I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to travel to Kenya for the Global Peace Festival (GPF), the first for me to the African continent. Thanks to the international news, preconditioned ideas ran though my mind about Africa: the civil war, the tribal clashes, the extreme drought and poverty, the safari animals, apartheid, and AIDS. Though some of it are true, but it doesn’t really paint the colourful, vibrant and peaceful nature of the Africans or the Kenyans.

It was an eye opener for me as I stepped out from the Nairobi Airport, the weather was really cooling, despite the fact that Kenya is situated at the Equator. The next day, which was the opening for the Global Peace Convention, me and the GPF media team quickly start working on the our assignment. There are photographers, video persons and me, the interviewer/reporter for the event.

The 2-day Global Peace Convention (18-19 November) was officiated by heavy weight politicians. Namely by Mr. Mwai Kibaki, the President of Kenya; Mr. Raila Odinga, the Prime Minister of Kenya; Mr. Kalonzo Musyoka, the Vice President of Kenya; Representative Minister of Nigeria (forgot his name). For those who are not aware of the Kenyan politics, they are formed by a coalition government, due to a bloody 2007 Election violence between the Mr. Kibaki’s party and Mr. Odinga’s opposition side. Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan was credited for hasten the peace process between both sides. A Coalition government is something that is interesting because it allowed better political stability and lesser internal strife where the demographic population are diverse and divided. Yet, one thing apparent for Kenya is its commitment to strive for democracy and peace, although being surrounded by volatile neighbours.

The Global Peace Convention (GPC) was also attended by Dr. Hyun Jin Moon, the Chairman of Global Peace Festival Foundation. I think by now most are very much aware of the tarnished image of the Unification Church, initiated by his father, Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The Moonies as they were called, was considered a popular cult 2-3 decades ago. Due to the internal split between Dr. Hyun Jin Moon and his siblings in 2008, he left the movement for good and the rest is history. One thing interesting about the nature of GPF is it’s non-sectarian, non-partisan and inclusive nature. It’s vision of “One Family Under God” may sound religious, but the orientation is very much universal. The three core pillars – Strengthening Families, Interfaith Cooperation and Community Service – are meant to build better bridges among societies and communities. Nevertheless, being new to the scene, it had faced countless challenges and setbacks in proving its legitimacy in the Non-profits world.

Another thing strikes me profoundly is it’s dedicated commitment on world peace – specifically on religious and ethnic cooperation. That is what Global Peace Convention was all about, bridging gap between world leaders, creating the space for dialogue and cooperation.

The topics discussed in GPC were wide and diverse, ranging from genocide, peace process, interfaith cooperation, to youth development, entrepreneurship, Character Education, etc. During the Opening Speech of a minister from Nigeria, he really raved up the audience with cheers as he spoke seriously against bad governance, corruption and politicizing tribal conflicts (tribalism is a big problem in Africa). Suddenly the quiet (and rather mundane hall) mood changed, young Kenyans were clapping and shouting slogans of peace, giving hope that Kenya will rise against the stereotype of what an African ought to be. I was in awe.

Seeing the numerous workshops, forum and talks during the GPC, I came into a conclusion, there’s a bright hope for Kenyans. One of the sub-event was the Youth Summit, which was attended by the Vice President of Kenya. He was also very much interested with how young Kenyans can bring about change to Kenya. I was personally inspired, most Politicians in Malaysia failed to see the power of young people in effecting social change, that’s a sad truth.

My job assigned was on media and communication. I got the chance to interview and speak to a lot of prominent leaders in their own field. Among the leaders that I admire deeply were the Hon. Jose De Venecia, Former Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Philippines. He was very much a humble gentleman, truly believed in the vision carried out by Dr. Hyun Jin Moon. The same goes to Dr. Manu Chandaria, the richest man in Kenya and prominent Businessman, and Sir James Mancham, Founding President of Seychelles. Their experienced yet humble personality truly reflect the charisma of a true leader. I personally believe Dr. Hyun Jin Moon has aligned himself with the right leaders, leaders that shared his vision and embraced the the idea that we all come from one human family. It is important for people to understand that, scientifically speaking, human beings are all originated from Africa as written in our DNA, through the millions of years of migration by our ancestors, that is how we came to be so diverse and different. Yet, it is important for us to celebrate diversity through unity and equality, by seeing the similarity in our human values and principles.

On the other hand, I do understand for a lot of people in the world, religion and spirituality is an important fundamental in their daily lives. Realizing that religion has and always been a source of conflict between different faiths, by using the metaphor of god in the vision “One Family Under God”, people of different sects are able to see beyond the external complexity of faith, instead embrace the idea that we all come from one human family, while God is placed as the centre of the human spirit. This is why I believe the United Nation has failed to see, the UN has became a dry vehicle for politicians to merely ‘fix the problem’ without understanding the complexity of human behavior. By understanding the nature of religion in playing a role within the human spirituality, instead of sweeping aside the importance of uniting these moderate religious leaders, they should be given a role in influencing their community to end the exiting religious/civil conflict.

Nevertheless, I do acknowledge Global Peace Festival is still very new, and with the word ‘festival’, it might perhaps gave a rather inaccurate idea of what GPF is all about. Of course, celebrating peace is a symbolic aspect of GPF, especially in promoting peace among the younger crowd. Yet, the efforts of GPF are beyond just events, GPF is branching out from the comfort zone of feel-good events, reaching out to grassroots communities, working on issue-based projects, working together with young people, organizing interfaith dialogues, and so on. Using a multi-pronged approach, GPF has formed dedicated partnership with world leaders, young people, grass root communities and the government in realizing the dream of building “One Family Under God”.

I left the Global Peace Festival in Kenya feeling rejuvenated. There’s still a lot to be done though. Peace is not a destiny, it is a journey of discovery.

Advertisements