On the second day of the conference, the first session dealt with the theme of “Education as a Factor of Peace in Multicultural Societies.” The moderator, UPF-Austria Secretary General Peter Haider, first read a letter from Dr. Walter Schwimmer, former Secretary General of the Council of Europe, addressed to Senator Aslakhanov and conference participants; the letter expressed his regret for not attending, and his support for the conference.
Dr. Schwimmer wrote: “There is no Russia without Europe, no Europe without Russia… After so many bloody conflicts and atrocities that culminated in the historic tragedy of the World War II, Europe remembered not only its cultural identity but found also its political identity in the spiritual and moral values which are also the common heritage of the peoples of Europe: pluralistic democracy, rule of law, individual freedom, political liberty, and the respect for human rights. To respect this diversity is the key to stability, security, and peace in Europe, not only at the international level.… To achieve unity in diversity, Europe needs Russia, and Russia needs Europe. Russia is an indispensable part of Europe."
Dr. Walter Baar, a specialist in demographics, founder and director of the Institute for Trends Research in Austria, observed that low birth rates are causing the European population to decrease substantially, making migration inevitable. “Europe as a whole," he concluded, "faces the question of multiculturalism versus integration.... Policy makers worldwide will focus on how to make it easier for young adults in their best biological years to found a family.”
Professor Nataliya Semenova, associate professor at the People’s Friendship University of Russia, addressed the three aspects of the global crisis raised during the opening plenary. Challenging the criticism of the UN as an ineffective body, she emphasized the responsibility of national governments to deal with conflicts. Then she insisted on the role of spiritual and moral values in education, referring particularly to the Christian foundation of Russia. She underlined the importance of the family in raising children to be peacemakers.
Professor Engel Tagirov, President of the UNESCO Institute for a Culture of Peace based in the Tatarstan capital of Kazan (Russia), compared our time to the era of great migration of people from Asia into Europe of the fifth and sixth centuries and spoke about the challenge to give migrant peoples “not just education but equality.” He suggested creating a “Council of Sages” that could function as a think tank and focus on the UN and its Millennium Development Goals. Then on behalf of the Europe-Asia International Humanitarian Academy, he offered awards to UPF leaders Dr. Walsh, Mr. Tokuno, and Mr. Marion.
Dr. Anna Brzysca, a Russian-born educator living in Poland, explained the multi-religious approach to character education adopted for the “My World and I” school curriculum for adolescents, to which she contributed as a writer in the early 1990s in Russia. Published by the International Educational Foundation, the course was widely used in schools in Russia and Eurasian countries and translated in several languages. It taught moral values from the viewpoint of the four main religions present in Eurasia: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. It was then adapted into various character education programs throughout the world.
Mr. Reigo Tonsberg, the main organizer of “Play Football Make Peace” and of the annual Parnu Summer Cup, an international football tournament in Estonia, shared about “peace through sports” activities organized throughout the world. He showed a video of the project initiated by the World Association of NGOs (WANGO) and described its scope and philosophy, which seeks to bring character education elements into the football game and encourage international, interethnic, and interreligious harmony through sports.