UPF-Europe, Vienna - The Universal Peace Fedeation organized from April 28 – 29, 2018 in Parkhotel Schönbrunn an International Leadership Conference „Toward Interdependence and Mutual Prosperity: The Role of Religious Leaders and Parliamentarians“. The conference, held in the beautiful ballroom of the historic hotel, gathered 250 participants from 45 nations, mostly from Europe and the Middle East, with representatives from Asia, Oceania, Africa, and North America. Participants included two former heads of state from Balkan nations, 35 current and former members of parliament, and over 80 religious leaders and scholars of religion. 40 participants from Austria attended the event.
The program included the Inauguration of the „Interreligious Association for Peace and Development“ (IAPD) for Europe and the Middle East and the participation in the „Peace Starts with Me“-Festival, which gathered 10.000 people in the „Wiener Stadthalle“.
In the hotel lobby were displayed some of the significant intercultural, interreligious and educational projects initiated by the UPF Founders over the years, such as the Unification Theological Seminary, the Bridge of Peace ceremony of the Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP), WFWP-supported schools in Africa, Football for Peace activities, the Mr and Miss University Pageant, the Sunhak Peace Prize, the recent Africa Summit for Peace, etc.
The conference featured two major projects recently launched by the Universal Peace Federation throughout the world: the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP) and the Interreligious Association for Peace and Development (IAPD). The focus of the event was the inauguration of the IAPD in Europe and the Middle East, held on April 29 morning, attended by 350 participants.
Major world religions - Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, etc. - were represented in their diversity. The presence of many Christian denominations – Anglican, Catholic, Hussite, Lutheran, Maronite, Moravian, Orthodox, Presbyterian, etc. – recalled both the powerful Christian spirit that moved throughout Europe during the last 2000 years and the religious struggles that plagued European history. It also demonstrated the need to stand today on common ground to face the challenges of modern times.
The conference began on April 28 afternoon with greetings from UPF and WFWP leaders and a recorded video message addressed to the conference participants by Dr. Jan Figel, the EU Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief Outside of the EU. Then a presentation was given on the “Vision and Initiatives of the Universal Peace Federation”. The program continued through the evening with two panel sessions on the themes: “Religious Leaders and Parliamentarians as Peacemakers”, and “The Role and Relevance of Religion in Building Inclusive, Peaceful and Prosperous Societies”.
Scholars and theologians from Austria, Denmark, Syria, Italy and Israel, parliamentarians from Portugal and Russia, a former president of Kosovo and a high official from the Ukraine State Religious Department, addressed the issue of the influence of religion on modern democratic societies and the need for cooperation between political and spiritual leaders to deal with challenges as varied as sustainable development goals, family breakdown or the crises in Syria and the Balkans.
Session I: The Vision and Initiatives of the Universal Peace Federation: This session featured an introduction to the UPF Founders’ vision and the peacebuilding principles informing the two projects recently launched by the Universal Peace Federation: the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP) and the Interreligious Association for Peace and Development (IAPD).
Moderator: Mr. Jacques
Marion, Secretary General, UPF Europe
Welcoming Remarks: Dr. Katsumi Otsuka, President, UPF Europe & Middle East
Ms. Carolyn Handschin, UN Office Director, Women’s Federation for World Peace, International
Founders’ Vision and UPF Initiatives: Jack Corley, UPF Europe East Region and Balkans
Session II: Religious Leaders and Parliamentarians as Peacemakers: Looking for lasting solutions to the critical challenges of our time call for both the skills and experience of politicians and the global vision provided by religious leaders. How can parliamentarians and leaders of faith-based organizations, transcending national, religious and political affiliations, cooperate to develop comprehensive strategies for peace and development? Panelists will offer their perspectives on the complementary roles of political and religious leaders and propose policies and action steps to address specific challenges affecting Europe and the Middle East.
Moderator: Mr. Peter
Haider, President, UPF Austria
Dr. Elmar Kuhn, Dean, Class of World Religions, European Academy of Sciences and Arts
H.E. Fatmir Sejdiu, President of Kosovo (2006 – 2010)
Hon. Angela Guerra, Member of Parliament, Portugal
Hon. Andrey Svintsov, Member of the State Duma, Russia
Dr. Mohamad Habash, Syrian Islamic scholar, former Member of Parliament
Session III: The Role and Relevance of Religion in Building Inclusive, Peaceful and Prosperous Societies: Throughout the world, religion continues to play a very significant role in guiding the development of individuals as well as the wider society. While in some countries—in Europe, for example—there are spheres of life that are largely secularized, religion nevertheless has ongoing relevance and importance. The vast majority of the world's population identify themselves with a religious worldview that informs their ideas and guides their practices. In this session, panelists will assess the conditions under which religions can exert a positive influence on modern, democratic societies and offer policy recommendations to this effect.
Moderator: Mr. David
Fraser Harris, Secretary General, UPF Middle East
Dr. Viggo Mortensen, Professor emeritus in Systematic Theology, University of Aarhus, Denmark
Mr. Shlomi Perlmuter, Senior Lecturer, Elul College, Israel
Dr. Raffaella Di Marzio, Director, Center for Studies on Freedom of Religion, Belief and Conscience (LIREC), Italy
Hon. Dr. Andriy Yurash, Head, State Department of Religion, Ukraine
Dr. Ismail Yasin, Lecturer, University of Vienna, Austria
Parliamentarians for Peace Dinner Reception
A reception was organized over dinner by the IAPP for members of parliaments. After welcoming remarks by UPF leaders and parliamentarians from Japan and Denmark, an elder Korean Diplomat, former Korean Ambassador to Russia, reviewed and commented on the recent events on the Korean Peninsula. The dinner concluded with the transmission of the “Peace Road Flag” from UPF Korea to UPF Peace Ambassadors in the Balkans, represented by the former presidents of Albania and Kosovo, H.E. Alfred Moisiu and H.E. Fatmir Sjediu.
Further information: Peter Haider,
Tel.: 0650 2588846, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org