Vienna, Austria—UPF-Austria organized a meeting of Ambassadors for Peace to reflect on the events of the past year and set a direction for 2018.
Almost 100 guests came to the event on December 9, 2017. The focus was on reports about the Interreligious Association for Peace and Development (IAPD), which had been founded in Seoul, Korea, in November, and on events connected to the founding of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP) in various nations.
The president of UPF-Austria, Peter Haider, reminisced about the UPF conferences held at the United Nations’ Vienna offices commemorating World Interfaith Harmony Week and the International Day of Peace, which was at the same time the founding conference of IAPP in Austria. All political parties of the Austrian government sent speakers to that conference, with altogether around 200 attending, including numerous leaders of society.
After Mr. Haider’s presentation, Dr. Elmar Kuhn, the secretary general of Christian Solidarity International (CSI), gave his impressions of his recent journey to South Korea, following an invitation to attend a rally for Peace and Unity between North and South Korea as well as the founding conference of IAPD.
DI Abdallah Sharief, co-founder of the Horn of Africa Peace Initiative, reported about the initiative’s activities. One of its events introduced the young nation of South Sudan; another conference was held about Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, which had gained the status of a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site; a third conference was held on the topic of refugees and migration.
Ulrich Haider reported about Peace Road Austria 2017, organized in the state of Upper Austria, where participating bicyclists traveled 30 kilometers (more than 18.5 miles). Their destination was the “Peace Bridge” which had been built by Palestinian and Israeli young people under the auspices of Service for Peace organized by Bogdan Pammer and his family. Several mayors of the area participated in that program, which also attracted media coverage from local newspapers.
Dr. Walther Lichem, a longtime Austrian diplomat, reviewed a UPF conference in Pristina, Kosovo. This was followed by a report by Mrs. Elisabeth Brandner about the founding of IAPP in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Mrs. Brandner, herself a member of the Croatian minority in Austria, studied in Croatia and worked in Slovenia during the time of communist Yugoslavia, and since then has kept good relationships with these countries.
Marlies Haider—representing Youth UPF—reported about an event at Vienna University which they had organized in early summer on the topic “Populism, Integration and the Future of Europe.” More than 60 persons attended, many of them university students. Among the four speakers was a Syrian professor who is running programs for better integration of young foreigners in Vienna. Many of his students also attended that event.
With a performance by the Bosnian women’s choir known as The Mimosas, the program officially concluded. Guests stayed on to enjoy a buffet of Bosnian specialties and Christmas cookies, which gave the opportunity to get to know each other better and deepen relationships. We all felt that the year of 2017 was a very fruitful year.