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Peace Education

Stories of Peacebuilding Told at European Conference

Bergen aan Zee, Netherlands - The story of a man from Malta who died in the Netherlands while negotiating in the aftermath of a terrorist attack was one highlight of the last European Leadership Conference of 2009. It took place at UPF-Netherlands’ Glory House conference center December 11-13.

There were intriguing elements in the story told by Hon. Stefan Buontempo, a Member of Parliament from Malta. His father, Dr. John Buontempo, had been a prominent diplomat and spent the last ten years of his life mediating between Libya and other countries after a Pan Am jet was destroyed by a terrorist bomb over the village of Lockerbie, Scotland. The death toll from the December 21, 1988 crash was 270.

For many years, Dr. Buontempo traveled the world encountering statesmen, relatives of victims, and diplomats. He served as a negotiator between Libya and relatives of those who died in the crash, mostly people who had been living in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Mediating between Africans and Europeans was a natural role for a diplomat from the island nation of Malta, a remnant of a long-submerged land bridge between Sicily and North Africa.

He attended the trial in Utrecht, Netherlands, of two Libyans accused of the bombing. A Scottish court was convened there under Scottish laws in May 2000, and the proceedings lasted 36 weeks. In June, Dr. Buontempo wrote about the need for forgiveness. Soon afterwards, he collapsed and died. He was 69 years old.

“My father’s funeral was attended by families of both the victims and the accused,” Stefan said, “and it could not have made him more pleased.”

In addition to being a physician and Ambassador from Malta to various Arab countries, Dr. Buontempo had been president of the Malta branch of the Professors World Peace Academy, an organization founded by Rev. Sun Myung Moon in 1973. Stefan commented how his father had been criticized over the years for his connection with Rev. Moon, but now there are UPF Ambassadors for Peace at high levels of Malta society.

With the memory of his father’s death still painful, the son had never planned to go to the Netherlands. But then he was invited to this European Leadership Conference on the theme of Innovative Approaches to World Peace in the 21st Century. “How wonderful it is to come here and talk about peace based on the thinking of Father Moon!” he said.

A vote had been scheduled to take place in his Parliament on the opening day of the conference in the Netherlands. Stefan insisted to his government that he needed to attend this conference, so the Prime Minister rescheduled the vote for the following Monday.

Conference Director Timothy J. Miller, Vice-Chairman of UPF Europe, gave the lectures with support from Netherlands leaders Hans Campman and Wim Koetsier and his wife Mihoko.

Participating Ambassadors for Peace talked about how they seek to integrate peacebuilding principles in their fields of endeavor. Diana Murungu, a diversity social worker originally from Zimbabwe and now working in Birmingham, England, described her experiences providing compassionate care for people at the end of life. She stressed how important it is to treat a dying person with respect, which includes understanding their religion and culture. For example, a Muslim patient had wanted to lie in bed facing Mecca but instead he was placed facing the other direction. When they moved the bed 180 degrees, she said the whole atmosphere in the room changed, and the man became very peaceful.

Other speakers gave insights into current events. Dr. Willem van Eekelen spoke about current events in China, India and Turkey. Former Ambassador and Deputy Foreign Minister and Minister of Defense for the Netherlands, he is currently working with the Netherlands Advisory Committee on European Integration. Mr. Vijay Mehta described UN peace-keeping missions and offered some thoughts about why the largest peace-keeping operations are failing. He suggested some alternatives for effective peace keeping. A London-based peace activist, he is President of the VM Centre for Peace and Chair of Action for Renewal.

To read the report by Conference Director, Timothy J. Miller, click here.

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