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August 2020
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Peace Education

Promoting Universal Values in Paris

To honor the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), UPF-France organized a dinner at the restaurant of UNESCO, hosted by one delegation. To celebrate the universal values common to our religions, it organized an interreligious colloquium at the Great Mosque of Paris. To celebrate family values and "One Family under God," it organized an event in a major hotel in Paris.

UNESCO meeting

H.E. Mrs. Yao Yao, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Cote d’Ivoire to UNESCO, warmly welcomed the delegation at the ground floor of the UNESCO headquarters on the evening of September 5, 2007. She guided participants to the seventh floor of the building, where a panoramic restaurant is located. As night was falling, the Eiffel Tower became illuminated.

The cocktail hour was followed by a brief speech by Mrs. Yao Yao. She and two other ladies who had attended the International Leadership Conference in Seoul two months earlier organized the event and briefed newcomers about the UPF. Approximately 20 ambassadors attended the event, as well as various diplomats and activists. Dinner was served, and two NGO leaders gave presentations about their activities.

Mrs. Patricia Lalonde conducts educational programs in Afghanistan with Mewa; their work relates to the second Millennium Development Goal (MDG), which is to provide universal primary education. Moreover, she invited 30 Afghan women parliamentarians to visit Paris in 2006 and receive training in democracy. This work promotes gender equity (MDG #3) and global partnership (MDG #8).

Her speech was followed by a brief presentation about Athletes of the World, an NGO headed by Jean Galfione. The Olympic champion pole-vaulter and his assistant Mr. Trouve explained how sports can help children in post-conflict nations make a new start, especially if they had been soldiers for years. Stressing the importance of virtues and self-esteem, Galfione and Trouve gave a PowerPoint presentation and displayed their books. Since their NGO works mostly in African nations, the African diplomats were very pleased to listen to their presentation.

Dr. Thomas G. Walsh, Secretary General of UPF, then took the floor. The audience was extremely receptive to his description of UPF’s “7 recommendations" related to the MDGs. Stressing that beyond economic, social, and political development (which is horizontal and external) there is a vertical and internal dimension of development (which includes virtues, character education, and so forth), he proposed some action steps which were actually simple and very practical. He received a very warm round of applause.

Meeting at the Grand Mosque

A colloquium held at the restaurant of the Grande Mosque of Paris was attended by around 60 people. The topic for discussion was "Spirituality and human development."

In a very articulate speech, Rabbi Joseph Abittan, Director of the Monotheistic Religions Council in the South of France, expounded on the relationship between God and man: "Why did God create human beings? Why would an absolute being such as God create man, when He already had the angels? The reason is that He wanted to have a partner, and a partner who is given free will and responsibility." Rabbi Abittan spoke about the risk that God took upon creating such a partner, and he showed that man can develop only through a covenant with God’s will where free-will goes hand in hand with loyalty and obedience. In a desire to embrace other faiths warmly, Rabbi Abittan also quoted the Qur’an several times in Arabic.

He was followed by H.E. Pierre Lafrance, former Ambassador of France to Pakistan, speaking on behalf of Christianity: "Let me talk briefly about the difference between belief and faith. Belief in dogmas or rituals is different from the attitude of faith. In order for people to grow spiritually, faith is the most important criterion. Our faith is expressed in certain dogmatic attitudes, which tend to be exclusive and peremptory. That is where religions can become pitted against one another. But if we are motivated by a true faith and a genuine spirituality, we cannot but acknowledge the value of other traditions. I do believe that Christians like me can learn a lot from Buddhism, from Judaism, and from Islam." He also quoted the Qur’an in Arabic several times.

Finally, Dr. Mohamed Mestiri, Director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, expressed his views: "Today, we talk about spirituality. Well, we don’t really share our spirituality so often, and it is good news that we are doing it here at this moment. Spirituality is something intimate and personal. But many people are confused about the difference between spirituality and institutionalized religion. Nowadays, religion is being used and manipulated to defend one’s identity, which is a deviation. In Islam, the soul is to be elevated gradually from a simple belief to a higher form of mystical encounter with the divine. We definitely have to favor and encourage this sense of elevation."

Dr. Hyun Jin Moon, c-chair of UPF, listened attentively and in a impromptu response, he referred to God’s original dream as expressed in the book of Genesis. Afterwards, all participants were invited to go to the Marriott Hotel.

Event at the Marriott Hotel

Many associations who were co-sponsoring the festival set up exhibits in the main hall, and at 6:30 PM, the hall was almost filled with about 500 people. Several NGO leaders came to the podium and introduced their organizations. This was followed by musical performances and by three speeches: Dr. Juan Federer, itinerary ambassador of Timor, expounded his views on universal values common to all religions; Rabbi Abittan spoke on "the family as the school of love"; and Mr. Chamsamone Voravong gave a few guidelines on the notion of co-development.

Dr. Thomas Walsh then presented the goals of the UPF. Dr Hyun Jin Moon gave a ten-minute speech where he explained his favorite topics: God’s original dream, living for the sake of others, making successful families, and creating one family under God.

Referring to the French tradition of being rather rationalist and skeptical, he said, "I believe that the French people can embrace this message and take the lead, and seeing your bright faces tonight and your warm response, I can confidently say: ‘je suis un Parisien!’" The evening ended with dances and songs.

 

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