The Words of the Kagawa Family

Forum on Women and the World at a Turning Point

Genie Kagawa
March 2, 2011
UPF International

New York, USA -- "Women and the World at a Turning Point", a parallel event of the UN's 55th Commission on the Status of Women, sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Nigeria and the Permanent Mission of the Slovak Republic to the United Nations, was held at the Nigeria House on March 2, 2011. The program was chaired by H.E. Mrs. U. Joy Ogwu, Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN, in collaboration with Universal Peace Federation.

During the Opening Plenary, moderated by Mrs. Genie Kagawa, H.E. Mrs. Ogwu alluded to the dramatic turn of events that have recently taken place in North Africa and the Middle East, and called on women to seize the moment and take leading roles during this time of radical changes towards a direction of peace and tolerance. She added that "lasting peace can only come about as a result of negotiation and discussion" and must be grounded on "an enlightened set of values that moves beyond tolerance to empathy and understanding."

H.E. Dr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar, and H.E. Mr. Thomas Mayr-Harting, Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations, gave congratulatory remarks. H.E. Mr. Al-Nasser, having recently been chosen as the next President of the UN General Assembly, said he would increase his advocacy for the advancement of women, in addition to his proposed agenda to revitalize the General Assembly. H.E. Mr. Mayr-Harting expressed appreciation to the Nigerian Mission for the work to protect women and children refugees in Chad, and spoke about his fervent desire to support the women's agenda.

Dr. Eileen Borris, Director of Training and Program Development at the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, in Washington, D.C., stated that the path for forgiveness of individuals is the same as that between tribes or nations. For forgiveness to be effective in a political context, Dr. Borris emphasized that "forgiveness does not require abandonment of punishment, but requires the abandonment of revenge." She shared that "true peacemakers are those who are not afraid to look within, to change the way they think, and heal the pain of their heart. Forgiveness supports this kind of healing transformation."

The powerful message of forgiveness was followed by a riveting testimony of Ms. Marie Claudine Mukamabano, Founder of the Kuki Ndiho Foundation that supports Rwanda orphans. She herself was one of the sole survivors of her extended family from the horrendous Rwandan genocide. Despite the fact that her parents, siblings, and close relatives were all killed, her heart was burning with the memory of her mother's love and her deep roots of faith in God. She rose above the tragedy without resentment or hatred, but with empowered to spend the rest of her life giving assistance to the families and children of Rwanda.

Mrs. Lynn Walsh, Director of UPF's Marriage and Family Peace Initiative, projected the strengths of women from a different aspect. She particularly dwelt on the ways that men and women find connectedness as revealed in a university study made of young boys and girls. In a small group, girls connected with each other by looking for their commonalities, while boys expressed their enthusiasm by competitive sharing. Mrs. Walsh considers this inherent nature of women to look for commonalities as the quality that is needed in political dialogues for peace-building, and it is this strength that enhances women's important role in solving conflicts in the world today.

Session II, "Women and the Challenges of Popular Culture," moderated by Mrs. Tomiko Duggan, Director of Embassy Relations and Public Affairs at UPF International, expressed the realities that challenge women's efforts to discover their identities and role in society. Mrs. Sharon Slater, President of Family Watch International, appealed to the audience to recognized that motherhood is the most essential and vital role for women to undertake, despite their increased involvement in professions and economic interests. There was a poignant moment when she spoke about the blank and empty stares of African children in orphanages and showed clips of three despondent orphan boys from Mozambique. Immediately afterwards, she announced that these boys were her adopted children, bringing tears to many participants' eyes. She recounted the changes in their lives after having found the love of parents.

H.E. Ms. Sheikha Alya Ahmed Bin Saif Al-Thani, Deputy Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar to the United Nations, focused on the negative influence of the media in projecting unwholesome images of women on a daily basis, molding a culture that is an assault to the family and women's dignity. She emphasized that children need to grow up surrounded by grandmothers, aunts, cousins, and siblings in order to be self-confident, productive, and outstanding individuals.

A musical presentation elevated the atmosphere when Ms. ___, well-known Japanese soprano who has given many concerts promoting peace, including in North Korea, gave two renditions on the theme of peace.

Lunch integrated a break-out workshop session, headed by four group leaders: Julie Okamoto, Joy Pople, Cynthia Shibuya, and Maria Vargas. The women conversed on a wide cross-section of topics such as the role of women in the recent changes taking place in the world; solving domestic violence and human rights for women; women in the workplace; and what is an ideal woman, and how can women realize their value in society.

The afternoon session featured the theme "Women as Interfaith Leaders," led by Rev. Tsu-Wei Zoe Chang, an interfaith minister and President of Megaspheres, an interfaith organization. Originally from a Buddhist background, Rev. Zoe Chang has carried out numerous interfaith initiatives, including at the United Nations. Mrs. Sharon Hamilton-Getz, President of the Institute of International Social Development, spoke about her individual journey from her Christian roots to embrace Hinduism in India, Shintoism in Japan, and later an interfaith perspective in her work at the UN with her responsibility as head of the NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns. Dr. Mahjabeen Hassan, a plastic surgeon, gave a powerful presentation about how her life changed when she began to wear the Muslim hijab, and how she took the steps to overcome her fear of rejection and publicly articulate her beliefs, thereby creating greater harmony and understanding with those of other faiths. Rev. Deborah Steen-Ross, Co-Director of the New Seminary for Interfaith Studies in New York, spoke on "Oneness" as the ultimate goal of interfaith. She discovered the depth of the meaning of oneness, and how the ultimate goal of interfaith dialogue is to find that place of unity with another person, beyond one's person belief system.

The culminating experience of the day was the "Water of Life Ceremony," in which representatives of different religious traditions poured their holy water into a large vase after reciting a quote of their religious scripture. The Water of Life Ceremony symbolizes the harmonized contributions of each of the world's faiths. It ended with Ms. Mukamabano pouring a large bottle of water into the vase, filling it to the brim, representing the orphans, victims of war, and impoverished people. Then people joined hands to sing "Let There Be Peace on Earth," symbolizing the fact that we are all destined to flow together in a common destiny.

Download PowerPoint Report.

Text of presentation by Dr. Eileen Borris 

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