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CALENDAR OF EVENTS

July 2020
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Peace and Security

UPF-Asia Pacific ‘Peace Talks’

Thailand-2020-04-22-UPF-Asia Pacific ‘Peace Talks’

Bangkok, Thailand—UPF-Asia Pacific held its first “Peace Talks” webinar on April 22, 2020 with five distinguished speakers from five nations: Australia, Hong Kong, Nepal, the Philippines and Tajikistan. The theme was, “A Circle of Light: Moving Through and Beyond the Coronavirus Crisis.” The dialogue was rich, informative, honest and hopeful with 396 guests registered for the conference. Speakers looked into the past to learn much-needed lessons, yet kept a clear future-oriented outlook.

Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, chairman of UPF and the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP) of the Asia Pacific, served as the moderator. He called this engagement timely and significant since the content would “inform, stimulate and expand the capacity of UPF” to help advance world peace.

The regional group chairman of UPF-Asia Pacific, Dr. Yong Chung-sik, explained to the participants that UPF co-founder, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, was urging them to find solutions through cooperative action beyond the boundaries of race, nationality and religion so as to end the suffering of humankind and establish a world of universal peace and sustainable development.

From Down Under, Hon. David Clarke (a former member of the Legislative Council of the Parliament of New South Wales, Australia (2003 – 2019); former Parliamentary Secretary for Justice; and a dedicated Ambassador for Peace) spoke first. He highlighted that his nation, although a continent unto itself with no nation bordering it, realized that being isolated and far from others offered little protection. He kept a positive attitude but said that we had to face the hard truth and look for solutions before noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) has sent costly mixed signals. “No one,” said Hon. Clarke, “has the right to withhold information,” and all nations must cooperate together to solve this pandemic and its aftermath.

Father Eliseo R. Mercado Jr., OMI, Ph.D., (director, Institute for Autonomy and Governance; professor, Islamic Jurisprudence with Adamson University; and former president, Notre Dame University, Cotabato City, Philippines), laid out five points: 1) humility before God, in that, we need to admit that we are frequently not in charge of our future; 2) genuine religiosity flourished despite churches, mosques or temples being locked down as people were more caring for others than ever; 3) our planet is “breathing” again due to reduced carbon emissions; 4) the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ call for a universal ceasefire; and 5) the renewal of prayer life as we pray for ourselves, for each other and for our planet.

From the Himalayan mountains, Dr. K.B. Rokaya, (a noted thinker, writer and academician; president, Nepal Intellectuals Forum; and former commissioner of the Human Rights Commission, Nepal), appreciated UPF for its dedicated staff, strong passion, clear vision and willingness to sacrifice its resources for world peace. He said UPF was uniquely situated to make a positive contribution at this juncture of history. He called for a restructuring of the UN, reminding the participants of UPF co-founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s call for a two-tier structure of the UN with a religious and political wing, with religions taking the lead.

Hon. Eddie Ng, (former secretary for education, former president of the Asia Pacific Federation of Personnel Management Associations, from Hong Kong), explained that although the virus was initially a complete unknown which caught everyone by surprise, the ultimate focus must be to “restore hope to people.” Instead of focusing on the size of the financial deficit, leaders must save lives, whatever the cost is. Now is not the time to play polarizing politics, but to concentrate on “collective learning,” to mitigate the pandemic as quickly as possible and prevent future catastrophes. Hon. Ng concluded by saying that UPF has “tremendous potential” and was in the “best position” to offer constructive collaboration in dealing with the crisis.

The last speaker was the youngest. Mr. Jamalov Parviz, 28, (a civil society activist and an Ambassador for Peace), from Tajikistan, said that although there has been no recorded cases of the coronavirus in his country, people could “smell a sense of fear around them” as there has been a steep economic downturn. Nevertheless, he is seeing a wave of altruism emerging. People are caring for, loving and being compassionate in unprecedented ways. He called for more pro bono volunteerism and noted that this spirit was on full display for the world to see in the effective way South Korea handled the pandemic with a sense of healthy nationalism.

There was time for only two questions at the end. The first question was about predictions of or changes that would come in the post-coronavirus era. The speakers said no one knows for certain what will happen; there are still many uncertainties and unknowns. The second question was about the role that the digital educational platform can play in helping people through this crisis. Hon. Ng responded saying that in Hong Kong there was already a strong shift towards internet-based education and so when social distancing became the sudden new norm, there was minimal disruption to learning.

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