On September 20 in Paris, at the Catholic center « Maison de La Salle », the French chapters of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) and Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP) jointly organized an event on the theme of « Peace initiatives » to celebrate the International Day of Peace. The audience of 60 participants included Peace Ambassadors, UPF and WFWP volunteers and new guests. This year the UN Day commemorated the Declaration of the Peoples’ sacred right to peace proclaimed by the General Assembly 30 years ago.
Laurent Ladouce, director of « Centre Culture et Paix » in Paris, introduced the event with a talk on the theme of « Holy Peace versus Holy War », suggesting that we shift the focus today, in light of the ongoing violence around the world, from a « sacred right to peace » to a « duty for holy peace ». In the audience, Professor Edmond Jouve, an internationally renowned expert on constitutional law and an UPF Peace Ambassador, commented on the relevance of discussing the issue of rights at a time when Scots and Ukrainians are voicing claims to independence.
Jacques Marion, president of UPF-France, then reported on the World Summit 2014 on Peace, Security and Development held in Korea last August, which gathered 300 high level delegates including current and former heads of state and government. He underlined the issue of the relevance of religion to peace and development that pervaded summit discussions, and reported a few testimonies from participating religious leaders (from Israel, Columbia, Switzerland, etc.) who were responding to conflicts in their own nations with interreligious activities, thus enhancing the UPF Founders’ proposal to create an Interreligious council at the United Nations.
Patricia Lalonde, head of the association MEWA, vividly spoke of her activities promoting women’s rights around the world. Understanding the real situation of women, she said, comes only from visiting them in their places of suffering, not sitting in forum discussions. Her words became tangible when she received, right during the event, an urgent call from people in Kurdistan crying for international help as « Islamic state » forces were moving into their villages.
Brigitte Wada, president of WFWP-France, then gave a presentation on WFWP « Bridge of Peace » activities that began 20 years ago to promote reconciliation among women from countries, cultures or religions that used to be in conflict. Thousands of women around the world, from First Ladies to ordinary citizens, have thus taken the lead in peacebuilding through this moving and meaningful ceremony. Mrs Wada announced the plan for an upcoming bridge of peace ceremony between Muslim and Christian women.
The event concluded with a talk on « Religious Youth Service » (RYS) activities, a project of UPF, by Alexandre Huard, director for youth at UPF-France, who also monitored the event. Over 250 RYS projects involving young people from diverse ethnic or religious backgrounds working and learning together centering on a service project have been organized in the past 30 years around the world. Alexandre announced the plan for an RYS event in France during the upcoming « Week of interfaith harmony » in February 2015.
After closing remarks by UPF-France vice-president Patrick Jouan, Rev. Paul An, president of UPF-Europe and Brigitte Wada awarded certificates of Peace Ambassadors to Rev. Georges Ben Manua, a church leader from Congo with communities throughout France, and to Mrs Lila Boukortt, president of the association France Euro Méditerranée. Mrs Eugénie Dossa-Quenum, from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, was finally introduced as a distinguished guest; she gave a few words introducing the League and encouraged the audience to take an active stance for peace in challenging injustice and discrimination.
Reported by Brigitte Wada, WFWP France