CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Diplomats Gain Insights about Leadership in Washington DC
Written by Michael Balcomb
Sunday, June 3, 2007
One hundred and fifty ambassadors, counselors, and other members of the diplomatic corps from the United Nations and Washington, DC, joined the Universal Peace Federation and The Washington Times Foundation's International Leadership Conference (ILC) at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York the first weekend in June 2007.
The ILC, the third in a recent series, was entitled "The Need for Vision and Leadership in Time of Crisis." It began with a brief overview of the core principles of the UPF and a look at some of the key priorities, including the Middle East Peace Initiative and the ongoing work to establish an Interreligious Council at the United Nations.
Speakers at the dinner banquet focused on the theme of an improved partnership between religion and diplomacy. As ILC co-chair Phillip Sanchez, former US Ambassador to Colombia and Honduras, explained to the delegates, "So what is our objective, our vision?
It is nothing less than world peace. Living for the sake of others sounds so simple, almost too simple. But think about it. If every person in the world was raised with that ethic, we would have a world of peace, a better tomorrow where men and women have learned to live and love in friendship."
The invocation was given by Imam Omar Namous of the 91st Street Islamic Cultural Center, incidentally the closest mosque to the United Nations and a place of worship for many of those in UN missions. "We have been treated to many wise, youthful and beautiful things. But the honor belongs to God, to Allah, in the name of all of us here," he said.
Chief Imam Sheikh Assane Cisse, President of the African-American Islamic Institute of Senegal and a member of the UPF Presiding Council, commented, "Through these leadership seminars, the UPF is hoping to make a real contribution to solving the problems of the world. I was particularly pleased to hear this afternoon about the importance of women in making peace. As the Prophet taught us, the most important contribution that women can make is not based on money or beauty, but through emotional and spiritual values. Women of faith can teach us all that when we learn to give, we are learning how to bring peace."
The keynote address was given by the Chairman of the Washington Times Foundation, Dr. Hyun Jin Moon, who began by thanking the United Nations for freeing his father and for bringing peace to his home country of Korea. "We Koreans love the United Nations," he said, "especially our beloved Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon."
He stated that when most people think of what "interfaith" means, they tend to imagine a gathering of people from all faiths celebrating their diversity – in essence, their different practices, their different customs and costumes, etc.
But more important, he stated that interfaith should be an affirmation of our oneness as sons and daughters of God. Interfaith should uplift the universal principles that guide the lives of all God-affirming people.
On Sunday morning, a lively discussion took place on the theme of religion, culture, diplomacy and peace. The first to speak, Mr. Dinesh D'Souza of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, USA, shared some of the ideas in his controversial new book, The Enemy at Home.
"Many people argue that religion is to blame for many problems of the world," he said. "People say the conflict in Iraq is between two types of fundamentalism, Christian and Muslim. If religion is the enemy, they say, then the banishment of religion from the public square is the solution.
"But I disagree. These conflicts are not about religion or between religions.
There is not in fact a clash of civilizations between the West and the non-West. The division is rather between belief and non-belief, between those who believe that there are absolute, external moral values, on the one side, and those who believe that source of all moral values is merely defined by the individual.
"However, any society where religion is confined only to the private sphere will not be able to tackle these issues. That is why our work is so important."
Dr. Douglas Johnston, author of Faith-Based Diplomacy, was next to speak. "It is supremely ironic that America, one of the most religious countries on the planet is so unable to grapple with the impact that religious divisions are causing in our world," he said. "One reason is that we have insisted on separation of church and state. But with the specter of religious extremists and nuclear proliferation, the need for a new solution is urgent."
Johnston's Center for Religion and Diplomacy has been practicing faith-based diplomacy in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere. One of the priorities has been helping to reform the religious schools, the madrasas. "We are reminding these young people that Islam has a great tradition in the arts, culture, and sciences, and we are working to expand the curriculum, including the sciences, the social sciences, and critical thinking," said Johnston. "This goes to the heart of the global war on terror."
For examples of PowerPoint presentations given at International Leadership Conferences, click here.
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Toronto, Canada—Imam Qamrul Khanson spoke on “Ideal World for God and Humankind” at UPF-Canada, Central District’s monthly meeting.
Sydney, Australia—Representatives of four religions spoke on “Religions as Peacebuilders” at the latest Ambassadors for Peace meeting.
Linz, Austria—The Peace Academy of Linz and UPF of Upper Austria hosted three events on the theme: What connects the religions of the world?