Rome, Italy—Ambassadors for Peace from various Middle East nations gathered in Rome for an advanced seminar of UPF Peace Principles.
Among the 23 participants were Ambassadors for Peace from Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Jordan and Turkey, as well as national UPF representatives and young UPF staff. The program, which had the theme “Applying the Principle: Practical Solutions for the Middle East,” took place from October 29 to November 1, 2015, at the UPF National Office at Colle Mattia outside Rome.
Italian Ambassadors for Peace and the Italian UPF staff also attended one session, and the interaction between the nationalities was both stimulating and empowering.
The seminar started with a brainstorming session in which the Ambassadors for Peace spoke from their wealth of experience to give each other a greater awareness of what was happening in the region. Next Marilyn Angelucci, the wife of the UPF regional president for the Middle East, gave a report from Korea which included guidance from UPF Co-Founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon.
Several presentations on the Principles of Peace given by David Fraser Harris, UPF-Middle East secretary general, made a deep impression on the participants.
Rehab Bitar, a Syrian lawyer and artist, commented: “I am so grateful to have this deeper insight into the true mission of the UPF founder. Now I can clearly explain when the people ask me about UPF and Rev. Dr. [Sun Myung] Moon.”
The first day culminated in an interactive session between the Ambassadors for Peace from the Middle East and from Italy, which helped them understand how to network and support each other’s work. Mr. Jongin Park, UPF vice president for the Middle East, reported on his work with Syrian refugees, and Rehab Bitar reported on his work with Syrian refugees in Lebanon over the last four years. The presidents of the Italian chapters of two organizations affiliated with UPF, Giuseppe Cali of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) and Betty Nistri of the Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP), both spoke about their work. Giorgio Gasperoni, secretary general of UPF-San Marino, explained about his extensive intercultural work between Italians and Israeli young people. This was meant to be a foundation to expand our work in conjunction with other European chapters of UPF.
The next day began with a moving presentation by Middle East Regional President Umberto Angelucci about the legacy of UPF Founder Rev. Dr. Moon. Starting with his birth in North Korea and explaining the sacrifice that served as the foundation for his life’s work, Mr. Angelucci spoke of his own personal enlightenment and growth that came through his personal relationship with Rev. Dr. Moon. The audience responded with open hearts and were moved to tears at special moments. This was the high point of the seminar, when the Ambassadors for Peace could make a connection of heart with the founder and understood deeply the incredible sacrifice behind UPF. When Mr. Rouchdy Saleh, a retired NGO activist from Egypt, was asked for his honest feedback, he said, “I only have one word: tears.”
This was followed by another presentation by Giorgio Gasperoni, explaining in more detail the numerous projects that have been organized by his staff in support of the Middle East. This gave the participants a chance to see the countless possibilities there are for cooperation between the Italian peninsula and the Middle East.
Following the same theme of applying the Principles of Peace, David Fraser Harris continued with a presentation on conflict resolution. Afterward one guest asked a UPF staff member, “Please help me to forgive my sister; I need your help”—proof that the lecture touched the hearts and minds of the participants in a truly practical way.
The third day finished with brainstorming and all of the Ambassadors for Peace from the Middle East making a Strategic Action Plan. In this session, led by Hod Ben Zvi, president of UPF-Israel, many productive suggestions came up: regular online meetings, more Ambassador for Peace seminars, regular regional meetings, translating the materials into Arabic, creating a cultural center for Syrian women and children, using the media more effectively, distributing UPF educational material to community leaders and using the UPF website to report activities. Each guest declared what they would do as they returned to their country. The day ended with the appointment of two new Ambassadors for Peace, Ilik and David Ashkenazi, entrepreneurs who have been supporting UPF’s peace work for many years in Israel.
That evening the participants spent some time to entertain each other with some games and sharing their cultures. They danced and sang, but also this created a situation to talk more deeply about their nations and the realistic situation that they face. Through this they no longer saw each other as Israeli or Lebanese or Jordanian but as brothers and sisters working for a better world.
On the last day they went to Rome to do sightseeing and spend some time together. Having time to communicate personally helped to deepen their bonds. Seeing the sights of Rome gave them a different perspective. Seeing another culture gave them hope that their country also could become like this if the fighting could be stopped. Peace is the only way to develop the Middle East, and this became obvious as they toured around the beauty of Rome.
The success of the seminar can be credited to the sincere dedication of all the staff. Thanks also go to the Italian UPF and the staff at Colle Mattia for their support and cooperation. In addition to the core UPF leaders in the Middle East, two elder youth leaders, Koriel Ben Zvi, emcee, and Jourie Fraser Harris, supporting staff, helped the seminar to be a success. Seeing the cooperation of the elder and younger generations, the participants were especially inspired.
In conclusion, the organizers were very satisfied to feel the deep bonds that were created centering on the vision and heart of the UPF founders. The Ambassadors for Peace had reached a new level, not just in understanding but also in their dedication and devotion to the work of the founders. Each one left feeling called to do something in their country and to continue networking and supporting each other in carrying on the founders’ legacy.
Some reflections from the Ambassadors for Peace
“This seminar gave me much food for thought for my personal and public life. In addition, it was an opportunity to learn about the importance of this organization and its activities around the world. It’s a great honor to be part of this life work of Dr. Moon and his family. The lecturers brought me to tears and were so inspiring. We will take with us the advice of the seniors and will build a better future.”
—Ilik Ashkenazi, Israel, businesswoman
“Very much touched by the presentation of Umberto Angelucci and David Fraser Harris on [Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Moon] and [the Peace] Principles. I felt this time that the messages were received better by the attendees because of the limited numbers and the ambiance of the family reflected by the place of the meeting and the sincerity of the speakers.”
—Rouchdy Saleh, Egypt, retired NGO activist
“This was a good conference about the relationship between the theoretical aspects of peace and the practical ones. I realize, thanks to this conference, the impact of reconciliation, of our minds and our hearts, in our different societies, families and countries. We have to count on our knowledge and our will to fulfill more activities.”
—Jihad Naaman, Lebanon, Catholic theologian and journalist