The headline for today’s column is an idea I took away from a peace conference, held two days ago in Stockholm, a paraphrase of what I heard from journalist and academic, Dr. Carmen Sammut, from Malta.
The conference and its workshops, press conferences and reception lasted the whole day and evening of September 21, “an auspicious day,” but I was able to attend only the morning session, which was sufficient for the purposes of this weekly blog article.
Anna Lindh, inspiration for The Anna Lindh Foundation, a co-sponsor of the conference
Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), alliances and voluntary organizations had a role to play in this gathering of journalists, diplomats, academics and others under the heading Restore Trust, Build Bridges.
The label “auspicious” was given this gathering by one of the speakers due to the convergence around the date, September 21, of these of these events and traditions:
- The autumnal equinox
- The International Day of Peacehas been established by the United Nations for this date
- The celebration of Rosh Hashanah(Jewish New Year)
- The end of Ramadan, in the Muslim faith
- The Feast Day of Saint MatthewIn that the conflict most referenced during the morning’s session was that centering in Jerusalem, a holy city for the three faiths referenced above, the observation was apt. At least one other conflict was referenced, the one centered in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Another important point was made: those who are directly affected in local conflicts, and who support peaceful settlement, are more numerous than those who seek combat to resolve disputes. Their voices are poorly heard, however, under the noise and visual presentations of “mayhem” that capture the attention of the various news media. The three speakers representing the press told us of efforts by The Euro-Mediterranean Media Task Force to promote a proper balance between the immediate facts on the ground in a local area, and the larger picture including those who are relatively quiet (or inadequately reported on), the oft-referenced “grass roots.” Evidence of such grass roots peace efforts is found in the Blue and White Peace movement in Israel, promoting a two-state solution. A similar movement of Jews in the USA was cited, as well.
The keynote speaker in the morning session was André Azoulay, President of the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue Between Cultures. Among many observations based in his extensive and high-level experience in both Arab and Jewish cultures, he cited the hopeful note and presence of the new U.S. President, Barack Obama, and the latter’s presentation at Egypt’s Cairo University, June 4, 2009. Mr. Azoulay dwelt a bit on Mr. Obama’s use of quotations from the Quran and his opening remarks in Arabic, showing “respect” and “humility” to his hosts, considering it “a major historical point”. This positive impression was buttressed by the later remarks of communications consultant, journalist and columnist Ramzi E. Khoury, a Jordanian by birth.
So, I have cited three major points from just the morning portion of a full-day and evening conference. I consider my time well-spent if I can come away with just one new idea or insight from a full day’s meeting.