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Peace Education

International Leadership Conference Held in London

London, UK - An International Leadership Conference was held in the legendary Palm Court Terrace at the London Waldorf Hotel November 21-22. A favorite retreat for Oscar Wilde and other literary giants, the room also doubled as the state room in the 1954 film Titanic.

Senior statesmen spoke about their experiences addressing a variety of conflict situations, hoping that a new generation of leaders will benefit from their insights. Jan-Willem Bertens, a former Dutch Ambassador in Central America, described working behind the scenes to defuse tensions and bring armed conflicting parties together. H.E. Alfred Moisiu, former president of Albania, talked about ways people in the Balkans have been working together to rise above historic conflicts.

Dr. Thomas G. Walsh, Secretary General of UPF, spoke about the needs for a universal values-based approach to form a basis for people of diverse races, religions, and nations to live together in peace. Mwalagho Kililo, Secretary General, UPF-Africa, explored the spiritual foundations of leadership and presentations about UPF’s understanding of the root cause of conflict and the principles of restoration were given by Mr. Jack Corley and Mr. Michael Balcomb.

Other speakers included Ambassador Makarim Wibisono, former president of the UN Human Rights Council, and Rev. Marcus Braybrooke of the World Congress of Faiths, who spoke about the spiritual impulse behind the creation of the United Nations. Youth representatives from six religious traditions said that young people had a particular responsibility and opportunity to move beyond barriers created by differing religious practices and rituals, and allow the wisdom and universal values of their religions to promote human rights and dignity.

A second session reviewed the quest for common values in Europe throughout 2008, which has been designated the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue. Iman Abduljalil Sajid, Chair of the Task Force for the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, challenged the audience to seek new opportunities for interaction among different cultures.

Focus groups addressed topics of broad interest: women’s peace initiatives, marriage and family, interfaith, community cohesion, peace and development, and the environment. Each forum attracted at least 200 participants.

Two Members of Parliament from the UK and one from Germany spoke at the Community Cohesion Focus Group on issues facing immigrant and minority communities. Tom Brake talked about countering the growing alienation, segregation, and lack of cohesion in his own district in England as well as urban Europe in general. Andrew Pelling described the need to offer young people positive role models and direction, and Bayram Inan described the challenges facing Turkish immigrants in Germany. Service project organizers, women activists, and religious leaders described ways they are building ongoing connections among people of diverse social, economic, and religious backgrounds.

At the Interfaith Focus Group, various approaches to interfaith work were presented. Speakers explored the potential benefits that cultural diversity can bring to communities, emphasizing the need to incorporate the entire spectrum of a community in ways that address the needs of all. Examples were given of bringing people together through housing projects in Northern Ireland and interfaith youth service projects.

The Marriage and Family Focus Group featured presentations about marriage preparation and marriage enrichment programs. Statistics show that such programs help reduce the probability of divorce. “Stable families are the building blocks of a peaceful society; it behooves a country to look carefully at how these can be nurtured,” according to Edward Hartley, chairman of UPF-UK Marriage and Family Initiative.

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