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Interfaith Programs

A Model UN Interreligious Council Tackles Multiculturalism

Geneva, Switzerland - In light of the growing debates in Europe about the impact of growing immigrant communities from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, a Model UN interreligious council session focused on the topic of multiculturalism. The session took place at the UN headquarters in Geneva on Sept. 23, 2011.

This was the eighth session of a Model UN Interreligious Council since its founding in 2008 by the Geneva Interfaith Intercultural Alliance. The session was facilitated by Minister Jesus Domingo of the Philippines Mission to the UN in Geneva and Carolyn Handschin, Coordinator of the Universal Peace Federation’s Office for UN Relations in Geneva.

These simulations of a proposed interreligious council at the UN are organized along the lines of a Model United Nations intercollegiate conference. Model United Nations are academic simulations of United Nations deliberations that educate youth about current events, international relations, diplomacy, and the United Nations agenda. Team members from participating schools and universities play roles as diplomats representing a nation or NGO in a simulated session of a UN body such as the Security Council or the General Assembly. Participants research their assigned country, investigate international issues, and then take on the role of diplomats as they consult, debate, and develop solutions to key problems.

Such simulations of deliberative bodies go back at least to the 1920s, when students in the US participated in simulations of the League of Nations. In recent years, more than 400 Model UN conferences take place annually in about 50 nations. There are also simulations of other intergovernmental organizations.

In the Model UN Interreligious Council sessions, representatives of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, and Unificationism are role-played by youth of these faiths. In many cases, their religious leaders serve as consultants in preparing interventions and attend the council sessions as observers. Such combinations make for a very serious yet enthusiastic and emotional atmosphere in the chambers.

Ms. Carolyn Handschin introduced the youth delegates and the roles that they would be playing in the session on multiculturalism.

The President of the Interreligious Council, played by Omar Bawa (law student, Geneva), reminded the Council of the recent tragedy in Norway and the referendum in Switzerland that led to this session’s focus on multiculturalism. He then called upon people play roles of UN officials to address the council:

UN Secretary-General: Ms. Rachel Brady (degree in International Development and Conflict Management, USA)

Director General of the International Organization for Migration: Ms. Houda Balti (Ph.D. student and NGO lawyer on migration issues, Vienna)

Director General of UNESCO: Ms. Elisa Ingrosso (a Masters student in history and politics at the University of Zurich)

These initial presentations were followed by interventions by people speaking on behalf of various religions:

Catholicism: Ms. Lica de Guzman (a high school student in Geneva, graduate of the Little Dreams Foundation)

Hinduism: Karthik Ragavan (assistant priest at a Geneva Hindu temple, IT professional at UNICC)

Protestantism: Mr. Mutua Kobia (a student at Geneva University)

Islam: Ms. Neelam Rose (leader of the “NO to Racism” Campaign in the UK and University “Diversity Officer”)

Judaism: Ilja Sichrovsky (completing studies for a Masters in International Development, Founder and Secretary General of the Muslim Jewish Conference)

Sikhism: Sundeep Singh (Law student at Oslo University and leader of “Young Sikhs”)

 Unificationism: Cathleen Dumas Bell (Graduate in Global Peace and Justice Studies, Trainer with a performing art-based AIDS prevention education program)

The following are excerpts of several of the interventions.

Representing the UN Secretary-General

We find ourselves living in an era of great cultural integration and communication unlike any our forefathers have experienced previously. The dramatic development of technology at break-neck speeds has resulted in bringing cultures and traditions from seemingly faraway lands daily into our homes through the nightly news and into the classrooms of children worldwide. The ease of global transportation is increasingly blurring the lines of culture and nationality.

In the last century we saw the clash of cultures and nations in two horrendous world level wars, and yet out of this dark period came new calls for cooperation and mutual prosperity as embodied most clearly in the founding of this great institution we are sitting in today. International organizations are on the rise, and the creation of intergovernmental organizations defies rationalist political thought. It seems to be the destiny of humanity to come together as one.

However, with every stage of expansion and growth comes a period of growing pains and struggle. Fear of losing one’s identity and resistance to change are common reactions we can observe worldwide. This fear has become manifest in the troubling forms of racial and religious profiling, discrimination, xenophobia, and other forms of intolerance. The senseless violence we have recently seen in Norway and Birmingham are only but a few examples of where this fear can lead.

The question then becomes this: will we manage to push through this transition period and produce a world of intercultural and interreligious understanding and cooperation, or will we find ourselves rebuilding the same temporary walls of tolerance and polite distance to maintain the status quo?

For real, sustainable peace and stability to be established, we need to move beyond mere acceptance and tolerance of cultures and religions and instead truly develop a profound respect and appreciation for the strengths that each can bring to our societies. The mixing of cultures contributes to a thriving society through the exchange of best practices and skills that bring benefits beyond the economic sector. Furthermore, every culture is laden with meaningful traditions and values from which to learn. I can attest to the feeling of safety and embrace among the Maasai tribes in Kenya, the deep respect for ancestors and elders in South Korea, the zest for life and energy in Latin America, and the depth of intellectual pursuits in Europe, all of which, I as an American can learn from.

Respected delegates, out of fear we focus on the differences among ourselves, but every culture and race has the same goal: to dwell in a peaceful environment in which to live freely and fully. The strength of this council is in acknowledging an even greater commonality: our Creator. When focused on our common origin we can move beyond humanistic feelings of sympathy to rooting our desire for mutual prosperity out of respect for the divine value of each individual. If we can truly see our neighbors as family members, could we possibly deny them the same rights and opportunities?

Therefore, I have great hope in an interreligious council to be the spearhead in this development. Rooted in each religion we find the deep and profound messages of peace, unity, forgiveness, and humility – all qualities necessary for helping our society in this time of transition. The so called Golden Rule of reciprocity can be agreed upon by all peoples, whether religious or lay.

We must have the courage to face and eliminate the historical baggage of exploitation and resentment that weighs us down. We must extend not only our hands but our hearts to other peoples and cultures to build new bonds of trust. Respected delegates, no child is born disliking another race or fearing another culture. These are emotions constructed and conveyed through the ignorance found in our societies. This should serve as a warning, for peace is impossible to achieve when rooted in ignorance.

Therefore, I call on this council to encourage member states to move beyond making political statements and policies towards implementing programs on community and local levels to combat ignorance and fear and establish forums where all voices can be heard. Bringing together antagonistic groups through exchange programs and working together on social projects are ways to focus on strengthening our communities rather than dwelling on our differences.

I once again encourage members of this interreligious council to look beyond the personal interests of your represented communities and through your unity serve as an example and source of encouragement in these challenging times ahead.

Representing the International Organization for Migration

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is an intergovernmental organization established in 1951. It’s composed of 132 Members and 97 observers including 17 States, 80 global and regional intergovernmental organizations and NGOs working in more than 400 locations over the world. The IOM advances an understanding of migration issues and encourages social and economic development through migration. The IOM upholds the human dignity and well-being of migrants and assists States to facilitate the integration of migrants in their new environment.

Integration is defined as the process of inclusion of migrants in the institutions and relationships of the host society. In order for this to take place, the newcomers have to adapt to the new social system and its institutions. The host society also has a meaningful role in facilitating the integration of migrants by accepting them and helping them gain access to the new culture.

Usually migrants face problems integrating with the local population, and these problems can be understood by introducing the following two models of integration: assimilation and multiculturalism.

Assimilation is a one-sided process, in which migrants give up their own culture and adapt completely to the host society. Some host societies require migrants to assimilate in language and culture. I think that this method can encourage discrimination and violence on both sides.

Multiculturalism is a kind of integration that encourages maintaining one’s own culture with respect to the laws and norms of the host country. The goal of integration is to build peace and establish tolerance. Multiculturalism is a powerful policy that ensures the existence of every culture, harmonious relations among cultures, and respects cultural diversity as a source of mutual enrichment.

IOM recommends communication projects and encourages dialogue between migrants and the host society. An interreligious council could facilitate a natural process bonding within the different religious communities.

Mentors can help both sides come to know each other and learn from each other. I think also that this project may give the migrants a positive role in the new society and thereby strengthen their confidence in their own potential. Through mentoring, well-connected members of the business community can support qualified migrants in their efforts to participate in the labor market.

Too often the relationship between migrants and the host society is limited to documents such as work permits, extensions, or citizenship, and the human side is absent. Moreover, even highly-qualified migrants are disadvantaged and need the advice, support, and wisdom of those more experienced. Capacity and confidence-building programs targeting these vulnerable groups could possibly be more easily accessed through the existing structures of the faith communities, possibly as a joint program with an interreligious council.

Finally, it is our hope that an interreligious council will consider these factors and try to include them in their deliberations and final decisions.

Representing UNESCO

UNESCO is highly concerned with the issue of cultural diversity. In a rapidly changing world, global challenges are ever increasing. Managing diversity is one of the core tasks of the 21st century.

Diversity raises questions about the foundations for peace and security, about social stability and justice. The number of inter-state wars is decreasing, but internal conflicts are on the rise. Humanity is migrating more than ever. People are more interconnected than ever, but new inequalities are arising.

UNESCO works to support societies and humanity in seeking answers to these questions. Our Constitution declares that if wars start in the minds of men and women, then it is in the minds of men and women where peace must begin.

Ignorance of each other’s ways and prejudice against other cultures are causes of mistrust, poverty, tension and conflict. This realization supports our commitment to build peace through cooperation in education, science, culture, communication and information.

Ten years ago, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, UNESCO adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity that sets out the principles for understanding and managing cultural diversity. It sets out a vision for a new approach to living together, a new approach to development that makes the most of the wealth of humanity’s great diversity, something that calls for a new humanism. The Universal Declaration defines cultural diversity as an ‘ethical imperative, inseparable from respect for human rights,’ which are universal, indivisible, and interdependent.

Cultures are different across the world – but humanity remains a single community, united around human rights and fundamental freedoms. Diversity must be recognized as strength and not weakness. The Universal Declaration states that ‘cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature.’ This diversity is declared ‘the common heritage of humanity’ – to be developed for the benefit of present and future generations. Diversity is one of the driving motors of development – in terms of economic growth, and for intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual development.

Just as societies are not static, culture must be understood as a dynamic, ever evolving process. Passive coexistence and tolerance are not enough. Every day tells us the story that it is not enough to communicate, we must connect. It is not enough to exchange, we must share. This calls for dialogue on the basis of respect and rights.

These standards guide all of UNESCO’s activities. They inspire our leadership of the International Coalition of Cities against Racism, which strives to improve cities' policies to fight discrimination, xenophobia, and exclusion. They lead our work to eliminate racial prejudices and stereotypes. They led us to create a High Panel on Peace and Dialogue among Cultures, composed of prominent thinkers, artists and officials, to explore how to build new channels for intercultural and interfaith dialogue.

We must challenge the notion that culture is something static. Culture is a dynamic force that renews humanity and enlarges opportunities, provided it is not instrumentalized against human rights.

These goals guide all of UNESCO’s work to strengthen the resilience of our societies and to place a new humanism at the centre of development in the 21st century.

Representing Christianity (Roman Catholic) 

 

Let me start by quoting a passage from the Holy Bible which says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

I understand that the major question we are asked here today is this: Has multiculturalism been a failure? For young people like me, this concept of multiculturalism is quite a difficult and complex subject. I heard that some of our European leaders have already declared that multiculturalism has failed.

However, is it multiculturalism that has failed us or, to put the question in a more proper perspective, have we failed multiculturalism?

As both my parents are migrant domestic workers from the Philippines, I was born and grew up in a foreign land. Geneva is one of the most culturally diverse societies. In the public school that I go to, perhaps six out of ten kids come from different countries. We interact every day in our classrooms; we learn and play together, and so we have discovered ways to overcome our cultural diversities through mutual respect and tolerance.

Because the schools are also used as voting places, my schoolmates and I also get to see the posters of political parties. Some of these posters really horrify me as they blatantly sow hatred and prejudice. I think the people here at the UN call it xenophobia and Islamophobia. One poster featured a black sheep being kicked out of Switzerland by a group of white sheep. Another poster showed a multitude of black, dirty hands grabbing a Swiss passport. Recently, one really terrified my schoolmate, Aaeesha; it featured a Muslim woman in a chador surrounded by minarets that resembled missiles. I really wish that they would not allow these kinds of hate propaganda.

Last weekend, I had a discussion with other teenagers of my age bracket. These are youngsters who were either born in Switzerland or were brought here by their parents at a tender age. Some were sons and daughters of Filipino mothers and Swiss fathers. All of us had one thing in common: we all grew up and went to school in Geneva. We all share the same point of view, based on our experiences in our daily lives, that multiculturalism is alive and well in Geneva and we youth have proven that it is possible to live among diverse cultures peacefully.

Pope Benedict XVI in his message to mark the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Migrants and Refugees last January said there should be "one family of brothers and sisters in societies that are becoming ever more multi-ethnic and intercultural." Archbishop Antonio Veglio, head of the Vatican's migration commission, told a news conference that it would be "ideal" if every government had a policy of "integration, of multiculturalism, a positive approach to immigrants ... which is missing at the moment."

I firmly believe that a multicultural society and the respect and solidarity it is built on are causes for pride. We must not turn the tide back to the days when it was acceptable, through ignorance and fear, for people with a different religion, culture, or skin color to be scapegoated, treated as inferior or outsiders, and their human rights trampled upon.

I call on the United Nations and its member states, all non-governmental organizations, and world religions to reinforce their commitment to multiculturalism at the heart of the global fight against discrimination and xenophobia. Let us reject any moves that will discredit, undermine, and destroy multiculturalism.

Lastly, let us remember the 87 youths who were gunned down in Utøya, Norway on July 22. This horrendous massacre serves as a grave reminder of the dangers posed by racism, hatred, and intolerance. We trust that the UN’s determination to fight xenophobia and its resultant disregard for equal human rights will be further strengthened.

Representing Hinduism

Om Tat Sat Sri Narayana Tu
Purushottama Guru Tu
Siddha Buddha Tu Skanda Vinayaka
Savita Pavaka Tu
Brahma Mazda Tu Yahve Shakti Tu
Ishu Pita Prabhu Tu
Rudra Vishnu Tu Rama Krishna Tu
Rahima Tao Tu
Vasudeva Go-Vishvarupa Tu
Chidananda Hari Tu
Advitiya Tu Akala Nirbhaya
Atmalinga Shiva Tu

My humble pranams at the lotus feet of the Divine Lord Almighty. I requested my better half to start my speech with this invocation for two reasons. First of all, she sings better than me, and secondly, this describes the essence of what I am going to talk about: God is One. All religions lead to the same God. He is called by various names and forms. He is Vishnu. He is Narayana, Rama., Krishna, Yahve, Shakthi. He is Jesus, He is Allah, Rahim. He is Tao. Whatever names and forms with which we call him, it all reaches to the same God. Just as all the rivers, with various names and forms, merge into the ocean, all religions lead to and merge into one God. Well, geographically even the oceans are called different names, but from a fundamental point of view, the ocean is one and all rivers merge into the ocean.

The ideal function of religion is to provide a sound, fundamental world-view which correctly orientates the individual to the cosmos and thus can serve as the basis for an intelligent guide to living.

The fundamental basis of all religions is universal, just as the fundamental composition of the rivers is water heading to the ocean. Just as the physical world is composed of the five basic elements: earth, fire, water, air, and ether, the human character is formed of the five human values of truth, righteousness, peace, love, and non-violence. I’m sure that my brothers and sisters here would agree, all religions and cultures emphasize these five values. This is the inherent nature of every human being, like its life-breath, without which we do not exist.

With a strong foundation of the five values, why do we suffer today? Why do we have all this hatred amongst people? Why do we have so many religious conflicts amongst us?

Education must remove hatred between the pilgrims on the various roads to God. There is only one God, one Goal, one Law, one Truth, one Religion, and one Reason.

Due to the impact of the modern age and the advancement of modern education, the human intellect is getting perverted. There is no point in acquiring education bereft of character. Worldly education, which comprises mere bookish knowledge, can never help you to lead a divine life. No doubt, worldly education is essential, but along with worldly education, one should have spiritual education too. Adhyatma Vidya Vidyanam (spiritual education is the true education), Nadinam Sagaro Gatih (rivers ultimately merge in the ocean). Worldly education is like rivers and rivulets, while spiritual education is like a mighty ocean. So, of all the forms of education, spiritual education is the highest and the noblest.

The basis of what I have learned and experienced is from my religion.

There are two world religions which have formed the cultural and ethical basis of the world as we know it. Both have an unbroken history going back thousands of years. Judaism with a 5000-year old tradition is the mother of western civilization through its offshoot Christianity. Hinduism is the older of the two with a literature going back to the beginning of recorded history. Hindu civilization originated in the Gangetic and Indus valleys and from there spread out over the entire region of southeast Asia. Its offshoot — Buddhism, shaped and molded the civilizations of Japan, China, Tibet, and the rest of Asia. The Ancient pre-biblical kingdom of the Mittani in Asia Minor was ruled by Hindu kings with Sanskrit names! The Sumerians and the Hittites were both Indo-European people said to have originated in the Gangetic Basin. Hindu philosophy/theology influenced the ancient Greeks since the time Alexander the Great conquered parts of north India. A remarkable similarity has also been demonstrated between the religion and mythology of the ancient Scandinavian people and that of the people of India.

The ancient civilizations such as the Roman, the Greek, the Egyptian, the Sumerian, and the Babylonian have all passed away. Even the Jewish culture has undergone many radical changes since its inception 5000 years ago. Yet the Hindu civilization continues as a vibrant and living vector, and has remained virtually unchanged for over 6000 years. Today, Hindu communities are to be found in almost every country on earth. Hinduism is imbibed with this spiritual education, the Vedic education.

The Himalayas or Himachala form the northern boundary of India. They are like the beautiful Alps of Switzerland. Hima means ice. It is white in color and melts easily. Whiteness symbolizes purity. Achala means that which is steady. Your heart, which is called Hridaya, should also be like Himachala, pure and steady. It should melt with compassion, compassion for fellow human beings. Hri + daya: daya means compassion. The core of the heart must be steady and strong, filled with human values. God resides in your heart only when it is pure, steady, and full of compassion.

But today the human heart has lost its purity, compassion, and values due to limitless desires. Life is a long journey, and your desires are the luggage. “Less luggage and more comfort make travel a pleasure.” The journey of life will become enjoyable only when you reduce the luggage of desires. The fewer the desires, the happier you will be. Contemporary education today is all about making money.

MONEY…….Money

It can buy a House………….But not a Home
It can buy a Bed ……………But not Sleep
It can buy a Clock ………….But not Time
It can buy you a Book………But not Knowledge
It can buy you a Position……But not Respect
It can buy you Medicine…… But not Health
It can buy you Blood ……… But not Life

Money isn't everything. It often causes pain and suffering. Money may provide all the comforts and conveniences, but can it confer mental peace? No. Only spirituality can grant peace of mind. Living the human values is the way to attain peace with oneself, and when people are at peace with themselves, they transmit that peace to their surroundings and, in turn, to the world.

Let me conclude by saying, when truth is put into practice, it becomes righteousness. Truth is expressed in words, while righteousness is expressed in action. On this basis, the Vedas taught, Sathyam Vada, Dharmam Chara (speak truth, practice righteousness). Hence righteousness is based on truth. Without truth, there is no righteousness. That is why the Vedas say, Sathyaannasthi Paro Dharmaha (there is no dharma higher than adherence to Truth). Without the foundation of truth, the mansion of righteousness cannot be built. Peace is the reflection of right conduct. Man prays for peace and performs various spiritual practices aspiring for peace. But so long as he has desires, he can never attain peace. Mind is the basis for desires. So, one has to control the mind in order to attain peace. When the mind is controlled, it remains silent. Such a state of thoughtlessness is true peace.

The fourth human value is love. Love is the manifestation of truth. It is pure, steady, effulgent, without attributes, formless, ancient, eternal, immortal, and nectarous. These are the nine qualities of love. Love hates none, unites all. Ekatma Darshanam Prema (experience of non-dualism is love). Ahimsa or non-violence shines as the undercurrent of the remaining four values, namely, truth, righteousness, love, and peace. That which leads to violence cannot be truth, righteousness, love, or peace. These five values are verily our five life-breaths.

I call upon the interreligious council and the United Nations to inculcate and blend education with human values in all levels. Education with human values is the way to attain global peace.

My spiritual master summarizes all that I said in four simple words: Love All, Serve All.

Representing Christianity (Protestant)

When preparing for this conference, I wrestled with the concept of multiculturalism to find out what more there is to it than "of, relating to, or constituting several cultural or ethnic groups within a society" and then explore the benefits it can contribute towards peace in general. The methodology, I figured, needs careful analysis, for it is more than strategies of integration; it involves opening one's mind and building relationships.

Even though multiculturalism is defined as the inclusion or the relation of several cultures, its intention or significance varies between people. For instance, its meaning can range from the idea of inclusion to an eventual merging of cultures so that the result is either several very different cultures or one common culture. This can be challenging to one's lifestyles and beliefs, but we must not fear from moving away from a patriarchy, for example.

A multicultural society can support different beliefs if, and perhaps only if, they come from an inclusive point of view. We must concentrate on positive outcomes and entertain ideas such as harmony within diversity.

In this day and age of globalization the migration of people is inevitable, and in many instances it has led to conflicts arising out of xenophobia; these conflicts have initiated hatred and violence. For any hope of peace, the inevitable goal may have to be multiculturalism, and this should be carried out through peaceful methods. Within the context of peace, multiculturalism calls for acknowledging, understanding, and respecting other beliefs as long as these beliefs and practices aren't harmful to others in any way, are not elevated over others as the ‘right one,’ and do not conflict with humanity's quest for peace.

Such acknowledgement and respect should go both ways. If someone’s culture is important to them and reflects their identity, to strip them of their culture would take away a part of their identity. Note, however, that this may be a challenge as individualism is on the rise.

In any case, I believe that discussion is necessary, for it provides guidance about how to exercise our respective practices: what to do and what not to do based on human rights considerations – for example, ending all forms of violence against women.

This is easier said than done: case in point, Europe. As an example, a friend of mine mentioned that in Norway there are extreme measures being taken to support multiculturalism, but changing attitudes is very difficult. One of the major problems is that people don't know that it is inevitable that people will arrive from afar; not to accept them and attempt to reach out to them indicates a lack of awareness of their vulnerability. If people knew about the inevitability of globalization, it would be a lot easier to think ahead and respond better, for when we reject someone's culture we alienate them from society and sometimes, as mentioned before, they lose their identity as a result.

Working collectively results in greater achievements for all and, in my opinion, is the chief strategy of inclusion. What is also most important is for the host country to think about how they would tackle this issue anywhere in the world.

It's important to know what multiculturalism is and to understand the benefits it carries, for example, in allowing us to reflect on our own selves by way of learning about others. If humans are indeed analyzing and self-critical beings, then we benefit by recognizing that there are different perspectives.

Parents, teachers, governments, and civil society in both the previous and host countries bear great responsibilities. The concepts of inclusion and multiculturalism are important and beneficial learning tools for young people growing up during this age of globalization. It is important that the concept of sharing, be it music or poetry, philosophies or food, is paramount. A true multiculturalism may be impossible without this inclusive and understanding point of view.

Representing Judaism

We are meeting here on European soil, which has always been a very interesting turf, from the perspective of Judaism, for talking about multiculturalism and respect. Here in Europe, violence was often committed against people of our faith because of our differences or our different approach to practicing religion.

We were often told that we had to change. But Judaism and its scholars tell us over and over that we are not to choose safety over our ideals, and over and over the leaders of this faith made that decision and exemplified their ideals knowing that this could result in harm to their safety.

I have often been told that you can have either good reasons or good re­sults, but I beg to differ. According to Jewish thought, after the flood the so-called Noachide laws were given to Noah. These were quite general laws; for example, to respect life, respect property, respect the life of animals, and respect intimacy. Intimacy can be sexual intimacy and also be the intimacy of what you think, what you believe in, and what you practice.

If you take these seven Noachide Laws that come out of a time far before us and try to apply them in the 21st century, this understanding can help religion embrace multiculturalism. At the same time, we should be very careful to defend the separation between church and state, because we believe that this is very important to the success of multiculturalism.

It important for communities not only to tolerate and accept each other but also to take the next step and work towards mutual cooperation – each taking the best from their own source and sharing it with those who are different.

Therefore, the point is to learn from each other’s differences. The key-point is to use education, the media, and especially social media, in order to help people understand what it means to be part of a multicultural society. Students should be invited to bring in the narratives and perspectives of their own faiths and develop ‘cooperative narratives,’ especially in ethics.

The impetus has to come from the NGO sector as well. We cannot look to our government leaders to change society, because they are elected every four to six years, and that is usually not enough time to create sustainable social change.

There is a proverb from ancient India that says: “Grass doesn’t grow faster if you pull on it.” I don’t suggest that we start pulling grass, but I suggest that we don’t plant it on concrete to begin with. However, that is what Europe is doing. Islam is officially recognized as part of the religious reality in only three or four countries.

The key steps are education, media, social media, cooperative narratives, and most importantly, face to face meetings – face-to-face initiatives where people go beyond being receptors of information and start interacting and exchanging information with each other.

In Judaism, we call it being our brother’s keeper. I think this is the time in Europe to stand up and start being our brother’s keepers.

We have to make sure that we start teaching our youngsters that the pronunciation of someone’s name or the faith they uphold are not necessarily barriers to friendship or cooperation and that we have to start talking to each other instead of about each other.

Representing Unificationism

Thank you for taking the time to be here, to pull your chair up to this kitchen table of the world. Thank you for caring about this essential issue, one which affects us all.

We have witnessed several events recently that make this conference only more pressing, such as the attacks in Norway, the riots in the United Kingdom, the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and most recently, the assassination of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani. These events remind us that the true war we wage is not against someone else; it is against ourselves, as we attempt to divide what is meant to be one.

Unificationism espouses the belief of thinking and acting like a family to create the family which we were intended by our Creator to be. But this idea is not unique to my faith; it is supported by many of the religions gathered here today. Herein lies our great strength: we are not nearly as different as the world would like us to believe. It is from this point which we must charge forward.

In my years of experience engaging in dialogue with many different kinds of people on topics such as this, I have become intrigued by two highly potent yet highly underutilized vehicles for change that we might consider incorporating into our work.

The first vehicle is the institution of marriage and the family unit. The family is the school of love; it provides an environment in which children can experience and learn about the different realms of love, and it is within this unit that young people can become tomorrow’s peacemakers. Families are where our religious values are most present. If we neglect to recognize the value of these institutions, we jeopardize our future. With that said, our council should urge the General Assembly to acknowledge the essential value of marriage and family, and their role in peacemaking. Moreover, in choosing our upcoming projects and events, our own council should consider the important role that couples and families play in creating the one world family we aspire to.

The second vehicle for change I would like to suggest is culture, which can be taken to include the arts and entertainment media. As Ms. De Guzman alluded to in her remarks, the media has a profound impact. It can be used to drive us apart, but it can also be used to bring us back together. The power behind the media, and indeed behind all elements of culture, is that it resides not just in logic but in emotion. Culture works on a mass scale, yet it can contact people on a personal level and transmit messages which can remain in the collective consciousness far longer than any piece of legislation.

Our council has an important message that the world needs to hear. This message needs to be aggressively disseminated, because the opposing messages of division have been spread too widely and for too long. This can be achieved using a direct or informational style, such as through the use of public service announcements or viral videos. For example, the Committee for the Rights of the Child conducted a strong media campaign in Italy which proved to be very successful in creating an organic change in public consciousness of children’s rights and contributed to the development and support of numerous Italian initiatives of the Committee for the Rights of the Child.

Messaging an also be done in a less direct but equally profound manner through the arts, such as I’ve seen within a group of Palestinian and Israeli youth who have united in their desire to use dance to teach peace, or in groups like the Washington AIDS International Teens, who unite across religious and cultural differences to combine their talents in the performing arts to create peer-to-peer AIDS prevention educational programs. This kind of success is just as applicable to messages such as ours and should therefore be considered.

In conclusion, I invite the council to remember that the violence and hatred we see around us can only succeed when we dehumanize others and perpetuate the concept of ‘us and them.’ It is essential to pursue humanizing actions, calling us to recognize those around us as members of our family and appealing to the heart as well as the head. Lasting change will only come when each person makes the personal choice for peace and unity, but we can help to give that choice a voice.

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