My fellow Delegates, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I must begin my remarks with those of gratitude. Thank you for taking the time to be here, to pull your chair up to this kitchen table of the world. Thank you for caring about this essential issue, one which affects us all.
We have witnessed several events recently that make this conference only more pressing, such as the attacks in Norway, the riots in the United Kingdom, the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and most recently, the assassination of former Afghan president Rabbani. These events remind us that the true war we wage is not against someone else; it is against ourselves, as we attempt to divide what is meant to be one.
I am a council delegate representing Unificationism, which espouses the belief of thinking and acting like a family to create the family which we were intended by our Creator to be. But this idea is not unique to my faith; it is supported by many of the religions gathered here today. Herein lies our great strength: we are not nearly as different as the world would like us to believe. It is from this point which we must charge forward.
In my years of experience engaging in dialogue with many different kinds of people on topics such as this, I have become intrigued by two highly potent yet highly underutilized vehicles for change, which I would like to share with the council this morning, that we might consider incorporating into our work.
The first vehicle is the institution of marriage and the family unit. The family is the school of love; it provides an environment in which children can experience and learn about the different realms of love, and it is within this unit that young people can become tomorrow’s peacemakers. Families are where our religious values are most present. If we neglect to recognize the value of these institutions, we jeopardize our future. With that said, our council should urge the General Assembly to acknowledge the essential value of marriage and family, and their role in peacemaking. Moreover, in choosing our upcoming projects and events, our own council should consider the important role that couples and families play in creating the one world family we aspire to.
The second vehicle for change I would like to suggest is culture, which can be taken to include the arts, and entertainment media. As Ms. De Guzman alluded to in her remarks, media has a profound impact. It can be used to drive us apart, but it can also be used to bring us back together. The power behind the media, and indeed behind all elements of culture, is that it resides not just in logic, but in emotion. Culture works on a mass scale, yet can contact people on a personal level, and can transmit messages which can last in the collective consciousness far longer than any piece of legislation.
Our council has an important message that the world needs to hear. This message needs to be aggressively disseminated, because the opposing messages of division has been spread too widely, and for too long. This can be achieved using a direct or informational style, such as through the use of public service announcements or viral videos. For example, the Committee for the Rights of the Child conducted a strong media campaign in Italy which proved to be very successful in creating an organic change in public consciousness of Child Rights, and contributed to the development and support of numerous Italian initiatives of the CRC.
Messaging an also be done in a less direct but equally profound manner through the arts, such as I’ve seen within a group of Palestinian and Israeli youth, who have united in their desire to use dance to teach peace, or in groups like the Washington AIDS International Teens, who unite across religious and cultural differences to combine their talents in the performing arts to create peer-to-peer AIDS Prevention Education programs. This kind of success is just as applicable to messages such as ours, and should therefore be considered.
In conclusion, I invite the council to remember that the violence and hatred we see around us can only succeed when we dehumanize others, and perpetuate the concept of “us and them.” It is essential to pursue actions which humanize: actions which recognize those around us as members of our family, and which appeal to the heart as well as the head. Lasting change will only come when each person makes the personal choice for peace and unity, but we can help to give that choice a voice.
Cathlene Bell Dumas (USA)