Scouting
worldwide. These challenges we face together, in remarkable unity, despite the
normal differences within a Movement over which the sun never sets. Indeed, we
can and must gain even "more" strength from those differences that give Scouting
its extraordinary diversity in its unique harmony.
Our common promise and our
common law, our common method and our common spirit, all these are fantastic
tools of the World Scout family at the service of youth. With the help of God,
together, we shall continue to serve and promote "Better Scouting" for more