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December 2019
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Day of Peace Observed at Forums and Prayer Services in Germany

German

Forums, discussions, and prayer services were organized to commemorate the International Day of Peace in six German cities.

Bonn

This year’s International Day of Peace did not receive much public attention in Germany due to the crucial Federal Elections held on September 22. However, UPF-Bonn in cooperation with the Women’s Federation for World Peace organized an afternoon forum on the topic “Education for Peace.”

First, the participants were introduced to the history of International Day of Peace and heard UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for the day. Then, Francesco Conidi, M.A. Phil. and board member of UPF, gave a thought-provoking talk on the principles of education for peace. Several times he referred to the great philosopher Immanuel Kant. One of his quotes reads: “Human beings can become human only through education.” Conidi addressed the most important elements of education. He agreed with the statement of Pestalozzi, the Swiss pedagogue and educational reformer: “You must love people if you want to change them.” Conidi also touched on UPF’s Five Principles of Peace and emphasized that we all have our personal responsibility for peace. We cannot delegate peace. There is no one who can do your part. Learning to love in one’s family and living for the sake of others are vital elements of a peaceful society and a peaceful world. Forgiveness and reconciliation are vital for the solution of existing conflicts.

Thirdly, three representatives from the “Vacation from War” campaign gave first hand information from their practical work with young adults and children from hostile and warring societies and nations – particularly from the Balkans and from Israel and Palestine. Those young people are given the chance – away from their everyday environment – to share their personal hurt and grievances and to get to know “their enemies.” The latest project had just been concluded near Bonn, where 140 young people from the Middle East had been together for two very intense weeks. The audience was really captured by the profound presentations from Barbara Esser, Rose Kasabre-Bauer, and Muhammad Khaskeia and asked many questions and gave comments.

Additionally, a video showed how participants of a previous “vacation” dealt with their feelings and prejudices and really changed their attitude step by step - even a young lady whose father was killed by soldiers from the other side.

The following question and answer session was very lively. Discussions went on for a long time. Brochures and books were available for purchase and many participants donated to the noble cause of “Vacation from War.”

 Reported by Gregor Sattler

Dusseldorf

“Education for Peace” was the theme of an International Day of Peace celebration in the German city of Düsseldorf on September 21. This event came about through the joint efforts of the Universal Peace Federation of Germany and the International MIHR Foundation.

After a musical performance by Heidi Wakayama, Ambassador for Peace Petra Heuwind-Saidy welcomed the approximately 70 guests, expressing that only love can lead to permanent peace.

UPF-Düsseldorf Chairman Sergio Brina gave an introduction to UPF and its activities worldwide. He especially commended the proposal of UPF Founder Dr. Sun Myung Moon to establish a chamber in the United Nations, complementing the General Assembly, which would represent the world’s religions.

Ali Alinc, chairman of the International MIHR Foundation Berlin, explained that the founder of the foundation, Imam Iskender Ali Mihr, is committed to peace and supports intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. The final goal of every person is to achieve happiness, Mr. Alinc said, and one of the main missions of the International MIHR Foundation is helping people to attain this goal.

After a coffee break and another musical performance by Mrs. Wakayama, Mr. Alinc gave a second talk, comparing verses from the Koran, the Bible, and the Torah about finding the way to peace through love.

Ulrich Tuente of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification of Germany spoke on “Education for Peace - a Tightrope Walk.” He outlined approaches to creating peace throughout history, and referred to Dr. Moon’s teaching that lasting peace can be accomplished only when we connect with God.

A music video from the 1970s was played, showing the pop singer Yusuf (formerly known as Cat Stevens) singing “Peace Train.” It was pointed out that this song has a great message: The peace train keeps moving forward and every person can jump on it.

A group of schoolchildren tutored by Sarah Brina, Esther Brina, and Mansu Noguchi, students at Cologne University, presented a handmade collage whose theme was also peace.

Mr. Alinc showed a video about a UPF-organized conference that took place in the United States in which Imam Iskender Ali Mihr praised Dr. Moon’s efforts to achieve world peace.

UPF-Düsseldorf Representative Anja Brina closed the event by inviting the guests to continue the conversation over refreshments.

Frankfurt

Sixteen guests, among them many active members of the Muslim congregation of Wiesbaden and the head of the Islamic community in Griessheim, Frankfurt, joined some ten people affiliated with UPF at the premises of UPF in Frankfurt. The subject of the International Day of Peace symposium was: “The Arab Spring – how do we continue on from here?”

Following a piece of musical entertainment, Thea Kuenzig, head of the Youth-UPF Frankfurt, presented an overview of “The Five Principles of Peace,” explaining some of the activities of UPF International with a focus on the Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI). The short but moving youtube video, “Sun Myung Moon unites Abrahamic Religions,” led to the topic of the next speaker.

Dr. Marco Frenschkowski, Professor of Protestant Theology and Comparative Religions at the University of Leipzig, shared his impressions during the three pilgrimages to Israel and Palestine which he attended over the past years. He was especially impressed by the “Bereaved Parents Association,” which provides an opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians alike to share their experiences of having lost a child or close relative in the conflict and working jointly for peace. The UPF, in the words of Prof. Frenschkowski, is the one organization that brings together people from all walks of life. He wished more of his colleagues at the university could profit from the intercultural and interreligious dialogue provided by UPF.

After another piece of music, Hamid Faruqui, an architect from Afghanistan and UPF Ambassador for Peace, talked on the subject: “Afghanistan on the road towards democracy – the first free election after 11 years of war.” Faruqui began with an overview of the history of his country, which originally was much larger than today and consists of quite many ethnic groups. Unfortunately the foreign powers involved in Afghanistan today, namely the USA and NATO, were not able to defeat the radical Taliban forces. It remains unclear if the election planned for March 2014 can go ahead successfully, since people in certain areas of the country are reluctant to approach a polling station out of fear of reprisals. This causes the future of the country to be rather uncertain. On a positive note, he mentioned a change of mindset among the young people towards the involvement of women in public life and a better acceptance of democracy. Nevertheless, as long as violence reigns in the streets of major cities, he believes that real development is nearly impossible.

Dr. Tareq Ali, physician and coordinator of the Islamic communities of Wiesbaden, gave a short overview on the beginnings of the Arab Spring. It all started when the Tunisian student and vegetable salesman Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of the police station in December 2010. Young people then went to the streets, not only in Tunisia but other nations, aided by modern communication technology such as the Internet and mobile phones. In Egypt this uprising made free and democratic elections possible for the first time in modern history, in which Mohammed Mursi from the Muslim Brotherhood was elected president. Abdelfatah As-Sisi, the army chief who ironically was appointed to this top position by Mursi, then led an alliance to depose President Mursi, which led to the present turmoil. Supported not just by the army but by the police, a compliant media, and a partisan justice system (the four powers) As-Sisi succeeded in installing a new government. It is unclear how the situation of Egypt will develop from here on. The split between supporters and opponents of these measures runs right through the entire society of Egypt.

In their final words the four speakers sounded cautious hopes for the future. Prof. Frenschkowski stated that despite all adversities, development inevitably takes the direction of more democracy and a better achievement of human rights in all parts of the world. Hamid Faruqui saw the greatest hope for Afghanistan in its youth, and Dr. Ali conceded that any future government in Egypt must take better care of religious and social minorities in order to make everybody feel that he/she is part of the nation first.

Reported by Fritz Piepenburg

Hamburg

On the occasion of the UN International Day of Peace UPF-Hamburg held a meeting of Ambassadors for Peace to discuss the possibilities of peacebuilding activities in Hamburg. Among the nine people present were representatives of five global organizations: the Unitarians, the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star, Church of Scientology, the Universal Peace Federation, and the Women’s Federation for World Peace. Some Ambassadors for Peace had brought their wives along. After a short presentation of peace principles and the issue of conflicts along cultural/religious borders, participants started to examine local possibilities to help people live together as a family. Projects such as creating opportunities for people to reconcile while Handel's “Music for the Royal Fireworks” (Aachener Frieden) is played, the issues of interfaith promotion, family strengthening, and humanitarian service were discussed. Ultimately, a common point of agreement was that understanding and respect for people of different cultural backgrounds and religious views is of great importance at this time.

Reported by Ulrich Ganz

Munich

On the UN International Day of Peace, the Munich community of UPF organized an interreligious prayer breakfast and a prayer for peace for the terribly shaken nation of Syria. An enthusiastic group of about 25 representatives of six religious traditions came together, from the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches, the international Sufi Order, the Russian Orthodox Church, Scientology, and the Unification Movement.

After an introduction to this year's observance under the theme "Education for Peace," the message of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was read and a short video of the UN "Peace Bell Ceremony" in 2012 was shown. As a federation with consultative status at the UN, UPF supports wholeheartedly the quest for the lofty goal of world peace, which requires worldwide efforts and forbearance.

The Roman Catholic theologian Gottfried Hutter led everyone in a chorus for peace and then spoke about the reconciliation work of Jacob and his love towards his brother Esau as recorded in the book of Genesis, suggesting that these efforts may serve as the best method for building peace in Israel/Palestine and the whole Middle East. His contribution was very well received and led to much exchange of ideas.

Dr. Alfred Wellenhofer, a Unificationist, spoke about the meaning and the power of prayer and that it should never be underestimated. Through praying one can bring down heaven and the good spiritual world and usher in God’s world, he said. He reminded the audience on Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s words: “Without a life of constant prayer you cannot realize the will of God.”

Before the prayers for peace in Syria, Wolf Osterheld sang "What a wonderful world." Then the MC introduced the nation of Syria, its religious and ethnic diversity, and its present painful situation with so many fatalities. Prayers were offered from the Sufi, Christian, and Unification traditions. Everybody felt confident that these prayers reached heaven and will have a meaningful effect.

Stuttgart

UPF-Stuttgart, together with the Stuttgart "House of Religion" and the local branch of the Women’s Federation for World Peace, organized a prayer for peace in their center on September 21. About 30 people gathered to pray for peace in Syria.

After introductory greetings, Hubert Arnoldi, leader of UPF-Stuttgart opened the event by reading the "100-day Countdown Message" given by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on June 13, 100 days before the International Day of Peace.

Ute Lemme, leader of the Women’s Federation for World Peace in Stuttgart, gave a short explanation of the situation in Syria. She began by describing the peaceful demonstrations in March 2011, the escalation of violence to the point of a ruthless civil war, and the use of chemical weapons. She expressed confidence in the power of prayer.

To set the atmosphere for prayer, Dr. Christoph Fröhner played two J. S. Bach compositions on the flute. This was followed by representative prayers and thoughts about peace voiced by representatives of five different religions: Margret Bellomo, a Catholic; Lutz Leverentz and Volker Steinlein, Christian Science; Dr. Manfred Schick, a Scientologist; Raziye Nisli, a Muslim form the MIHR Foundation; and Hubert Arnoldi of UPF. After each one prayed, he or she lit a candle on the stage.

Patricia Wenzel, leader of the Unification Movement in Stuttgart, then distributed white candles, which were lit one after another. All the participants, holding lighted candles, joined together in deep, silent prayer to the accompaniment of gentle music, concluding with the moving song, "Shalom, Gottes Friede für die Welt."

Hubert Arnoldi ended this commemorative prayer with a word of gratitude to the participants. After a group photograph under the UPF banner, lively discussion over refreshments brought the event to a close.

Reported by Ute Lemme

International Day of Peace 2013 from Universal Peace Federation International

 

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