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Day of Peace Commemorated at a Forum in Washington, DC

Washington, DC, USA - Eighty-five guests from the diplomatic, NGO, and business communities filled The Washington Times' Beech Room to overflowing for an October 18 observance of the UN International Day of Peace. While words of peace offered by historical figures were shown on the screen, people engaged in conversation over lunch.

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Mrs. Tomiko Duggan, Director of UPF's Office of Embassy Relations in Washington, DC, welcomed the group, which included six ambassadors and diplomats from 30 embassies, with words of encouragement and referred to the passing of UPF’s founder, Dr. Sun Myung Moon, on September 3. "He may have left us," she stated, "but his vision and works for world peace continue." A short video of recent activities of UPF was shown, and then Emcee Larry Moffitt, vice president of The Washington Times Foundation, introduced the first speaker, newly appointed Chairman of The Washington Times newspaper, Thomas McDevitt. Mr. McDevitt had until recently been the president of the paper, but replaced Mr. Douglas D.M. Joo, who recently returned to Korea to work on projects there.

Mr. McDevitt welcomed the guests and said how much he supported and admired the Universal Peace Federation’s worldwide efforts to bring peace. He also talked about his paper’s four pillars: freedom, family, faith, and service that make the newspaper unique in the United States. He mentioned also a plan to go global in addition to the full spectrum of projects in the U.S. including digital reports, a radio talk show, and a website that receives over 2,000,000 hits a month.

The next scheduled speaker, H.E. Al Maamoun Baba Lamine Keita, Ambassador of the Republic of Mali to the U.S., was at the moment reporting to the US Congress that the UN Security Council had unanimously approved a plan to back an African-led military force to help the Malian army oust Islamic militants who seized the northern half of the country and have been turning it into an al-Qaida terrorist hub.

His speech was read by Larry Moffitt in his absence. His comments on two of the most defining challenges of our times, terrorism and transnational organized crime, were especially poignant. His nation upholds the vision of a peaceful world, he said, but the reality is that the northern half of Mali is currently under the control of a faction of al-Qaida where women are being raped, boys are conscripted into fighting and making bombs, and the monthly payments of $400 a month to families for their boys to do al-Qaida’s bidding are welcomed by a people used to living on $1.25 a day.

He also revealed the dire situation of the refugees caused by this upheaval: “In the northern part of Mali, more than 1.5 million Malians have had to flee their homes, with some 40,000 displaced people in the central region of Mopti and many others in neighboring nations." More than 100,000 Malians have registered as refugees in both Mauritania and Burkina Faso, 40,000 in Niger, and 30,000 in Algeria. His nation is suffering, and he expressed gratitude for the support of the UN.

The next speaker was Cynthia Turner, President of SeraphimGlobal, an NGO that provides health care, community development, social services, clean water, and sanitation to marginalized and hard-to-reach rural communities. She explained that the primary focus of her organization has been to improve the quality of life of the world’s most vulnerable citizens. She also said that her organization often works on the less visible problems, such as violence against women and girls and human trafficking, offering "parenting and lifestyle education to create and sustain strong family and community relationships.”

She called for each person to take responsibility to help develop a state of tranquility, security, and order within a community, free from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or actions. "We need mutual concord between governments to end hostility. Each nation and the communities within it must undertake a true appraisal of the well-being of its people and the progress it has made in social development, particularly for young people who now comprise more than one sixth of the world’s population.”

She emphasized the horrific aspects of the trafficking of children, who are unable to protect themselves; she said it occurs in some way in nearly every nation. Adolescents ages 14 to 17, and even children as young as seven, are forced into the commercial sex industry and work as cheap labor. She described five root causes of this problem: poverty, sex abuse, drug dependency, broken families, and a general lack of education. She concluding by quoting The Progress of Nations, a report published by UNICEF in 2000: “The day will come when nations will be judged not by their military or economic strength, nor by the splendor of the capital cities… but by the well being of their peoples… and by the protection that is afforded to the growing minds and bodies of their children.”

The final presentation was by H.E. Roman Kirn, Ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia. He praised the UN’s efforts to bring peace but felt that because the UN was established after the end of World War II, it now is in need of renewal. All aspects of the UN need improving, he stated, including its Security Council and committees. He said the UN would be a much more effective organization if it were overhauled. “The UN needs to protect the people. It is the States’ responsibility to protect and care for the citizens in its country, but if not then the international community must do so,” he said. "The global community must protect the people and save peace." His biggest concern is how to prevent genocide.

Mrs. Nanae Goto delighted the audience with a beautiful song of peace, “World of Peace.”

The final part of the program was the appointment of new Ambassadors for Peace; both Ambassador Kirn and Cynthia Turner responded that they were honored to be appointed to this global network of peacemakers.

Contributed by Susan Fefferman

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