The Words of the Murud Family
UPF-Europe organized a European Leadership Conference September 20-22 in Oslo, Norway linked to the theme of this year's International Day of Peace: "Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future." Some sessions took place in the Stortinget, Norway's Parliament.
This Norwegian-government sponsored conference was attended by around 100 participants from different corners of Europe. To address the main UN theme, Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future, different sessions were set up, each one to discuss specific aspects of sustainable peace.
Mr. Steinar Murud, Secretary General of UP-Norway, gave his welcoming remarks, praising the efforts of all the participating leaders, who are making great efforts in their respective fields. World peace cannot be created by any single individual or group, but we all need to work together in order to build sustainable peace.
Mr. Stian Bragtvedt, Communication Officer in the Norwegian UN communication office in Oslo, commented on the role of the UN and the importance of aligning national politics with UN. He also explained about the role of the local Norwegian communication office, which is a large office with its 30 full time employees
Mr. Mark Brann, Secretary General of UPF Europe, spoke on the importance of the logic of love versus the logic of power, which has been the main way of solving conflicts. But a diplomatic and friendly approach can be just as effective. He illustrated his point by talking about Dr. Moon's initiatives in Nepal and in North Korea.
When people of the world are only concerned with their own interest, a common culture of peace is very distant. How can we educate people in global citizenship? This was a youth session with Bogdan Pammer, UPF Youth Europe, as moderator. Ms. Hilde Ekeberg, Norwegian Director of Youth for Understanding, Spoke about the value of cultural exchange. Learning to understand each other is one of the fundamentals for sustainable peace.
Ms. Nassima Dzair, Director of the international Federation of Medical Students' Associations, used her own background as an example. She is from an Algerian background, born in Norway, and attended the French school in Oslo. This background made her feel very connected to the theme of being a global citizen.
Ms. Sarah Ben-Ammar, a Project Manager from Finland, also with a very international background, spoke about the need of informal education. While the society values formal professional education, we need informal education in order to mature as human beings.
Ms. Irene Incerti, board member of Young Dialogue in Norway, and UPF youth representative, spoke on freedom and responsibility. We all value freedom, but to be responsible in all kind of situations is most fundamental to building peaceful relations.
After lunch, the conference sessions continued in the Norwegian Parliament.
The essence of religion is good values; however, in reality we can see tension between them. How can religions contribute to sustainable peace? Ms. Marcia de Abreu from Spain moderated the session.
Mr. Stein Villumstad, Secretary General of the European Conference of Religious Leaders, asked why it is important to involve religions in the peace process? He gave five answers: 1)The importance of God cannot be ignored; 2) there's a growing movement towards interfaith engagement; 3) religions need to be engaged to solve the problems of society; 4) the power of religious assets, e.g., The Golden Rule; and 5) religions have important social groups such as women's organizations and youth groups.
Imam Abduljalil Sajid, Chairman of Dialogues and Cultures in Europe, said we all have to work together for our common good. He said that action speak louder than words. If no action, words are meaningless. We must speak to other people peacefully. We cannot use force or compulsion on each other. Respect each other. Without the family there is not going to be any peace. Without role models, we will go nowhere. Religions need to be engaged. Secular society needs to make space for religions.
Venerable Bhante Sobhana, from Stockholm Sri Lanka Theravada Buddhist Temple: Morality is the first step in our training. The importance of right speech – abstaining from worthless talk. The importance of right action – abstaining from robbing, stealing, etc. The importance of right livelihood. The world is like a mirror; if you look at the world with a smiling face, you will see your own smiling face. Even if things are others' fault, you must see it as your own fault. If you treat others kindly, they will treat you kindly.
Mr. Tim Miller, chair of UPF Europe, spoke on the relationship between the public and the private dimensions. Public values and affairs need to have priority over private ones, always.
Human rights have high priority in our culture. Which role do they have in peace-building? Mr. Ed Brown, from the Stefanus Alliance International, was an effective moderator.
Ms. Silvia Escobar, former Human Rights Ambassador for Spain, asked if human rights are respected universally, would that be an ideal world? Maybe not, but at least human rights are a prerequisite. She quoted former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's millennium speech: "No development without peace; no peace without human rights." Civil society needs to promote Human Rights. Promote respect for it and educate about human rights. There is no genuine democracy without human rights.
Mr. Jan Egeland, Director of Human Rights Watch Europe, pointed out the decreasing number of armed conflicts and lesser risk of suffering a violent death today. At the same time the number of democracies has increased and the number of dictatorships decreased. One challenge is internal conflicts and human rights. The UN is ineffective at solving such armed conflicts, e.g., in Syria. The Security Council members take different sides in the conflict. Human rights and peace are interrelated. The individual should be protected against government and armed actors. Human rights are for everybody without discrimination.
Eyal Bloch, founder of Education for Sustainability in Israel, asked the question, how can we make good news out of good deeds? The media likes conflicts, but if we build something peacefully together, that is not a news item. There are instances of media creating conflicts between Israelis and Arabs. In Israel he is involved in working with the army, teaching soldiers to love peace. We have to enter the formal system in order to have impact and make it sustainable. Our heart and our head need to communicate in order to build peace but the biggest distance on earth seems to be the 30 cm between the head and the heart.
This session featured a film premiere of a documentary film made by the Bereaved Family Forum in Israel. This Forum consists of parents who have lost their children or relatives in the ongoing conflict. The film followed one Palestinian and one Israeli in their efforts for reconciliation. The film was shown simultaneously in all cities in Israel on this day.
The evening dinner was also a celebration with cultural performances. Ms. Torhild Nigar, songwriter and composer, sang her song "Eternity," which won in the Norwegian final of the Eurovision Song Contest some years back. Torhild Nigar, Kjell Elvis Bjørnestad, and Faizullah Khan all contributed to a wonderful evening. A great surprise for all participants was the performance of Kjell Elvis Björnestad, number one Elvis tribute artist in Europe. He charmed everybody with his performance. Since this was a peace conference, he took time to share about his efforts to support thousands of orphans in Burma. Our Ambassador for Peace, Faizullah Khan, recited his own wonderful poems as the conclusion of the evening
The question of security is complex. Which areas are involved and how can we strengthen human security? Mr. Robin Marsh, Secretary General of UPF UK, moderated the session.
Professor Akiko Yamanaka, former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, emphasized how political dynamics have changed dramatically since the end of the Cold War. Now there is a scramble for natural resources, tornadoes, nuclear accidents, financial crisis. The Middle East problem is getting worse. The nature of security has changed since the end of the Cold War. Security is increasingly complex and multifaceted, including environmental and social dimensions and their interlinkage. Even the USA, the sole super power, cannot function without cooperation with other states. She introduced the concept of preventative diplomacy, using non violent means of resolving international conflicts. She quoted Aristotle's statement that "It is more difficult to organize peace than to win a war."
Ms. Kerstin Schultz, Researcher from Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research in Stockholm, spoke on the increasing number of civilian casualties in conflicts. In World War I, there were 10% civilian casualties, in World War II 45-50%, in some recent conflicts more than 90% of the victims were civilians. It is essential in peace-building to restore civil society. Unemployed young men are easy to recruit for warfare. In some countries it is dangerous to socialize outside your own ethnic group. Poverty eradication should be given preference over military spending. Also, women must receive more attention. UN Resolution 1325 highlights the situation of women in armed conflicts. Women in Africa organize themselves across ethnic borders. One was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Ms. Carolyn Handschin, President of Women's Federation for World Peace in Europe, said that the emphasis of human security must be inclusive. In a culture of peace, we cannot just focus on the externals; we have to embrace the citizens in our culture of peace. A good concept is: If I have something, someone else also should have it. We often speak of the society and the individuals, but the family is a bridge that can build peace in the world and peace in the individual. It is a system that minimizes the need for an intricate legal systems and enforcement.
Ms. Isabel Hillestad, from the Institute of Family Policy in Oslo, spoke about the family situation in Europe. The birthrate has fallen in Europe, and today those who are over 65 outnumber those who are under 14, a situation that could eventually lead to the bankruptcy of the welfare state. The family is a basic condition for peace. There is a destabilizing of the family in Europe, with an aging population, a critically low birthrate, and escalating number of abortions. The family is the antidote to individualism. We need a culture that is favorable to the family and motherhood
This session was moderated by Mr. Mark Brann, Secretary General of UPF-Europe.
Dr. Werner Fasslabend, former Defense Minister of Austria, spoke about the areas of challenge in today's world. He described several areas, regions, and trouble spots but dwelled particularly on the military build-up in China. For the first time in Chinese history, there is no threat from the north (Mongolia and Siberia) or from the southwest (India and Pakistan). Therefore, China can focus on developing its strategic interests on its Eastern maritime front. China's territorial claims go all the way down to Indonesia. Similar to NATO's role in securing the Atlantic Rim, an alliance is needed to secure the islands in the Pacific Rim. Before and during World War II, Japan's "Greater Asian Co-Prosperity System" occupied an extensive territory including Burma, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. Now China is on a similar track.
In the 1990s Europe was not able to prevent the Yugoslavia crisis. If it had been prepared, it could easily have prevented it. The key concept is being prepared. Col. Gjermund Eide, from the Norwegian Military College, pointed out the changing situation since the end of the Cold War. There is a growing unpredictability. With failed states and the irrationality of non-state actors, e.g. terrorists, there is increased chaos and disorder. In addition, there is also the danger of cyber attacks and long-range weapons. Obama said: "Make no mistakes about it, evil exists."Negotiations would not have made Hitler or Al Qaida lay down their arms. Soft power includes negotiation and diplomacy. We need "smart power" combining hard and soft power in an optimal way.
Mr. Jack Corley, chair of UPF-UK, spoke about the story of Cain and Abel. Cain planned to get rid of his brother, Abel. Abel could have won the heart of Cain peacefully through communication, but Abel was unable to protect himself, and Cain slew him. In the story of Jacob and Esau, Esau tried to kill Jacob. Jacob had to flee. After 21 years Jacob came back, but still the enmity existed. Jacob had become a rich man and wisely used his position to melt the heart of his brother. Thus, Esau and Jacob reconciled as brothers.
After World War I, Germany, a proud nation, was humiliated and defeated by France. France was adamant that Germany should pay war reparations. The Versailles Treaty was a very punitive treaty with no compassion. Hitler played on the resentment of the German people and took revenge. He had the French sign the surrender treaty in the same train carriage and in the same village as the Versailles Treaty. Because of the Marshall Plan, the former enemies of the Axis Powers and Japan became the closest allies of USA, Britain and France. Thus, there is wisdom in reaching out to enemy while also cultivating a strong defense.
The lunch on Saturday was organized as a meeting between the youth participants, and Professor Yamanaka made herself available for questions and dialogue.
While presentations about paths to peace are valuable, good role models can give extra inspiration. This session touched on this topic by speaking about a nation and an individual. Ms. Cecilie Fortune, UPF-UK, was the moderator.
Professor Öyvind Tönnesson: The Norwegian government wants Norway to be a nation known for peace. The former Prime Minister started his own peace center. Peace is trendy in Norway, and this image is confirmed by outside observers. Since 1991, the Nobel Peace Prize has been the focus of the international media. The University of Oslo carried out research to analyze whether Scandinavia has its own peace tradition. Is it true that Norway has a strong peace tradition? His interesting answer is that it is myth. But it is a good myth, and it is better to live with a good myth than no one.
While Professor Tönnesson spoke of a national tradition, Tim Miller spoke on an individual tradition. His example was from the autobiography of the UPF Founder, Dr. Sun Myung Moon, As a Peace Loving Global Citizen. He spoke about how one individual could accomplish much, particularly how the meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev and Kim Il Sung could change international relations. Gorbachev opened up diplomatic relations to South Korea, and Kim Il Sung stopped the anti American propaganda and opened up for the Sunshine Policy.
Ms. Carolyn Handschin gave an update on WFWP activities in 2012 and Mr. Mark Brann gave an update on UPF activities. In summary, there were two days with stimulating presentations, questions, and comments. Many expressed that they learned a lot and enjoyed the cultural performances. New relationships were built and new ideas were conceived. All these inspirations will make the conference have a life long after these two days in Oslo.