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Peace Education

Reflections on the Canada Leadership Conference

If I learned anything during this Universal Peace Federation Conference, it is what Rev. Samuel King-Kabo of Ghana loudly said to the audience but effectively whispered in my ears. He is a senior pastor who studied in Scandinavia and Europe.

Rev. King-Kabo said, “We are made of the same clay no matter what color of skin we may display.” That saying certainly resonates with me and simply sums up what the UPF conference was all about, creating a culture of peace, a non-violent family under God.

Attending the UPF conference from October 2 to 5, 2008 in the beautiful Canadian capital of Ottawa at the downtown Westin Hotel overlooking the man-made Rideau Canal brought home the true meaning of peace.

In his opening speech, Rev. Walter Fauntroy, a retired US Congressman, brought the audience to a standing ovation when he eloquently and effectively detailed his experience with the then-apartheid government in South Africa and his first-hand experiences in the South of the USA. He not only captured the attention of those who attended the opening night dinner, but he also entertained them in a beautiful voice when he sang for peace. He concluded by saying, “Let us have weapons of mass instruction and NOT mass destruction.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., said many things that are quoted day in and day out decades after his tragic murder. In his spirit, Rev. Fauntroy said, “Mr. Say is Mr. Nothing, but Mr. Do is the man.” It confirms that striving to perform and act on issues of importance to humankind effectively and honorably speaks volumes. No proof is required. It is hypocrisy when we talk east and walk west, as Rev. Fauntroy repeated several times during the conference.

Martin Luther King also said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools!”

I confess that when I first received the invitation to attend this conference through Sister Nazrine Ali (of Ottawa), a friend and presumably a business contact of Mr. Daniel Stringer, I really did not know what to make out of it initially. However, I am glad that I accepted the invitation and attended this important Universal Peace Federation three-day event.

As a matter of fact, after attending the first full day of sessions, I was so moved, touched, and impressed that I asked my wife, Maryam, and my son, Amir-Hamza, to at least attend the evening reception and the Gala Award Dinner thereafter. They too were glad and excited to attend. They thought that the speakers were very moving and certainly touched their hearts and souls (and mine). Both my wife and son were actually committed to full-time prior engagements and obligations, so they could not attend the full schedule of the conference.

As Rev. Darryl Gray from Montreal wisely advised, “Women have to be involved in this movement of global peace.” He also humorously pointed out that religion is said to be the last realm of male dominance. However, he described the women working for peace as "very patient; they were never pushy, but they were persistent!"

Churchill was once quoted as saying that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried! No doubt we are often faced with choices to make. I say that peace tops the agenda to save the world from various open and hidden evils.

A catchy introductory phrase that certainly caught my attention was something said by Brother Imam Qamrul Khanson of Toronto when he referred to the time allotted for his inspiring speech: "I have been given 420 seconds," rather than seven minutes. This highlighted in a positive way the seven minutes given to him to explain the global peace movement with a magnified sense of appreciation expressed in hundreds of seconds. Brother Qamrul Khanson also described as a necessary fact of life something I personally concur with: Love should be maintained and fear eradicated.

Surely, we shall have no peace until we find peace in our hearts and souls. As surely as heavens and hell exist, when we die we will not take anything with us except our good or bad deeds and, yes, our faith in God, thereby leaving as our legacy the love that has impacted others.

“We are all one family under God.” This was the mission statement of this peace-promoting conference.

The loss of our son, Tareq, who was murdered at the young age of 19, left me and my family tragedy-stricken. He was murdered 17 days after the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Because of the color of his skin, my son faced a death sentence at the hands of the hateful evil. To add insult to injury, my family faced unfortunate racial profiling even during the murder trial when a prominent Ottawa defense attorney attempted to associate us with the leader of a global terrorist group by trying to link my place of birth with the place of birth of the terrorist’s family. It was an onslaught of the ill-intentioned at the most critical and weakest point in our lives!

Our son bled to death when he was stabbed in the neck by the evil hand that took away his young life along with all the life dreams that he had as an aspiring musician and poet. Yet our criminal justice system in Canada failed us at every level of the grueling three years of court proceedings.

I refer to this tragic event in order to highlight what we believe to be a heartless, rather than peace-loving, system. If the murderer, who was a university student at the time, had peace in his heart, he would not have used a broken bottle as a weapon and committed this heinous crime causing the death of another human being.

The Canadian justice system described it as a Saturday night altercation that unfortunately led to the death of a young man! It is easy for the judge to say that when he was not on the receiving end of the tragedy. The murderer was sentenced to only three years in prison, and the Canadian National Parole Board released the murderer to a half-way house and thereafter complete freedom after he spent less than eight months in prison!

We certainly need more Canadian government officials to attend UPF conferences. They may be impacted positively the way this one has impacted my family and me. It has enabled our family to support and embrace the global peace movement within the boundaries of our religious belief.

I believe that, “We come from God, and to God we return.” What better way to think about this than to promote peace, put our supporting hands on one another, and collectively join hands with Dr. Hyun Jin Moon and Dr. Chae Hee Lee in this worthy cause along with those who are involved in this global mission for peace? Just think of the powerful force that can result from this unity for peace!

To end, I wish to quote once again Dr. Martin Luther King about our education: "Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men."

Hence we must adopt the notion of one peace-loving family under God.

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