Melting Hearts at European Leadership Conferences
Written by Christopher Davies
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
European Leadership Conferences (ELC), subtitled "Leadership and Good Governance - Innovative Approaches to World Peace," are held most months, to give a substantial introduction to the principles and activities of the Universal Peace Federation to UPF-Europe contacts and Ambassadors for Peace. Most ELCs are held in the Netherlands, at UPF-NL’s conference center, Glory House, in the picturesque North Sea resort Bergen aan Zee, some 40 miles northwest of Amsterdam. Glory House is also a commercial hotel, and during the holiday season, conferences are held in other European countries.
Guests arrive for the weekend conferences on Friday morning and after lunch are treated to presentations of “UPF’s Founding Principles” under the headings of “Humanity - One Family under God,” “Living for the Sake of Others,” “The Spiritual and Moral Dimension,” and “The Family as the School of Love and Peace.” After dinner, under the heading “Principles into Practice,” they usually see a video about the Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI) and hear a personal account from an Ambassador for Peace who has attended one or more MEPI trips.
On Saturday, many of the participants take part in an early morning “meditation,” usually a reading of a spiritual text followed by reflection, and after breakfast the UPF presentations continue with “The Roots of Conflict” and “Conflict Resolution – The Path to Peace and Cooperation.”
Saturday afternoon includes time for a walk to the beach or in the woods, followed by a “mini conference” with talks by two invited speakers, usually Dutch Ambassadors for Peace, on topics of substantial relevance to Europe today, including development of the European Union, Europe’s influence further afield, and the challenge of achieving intercultural cooperation in an era of increasing migration.
The Saturday cultural evening includes performances by many of the guests and artists invited by UPF. By way of example, the December cultural evening included British folk songs, a poem about peace and a self-penned traditional fado song from Portugal, Indian taxi driver jokes from and a participatory Bollywood dance/workout led by a magistrate (local judge) from England, two Ukrainian folk songs and piano music composed by Sergei Prokofiev; Buddhist chanting by a Thai monk from Stockholm, Latin American songs, the Beatles’ “Penny Lane,” Austrian lieder, and a gospel sequence from Surinam Dutch Ambassador for Peace Marlene Waal – plus the host nation’s famous song “Amsterdamse Grachten” (Amsterdam’s canals).
The Sunday morning program includes “A Life for World Peace: The life and work of UPF’s Founder, Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon.” Throughout the weekend there is plenty of time for participants to ask questions and share their experiences, opinions, and feelings. After lunch, those whose travel arrangements permit it can participate in sightseeing excursions to traditional Dutch windmills, canals and tulip fields and/or Amsterdam and its museums.
Glory House was built by a rich tea importer around 1920 and is now a national monument visited by students of architecture and also by older people who were treated to free holidays when it hosted poor inner city children who needed “building up.” It was occupied by the Germans during World War II and has now been completely renovated to the highest standards. The hotel providing bed & breakfast and self-catering apartments means minimal staff, and the conferences are staffed by volunteers, mostly teenage children of UPF members, which greatly impresses participants and adds to the very real sense of family. Ermin Gacanovic, a government prosecutor from Bosnia, later emailed: “I am now back in the office; it’s really a world opposite to what we experienced over the weekend. It was my pleasure to spend time talking about a better world."
Visiting speakers include leading Dutch diplomats/foreign ambassadors, politicians and statesmen. The March ELC was addressed on Friday evening by Dutch aristocrat Jhr. Dr. Pieter Beelaerts van Blokland, active in many areas of public life, formerly a Queen’s Provincial Commissioner who, when he was Dutch government Minister of Housing, directly helped peacemaking efforts in Northern Ireland. Dr. Willem van Eekelen, a former ambassador, government minister, secretary general of the Western European Union, and President of the European Movement in the Netherlands, testified that he had appreciated his two MEPI experiences “enormously, it was a perfect program, we met people from all sides and all levels and areas of society, full marks to MEPI” while giving a Saturday talk on “Security and Development as Conditions for Peace." His fellow speaker was Dr. Meine Pieter van Dijk, an economist and professor of Water Services Management at UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education.
Just the week before, Dr. Beelaerts and Dr. van Eekelen had attended a UPF gathering in Barcelona, Spain, together with Imam Abdullah Haselhoef, a prominent Muslim with a Jewish mother, who sprang to national prominence for his conciliatory efforts post 9/11. The substantial support of UPF activities by these and other Ambassadors for Peace, often at some inconvenience and short notice—as Dr. Beelaerts himself explained at a recent meeting for Dutch AFPs—says more than words for their serious commitment.
Other recent speakers include Dr. J. W. Bertens, vice-chairman of the Dutch National Committee for International Cooperation and Sustainable Development, on “Good Governance,” and A. S. Abdul Santoe, European Coordinator of the Ahmadiyya Lahore Movement, on “Tolerance in Islam."
While the participants are mostly residing in Europe, many originate from other continents and represent every class and color, age and activity, religion and nationality. In recently thanking UPF-NL members for their efforts, UPF-Europe Vice Chairman and main lecturer at most ELCs Tim Miller recently asserted, “I can say without a doubt that all participants have a very deep experience and can directly taste the spirit of UPF and UPF Founders Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon. The melting of their hearts is in no small part due to the wonderful hospitality that is offered by Glory House, with its good food, warm and generous service, beautiful surroundings, and comfortable accommodation. The luxury might be surpassed by a five-star hotel, but not the sense of warm embrace. The talent that is supplied for the Cultural Evening and the very distinguished speakers you regularly bring add a special additional dimension."
Following him, UPF-NL Secretary General Wim Koetsier reported, “The fourth ELC this winter was the best and most joyful. People also shed tears as they went away; they felt God’s Spirit and true love, not just because of us, but because of God and all the investment in The Netherlands since we first acquired Glory House. It is a privilege for us to be able to serve Europe.”
April to August will see ELCs in Budapest, Hungary, twice; Paris, France; Bad Homburg, Germany; and Langesund Bad, Norway, with September in Glory House, Netherlands, October in Spain and then winter ELCs in Glory House again.
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