Discussing peace in the Middle East

To celebrate International Peace Day, the United Nations Association of New Zealand and Wellington City Council held a panel discussion to talk about what can be done to bring communities together once the conflict ends in the Middle East. Professor Paul Morris, who holds a UNESCO Chair, was among the speakers. He provides an overview of the event.

Paul MorrisAfter introductions from the Mayor; the Chair, Dr Rod Alley; and Joy Dunsheath, President of the United Nations Association of New Zealand (UNANZ), Dr Darren Brunk alerted the audience to the worsening plight of refugees from Syria and called upon the broad generosity of the New Zealand public to support refugee programmes and initiatives.

Professor Paul Morris introduced the work of the United Nations Association of Civilizations (UNAOC), stressing New Zealand’s pivotal role in its early development in this region. He focussed on its new scholarships at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University in England; the Inter-faith celebration of cultural identity through food security, which will take place early in 2017; the UNAOC summer schools; Plural + (Youth Video festival on migration, diversity and social inclusion, in New York next month); the Youth Solidarity Fund; the UNAOC Fellowships; and, the UNAOC Hate Speech conference and campaign.

Professor Morris called for young people to get involved and join the global community in participating in UNAOC activities. He ended by quoting Emmanuel Levinas and his reminder that “my fellow’s material needs are my spiritual needs”.

Paul Foster-Bell discussed the government’s programmes and priorities for refugees while Shane La’ulu outlined the Red Cross’s work with refugees in the Central Region, including Wellington. He called on the public to get involved as volunteers and to develop links and relationships with refugees. This was followed by Michelle Carlile-Alkouri, the co-founder of Make Foundation, whose youth musicians and performers graced the event.

Yordanos Tesfazgi spoke first-hand of her experiences as a refugee to New Zealand.

The audience then had the opportunity to ask questions and there was a discussion about what the public can do to help; whether the UN should have an army to protect civilians and provide humanitarian aid; and about the problems facing refugees in Wellington.

The message of the evening was that there is heaps to do that makes huge differences to people’s lives – get involved, help, start now!