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Sports Programs

UN Year of Sports and Physical Education Can Help Promote Peace

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Sports can be a priceless gift to humanity, offering a path to emotional fulfillment, health, fitness, and happiness. In each community, people from all parts of society are drawn together to play on local teams. On certain occasions, whole communities will stop all business, drop all barriers, forget grudges, and join in celebrating their favorite team’s victory. For those of us who yearn for peace and norms of good sportsmanship, channeling the power and youthful dynamic within sports is critical. The United Nations recognized this potential and declared 2006 as the "Year of Sports and Physical Education."

Sports provides youth around the world with opportunities to play sports, experience the norms of sportsmanship, and develop the bonds so essential for trust and friendship. The Interreligious Peace Sports Festival is a unique model of sports, culture, and religious celebration. In 2007, the UPF worked in Guatemala with the Ministry of Peace to promote cross-cultural cooperation and sportsmanship in schools across the nation and in Israel to offer a Celebration of Life sports program in Carmel that drew together students from each of Israel's diverse communities. A variety of effective athletic programs are being organized:

Play Football Make Peace

Playing football provides opportunities for underserved youth to play in football (soccer) competitions. In addition to skills training, participants receive education aimed at developing and strengthening each player's character through the values that make for good sportsmanship in an exciting program called "The Way of the Champion." Participants include coaches, sports officials, and athletes. In Jordan, Estonia, and the Ukraine it has made a significant impact on how sports—football in particular—are presented to the youth of their country. This year’s focus is on training coaches to strengthen the character-building and teamwork aspects of the sport.

Interreligious Peace Sports Festival

The Interreligious Peace Sports Festival (IPSF) draws young athletes from many nations and religious traditions into an environment where they can live together, play and compete, while experiencing friendship and cultural sharing. This unique sports program creates a model of interreligious cooperation at a time of widespread tensions and misunderstandings among people of different religions. There is vigorous competition in seven popular sports, complemented with other activities including morning reflection time and evening international cultural performances, all designed to create experiences of living together as a global family. For many participants, it is a turning point in their life.

Sports for Peace

A new project is reaching out to youth in four target groups: underserved populations, new immigrants and refugees, people living in or near conflict areas, and indigenous peoples. The sportsmanship education utilizes an experiential learning model. Initial programs took place in India and Sri Lanka. In the mountainous area of Wayanad, in India’s southern Kerala state, tribal youth with few opportunities to play in tournaments participated in a tournament and seminar.

In Sri Lanka, a nation that has suffered nearly two decades of civil strife, a Basketball Camp was offered for its national women's basketball team and the junior national women's basketball team. Players from various parts of the country worked together to improve their athletic skills, with many attending a seminar led by Diesa Siedel, a former professional basketball player, and John Gehring. Both the camps and seminar received support from the Sri Lanka Ministry of Sports and the Ministry of Education. The contents of the seminar were of special interest to the Minister of Peace, since his department is developing sports programs between the military and civilian population in conflict areas.

Peace King Cup

An international competition among professional men’s football clubs, the Peace King Cup has been held in Korea every two years since 2003. This event has grown in prestige, and the 2009 games will be hosted by Spain in Andalusia. This is a major step into one of the heartlands of professional football. Enthusiasts will be able to view the games on television from around the world.

Peace King Cup draws public attention to the needs and challenges of creating a culture of peace, and the proceeds are used to support worthy projects in many countries. The first and second place winners in the 2007 competition, the Olympique Lyonnais (France) and the Bolton Wonderers (Liverpool, UK), each donated $50,000 for sports projects.

Peace Queen Cup

The Peace Queen Cup draws top national teams in women's football. The 2008 tournament takes place in Suwon, Korea, from June 14 to 21. This is the second Peace Queen Cup event since its start in 2006. Many strong teams are participating in the event, including the U.S., Brazilian, Canadian teams, which are ranked first, fourth, and ninth, respectively by FIFA. The other five teams are Argentina, Australia, Italy, Republic of Korea, and New Zealand. Many Korean football fans are excited at the prospect of watching these teams play.

The competition is preceded by a fashion show and pop music concert. A Forum on Asian Women’s Sports at Gyeong-gi University features participants from 13 Asian nations discussing the status of Asian women's sports, especially women's football, and prospects for further development.

The Star Cup

The Star Cup offers well-known actors, journalists, and media celebrities an opportunity to play football competitively for a public purpose. Fans are responding to this Korean-based tournament, which is more widely watched than many FIFA matches. Audiences are eager to see their favorite 'stars' play. Proceeds help support football programs in conflict-torn nations such as Liberia.

The "Nine Million Campaign" of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees ( was created in 2006 in partnership with corporate sponsors Nike and Microsoft, with the noble goal of giving more than nine million children around the world better access to education, sports, and technology.

In short, the athletic initiatives are creating models for peace by building bridges across cultural differences through sports. They link the marketing of global sporting events to the everyday needs of youth struggling to find positive expression in life through sports. By promoting constructive and healthy lifestyles among the youth, the path to peace is broadened.

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