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Athletes at IPSF Sports Competition Learn Life Lessons
Vyanjana Omer, IPSF Correspondent
Asan, Korea
July 27, 2005

ASAN, Korea, July 27 - A healthy mind lives in a healthy body. So goes the age-old saying about how an individual should live. But for those competing at the Interreligious Peace Sports Festival (IPSF) in Asan, Korea, they are seeing it also applies on a much larger scale.

For a healthy world, a world at peace, why not bring together healthy individuals in sport, learning to overcome challenges and prejudices on the playing field? That is the question many are asking at IPSF, where more than 1,200 athletes from 54 countries are learning about one another in a friendly multicultural environment.

?When the love of sports and the enthusiasm of youth is coupled with a passion for peace, great things can happen,? says Dr. Thomas Walsh, Secretary General of the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP.)

"IPSF is a movement for peace and it is sport that is the vehicle that carries the heart and the spirit of peace,? Dr. Walsh says.

More and more people in more and more countries seem to be aware that sports can help unite. Some say that the idea is becoming a movement and that movement is now picking up momentum.

At the Sun Moon University Campus in Asan, about an hour?s drive south of Seoul, young students from many different backgrounds are seeing one another up close for the first time. Unlike their parents, they are learning about each other not on the battlefield, but on the soccer pitch or basketball court. It?s a learning experience for Muslim and Hindu, for Israeli and Arab, for Christian and Buddhist.

Saurabh Sharma, a young Hindu, and Mustak Nakib Ali, a Moslem youth, didn?t know each other before they met at New Delhi Airport on their way to Korea where they are competing together in badminton doubles.

"This is the beginning of the knowing process,? Mustak says, adding that ?I did not know that through my game, I will have a chance to live with this community.?

Bernard Chellew, coach of the English soccer team competing here from London, says: "In sports you start seeing your goals clearly and learn to overcome inhibitions.?

Mr. Chellew says multicultural sporting events, such as IPSF, give an opportunity for people to have ?emotional and mental interaction? with members of other religions and countries.

?Players are passionate people who put in their 100 percent? and can also direct that energy to becoming friends and learning about other religions. Sports as a unifying force if you will.

Mrs. Himali Kanchana De Silva, who is in Korea as coach of the Sri Lankan women?s badminton team, says IPSF is ?giving a chance to these youngsters to become patient and more tolerant to other religions and cultures."

Sports can be a simple and effective means of helping achieve world peace and it often begins with something as simple as a friendly face or a warm word of welcome.

?The atmosphere is so friendly here, even unknown people smile at you as you pass them by,? says Paul Murugan, the 17-year-old Sri Lankan national junior champion in the 110 metre hurdles.

Sports can effectively influence people?s behaviour and it can be for the better, says Kerim Sama Tseney, the Islamic religious adviser for the Ghana team.

"Sports is spiritually uplifting and when you are spiritually uplifted you understand peace better,? Kerim says.

Cross-cultural friendships are the basis for a peaceful world, says Mona Maaitah, the track and field coach for the Jordanian delegation.

?IPSF has been a beautiful experience,? she says. ?Peace begins with a smile, isn?t that so?? she asks with a shy grin.

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Mr Chellew, whose team lost 1-4 on Wednesday in football?s opening rounds to the Estonian side, was philosophic about his mens? defeat, saying: ?When we lose, we think we did not win because the opponent was better. Sports brings out your true character.?

IPSF is a project of the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace.

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