The Words of the Schellen Family

A Solemn Launch for the Universal Peace Foundation in Beirut

Thomas Schellen
December 15, 2005
Beirut, Lebanon

Although the dimensions of the Jordanian UPF convocation on November 19 and the Lebanon UPF inaugural dinner on December 15 were very different, there were notable parallels – some that we wished for and one that caused deep sorrow. This latter parallel was based in the painful fact that Lebanese lawmaker and journalist Gebran Tueni had been murdered on December 12. Just one day after his arrival from Paris to attend sessions of Parliament, a car bomb destroyed Tueni's convoy, killing him and two others. Thus, the Lebanon UPF dinner was held under the same signs of shock and outrage over unjustified, insane terror against people of the Middle East that had also impacted the Jordan convocation.

In Jordan, an initiative of our local IIFWP Ambassadors for Peace and our American friends had made it possible to respond to the terror attacks from November 19 by holding peace prayers at two bombing sites and staging a Peace March between the two sites.

In Beirut, the solemn evening program began at 7:00 pm with the Lebanese National Anthem and a minute of silence for Gebran Tueni and the victims of political terror in 2005. I gave an overview report on Dr. and Mrs. Moon’s world tour and the Peace March in Jordan. Dr. Alberto Abou Rahal, one of about 12 Lebanese peace ambassadors who had journeyed with us to Jordan, presented a good report on the main event in Amman and his experiences there.

Exceptionally heavy traffic that evening in Beirut caused some delay in our guests' arrivals, and by 7:30 numerous Ambassadors for Peace and others had brought our attendance to over 50. We counted 12 couples and representatives of religion, politics, media and civil society.

Especially noteworthy was that we could welcome official representatives of three ministries: ministry for youth and sports; ministry for administrative reform; ministry for parliamentary affairs. The three government ministers had sent representatives in response to the invitations from our contact Nicolas Birak, a close friend of Ambassador for Peace Anestass Murr.

Diplomatic attendees were Ambassador Turk and Ambassador Kantar; religious dignitaries were Sheikh Masri, Sheikh Kanaan, Sheikh Ghaleb Osseily and Sheikh Al-Amin. Guests representing NGO's came from the Sadr Foundation and also present was Dr. Nour Salmant.

Lebanon Good Governance Awards were presented to Ambassador Turk and also Sheikh Masri. who spoke briefly in response. We also presented an Ambassador for Peace certificate to Nicolas Birak.

In the second part of the program, we showed the video presentation on Father Moon's work for UPF and David Fraser Harris read the keynote speech.

These parts of our program were of course modeled after the worldwide formula for UPF launch events, and thus paralleled the Amman event as the central UPF convocation for the Middle East region.

Although we were no more than 55 persons in total the atmosphere of the gathering was warm and participants expressed strong appreciation for the UPF.

Towards the end of the program, Cesar Bakhos, AP and lawyer, made a brief presentation on the legal requirements for establishing an organization (UPF chapter) in Lebanon. When I recognized some of our friends and high-profile guests in closing, Sheikh Kanaan, AP and presiding judge of the Sunni Muslim Courts in Lebanon, stepped up to the dais and impromptu offered a very supportive comment for our work.

We had chosen the Crowne Plaza hotel in Hamra for the event where we had booked the rooftop restaurant on the 21st floor for a Lebanese dinner. The restaurant overlooks Beirut and it has a pool in the center. With Christmas decorations and small Lebanese flags all around, the atmosphere was very suitable for our event, also considering the difficult situation of this week. One day prior to our dinner program, all of Lebanon had observed the funeral of Gebran Tueni and up to 200,000 people had demonstrated against terror in downtown Beirut.

While we were still at the restaurant, strong rain started to pelt the glass roof ending a two-week stretch of very warm, dry weather, and on the following day a major winter storm pounded Beirut. We felt highly fortunate that we had scheduled the event for just this one evening of December 15 when many people could attend.

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