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Middle East Peace Programs

European Conference Addresses Prospects for Middle East Peace

Netherlands-2010-04-11-European Conference Addresses Prospects for Middle East Peace

Bergen aan Zee, Netherlands - During a European Leadership Conference in Glory House, North Holland, April 9 to 11, four UPF-Netherlands Ambassadors for Peace considered the prospects for peace in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

On Friday evening, Dr. Willem van Eekelen, a former Ambassador, Deputy Foreign Minister and Minister of Defence for the Netherlands, at present working with the Netherlands Advisory Committee on European Integration, talked of the "Need for a New Beginning in the Middle East." However, he was not hopeful that even the most basic guarantees — including that Israel not be attacked, that Israel stop expanding, that Jerusalem be the capital for both Israel and Palestine — would be given by the protagonists. He suggested that there might be an armistice and that the West put more pressure on Israel to stop its settlements building.

Rob Schrama insisted that there could be no political solution of the Middle East conflict and that there ought to be another way — and that was the way of the heart, as the "Jerusalem Hug" website proclaimed: "When we find peace in ourselves and when we are able to forgive, world peace will come closer." The next "Jerusalem Hug" is on June 21, and will involve international participants joining with Israelis and Palestinians, "in love and unity, to hold hands, sing, and pray for peace and respect for all humankind." So convinced is Schrama of the value of spiritual, ceremonial, and culture initiatives that he is also involved in plans for a marathon between Jericho and Jerusalem, encouraging runners to carry a "burden" to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where there will also be a "pyramid of light."

He was accompanied by fellow activist Guido Hoogenboem, who intends to resurrect his Fly a Kite for Peace in Middle East initiative. Dr. van Eekelen enthused about the two men's passion, not thought to be so common in the Netherlands.

The theme of the Saturday afternoon discussion was "Promoting peace in Afghanistan and Iraq," and the first speaker, Dr. Beelaerts van Blokland, spent little time on Afghanistan's complex political and military situation, but appealed to religious and humanitarian sensibilities, talking of the challenge to help the people come out of poverty, grant more respect to women, and receive education.

In the Netherlands, people have come to realize that if they did not cooperate, the sea would engulf them, that while they might not yet feel they were one family all would benefit if they began by committing themselves to being members of a common society. We could never know how our planning would result, he said, but we should always try to shake hands and reject war. Afghanistan was in a difficult situation, it was unfortunate that support had not been offered after the Soviet forces had been driven out, allowing the Taliban to develop. We needed to create a real partnership, and focus on reconstruction, as had already been done in those areas where there was less conflict. And while we might wish for 'good governance' and less corruption, we should also be concerned at the supply of arms to the Taliban from countries that were supposedly opposing them. Dr. Beelaerts' talk was full of compassion and commitment to help others less fortunate.

Drs. J.M.R. Hendrichs served as a chaplain to the Dutch military in Iraq and spoke of his experiences there, which he said had changed his life. He had had serious misgivings about the invasion, but felt that his prime responsibility was to his countrymen posted there. The Dutch had tried to help the people, there but all foreigners were mistrusted. Before World War I, the Sunni and Shi'a had lived in peace together, and there had even been much intermarriage. Since then, however, the two groups had become polarised, and after Saddam's oppression had disappeared conflict between them began. The Americans' removal of all Saddam's Sunni administration had been unwise and their promotion of democratic elections was somewhat unrealistic, given the country's history of 50 years of oppression following other non-democratic forms of government.

Mr. Hendrichs said the Iraqis wanted peace and the large number of young Iraqis was a cause for hope, but it was necessary that the oil riches be shared with all and that the foreign military remain and show respect for the religious traditions there, including the holy sites (he had organized visits to such historical places as Ur, the city of Abraham). He saw the religious leaders as a major key to peace: when the imams were 'quiet', the people in general followed their lead. It was vital that there be respect between the religions and cooperation between the foreign NGOs operating in Iraq. There were so many people with sometimes fundamentally incompatible aims, some focusing on the need for Iraqis to disarm and others on development.

Guest speakers Schrama and Hendrichs were presented with Ambassador for Peace certificates, as was Dr. Hashim Jansen, a native Dutchman and Sufi imam who shared amusing stories from the Sufi culture at the cultural evening on Saturday. While he had moved from being a Roman Catholic to being a Mormon, then a Sufi Muslim, Dr. Avin Kunnekkadan had converted to being a Roman Catholic priest of the Society of the Divine Word. He sang a song from his native India, movingly expressed his appreciation of the UPF lectures, and led everyone in singing the American gospel song "We Shall Overcome." He later said he wished to bring his international students preparing for marriage to Huize Glory for UPF lectures from Hans Campman.

The Saturday cultural evening also included the showing of a short film about the upcoming world tour of the Little Angels Korean folk ballet, expressing Korea's gratitude to the nations that helped protect the country during the Korean War, often called the 'forgotten war'.

The theme of the weekend conference was "The Significance of Marriage and Family for Peace in the 21st Century," and it was it was notable that a number of Ambassador for Peace couples attended all or part of it: Dr. and Mrs. Beelaerts van Blokland, Dr. and Mrs. Van Eekelen, Mr. and Mrs. Santoe, and new Ambassadors for Peace Drs. and Mrs. J.M.R. Hendrichs (Drs. is a title given to holders of Masters degrees in the Netherlands).

It coincided with the increasing emphasis of UPF lecturers on the World Peace Blessing in addition to strengthening marriage and family. Lecturer Tim Miller explained how the World Peace Blessing had developed from being a ceremony conducted for Rev. Sun Myung Moon's own religious followers to an interreligious program through the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification and now includes UPF Ambassadors for Peace and others.

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