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In peace sons bury fathers, but war violates the order of nature, and fathers bury sons.
|Conference in Moscow on Peace and Security in Multicultural Societies|
|By Vladimir Petrovsky, Researcher, Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Oriental Studies|
|Saturday, April 07, 2012|
A UPF conference in Moscow April 6-7 commemorated the visit by UPF Founders Dr. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon to Russia in 1990, when they met with President Mikhail Gorbachev.
A joint program of UPF-Eurasia and UPF-Europe, the conference was entitled “Russia – Europe Dialogue: Peace and Security in Multicultural Societies at a time of Global Crisis.” The theme of multiculturalism has caused intense debate throughout Europe and Eurasia; this was an opportunity for UPF to initiate a dialogue between Russia and European nations. The conference was attended by public figures, academics, and UPF Ambassadors for Peace and volunteers from 23 nations.
Senator Aslambek Aslakhanov, Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs at the Federation Council of Russia (Senate), sent greetings to the participants, wishing them fruitful discussions that could strengthen the friendship between Russia and European nations.
The conference began with a video introducing the activities of UPF-Eurasia in 2011. Then a song offering was performed by a young student contestant for the upcoming Mr. and Miss University Beauty Pageant, held yearly in Moscow with the support of UPF. Moderated by Jacques Marion, UPF-Eurasia Secretary General, the introductory session began with greetings from representatives of UPF chapters in Eurasia and Europe.
Dr. Oleg Mironov, former Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation and head of the UPF Peace Council in Russia, welcomed participants and shared about the multicultural experience of Russia and the Soviet Union. He emphasized that inter-ethnic harmony cannot be imposed from the top but must rise from within people’s minds, from adherence to common values.
Dr. Yong Cheon Song, Regional Chair of UPF-Europe, warmly greeted participants, conveyed his gratitude for the invitation to Russia, and in turn invited participants to the Europe-Russia conference to be held in Vienna, Austria, later this year.
He was followed by Dr. Willem Van Eekelen, former Minister of Defense of the Netherlands. As representative guest speaker from Europe, he offered greetings and brief remarks on the challenge of multiculturalism, speaking from his long experience of leadership in his country and the European Union.
Finally Mr. Eiji Tokuno, Regional Chair of UPF-Eurasia, concluded with a keynote address. He pointed out three crucial signs of global crisis: the breakdown of family affecting the stability of society, the high rate of suicide revealing a lack of values and meaning in life, and the inability of the UN to prevent conflicts in the world. In conclusion, he said it was UPF’s mission to address these challenges and bring fundamental solutions to the global crisis.
Session 1: Peace and Security in Multicultural Societies at a Time of Global Crisis
The first panel speakers represented the Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine, and included the President of UPF International, Dr. Thomas Walsh from the United States.
Dr. Willem Van Eekelen, former minister of Defense of the Netherlands, spoke about conditions for security in democratic societies: good governance, accountability and transparency, respect for human rights, “zero tolerance for discrimination”. He said “Put governments before their responsibility towards their own people, before we talk of military intervention. In the end naming and shaming might be more effective in promoting mutual understanding and common values. And I encourage UPF to lead us in that direction.”
Dr. Stanislav Nikolaenko, former minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, introduced a vision of the “noosphere society,” where humankind’s current state of division and conflicts will be transcended by raising the human mind, through a process of intercultural communication and education. “Through the purification of humanity and a path of complete education, the noosphere society will allow us to enter into contact with other cosmic worlds,” he said.
Dr. Thomas Walsh, President of UPF, analyzed the concepts of peace, security and multiculturalism and noted their expanded meaning today: greater focus on human security; more inclusive meaning of peace-building, etc. He pointed to the challenge which multiculturalism can present to peace and the need for shared national values. “A family system, he concluded, that engenders respect for the role of the state and rule of law, on the one hand, and respect for the legitimate rights of other sub-cultures that inhabit the same state, is an essential component of peace and security in multicultural societies.”
Mr. Sergei Kuchinsky, Chairman of the Assembly of the Peoples of Russia, spoke about Russia’s 182 ethnic communities and 240 languages and dialects. Founded in 1998 to implement Russia’s state policy for nationalities, the organization has carried out projects for development and dialogue among nationalities: the Congress of Russian Peoples, the House of Nationalities, etc. He explained about their priorities of working with federal and local authorities, improving the status of nationalities, and creating an ”All Russian identity” to preserve spiritual and cultural unity in the post-Soviet world.
Session 2: Peace and Security in Multicultural Societies: Russian and European Approaches
The two afternoon sessions, chaired by Dr. Vladimir Petrovsky, Doctor of political sciences and member of the Academy of Military Sciences, continued the discussion with a focus on national approaches to multiculturalism in Europe and Eurasia.
Mrs. Zoya Krot, Regional Chair of the Belarus Peace Fund, described the role of the Fund, one of the largest government-related grassroots organizations in Belarus, in promoting interethnic harmony and social peace in that country rich with 140 different ethnic groups. The fund works with local NGOs, promotes patriotism, and keeps alive the memory of World War II’s enormous sacrifices (a great percentage of the population of Belarus was killed) through various commemorations and educational programs.
Dr. Michael Platzer, Director of the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) in Vienna, introduced the integration policy of the Austrian government. He described a 20 point program for integration, from strengthening the participation in the education system, learning the German language, promoting employment for migrant women, to intercultural dialogue, sports activities, teaching integration skills, etc. He also described various NGO initiatives dealing with the cultural diversity in Austria.
Dr. Saifullo Safarov, Deputy Director of the Center for Strategic Research under the President of Tajikistan, spoke about the need for regional integration in Central Asia and the benefit Afghanistan would gain from it, as well as the whole region. But only through solving the problem of inter-ethnic relations could Afghanistan start solving other problems. A dialogue among ethnic groups should be initiated by qualified politicians in a neutral country with the support of the world community. “I think," he added, "that the Universal Peace Federation could play an essential role here.”
Mr. Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian Parliament member and a well-known actor, spoke about the project “two languages – one prayer” in Georgia for the sake of developing dialogue between Russia and Georgia. Even though diplomatic relations between Russia and Georgia are now broken, he said, he was proud that the Russian government and the Russian president last year awarded representatives of Georgia with government medals. The time will come, he said, when we will find our way to love people of other nationalities. The world needs a strong Russia in order to feel secure.
Dr. Marcel de Haas, a war analyst and senior research associate at the Clingendael Institute of International Relations in the Netherlands, reviewed in fluent Russian the opportunities for military cooperation between the EU and Russia and between NATO and Russia. He recommended that both sides should “consider the sensitivities of the other side and take each other seriously” and “cooperate from bottom to top,” encouraging student and military exchanges to promote trust.
Mrs. Olga Meshkova, Secretary of the NGO Council in Kondopoga, Russia, shared her experience in interethnic integration as a local government official. In 2006, her city experienced a week of ethnic riots that shook the nation, shedding light on the deficient status of migrants from the Caucasus in Russia. Working under the chair of the Legislative Assembly of the Karelian Republic, Mrs. Meshkova has played a key role in building conditions for interethnic harmony in her city in recent years.
Ambassador Nicolae Tau, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Moldova, discussed the pluralistic nature of societies in Europe and the former communist world. He analyzed multiculturalism from the perspective of culture, religion, and democracy, emphasizing the need for objective scholarly approaches to majority and minority views. “In western democracies," he said, "it is easier to define the 'other' on a religious or cultural rather than ideological basis; in post-communist societies the dominant 'other' is still related to the previous experience of communist rule.”
Ambassador Robert Vandemeulebroucke, Honorary Ambassador at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, concluded the day with a reflection on the current challenges of interethnic relations in Western Europe. He noted that last year’s terrorist act in Norway took place in one of the most progressive and integrated multicultural societies in Europe. He warned that terrorism is often caused by individuals under the influence of hate ideologies and that governments should not give in to public pressure to discriminate against minorities.
Session 3: Education as a Factor of Peace in Multicultural Societies
On the second day of the conference, the first session dealt with the theme of “Education as a Factor of Peace in Multicultural Societies.” The moderator, UPF-Austria Secretary General Peter Haider, first read a letter from Dr. Walter Schwimmer, former Secretary General of the Council of Europe, addressed to Senator Aslakhanov and conference participants; the letter expressed his regret for not attending, and his support for the conference.
Dr. Walter Schwimmer wrote: “There is no Russia without Europe, no Europe without Russia… After so many bloody conflicts and atrocities that culminated in the historic tragedy of the World War II, Europe remembered not only its cultural identity but found also its political identity in the spiritual and moral values which are also the common heritage of the peoples of Europe: pluralistic democracy, rule of law, individual freedom, political liberty, and the respect for human rights. To respect this diversity is the key to stability, security, and peace in Europe, not only at the international level.… To achieve unity in diversity, Europe needs Russia, and Russia needs Europe. Russia is an indispensable part of Europe."
Dr. Walter Baar, a specialist in demographics, founder and director of the Institute for Trends Research in Austria, observed that low birth rates are causing the European population to decrease substantially, making migration inevitable. “Europe as a whole," he concluded, "faces the question of multiculturalism versus integration.... Policy makers worldwide will focus on how to make it easier for young adults in their best biological years to found a family.”
Professor Nataliya Semenova, associate professor at the People’s Friendship University of Russia, addressed the three aspects of the global crisis raised during the opening plenary. Challenging the criticism of the UN as an ineffective body, she emphasized the responsibility of national governments to deal with conflicts. Then she insisted on the role of spiritual and moral values in education, referring particularly to the Christian foundation of Russia. She underlined the importance of the family in raising children to be peacemakers.
Professor Engel Tagirov, President of the UNESCO Institute for a Culture of Peace based in the Tatarstan capital of Kazan (Russia), compared our time to the era of great migration of people from Asia into Europe of the fifth and sixth centuries and spoke about the challenge to give migrant peoples “not just education but equality.” He suggested creating a “Council of Sages” that could function as a think tank and focus on the UN and its Millennium Development Goals. Then on behalf of the Europe-Asia International Humanitarian Academy, he offered awards to UPF leaders Dr. Walsh, Mr. Tokuno, and Mr. Marion.
Dr. Anna Brzysca, a Russian-born educator living in Poland, explained the multi-religious approach to character education adopted for the “My World and I” school curriculum for adolescents, to which she contributed as a writer in the early 1990s in Russia. Published by the International Educational Foundation, the course was widely used in schools in Russia and Eurasian countries and translated in several languages. It taught moral values from the viewpoint of the four main religions present in Eurasia: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. It was then adapted into various character education programs throughout the world.
Mr. Reigo Tonsberg, the main organizer of “Play Football Make Peace” and of the annual Parnu International Football Tournament in Estonia, shared about “peace through sports” activities organized throughout the world. He showed a video of the project initiated by the World Association of NGOs (WANGO) and described its scope and philosophy, which seeks to bring character education elements into the football game and encourage international, interethnic, and interreligious harmony through sports.
Session 4: Prospects for Russia–Europe Dialogue and Cooperation
The conference ended with a session on the prospects of a Russia – Europe dialogue. Dr. Van Eekelen, Dr. Petrovsky, and Dr. Walsh each offered final reflections. Dr. Van Eekelen shared again his thinking on security, democracy, and good governance, ending with a positive note that he did not believe we are in a real global crisis and that “we made much progress since the Cold War.”
Dr. Petrovsky summed up the conference by reading a draft resolution which he asked participants to approve (see below).
Dr. Walsh recommended that we “find the way to embrace diversity while also embracing the need for common ground and overlapping values.” He underlined three points of the United States’ experience with unity and diversity: the unifying concept of “one nation under God,” the tradition of marriage beyond race or ethnic group, and an emphasis on interfaith dialogue.
Then a contestant in the Mr. and Miss University Beauty Pageant offered a final song from the heart, in Russian, moving the audience, and the conference was declared closed.
In the afternoon, participants from abroad who had some time before their flight home were invited by UPF to a tour of the Kremlin, its treasure house, and the famous Armory Chamber.
We, participants in the Russia – Europe Dialogue on Peace and Security in Multicultural Societies at a Time of Global Crisis, declare the importance of peacemaking efforts in Europe and the Eurasian region aimed at supporting peace and international harmony, and constructive dialogue between cultures and civilizations.
Therefore, we state that the recent declaration about the “failure of the multicultural project” in Europe is not only premature but also wrong in essence. The multinational and multicultural characters are fundamental to the creation of the European civilization, modern European values, and European identity. It is especially timely now, in this period of crisis in the political and economic development of Europe.
Insufficient attention to the international and intercultural dimension of relations leads to political and economic instability and consequently generates conflicts and crises. Recognizing the significance of religious views in shaping social solidarity, based on fundamental universal values and moral principles, we need to address the root cause of conflict that originates in the human mind. This leads to dialogue and reconciliation, and lays a base for peacebuilding and the consolidation of cooperation and harmony between religions and cultures.
We highly value the role of families and schools in consolidating moral values and people’s education in the modern multicultural society. We call upon the community to study the concrete experiences of multicultural education in both European and Russian schools.
We are concerned about critical conflict situations in Europe and Eurasia, including the zone of conflicts in the South Caucasus that remains unstable. We call for constructive dialogue between all opposing parties within the zones of the Georgia - Abkhazia conflict and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
We call upon the international community to remember the significance of the historical experience of co-existence and co-development of the peoples in Russia and the Soviet Union, as an integral part of European civilization. Russia is a rightful part of Europe and looks forward to a deeper integration with Europe in the spheres of economics, politics, and culture.
We affirm the importance of dialogue between Europe and Russia, which will finally help to overcome the mutual distrust originating in Cold War times and consolidate mutual understanding between nations and peoples based on common European values. In the name of this idea we call upon all who desire peace, mutual understanding, and cooperation in Europe to join us, and we anticipate the joint efforts of governments, parliaments, NGOs, and the business world.