Day of Peace Observed in Washington, DC

Washington, DC, USA - UPF International – DC office observed the 30th UN International Day of Peace on September 29 at The Washington Times building under this year’s theme “Make Your Voice Heard” to express how peace and democracy can be achieved.

Over 80 guests, including four Ambassadors and representatives from 13 embassies, attended the program. Among them were nine special guests from the Republic of Congo Brazzaville who had attended the UN General Assembly earlier and took a train from New York to attend the program and then had a tour of The Washington Times newspapers. And Dr. Adina Friedman, a Professor at George Washington University in DC, brought eight graduate students for the program.

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Tomiko Duggan, Director of Public Affairs of UPF – DC, presented the UPF Perspectives of Peace and Reconciliation followed by the UPF introductory video.

Larry Moffitt, Vice President of The Washington Times Foundation, was M.C. and introduced the speakers.

Mrs. Farah Al Atassi, Founder and President of the Arab Information & Resource Center and the Zenobia Lounge, which is the first Multicultural Café and Bookshop for the Arab & Muslim worlds in Georgetown. She organizes and hosts workshops, lectures, cultural and special events aimed at raising positive awareness of Arab and Islamic cultures between the East and the West.

She said, “I come from a region in Syria that has long suffered and still suffers from wars, bloodshed, tyranny, and lack of peace, transparency, and social justice. For decades, the Middle East and North African region has suffered from dictatorship, government corruption, and human rights violations.

“Peace is not only a political tool to end conflicts, wars, poverty, human misery, or human disputes but also a spiritual force that fills in our hearts with harmony, love, tranquility, and happiness. We all smile and cry in one language.  Peace is something that everyone wants probably more than anything. Our religion, Islam, means to submit, to surrender to your human values and principles and to advocate peace -- both inner peace and global peace. The first words that Muslims salute each other with are ‘Peace be upon you.'

“On December 17, 2010, in a tiny town in western Tunisia, 27-year-old Mohamed Bou Azizi set himself on fire in protest against unemployment, poverty, and humiliation thus igniting what is now known as the Arab Spring, or the Arab Awakening.

“People chose the dignity of peaceful protest over the rule of an iron fist. The balance of fear shifted from the ruler to those who are ruled. Today, the Middle East and North African region is witnessing a historical change and transformation. The challenges are big, yet opportunities are huge." 

She concluded with the words of the young Syrian activist who was tortured to death: “Don’t you think that they have defeated us with a bullet, we have won, and our cause has won in each moment we marched out peacefully to the street to say  ‘no’ to injustice and ‘no’ to tyranny. I saw freedom coming near and victory materializing.”

Amelda Beluli, Program Manager at the National Albanian American Council, in her comments said, “Without peace, development is impossible, and without women, neither peace nor development can take place. Women's empowerment is a key step towards gender equality in peace-building. A democracy cannot be called a true democracy unless women participate fully; however, much work still remains.”

As she is an Albanian, she introduced some famous and historical Albanians who shaped their history: Mother Teresa, Nobel Peace Prize Winner; Alexander the Great; Pope Clement VII (1700 – 1721); Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, first President of Turkey; Dr. Ferid Murad, Nobel laureate in Physiology (working in the US); and Hollywood actors Jim and John Belushi and Eliza Dushku.

She reported a 7.14% representation of women at the national and local levels. The representation of women in parliament is 16% and participation of women in business ventures is 18%. On the other hand, women hold 70% of managerial posts at all levels. The National Albanian American Council and USAID created the Hope Fellowship as a pilot program in 2001 to champion the increase of emerging women leaders in Albania and Kosovo, both through in-country trainings and the six-week Washington Leadership Program. Over 1,000 Hope Fellows have completed the program (150 of these fellows were trained in Washington, DC). Twenty Hope Fellows ran for office in the last national election, December 2010.

She said that the countries with greater gender equality have a higher gross national product. Women’s leadership in the corporate sector results in improved business performance, and pragmatic work for gender justice and non-violence are necessary for a positive change.

She concluded her presentation with the words of Mother Teresa, "Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, and of peace."

H.E. Srdjan Darmanovic, Ambassador of Montenegro to the United States, then spoke about the history of Montenegro, which became independent in 2006 without a fight and without any causalities, unlike their neighboring countries. The issues were not easy, and a very complicated process was needed to reach agreement. Almost 50% of the population wanted independence, and the other half did not; some of those left.

Part of the difficulty was complying with the European Union’s imposed requirement of a 55% majority vote for independence, which was achieved. The population is approximately 40% Montenegrins, 30% Serbs, 30% Bosnians, 7% Albanians, and other minorities. When the voting was completed, both sides acknowledged that the process for the resolution was done fairly and in the most democratic way. They said they could not object to the results.

Since then, “Montenegro has developed excellent peaceful relationships with the neighboring countries, except for some difficulties with Serbia. Montenegro recognizes Kosovo because we found a legitimate way to achieve peace and democracy.  Peace will come to our region by accepting both the EU and Kosovo, not choosing either the EU or Kosovo. We hope our friend Serbia will understand that it is good for them as well and that the day for them to accept Kosovo will come pretty soon.  Montenegro has found common policy with the EU and is now very close to becoming a member of the EU.”

“Although I was not involved with the war personally, our neighboring countries, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, and to some extent Serbia, have suffered and gone through difficult times. I am always ready to contribute for peace. When H.E. Ganlanxhi of Albania and I visited Israel and Palestine, we could understand their suffering and the need of both sides for legitimacy for peace. Peace is most important and the most complicated issues in Middle East.”

Montenegro has accepted refugees from Bosnia, which comprise nearly 25% of the population. He added, "However, I believe our region is in a much better condition than a decade ago."

“Montenegro is committed to peace and democracy. Our foreign policy is to maintain friendly relations with our neighboring countries, and it is much better for our country. He concluded, “Montenegro is a beautiful country with a gorgeous coast line of Adriatic sea. We wish that many people and all of you, here, will visit and enjoy our country’s beauty.”

Nanae Goto, UPF staff, offered a song “Where Peace Begins.

Susan Fefferman conducted the Appointment Ceremony for Ambassadors for Peace to wrap up the 30th UN Day of Peace.  The appointees include the three speakers and Mr. Christophe Kouakou, Embassy of Cote d'Ivoire.  All of the recipients were in high spirits and honored to be appointed Ambassadors for Peace.

The Ambassadors and representatives of the diplomatic community, graduate students, and friends of UPF shared a great spirit of the UN International Day of Peace, a day of commitment to non-violence and to harmony among all people and nations.

Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Founder of the Universal Peace Federation and The Washington Times, addressed the UN in August 2000 saying “At their root, human problems are not entirely social or political, so social and political approaches have limited effectiveness. Religious faith and religious devotion have far greater importance in most people’s hearts than do political loyalties….”

UPF advocates for a “vision for peace” to be achieved by practicing the universal principle of “living for the sake of others.”

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