Istanbul, Turkey—Ambassadors for Peace and other peacemakers took part in a Peace Values Forum organized by UPF of the Middle East.
The interactive online discussion on July 16, 2020, featured speakers from Morocco, Syria, Turkey, Israel and Japan; and was supplemented by a video contribution from Lebanon. The open format opened the way to comments from within and beyond the region, before concluding with the online appointment of two Ambassadors for Peace.
Speaking from Istanbul, Yoshihiro Yamazaki, who represents UPF in Turkey, illustrated the relevance of UPF's Peace Values—interdependence, co-prosperity and universally shared values—to the strengths and needs of Middle Eastern societies. He pointed to missed opportunities on a global scale and to a consistency of approach that underlies UPF's programs both historically and across the globe. Mr. Yamazaki is also the coordinator for Europe and the Middle East of the International Association of Academicians for Peace (IAAE), a UPF project, and the liaison for Europe and the Middle East of the Institute for Peace Policies, located in Japan. (For Mr. Yamazaki’s full speech, click here.)
Sheikh Abou Zeid, a professor of comparative religion, law and contemporary Islamic thought, could not join us for the discussion but through his video message provided a real and heartfelt insight into the plight of Lebanon's people in this most difficult of times.
Dr. Hajiba Ayoubi, a medical doctor who works in health management with the Moroccan Ministry of Health, said: "Building peace is not only an effort of technical specialists. It is really possible through actions in everyday life or on a global scale." She gave simple, actionable examples for the peacemaker that each of us wants to be. She then turned to the role of women, key drivers of the real change of mindset, concluding, "The clue is the empowerment of women; this is crucial to build a culture of peace." (For Dr. Ayoubi’s full speech, click here.)
Professor Hanoch Ben Pazi, the head of the Department of Jewish Philosophy at Bar Ilan University in the city of Modiin near Jerusalem, took us down the path leading from "victim of fate"—in these times of pandemic—to "master of destiny." Drawing on the ideas of the late Orthodox Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Professor Ben Pazi told us: "As East to West find themselves in fear of the same invisible enemy, everyone has been exposed to the question of fate and suffering. Nature demands that humankind join hands in the battle against [the] corona[virus], and the need to come together is stronger than ever. The awareness of the collective fate that has been forced upon us has the potential to mark a new kind of partnership for humanity as a whole." (For Professor Ben Pazi’s full speech, click here.)
Gözde Dizdar, the founding and managing director of the GD Global company, began with a panoramic overview of the region's great (strategic and resource) strengths and awful (military and humanitarian) current realities. She said that all the walls built over decades failed to block the virus. Now, she said, "we should be working to preserve the plurality and diversity of the Middle East … advocating prosperity, peace and security for everyone." Her proposed way forward went beyond dialogue to examples of fields in which we should be cooperating with each other. Ms. Dizdar is also the international vice president for strategic partnerships at Centrist Asia Pacific Democrats International and the chair of the Youth Committee at the Global Parties Climate and Ecological Alliance. (For Ms. Dizdar’s full speech, click here.)
Asmaa Kftarou, a member of the United Nations Commission on Syria and the granddaughter of Sheikh Ahmed Kftarou, the late grand mufti of Syria, contrasted the vision of peace with the pain of conflict. "What is the use of talking with reverence about prophets who are in the spirit world while we are cursing each other and hating each other, even though we were asked to dialogue with each other peacefully, as the Koran asked us?" She expressed sadness that Istanbul's Hagia Sophia "has been brought back into politics instead of the beautiful symbolism of a great church building in the Islamic world center." Before pleading with the decision-makers to hear her appeal, she explained: "I have always wished for this historic monument to be a place for brotherhood between religious followers, and a home for compassion, forgiveness and love, and that Istanbul would have a great international role in taking care of religions, and establishing an international brotherhood of humanity." Mrs. Kftarou is also a member of the Women's Advisory Board to the UN envoy for political process and peacebuilding in Syria. (For Ms. Kftarou’s full speech, click here.)
Umberto Angelucci, the chair of UPF for the Middle East, was the final speaker. Encouraging us to look beyond the coronavirus to explore new ways and opportunities to interact and tackle problems, he emphasized cooperation. He gave the example of the global cooperation that saved war-devastated South Korea, opening the way to today's prosperous nation. Pointing to the UPF's founders' readiness to risk all to help North Korea, he encouraged Ambassadors for Peace to apply UPF's Peace Values and find solutions to our region's worst-hit nations, such as Yemen and Syria. "Unless we respect our Creator God and the principles by which He created this universe, we will not be able to establish a harmonious and prosperous society." (For Mr. Angelucci’s full speech, click here.)
Following the discussion, which included contributions from Jordan, Israel and Pakistan, two participants were awarded the Ambassador for Peace certificate. The forum's moderator, David Fraser Harris, the regional secretary general of UPF for the Middle East, recognized their great efforts for peace, but also reminded them that the certificate was as much a commission as an award. Certificates were given to:
* Siham Anies Kawar (from Jordan), a member of the Al-Fuheis Municipality Council and director of the Jordanian Women's Village Association.
* Professor Hanoch Ben Pazi, Bar Ilan University, Israel, one of our forum speakers.