Session 3: "Towards an Interreligious Council at the United Nations"
Hotel Warwick, Geneva, March 25
This session dealt with the particular issue of reforming the United Nations in light of an empowerment of religious leaders to become part of the solution for the world’s problems. Heiner Handschin gave a short introduction to the original statement of UPF’s founder Dr. Sun Myung Moon, at the time of the Assembly 2000 in New York, where he suggested the creation of such a council, as a body comparable to a “senate” of religious leaders. These delegates would deal with all the major issues, such as fulfilling the MDGs, but based on their wisdom, experience and influence as religious and spiritual leaders. After the initial launching, the Philippine government began to take concrete action steps in the direction of an Interreligious Council. Min. Gary Domingo of the Philippine Mission to the UN in Geneva, reported about the history and current state of this initiative.
Parallel to governments, UPF and its partner organization, the Geneva Interfaith Intercultural Alliance, launched a Model UN program with religious youth of different faiths at the UN in Geneva, showing the importance of bringing in religion as a factor for peacebuilding and reconciliation. Between 2008 and 2011, six conferences took place at the UN in Geneva and in diverse parts of the world under the general theme of “Interreligious Cooperation, Human Rights and Dignity.” These conferences tackled specific issues such as the need for creating alliances among stakeholders that included religious leaders, education in rights and dignity, family values, disarmament, mediation, reconciliation. Niraj Pabari, a senior college graduate at Webster’s and leading member of this Model UN program, presented an overview of his experiences with the program.
The evening concluded with a light potpourri of songs and flute performances of two young Geneva artists, Claire Millet and Julia Handschin.
Session 4: "Human Rights based on Universal Principles: A New Paradigm"
Hotel Warwick, Geneva, March 26
Mr. Peter Zöhrer gave an overview of the fundamental core principles and values that UPF leadership conferences promote and related them to notions of human rights. As nothing exists for itself in nature but everything serves the whole and lives for the “other,” human rights solutions can be more deeply understood. He also explained that the way these Principles are exemplified in the life of the UPF founders, Dr. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon.
In a very passionate response, Dr. Emmanuel Bezzina paid a tribute to the UPF founders and their total dedication to bringing about a world of lasting peace.
Session 5: "Human Rights and Dignity, Gender Roles in a Culture of Peace"
Following this, Mrs. Carolyn Handschin addressed the audience with a presentation on “Human Rights and Dignity, Leadership, and Gender Roles in a Culture of Peace.” The presentation is part of a “Knowing Our Rights, Living Our Responsibilities” series being developed by WFWP-Geneva. It uses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a benchmark for human dignity and a natural course of empowerment of both women and men.
Responding to the presentation, Prof. Mohan Gautam of the Netherlands lent further insight as an anthropologist about the benefit to society when women achieve their potential.
Session 6: "Causes and Resolution of Conflict"
Mr. Tim Miller, Vice-Chairman of UPF Europe, addressed the issue of Root Causes of Conflict and Resolution. In this very poignant lecture, Mr. Miller reminded us that just as peace starts in our minds, human beings are often conflicted within themselves and this manifests itself on a broader scale, such as ethnic conflicts. It isn’t enough to search for just a political solution to problems of conflicts in the world. The world’s religions address this, heal-ing the world starts with my own conduct. Mr. Miller went on to explain UPF’s vision and concrete steps on conflict resolution and reconciliation, showing in a very concrete and practical way that to get rid of an enemy is by getting rid of enmity within ourselves. The great saints and sages in history have shown such an example of sacrificially embracing the enemy with a heart of a parent.
In response to Mr. Miller's lecture, Mrs. Aline Afazali of Birmingham, UK, gave a very touching testimony of her experience of the Rwanda genocide, where she lived as a daughter of a Congolese mother and a Rwandan father through the terrible drama of losing her own father at the hands of brutal criminal gangs. Despite going through such a shattering experience, she chose to actively pursue forgiveness and reconciliation through creating a website memorial for those former childhood classmates who perished and reconnecting to several hundred classmates throughout the world who all managed to survive.
Session 7: "Closing and reflections"
The closing session featured a very lively line up of statements and reflections of many participants of the conference. Many expressed their deep realizations during the past two days for the need to rededicate themselves for the great cause of peace and serving humanity in these most turbulent times in human history. At the closing there was a nomination of a new Ambassador of Peace in the person of Dr. Krishna Ahooja Patel, former deputy director of INSTRAW and current Vice-President of the NGO CSW-Geneva.