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Over seventy people attended UfP's 2015 Summer Conference on Surviving the 21st Century: Global Challenges, Threats and Prospects for Peace on May 23 at Wesley's Chapel, London. fP Chair Vijay Mehta declared it addressed "a world more mplex and chaotic than at any time, facing many simultaneous conflicts and problems."

UfP Vice-President Frank ackson opened Session 1 on War, Militarism, Political conomy and Peace Building by exploring 'Can we abolish War?', noting two centuries of the Peace ovement had failed to do so. It was vital to tackle the causes of war – 'organised aggression' – rather than merely deem it too horrific to contemplate, or be simplistic. Not intrinsically aggressive, humans could be both ompetitive and ooperative. Struggles for land and resources, competing imperialisms and ideologies, and religious and ethnic ivisions, were major causes of war, heightened by the arms trade [1 billion small arms around the world now] – yet
peace was possible: "in stable societies under rule of law people live most of their lives in peace." War was not normal: "people must be conditioned to become killers." To abolish war, the world's peoples had to recognise their common humanity above different identities, reject 'Us' and 'Them' divisions, and affirm the equal value of all.

Moeen Yaseen [Director, Global Vision 2000], on Challenging the Status Quo of Political Economy and Solutions, saw the world"moving towards a universal paradigm shift, whose time has come", involving "constructing a new moral political economy based on the common good and popular trusteeship". The 2008 Crash's root causes had not been tackled; in this time of 'universal deceit' – "a lull before the world's greatest financial crash" – 'idolatry of money' and widespread fear and scapegoating prevailed. Key solutions were: cancellation of all global debt; break-up of major banks; criminalisation of corrupt bankers; end of financial control by an unelected banking elite; re-aserting national sovereignty over economic affairs.

 

Anthony Russell [Founder, Chandos Foundation], on Urgent
Need for Unity to Survive the 21st Century, saw many realising"the model of economic growth by population increase and evergreater debt is theoretically, practically and morally bankrupt, increased defence spending makes us more not less vulnerable,
international aid is a neo-colonial, anti-democratic scandal and regular environmental summits are virtually pointless." Minds had become "unable to judge situations with the nuance of wisdom", seeing everything as good or evil. Instruments of corporate greed had blinded people to the environment's needs and weakened understanding of love and cooperation. The situation was not hopeless: people must take responsibility, not judge each other, affirm sanctity of life and unite to uphold basic values of dignity
and respect for all under international law.
Anna Lubelska [Founder, Peaceful Schools Movement], on Peacebuilding through Schools, advocated schools as places where children learned to be peaceful, by creating a peaceful
ethos eg. a peace garden and 'peaceful places' in school premises, and developing inner peace among children. Military links with schools were "now becoming dangerous". PCM training schemes for staff and pupils focus on positive relationships and peaceful
conflict resolution, with 'Beacon Schools' for special peace projects [see: www.peacefulschools.org.uk].

Hadani Ditmars [Middle East Author & Photo-Journalist], on Promoting Peace in Iraq via Culture,said neither violence nor nonviolence had brought Iraq peace, so some people looked to culture to bring hope. She told moving stories of musicians, artists and poets "active in cultural defiance" of the forces of chaos and violence wreaking suffering and destruction on Iraq today. A cellist playing at bombed sites in Baghdad expressed "music as a form of resistance". Iraqi culture was giving people spiritual sustenance; she believed music and other arts could "help heal
Iraq's many wounds."

Vijay Mehta on Global Challenges Need Global Solutions quoted German writer Gunter Grass who feared humanity was"sleepwalking into a world war." The multi-crisis global disorder was seeing international law and human rights set aside, extremists terrorising whole peoples, $1.8 trillion military spending fuelling conflicts everywhere – and the "insatiable appetite of US military expansion" threatening disastrous conflict with Russia and China. Isolating Russia weakened prospects for Middle East peace and an Iran settlement; a 'failed state' Libya menaced north Africa and southern Europe. Conflicts across Middle East, and the Israel-Palestine dispute, demanded "a new international consensus" involving EU, US, Russia, UN and Arab states to establish a comprehensive peace and finally solve the Israel-Palestine dispute. People's movements had to lead towards global peace, deconstructing capitalism and building a better world from the bottom-up". Military interventionism had to be
replaced by reconciliation processes, accelerating humanitarian assistance for the displaced, "prioritising diplomatic intervention under UN auspices". The world needed global solutions: challenging militarism, investing in peace and strengthening
multilateralism."

Session 2 – Challenging Islamophobia, and Inter-Faith Dialogue – was opened by Dr. Sundas Ali, Muslim Council of Britain policy analyst and Lecturer in Politics, Hertford College, Oxford, on
Muslims in British Society Today. 2.7 million Muslims in England& Wales comprised under 5% of the population, "making nonsense of fears that Muslims are taking over!" 2011 Census
showed increased geographical spread: "Muslims don't live in selfsegregating communities." "47% were UK-born, 73% affirm primary national identity as British, only 6% struggle with English and some 30% are under 15." More were entering higher education and managerial posts than in 2000, but unemployment was above national average; 46% of Muslims lived in the 10% most deprived areas. Marriage and family were much stronger than in British society as a whole; philanthropy was at a high
level. Most British Muslims were Sunni, with Shia and other groups also present; there were some 1500 mosques across UK."Most Muslims feel at home in UK, but a minority experience Islamophobia". Issues of extremism and radicalisation "should not be the only narrative about Muslims." Mohsin Abbas [Media
Journalist, ex-BBC World Service & Channel 4] on Media and Islamophobia, said post-1979 Iranian Revolution and especially 9/11, mainstream UK media had predominantly portrayed Muslims very negatively as a danger to UK: "Channel 4 analysis of 975 print articles revealed two-thirds showed Muslims as a threat." There was conscious or unconscious acceptance of Muslim stereotyping, as 'killers', 'groomers', etc. Corporatefunded
media were controlling these negative narratives; Muslims

 

were also main recipients of a secular atheism 'cold war' against people of faith. Islamophobia was increasing: Metropolitan Police had reported a 65% rise in Islamophobic attacks in past 9 months. Solutions must include: legislation against hate crime; moderate
and 'critically thinking' Muslim voices in the media; promotion of 'positive images' of Muslims, a 'return to integrity' in journalism.

Rev. Brian Cooper [UfP Churches & Inter-Faith Secretary] on Positive Inter-Faith Dialogue for Peace, stressed the widespread misuse of religion for violence in 21st century had given dialogue a special urgency: "it must now embrace peace-making as its core purpose - both at local community level and globally." Years of local inter-faith bridge-building in many parts of UK had produced positive relations between different communities - a strong basis
for inter-faith action including on global issues. Historically, Christian-Muslims encounter had seen much conflict as well as positive cultural exchange. "The 'wounds of history' need to be healed by common acceptance of the facts without judgement or recrimination, in a spirit of mutual forgiveness and reconciliation."
Dialogue had to promote religious freedom – for this Middle East Muslim-majority states had special responsibility – and be heard at UN level with establishment of the widely-canvassed ‘interreligious council at the UN’ to advise political leaders. The dynamics of dialogue, based on mutual trust and common ethics, were relevant for conflict-resolution processes.

Trish Dickenson [Earth Trustee for Eradicating Ecocide] and Jo Jo Mehta [Environmental Activist] opened Session 3 on Climate Change Crisis and Solutions by discussing Choosing a Legacy to do no harm, stressing holistic caring for planet Earth. An antiecocide
law would aim to replace 'significant harm' to the environment with significant harmony, benefiting both humanity
and nature. Cultural ecocide [loss of species and cultures] and inner ecocide [violence to our innate wisdom] needed to be included. Human oneness with nature had to be rediscovered. Campaigning to eradicate ecocide – 'protest to protect' – was increasingly attracting young people. Vijay Mehta on From War Economy to Green Economy stressed militarism – "key driver of
economics of underdevelopment" – negatively impacted both environment and human security causing large flows of refugees especially hit by climate disruption. As world's largest user of
petroleum, US military heightened global pollution; two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions were created by 90
companies such as Chevron and Exxon – yet the 2015 subsidy for fossil fuels totalled $5.3 trillion! [IMF Report]. Peace-based security was basic to solving the eco-crisis. Transition from fossil fuels to a green energy era was essential. "We need to build a new
social, political and cultural society that is sustainable, equitable and in harmony with the environment." [Full Report – See UfP Website]

Report by Rev. Brian Cooper & Daphne Smalling

POSITIVE AUDIENCE RESPONSE included statement by Bernard Holland [quotes]: "I was deeply impressed by the sincerity and candour of all the speakers at this event, the significance of which cannot be overestimated.....It is the people, by virtue of their immense fund of wisdom, compassion and courage, who should inform and guide the leadership of all nations. [On 'Faith']: The mere fact I am convinced of the inherent value of every human life, provides a context for religiosity in the general sense that it is a unifying force that can only bring forth the best qualities of our human nature...[On Uniting for Peace]: a "commitment to this great and noble vision of a new world order."