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He brings together those who are divided, he encourages those who are friendly; he is a peacemaker.
|Conference in Tirana on the Role of Albanians in Securing Peace in the Balkans|
|By UPF - Albania|
|Sunday, April 29, 2012|
Tirana, Albania - In the context of the Balkan nations pursuing stability and improved relations with Europe, leaders from ten nations met in Tirana April 28 and 29 to discuss "The Role and Importance of the Albanian People for Lasting Peace and Security in the Balkans." Speakers at the UPF European Leadership Conference called upon Albanians to draw on the spiritual resources and cultural values that promote peace as the nation celebrates 100 years of independence from the Ottoman Empire and prepares for presidential elections in July.
The conference was held in two sites: the Tirana International Hotel and the Congress Palace, one of the last buildings constructed by the communist government in Albania. Participants included three former presidents, two vice ministers, the vice spokesman of the Albanian Parliament, MPs from Albania and Kosovo, local government leaders from Macedonia, the Ambassador of Montenegro, the former Minister of Defense from the Netherlands, UPF-Europe chairman and secretary general, and other prominent Ambassadors for Peace from academia and politics.
Consolidation and Advancement of Peace in a Free and Democratic Balkans
The conference opened with about 50 attendees in a round-table setting and was covered by TV television and other news media. The moderator, Mr. Ali Laçej, former chair of UPF Albania and a highly respected Ambassador for Peace, emphasized the desire and virtue of Albanians as peace-loving people, something that they need draw upon in the complicated situations of the Balkans, living in five different states.
He then gave the floor to H.E. Rexhep Meidani (President of Albania, 1997-2002), who said that Albania has transformed itself from a “security-consuming” country to a "security producer" and should become a candidate for admission to the European Union.
Prof. Mejdani’s counterpart, H.E. Fatmir Sejdiu (President of Kosovo, 2006-2010), said that Albanians in southeastern Europe often find themselves at a crossroads with parties who pursue conflict. He asked why there are so many fatalities in the region: Do we have some curse which we unconsciously feed by sacrifice? Can we not defeat evil? Could violence and state-led crime have been avoided in Kosovo, Bosnia, or Croatia? He answered yes, but cited a lack of perseverance by those seeking peaceful solutions and much hesitation from the international community to end the aggression of Serb forces. Kosovo chose to be the common fatherland for all its citizens, he said, without ethnic or religious discrimination and with guaranteed rights of representation in local and central governments. It had been predicted that Albanians would take revenge on the Serbs living there, but they followed the Biblical and Islamic wisdom of doing to others as you would have them do to you and an Albanian proverb that states, “Do goodness and goodness will be done to you.” He concluded by saying that “A better Balkans, a plural and tolerant Balkans, is the best alternative for all. The world is big enough for all as long as we work together for peace, understanding, and tolerance.”
“Albanians need to draw upon all that is righteous in their history and culture and expand from concern for their own families and nation to a wider regional and global concern," said Dr. Yong Cheon Song, chair of UPF-Europe. "Be willing to sacrifice for surrounding nations and make peace with your enemies to achieve lasting peace in the Balkans.” He urged the participants to reflect on their own experience. “Are not good and evil at war within each of us? Human beings repeatedly fail to live up to their own good intentions as husbands, wives, parents, leaders, and governments.”
He gave simple examples of how God is teaching humanity how to live: “Just like the flowers and bees, human beings were created by God to live for one another and share their unique qualities with each other as a gift of true love. If Albanians are to assist the consolidation of peace in the Balkans, they need leaders who have resolved the conflict between their own minds and bodies and practice the true love that can dissolve the national, ethnic, and religious barriers that characterize the Balkans. He encouraged the establishment of Peace Councils consisting of leaders of good character from various religions, ethnicities, and nationalities working together to advance lasting peace in the wider Balkans, drawing upon religious wisdom and traditional morality.
These speeches were complemented by shorter comments from Mr. Hydajet Hyseni (MP & Chairman of UPF-Kosovo), Mr. Nail Draga (Chairman of the UPF founding committee in Montenegro), Prof. Dr. Sadi Bexheti (Mayor of Tetovo, Macedonia), and Mr. Ragmi Mustafa (Mayor of Presheva, South Serbia).
Mr. Mustafa noted that after the conflict in 2001, the peace agreement was respected by the Albanian population in Serbia, who disarmed themselves and returned to normal political and social life, but the Serbians militarized the area and deported Albanians.
Security and Peace in the Balkans and Its Importance for Europe
The second session was moderated by Mr. Bajram Ibraj, UPF chairman and former director of state police (2002-2007). He invited H.E. Alfred Moisiu, president of Albania (2002-2007), who said that even though the wars in the Balkans have ended, the wounds are not yet healed. There are security threats in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Macedonia. Why are nationalistic forces undermining the Balkan states’ pursuit of admission to the European Union? He responded that little is being done to reduce nationalist forces in the Balkans, which appeal to people in underdeveloped rural areas and are supported by mafia-type organizations. He cited problems in Mitrovica in northern Kosovo as an example. To resolve these situations will require honest and courageous leaders. "We have to teach people to forgive and to ask forgiveness for what they have done. Mother Theresa said that even though people may be illogical, unreasonable, and egoistic, we should still love them." He closed by encouraging people to look at the good side of each other and for Europe to open its doors to the Western Balkans.
After President Moisiu, the floor was given to a well-known expert on European security issues, Dr. Wim Van Eekelen, who stressed that military means rarely produce lasting solutions. Since the end of the Cold War, conflict within states have taken the ascendancy over conflicts between states. There is a link between security and development, for without at least minimal security development efforts are wasted and without development there cannot be lasting security. The essence of democracy is transparency and accountability, and government should reveal their policies, explain them to the parliament and at the public at large, and justify them in debate with the parliament and with the public. He described good governance, which he said he experienced from different angles as a parliamentarian, a government minister, and civil society leader.
A high-level panel of experts on security issues offered brief comments. According to Dr. Arjan Starova, a senior politician and Vice Minister of Defense, the existence two Albanian states (the population of Kosovo is 92 percent Albanian) increases the potential role of Albanians in pursuing peace and security in the Balkans. Albanians have fought only when their vital areas were constricted by others but never to expand at the expense of others, he said, and referred to efforts to normalize diplomatic relations with Serbia after the end of the Kosovo conflict and the contribution of Albanians in Montenegro and Macedonia (where Albanians constitute approximately 5 percent and 25 percent of the population respectively). He proposed that all Balkan countries sign an agreement not to use nationalistic expansion ideas during election campaigns.
Then Professor Shezai Rrokaj, a senior Ambassador for Peace and Dean of the State University Faculty of History and Philology in Tirana, described the establishment of law and integration into the Euro-Atlantic family as preconditions to peace in the Balkans. He stressed the key role of interfaith coexistence and dialogue in promoting peace and security. "Dialogue, harmony, and coexistence are the most precious virtues of our nation and we should work continuously to strengthen them. It is time to show to the world that Albanians have an excellent religious history, culture, and tradition. Let us Albanians become the citizens of the new era of interreligious coexistence." Prof. Rrokaj called upon religious leaders to work together to heal society’s wounds and proposed a formula of dialogue-education-integration. Rather than seek peace from others or blaming others for its absence, peacebuilders start by offering love instead of hatred, tolerance instead of intolerance, integration instead of division, coexistence instead of isolation, appreciation instead of depreciation for the other.
Another prominent speaker, Mr. Bilbil Mema, former general director of police and an Ambassador for Peace, said that history shows that security is achieved through powerful institutions with the participation of many nations of different sizes and cultures. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, many thought multinational security organizations would no longer be needed, but then security issues emerged in the Balkans. Mr. Mema recommended cooperation among the people in the Balkans (cultural, commercial, etc.) and among security institutions to defend democracy, fight organized crime and corruption, and promote the stability of state institutions.
The last speaker of the session was Professor Lisien Bashkurti, a diplomat and an international relations expert. His speech focused on the juridical aspects of security and the challenges of implementing the Dayton agreement, the Kumanovo agreement, and Ahtisari package. However, these aspects have not been incorporated into constitutions or embodied in legal codes. He advocated for greater adherence to international rights and agreements and pacts as well as respect for international institutions, transparency, and accountability.
Good Governance and Peace Education as Essential for a Sustainable Peace
Day two was a broader gathering of 150 dignified guests in the famous Congress Hall. The first session was moderated by Dr. Saemira Pino (Gjipali), a well-respected woman leader in Albanian society and the vice chair of UPF-Albania. The program was opened with a message from H.E. Fatmir Sejdiu, who expressed concern about tensions in northern Kosovo. He referred to egoist leaders who want to keep their positions through revitalizing nationalistic attitudes and invited people to learn from examples of both good and bad governance and teach younger generations not to repeat mistakes of the past. In conclusion, he quoted an ancient Latin maxim: “Living with honor, not hurting anyone, everyone receiving what belongs to him."
The second speaker was Mr. Mark Brann, Secretary General of UPF-Europe, who explained the correlation between governing one’s self and governing a nation. Since the bases of good governance are individuals, there is a need for selfless individuals who are ready to serve people at any time. The ruler must have the mentality of being the servant of the people. The other element of good governance is good values; people in a position of public trust should have the heart of a true parent towards all the people governed, a true teacher conveying a true vision, and a true owner and steward of public resources.
Next, Prof. Dr. Ardian Turku, Vice Speaker of the Albanian parliament and an Ambassador for Peace, extended the concept of good governance beyond elected and appointed officials: in rural areas there land owners, farmers’ associations, NGOs, research institutions, religious leaders, political parties; in urban areas there are large and small companies, labor unions, people working under the table, and the unemployed. Each present challenges to good governance, which remains a distant ideal in the majority of areas of the world. However, he encouraged people to invest in making the ideal a reality.
The next speaker, Mrs. Nora Malaj, Vice Minister of Education and Science, stressed the importance of education in achieving good governance. There is a correlation between peace and stability in highly educated populations, she said. Peace starts with communication, which should be followed by education with love. Education of children as future citizens of Europe and the Balkans starts in the family and continues in the school and society. She stressed that schools should become models of democracy, where students can exercise their rights and responsibilities, feel safe and free, and learn tolerance, solidarity, and a culture of peace from teachers and staff.
Dr. Arben Malaj, former Minister of Finance, senior politician, and Ambassador for Peace, analyzed the interaction between economic freedom and economic development, level of education, health care, and poverty. He urged the Albanian people to participate in civic life and learn from successful models in the USA and Western Europe. He advocated "SMART" governance, meaning Simple, Moral, Accountable, it should Report to its citizens, and be Transparent.
The last speaker was Mrs. Tomiko Duggan, from UPF’s Washington DC Office of Embassy Relations; she shared about the vision of UPF founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon: “The United Nations has made important contributions for peace. Nevertheless, opinions both inside and outside the organization, say the UN has yet to discover the way to fulfill its founding purposes.” Mrs. Duggan concluded by saying: If your nation is to progress peacefully, your brother and sister nations must progress with you, making a family of nations -- building peace and prosperity together.”
The Role of Ambassadors for Peace in Realizing the Peace Dream
The moderator for this session, Mr. Ibraj, called on H.E. Alfred Moisiu, who mentioned the contribution of Ambassadors for Peace to democratic development in Albania and Europe, referring to UPF's motto of One Family Under God and its teaching of love and mutual respect. He called upon Ambassadors for Peace to preserve Albania's tradition of interreligious harmony.
Dr. van Eekelen noted that peace requires hard work; it does not flow down from the air but from individuals. He encouraged Albania work to improve its image in Europe and participate in discussions with the Council of Europe, European Parliament, and NATO. He envisions the Balkan countries entering the European Union as they improve their record of treatment of minorities.
Calling the Albanian people prepared by God to promote lasting peace, Dr. Song praised Mother Teresa as a renowned Albanian woman. “The Albanian character is not narrow and sectarian, getting caught up in the relatively small differences of belief and practice that tend to divide faith communities. Albanians can see the commonalities that bind different faith groups together and consider all believers as part of one family under God."
Mr. Niko Veizaj, a founding member of UPF-Albania and a well-known medical doctor from Vlora, described how Albanian Ambassadors for Peace have built a network including hundreds of people from all walks of life and helped establish Peace Councils in Kosovo and Montenegro. Mr. Robert Williamson, UPF-Balkans coordinator, presented the five guiding principles of UPF especially for the ones who would be appointed Ambassadors for Peace.
Mrs. Kozeta Zavalani, the chair of the Tirana Peace Council, read the final resolution of the conference, which invited Ambassadors for Peace to bridge ethnic divisions, beginning with individuals with high levels of responsibility. It noted the similarity between traditional Albanian principles and those of Ambassadors for Peace. Underlining the urgent need for cooperation and tolerance in the Balkans, it called for decision-makers to consider Balkan cooperation a priority. Then Mr. Gani Rroshi, a member of UPF Albania’s Presiding Council, sang “The Crown of Glory,” composed and performed by renowned Albanian artists.
The conference concluded with the appointment of 12 public figures from Albania and surrounding countries as Ambassadors for Peace. Among them were an actor, a MP, and government officials.
Conference proceedings were reported in several major newspapers and TV stations in Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia.