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International Day of Peace Celebrated in New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand - UPF-New Zealand’s commemoration of the UN Day of Peace on Sept. 14, 2014, was another step up in precision and professionalism, generating a common heartfelt impact on a room full of diverse citizens. The UN theme, “The right of peoples to peace,” resonated from start to finish with speakers and performers linked seamlessly in a multi-faceted reflection of the universal human longing for that which surpasses all understanding. Proceedings began with 12 representatives of major religions offering prayers and pouring water into a central bowl to symbolize the common thirst for peace found in the scriptures of all the world’s faiths.

UPF’s Gerald Trass emceed the two-hour program through a well-choreographed mix of delightful entertainment and serious reflective messages from a series of brief but dynamic speakers. Mr. Geoffrey Fyers (secretary of UPF-New Zealand) back-grounded the history of the United Nations declaration of this observance. Mr. Shale Chambers, representing the local government of Auckland as chairman of Waitemata Local Board, spoke of the proud efforts the city has made in the cause of peace, proclaiming Auckland a city of peace on Dec. 15, 2011 as part of the mayoral vision of becoming the world’s most liveable city.

The Maori king, Tuheitia, sent his official spokesperson, Tukuroirangi Morgan, to recount the Kingitanga’s historical quest for peace in the face of a colonial government intent on facilitating settlement of Britain’s south sea acquisition. This was to be at the expense of indigenous concerns over land and loss of culture. A clash that brought British troops from India and other outposts to a war resulted in the confiscation of 1.2 million acres of the most fertile land on the island. The same government expected young men, a generation or two later, to fight for King and Empire in the Great War. Citing her grandfather’s immortal words of burying his patu (war club) in the ground as a gesture of peace, intended as a legacy for all future descendants not to take up arms ever again, ‘Princess’ Te Puea forbade her young men to enlist. The right to peace involves access to resources as well as respect for freedom of religion, culture and political structure. Mr. Morgan expressed satisfaction that Tainui, the main tribe of the Kingitanga, were making very good progress after their Treaty of Waitangi settlement with the New Zealand government, and their compensation payout had multiplied to over one billion dollars in assets, a result that profoundly impacts the lives of Waikato iwi.

Entertainment was particularly delightful at this International Day of Peace celebration as two groups of children performed: firstly, a crisp and faultless martial arts routine (from Tongil Moo Do Unified Martial Arts) and then from a small troop of Chinese traditional dancers of Parnell District School (The Macang Dancers). The young people’s presentations were complimented by a Filipino trio singing ‘My Prayer’ and “You Raise Me Up,” plus Jeffery Nathan and son sharing rousing sing-along tunes.

A 40-member choir of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also gave a powerful and soul-moving performance while singing on their seats. Rev Julius Gicole, the UPF director, summed up the meaning and purpose of the day with a passionate exposition of UPF’s principles. This provided a suitable context for the awarding of Ambassador for Peace certificates to ten Aucklanders.

These presentations were crowned with a lovely rendition of the Global Peace Festival song, “Where Peace Begins,” by Joongi Kim and Shim Gicole. This stirring song was repeated by the whole gathering once the Peace Walk from Jubilee Hall to the front of the Auckland War Memorial Museum was completed and balloons inscribed with peace messages were liberated into the evening sky. The event was concluded with tributes to all organisers and participants from Mrs. Felicity Cairns, president of the Women’s Federation for World Peace, co-sponsors with UPF and the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification of the UN International Day of Peace 2014.

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