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Peace Education

Reflections on the International Leadership Conference in Mindanao

Rahman Ali ‘Jawed’, one of the trainers of the Human Rights Education Unit of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Kabul Regional Office, attended the UPF International Leadership Conference in Mindanao, Philippines, from March 29 to 31 and wrote the following reflections:

The International Leadership Conference in which 250 delegates and Ambassadors for Peace from around the world took part was held in Mindanao March 29-31, 2012. The conference was part of a series of comprehensive interfaith peacebuilding initiatives of Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, an epitome of a global peace-loving citizen, for actualizing the will of God on earth with the motto of “one family under God.” The title of the conference was “The Role of Interfaith Harmony and Good Governance in Peace and Development.”

The topics presented and discussed were: interfaith cooperation and peace, the need for a common goal in peacebuilding, and breaking down walls and barriers through the interfaith peace blessing of marriage.

For me as a human rights and peace activist, this was a conference that not only brought people together but also portrayed UPF's efforts to build an effective global network of individuals and organizations devoted to promoting a world of peace. It gave lessons in creating, keeping, and enforcing partnerships for building peace on local, national, regional, and global levels so as to foster the peace process and promote the culture of service and peace as an antidote to the prevailing culture of exploitation and abuse.

This helped me understand that alongside the UN's standards and measures for promoting world peace and security, interfaith issues are an undeniable realities in working for universal peace. Concerning the essence of human rights, the UPF is making a grand step toward the realization of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through its work to dissolve barriers and promote peace.

Peace cannot come about unless the basic minimum standards of living are met. Because of the realities of our society, all our efforts in Afghanistan are focused on survival rather than on salvaging our religion and traditions. My faith in promoting human rights values is reaffirmed; otherwise, the enjoyment of freedom, choice, development, and peace will remain only as ideas in people's minds. Certainly, human rights have great potential to empower citizens, but people can reject them under many pretexts. However, there is no freedom in ignorance; thus, people can deny the common good out of ignorance, even though it would help them live free of all sorts of self-created restrictions.

Our society lacks the necessary skills for sound management and leadership – peace leaders who could tackle the problems and challenges passionately, logically, and spiritually, rather unethically and emotionally. Problems such as years of mismanagement, lack of a strategic and forward-looking system of education, and lack of a developmental perspective instead of traditionalist views - combined with discrimination, prejudice, stereotyping, indifference, protracted wars and violence, grievances, and a dysfunctional system of government - have have ruined the social, economic, political, and cultural behavior of our country's citizens.

In countries affected by war and violence, where people are prone to manipulation, influence, exclusion, and abuse - as in Afghanistan - the right mechanisms and strategies should be taken in order to respond to the needs of people who are emotionally, socially, and politically withdrawn. Especially when these problems are combined with prejudice, discrimination, stereotypes, and indifference, it makes the situation worse and adds fuel to the flame which easily makes society more fragile, fearful, and aggrieved. In such situations people's behavior becomes more complex, and dealing with conflicts become much more difficult when there is corruption, impunity, and lack of a well-functioning system. In this situation a lot of pent-up problems, obsessions, and complexes intensify and escalate the conflicts, and as a result, people become hopeless and distrustful. Such situations cause further problems to peacebuilders and human rights activists, and to manage change becomes more difficult.

With all of above, comparing my home country with others, I found that unfortunately the religious, ethical, spiritual, and human rights values are less reflected in our practical life. Most of the actions and behaviors which violate the law and normative standards are because of the overall anomalies and abnormalities.

Change is inevitable with the current flow of access to information, media expansion, technology, communications, and the tendency of human nature to seek peace and truth. With all of above, we can be hopeful for gradual change. But what is important is how to channel the human potential towards the expected change. This is where the work of Afghanistan International Human Rights Commission, together with civil society and the international community, can help humanize the change. Strategic and coordinated efforts focused on the next generations by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and civil society organizations, with the support of the international community, can make us hopeful for more promising future.

From today onwards I will seek to apply my knowledge and skills to my human rights education work and the rest of society to the greatest extent.

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