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EUME-Africa ILC Celebrates 15 Years of UPF

Africa/Europe/Middle East—The first online International Leadership Conference 2020 held by UPF of Africa and UPF of Europe and the Middle East dedicated a session to celebrating the 15th anniversary of UPF’s founding.

“Our First 15 Years: UPF’s Contribution to Building a World of Peace” was the title of the special session, held on September 12, 2020.

The moderator was Marilyn Angelucci, the secretary general for the Middle East of Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU), an organization that is affiliated with UPF.

The speakers were:

Dr. Paterne Zinsou, the vice president of UPF Africa and the coordinator for Africa of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP)

Ambassador Simeon Uwa from Nigeria, the executive secretary for Africa of the International Summit Council for Peace (ISCP)

Hon. Gago Apostoli from Albania, former minister of transport and currently the chairman of UPF-Albania

David Fraser Harris, the secretary general of UPF for the Middle East

The focus of the session, as introduced by the moderator, was showcasing the accomplishments of UPF since its founding on September 12, 2005.

The program began with a commemorative video on the UPF 15-year journey. The foundational pillars were articulated in the inaugural speech of the founders as “breaking the barriers to world peace by fostering the realization of one family under God.” The main efforts of the UPF founders in the last 15 years were covered including the founders’ speaking tour establishing UPF operations; the appointment of Ambassadors for Peace; and the formation of partnerships for peace around the world.

The range of UPF programs includes conflict resolution and prevention, interfaith dialogue, and partnerships with governments, NGOs, and other organizations.

The multinational outlook of UPF operations was showcased by the World Summit series involving the highest level of leaders around the globe.

As envisioned by the founders, UPF has continued to spread its message of peace, and has been received well around the world, as depicted by the words of former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a UPF event earlier this year. He said that he believes UPF will become a pillar of building peace in the world.

The moderator, Mrs. Angelucci, commented that the UPF road has been truly amazing.

Presentations by the Panelists:

Dr. Paterne Zinsou, the vice president of UPF Africa and the coordinator of IAPP Africa, recognized that the work of UPF being witnessed today is the fruit of many efforts and investments by the founders, who played a true parental role in education, poverty alleviation, and peacebuilding.

After the launching of UPF in 2005, the founders set off on a world tour to transfer the vision of UPF to the world in a series of events. In 2011, UPF held a conference in Nigeria that opened Africa to embrace the vision of UPF.

UPF co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon inaugurated the Sunhak Peace Prize in 2013 to recognize individuals and organizations for their work to serve, expand and spread the vision of peace in relation to three key banners: respect for human rights, conflict reconciliation, and ecological conservation. This, highlighting as it did the rich diversity of UPF’s programs, led to UPF gaining recognition as an NGO in general consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

The 2018 conference in Dakar, Senegal, was the first to be presided over by a head of state. It brought about what was branded the “Heavenly Africa Project” – a peace and sustainable project, working with heads of government through a Memorandum of Understanding with the president of Senegal.

In 2019, UPF’s World Summit hosted the third Sunhak Peace Prize Award ceremony, which was dedicated to African leaders. This became a springboard for UPF partnerships with Africa. Following were a series of activities initiated by Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, starting in Johannesburg, South Africa, where former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was appointed Ambassador for Peace. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed based on a number of activities including the implementation of African projects. The summit had participants of a model nation where an ambulance was gifted, and a Memorandum of Understanding signed with representatives of the government of Niger present. 

During the Niger meeting, marked by the presence of six heads of state, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the president of Niger in the presence of government authorities and the prime minister.

In concluding his presentation, Dr. Zinsou showed a song by the Little Angels, whose singing beautifully represented the founders’ message of peace – singing as they did a Senegalese song in the local tongue.

Ambassador Simeon Uwa, the executive secretary of ISCP Africa, said we are living at a critical time in history where peace is concerned. “The UPF message is probably more needed now than when the founders declared it 15 years ago. With the level of uncertainty of our times, the latest being COVID-19, we can say that great responsibilities are on us to achieve world peace.”

The participants were urged to consider COVID-19 as a kind of equalizer in which we all have no option but to turn to our Creator.

The principle of mutuality and interdependence is now the new normal. The only sustainable solution which we have neglected, internal spiritual power, is now what we have to pursue.

Humanity has been in search of peace since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. To attain lasting peace, we need to live by the foundational principles envisioned by the UPF founders.

African leaders were urged to commit to these principles of peaceful coexistence. These can be adopted in our schools, which, as an academician, Ambassador Uwa believes can be done.

Reference was made to the words of Mother Moon during the Dakar summit: “We are in an open era when Africa will become the new center of the world as it centers on God, becoming the light of the world.” These words were given as a confirmation of the promise of Africa, in beginning a new history in which all humanity can connect to God as our source, attaining “heaven on earth.” Participants were encouraged to commit to working together to attain this and to invest together in Africa. This year was declared a new start for Africa, which is destined for greatness.

Hon. Gaqo Apostoli, the former minister of transport and UPF chairman, Albania, recalled that he had been present at the UPF inauguration in 2005, representing his country. From the launching of UPF in Albania in October 2005, in which 3,000 people participated, to Mother Moon’s declaration of “Heavenly Albania” in 2019, there have been enormous gains toward peace through UPF Albania, he said.

Within the first two years of launching UPF Albania, 1,200 Ambassadors for Peace were appointed. Since 2006, when the Balkans Peace Initiative was launched, a total of 24 national and European Balkan conferences for peacebuilding have been organized. Top leaders in the region have participated in these initiatives, and it is believed that UPF has made a huge contribution to fostering peace in the Balkan countries.

Other initiatives made by UPF Albania include the Balkans Peace Road and the Albania Diaspora, in which Albanians appoint Ambassadors for Peace and identify notable peace contributors in the countries in which they reside. The diaspora initiative boasts 16 Albanian Peace Councils in other countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Greece, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Kosovo.

There are 5,000 proud Ambassadors for Peace in Albania, Hon. Apostoli said. There is also a Peace Council established in each of the 61 Albanian municipalities. This became a foundation to invite Mother Moon to Albania. In 2019, UPF Albania organized a Balkan peace conference with the participation of eight former presidents and prime ministers of Balkan nations. This led to the organization of the Southeast Europe Peace Summit in October 2019, under the patronage of the prime minister of Albania, with 400 VIPs coming from 55 nations.

More than 2,000 young people from 40 nations participated in a family festival at the end of the summit as a way to strengthen family values. Mother Moon declared “Heavenly Albania” by urging Ambassadors for Peace in Albania to become peace-loving people to the Balkan countries.

Mother Moon’s memoir, Mother of Peace, serves as a guide to the realization of the mission of peace, not only for now but also for future generations in Albania and other nations.

Before concluding, Hon. Gaqo Apostoli asked us to let him sing a song which expresses his longing for peace: “Imagine.”

David Fraser Harris, the secretary general of UPF for the Middle East, entitled his presentation "The Story behind the Photos," explaining, "Part of my approach will be to take the different pillars of UPF and say, 'Where do they come from?'" He began with two photos: the 2005 inauguration of UPF and this year's World Summit 2020. World Summit 2019 brought together leaders from enemy nations, all sharing the same respect for UPF's founder and UPF as an umbrella for peace. The International Summit Council for Peace (ISCP) traces its roots back to the 1980s, when Summit Council programs were already bringing leaders from Costa Rica and Canada to dialogue with North Korea's leadership.

Next, a 1987 photo of youth demonstrating against the Berlin Wall was followed by a 2020 photo of a session of the International Association of Youth and Students for Peace. Between those two dates, photos showed youth work in 1982 (Youth Seminar of the World's Religions), 1991 (Religious Youth Service in Hungary), 2006 (Football for Peace in Jordan) and 2016 (Israeli and Arab youth playing football in San Marino). Examples followed of character education materials used in Russia, China, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Palestine, among other places.

Today's Interreligious Association for Peace and Development (IAPD) comes on the foundation of years of multiple celebrations of the UN's World Interfaith Harmony Week, part of a history of interfaith engagement which can be traced back to the world's first multifaith seminary (1975) through such bodies as the Council for the World's Religions—intra-faith conferences for Christians (Moscow 1989); Jews (Switzerland 1986); Hindus (Varanasi, India, 1986); and Buddhists (Thailand 1986); and Muslim-Christian Friendship (Istanbul 1991). The International Religious Foundation organized a series of conferences on "God: The Contemporary Discussion" and published in 1991 the groundbreaking World Scripture. In 2001, just three months after the 9/11 attacks, a World Summit of Muslim leaders met in Jakarta, Indonesia, to discuss "Islam and the Future of World Peace."

In 2020, academics gathered under the umbrella of the International Association of Academicians for Peace (IAAP). The roots of this lie back in the 1970s, with the International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences (ICUS). One such academic commented then on the ICUS experience: "The ecumenical spirit that pervades this conference is a revelation and a delightful surprise to me."

The 1981 ICUS was where UPF founder Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon first proposed the International Peace Highway, a visionary project to link the world's peoples by road, including bridges and tunnels linking Korea and Japan and crossing the Bering Strait between Russia and the U.S. state of Alaska. This project was proposed again in the founding speech of UPF in 2005, by which time Japan had constructed an exploratory tunnel. UPF co-founder Mother Moon in recent years launched the Peace Road program, which has promoted the highway throughout the world—from local governments throughout Japan, to a summer 2020 reconciliation tour of the United States, to a peace marathon linking Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, to a 1,000-kilometer peace marathon reaching 20 Russian cities, and even to a 2019 Peace Road team of 12 people reaching Pyongyang in North Korea.

The 2020 gathering of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP) has a history too: Photos illustrated just four of the many IAPP inaugurations in national parliaments; highlighted UPF's key 2008 role ("with the ex-MPs club") in facilitating vitally important dialogue between monarchists and Maoists in Nepal; and also documented UPF's fundamental bridge-building role between Europe and Eurasia (Moldova, 2014), and between Syria's government and opposition (Cyprus, 2016), as well as Israel and Palestine (Middle East Peace Initiative—from 2003).

UPF's focus on building and strengthening partnerships has included agreements with the UN's Alliance of Civilizations, the African Union and the World Tolerance Summit, not to mention a 2019 reception at the Vatican. The real credit for all of this, however, lies with those in the field who have realized all UPF's great programs: our distinguished and impressive network of Ambassadors for Peace.

Way Forward and Conclusion

Participants were encouraged to roll up their sleeves for the attainment of peace.

In conclusion, participants were reminded that UPF being 15 years old can be likened to a teenager who has many more years ahead to pursue his dreams to the utmost.

To go back to the executive summary for the Africa-EUME ILC, click here.

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