European Leadership Conference in Tirana, Albania - 21, November, 2015  - Session 6. Closing session

The closing session was moderated by Mr. Hydajet Hyseni, a former member of Parliament and the UPF Albanian Peace Council coordinator in Kosovo. We are united with our friends from abroad in suffering and in common ideals for a comprehensive peace, he said. Referring to the average population age of 25 in Kosovo, he emphasized how crucial normalization, peace and progress were for his country. He then expressed his heart for the victims of the November 13, 2015, terror attacks in Paris by reciting a poem he had written in the Albanian language.

Mr. Aleksandar Pekovic from Serbia, the project director of “Herceg Novi 2021, the Montenegro City candidate for European Capital of Culture,” expressed satisfaction that culture was a central issue at the conference. Culture defines humanity, he said, yet it is often marginalized by political leaders and today’s children receive poor cultural education through social networks. Montenegro has an extremely beautiful bay area, but young people are leaving this paradise for crowded European cities. He spoke of his approach to culture on the foundation of tolerance, talent, technology and transparency. To develop culture by integrating the contradiction between conflict and unity in the Balkans, he united the concepts of friends and enemies into one word, “frenemies.” The people who conquered us also built our churches, he said, while friends sometimes neglected us. Friendship is the greatest gift one can give to enemies, he said. Peace through art was the guiding vision of what began as a small project in a beautiful Montenegro bay and in ten months has become a national project. Pay attention to culture, he concluded; it is the soul of society.

Hon. Gaqo Apostoli, a former member of Parliament and minister of transport of Albania, and the newly elected chair of UPF-Albania, recalled the first visit to Tirana in 2005 of UPF Founder Rev. Dr. Moon, whom he called “a prophet of our times.” How to overcome terrorists who shock the world and threaten Albania and the Balkans? There is a visible and an invisible ISIS, he suggested. The visible ISIS is the Islamic State, a manifestation of evil. Overcoming it requires military efforts and alliances, the support of the international community and religious communities—particularly Muslim. But the invisible ISIS potentially exists within every nation, community, family and individual, he said. It is manifest when one cuts oneself off from God. Because this potential evil is within each of us, peace is first of all our responsibility. He concluded with remarks on the Balkans’ current situation. The diversity of religious backgrounds should be treated as a cultural heritage, not as a problem, he said. Religions should harmonize and not be used by politics, nor use politics for their sake. The Western Balkans should be rapidly allowed to integrate into Europe. The globalization of economy needs in counterpart a globalization of democracy and human rights.

Mr. Jacques Marion, secretary general of UPF Europe, gave the closing remarks by reflecting on the values of the Balkans Peace Initiative. Peace education, he mentioned, is about knowledge and skills, but more fundamentally should be about moral and ethical values. However, unless values are based on altruism, peace will not be reached, he said. The struggle for equality, justice or reciprocity can turn into conflict and vengeance if not based on an altruistic mindset. Altruism being the root of religious values, religious leaders are called to be the conscience of their nations and inspire political leaders toward altruistic policies. The family, he said, needs protection precisely because it is the place where altruism is meant to grow. He then suggested several projects to be undertaken by the Balkans Peace Initiative: creating a Balkan Council of elder political and religious leaders giving advice on policies and action steps for peace and development; developing interethnic, interreligious youth dialogue and activities; and using publications such as the anthology of sacred texts World Scripture and the interreligious character education school curriculum published and used in Russia and former Soviet Union countries in the 1990s, My Journey in Life.

 

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