Copenhagen, Denmark—UPF-Denmark celebrated the 2018 UN International Day of Peace in the former Upper Chamber of the Danish Parliament.
The beautifully decorated room in Christiansborg Palace was filled with NGO leaders, politicians, artists, religious leaders, UPF Ambassadors for Peace and other peacebuilders, with many young people in attendance.
The theme of the September 23 event was “The Right to Peace: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70.”
Member of Parliament Yildiz Akdogan, in the role of hostess, said in her opening address: “A peaceful society is one in which there is justice and equality for everyone. … Beside what the UN, governments and politicians can do, we ourselves need to think what we can do on the micro-level in our daily lives.”
She then introduced the emcee for the program, Zoraiz Khushdil, an Ambassador for Peace and the chair of the Minhaj-ul-Quran Youth League in Denmark.
Lecturer and corporate counselor Soulaima Gourani sent a video greeting from the U.S. state of California. In 2014 she was selected as a “40 under 40” European Young Leader by EuropaNova and Friends of Europe. “Everything I do serves a common purpose: to create more innovators, critical thinkers and problem solvers – more peace in the world,” she said. Trade and interdependence are the best ways to have peace, she said. But she said she always reminds people that “peace starts at home with my family, with me in cooperation with others,” and she tells her children “peace starts in the children’s room.” We need to be good role models for our children and teach them not to escalate conflicts, she said.
Lotte Heise, the host of a classical music radio program, has spoken at and supported UPF’s UN International Day of Peace events during the last five years. She emphasized the beauty of diversity and how important it is to always see the other person. A smile is the shortest distance between human beings, she said. Of course, we need the United Nations and other big organizations, but peace starts with myself and the ways I educate my children, she said.
Christian Balslev-Olesen, head of the United Nations in Somalia and Yemen and a former secretary general of the relief organization DanChurchAid, said: “Looking at the world today, there can be no better theme of today’s event than ‘the Right to Peace.’ In Somalia in the midst of war, chaos, with clans, tribes, terrorists … you cannot imagine a bigger gap between ideals and reality. However, besides eight large UN peace agreements, 90 smaller local agreements were concluded, and these smaller agreements were more effective, because they secured food, water, land, schools and health for the local people. That is what peace and conflict resolution are all about.” Mr. Balslev-Olesen concluded with a quote of Nelson Mandela: “Peace, prosperity and security are only possible if they are shared by everyone without discrimination.”
Helle Rabøl Hansen, PhD, an associate professor and researcher in the field of bullying and disruptions in schools and a specialist in the rights of children, said: “Children are our most vulnerable citizens, and it is important to protect their rights. When we violate a child, we lead a kind of a war that might eventually lead to bigger wars. Therefore, even the small war, bullying in school, needs to be addressed and taken care of. If we take this fundamental right to be a child and right of security away, we legitimize a form of war.”
Between the presentations, soprano Tatiana Kisselova Gudnæs sang three songs written by Puccini, Mozart and Gershwin.
The final speaker was Anja Ringgren Lovén, founder and director of the children’s rights organization DINNoedhjaelp. Since she was young Anja had the dream to make a difference in Africa, but she put that dream on hold because of her mother’s sickness and death. At 30 she quit her job as shop manager, sold everything she owned except for a backpack with clothes and a few personal things, and went to Africa as an aid worker.
In 2012 she founded her own relief organization in order to buy land, establish a children’s home, a hospital and a school. She named her 7.5 acres “Land of Hope.”
In 2016 the Austrian magazine OOOM voted her “The World’s Most Inspiring Person,” beating Barack Obama, the pope and the Dalai Lama.
Before the Peace Ceremony, Laura Valesin, an Ambassador for Peace from the NGO We Make Peace, led all the participants in a guided meditation. We Make Peace publishes textbooks about peace and works to raise peace awareness and implement peace education in schools.
Thorkil Christensen from UPF introduced the Peace Ceremony. “All people have a longing for peace,” he said. “Even though such a right cannot be guaranteed by the state power, such a right cannot be neglected. The right to peace is close to another right, the right to be loved and valued. … It is such peace and unity that religious people seek through their religious practices, and therefore it gives good meaning to ask religious leaders to conduct the next point of the program.”
The Peace Ceremony was carried out in a solemn atmosphere with nine representatives from various faiths each pouring a glass of water into a large bowl while soprano Tatiana Kisselova sang Caccini’s “Ave Maria.”
It was followed by an inspiring performance of modern Afro-ballet by Root Astray: two sisters, Maja and Esther Lindberg, who have studied dance in Denmark, Germany and Brazil.
A cross-cultural women’s choir, World Sirens, performed a potpourri of seven songs in seven languages led by Tatiana Kisselova. The choir is a meeting place for cultural exchange through singing. Every week they practice songs in their own languages, now more than 30 languages. They created a happy, enraptured atmosphere by encouraging the audience to sing along, clap, stand and dance, and at the end they were given a standing ovation.
To conclude this beautiful afternoon, all the participants sang together a new Danish song with beautiful lyrics about peace and freedom that were printed on the back of the program.
The event was broadcast by a local TV channel.