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Peace and Security

Conference in Netherlands Explores the Many Flavors of a European Union

One day after the signing of a proposed new European Union treaty, Ambassadors for Peace addressed a UPF-Europe conference on leadership and good governance; and later all experienced a sampling of the rich diversity of cultures present in today’s Europe.

The December 14-16, 2007 conference, in Huize Glory, Bergen aan Zee, The Netherlands, had at its centre lectures by Tim Miller, vice-chairman of UPF-Europe, on “UPF’s Founding Principles”, “The Roots of Conflict” and “Conflict Resolution: The Path to Peace and Cooperation.”

In a mini conference on Saturday, Dr. W. F. van Eekelen, a former Dutch government cabinet minister and long-term campaigner for European cooperation, explained the checks and balances included in the new reforming European Union treaty provisionally signed on December 14 in Lisbon. Listening to him speak with so much sincerity and clarity, one imagined that had the Dutch government asked him to explain to the people the proposed EU constitution of 2004, the Dutch electorate might not have rejected it. His wife later raccounted that her husband had said it was a wonder of God that some 200 parliamentarians from 27 European countries had finally come to an agreement, but the draft treaty still has to be confirmed by each EU nation individually. Apparently, the latest text is still rather complicated, since it is an amendment of the previous Nice treaty rather than the “start anew” defining document attempted in the afore-mentioned EU Constitution. However, Dr. van Eekelen capably explained how the new treaty sought to simplify and strengthen the running of the EU and make it more accountable and democratic.

The second speaker, Dr. J.W. Bertens, vice-chairman of NCDO (Nationale Commissie voor Internationale Samenwerking en Duurzame Ontwikkeling - National Committee for International Cooperation and Sustainable Development), formerly a member of the European Parliament and an ambassador and diplomat, spoke with humour about “Good Governance”, before deeply seriously asking everyone to consider the “Four Freedoms” proclaimed by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941. Roosevelt asserted that freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship God in each person’s own way, freedom from want, and freedom from fear was "no vision of a distant millennium" but rather "a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation” and these freedoms were included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948; but did any country really respect them?

The 17 conference participants came from Bosnia, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal, Sweden and The Netherlands, some of them originally from further afield, Africa, India, Thailand and the Ukraine. Their religious backgrounds ranged from Baha’i to Buddhist, Christian and Muslim.

The cultural evening featured the multiple gifts of many of the participants and staff. Coordinated and supported musically by keyboardist Hans Campman and introduced with finesse by UPF-NL Secretary General Wim Koetsier, the programme was varied and uplifting, with “neo-British folk songs” sung by Christopher Davies, from Portugal a poem about peace (accompanied by Hans Campman) and a self-penned traditional “fado” song dedicated to mothers, “Patricias’ organization” from Birmingham, UK, with Indian taxi driver jokes; and a profound song written by the Bosnian “Legend of Sarajevo,” hilariously, then seriously, introduced and performed by a lawyer who had never sung in public before. Participants from France sang the Unificationist anthem “Avec Notre Roi” and from the Ukraine (via Germany) came two songs, one sad and romantic, one rousing, then Prokofiev piano music. There followed Buddhist chanting (from a Thai monk resident in Stockholm), Austrian lieder from Dutchman Michiel Pater, all the Dutch singing the host nation’s ever popular “Amsterdamse Grachten” (Amsterdam’s canals) and a gospel sequence from Surinam Dutch Ambassador for Peace Marlene Waal. Guatemalen Carlos Figueroa, a Glory House staff member, closed the evening with three Latin American songs, encoring, in brilliant contrast, with a rendition of the Beatles’ “Penny Lane”.

A Nigerian residing in France remarked: “It was very interesting and enriching, especially meeting people from other parts of Europe and the world, with the various talks, discussions and lectures delivered by eminent people on how to live for the sake of others and in peace within oneself and with others, starting with one’s family.”

The Bosnian participant, a government prosecutor, sent an email some days later: "I am now back in the office, it’s really a world opposite to that we experienced over the weekend. It was my pleasure to spend time talking about a better world." 

 

 

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