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Peace Festival Celebrates Diversities of Culture in the UK

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A peace festival in the United Kingdom turned out to be a “global” experience in terms of the diversity of ethnicities and cultures represented. Advertised under the slogan “Click,” invitees were each encouraged to look at ways they can “click” with a person from a different culture. Eight partner organizations worked together on the September 8-10, 2007, event, held at the Imperial College in London.

The festival sought to strengthen relations among family members and between the family and society. It focused on building bridges between faiths, cultures, and generations. Musical performances and art exhibits attracted creative talent, and Ambassador for Peace certificates were awarded at various points. Three conferences provided the center of gravity for the festival as they examined the values people hold in common and seek to pass on to the coming generation.

Nearly 100 Ambassadors for Peace and others from Britain and Europe met to discuss Marriage and Family in the UK: Changing the Trend.

Delegates included a member of the House of Lords, a number of barristers and justices of the peace, faith leaders, social workers, business people, and Ambassadors for Peace from all walks of life. Mr. Sidney Shipton, OBE, Coordinator of Three Faiths Forum, lamented how commonplace divorce had become. He blamed the spiraling violence and lowering educational standards not on economic deprivation but family breakdown. This was followed by Edward Hartley, Chairman of the Marriage and Family Committee of the UPF National Peace Council, citing statistics about the adverse consequences of this trend for partners and their children. Discussion focused on what educators, faith groups, the media, NGOs, and governmental social services can do to change the trend.Suggestions ranged from strengthening our own marriage to getting the message into the media.

 

Women came together on the theme of Promoting Gender Equality and Empowering Women. Dr. Suman Datta, Chair of Women’s Interfaith Network (Kent Branch), focused on the unequal way women have been treated in many societies, often with the sanction of religions. She advocated the reinterpretation of religious texts that have been used to justify unfair treatment of women. Mrs. Martina Coombs, Vice President of Women’s Federation for World Peace-Europe, emphasized the importance of valuing ourselves and others equally and of respecting differences since differences give life its richness.

Nancy Miller Jong, an international businesswoman born in Korea, challenged women to prove themselves worthy and get what they want in life, rather than regretting their situation. Alice Ukoko, Chair of Women of Africa, talked about empowering African women, and Dr. Wagia Syeda, a counselor at the Birmingham Central Mosque for Women, addressed issues of marriage among Muslims in Britain. Shannon Hopkins described how her organization, “The Truth Isn’t Sexy” Campaign, began as a discussion among friends who resolved to use their skills to stop human trafficking. Heart-rending personal testimonies brought the magnitude of the problem home to the audience.

A grand finale in the large marquee on the Queen’s Lawn brought conferees together for the evening, with brief speeches by distinguished guests.

Mr. David Anderson, a Member of Parliament, spoke about conflict management and the need to promote justice rather than partisanship. He told the audience to ask political leaders what they are doing to support the Millennium Development Goals to save the planet and the people. Lord Tarsem King spoke of the necessity of investing in youth and expressed his delight to see so many bright young people at the festival. The Civic Mayor of the London Borough of Hackney, Counsellor Faizullah Khan, offered heartfelt support.

Dr. Hyun Jin Moon spoke passionately about his father as a North Korean farm boy dreaming of the ideal of one family under God. He called on religious leaders to be the peacemakers of the twenty-first century. “Our duty is not just to tolerate our neighbors, but to embrace them as family,” he said. “One family under God should become the dream of all humanity.”

Related story: "Conference on Sharing Our Values," by Raul Kamal