Rarely have our democratic institutions and processes been under such pressure as they are at this time. As we experience a crisis of trust at the very heart of the democracy we value so highly, many feel a sense of being betrayed by those in positions of authority. This trust, generated by leadership that maintains integrity and genuine public-mindedness, is so essential for the good working of our political structures.
While the G20 Summit was meeting in the Excel Centre and violent demonstrations were disturbing the City of London’s banking sector, the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) was holding a conference with civil society and faith-based groups in the House of Parliament’s largest committee room, entitled, ‘New Vision Amid the Economic Crisis’. This contrasted the moral vision promoted by civil society and faith based groups with the pragmatic approach of the G20 Nations’ Summit. Many in the session echoed the ‘Put People First’ demonstration theme that this was a time for a new perspective and not just a return to ‘business as usual’. In the lead up to the G20 UPF had issued a Statement emphasising the need for ethical change:
‘If there is to be lasting change, the G-20 must acknowledge that the current financial crisis did not happen by accident, and it was by no means inevitable. The root cause of the problem has as much to do with moral, indeed spiritual failure, as governmental or financial mismanagement. For this reason, improved fiscal, economic and trade policies alone are not enough. The attitudes and behaviour of people, institutions and even entire nations must change.’
Avraham Shomroni is an Israeli. Jalal Khudiri is a Palestinian. Both of them have lost immediate members of their families in the conflict and yet both of them now work together as a team in an attempt to help bring about peace and reconciliation. They were sharing their stories and experiences at the Universal Peace Federation London Headquarters. Further information about their organisation can be seen of their website – http://www.theparentscircle.com/about.asp
On this day we were happy that many guests found their way to our event, in spite of the very cold and rainy weather. Besides brothers and sisters there were about 40 guests, namely Peace Ambassadors, Ambassador for Peace candidates and others. One of the highlights of the afternoon was the video on the Global Peace Festival, including a part of Hyun Jin Nim's speech. This was inspiring for everyone who could not manage to come to the GPF, as much for those who attended.
Last night we held a meeting entitled ‘Perspectives on Iraq’ to hear the views of several people about the current situation in Iraq.
Dave Anderson MP, Joint President of the Labour Friends of Iraq and a long time official of the Trade Union, Unison, said that he had been opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq but had become involved in the Labour Friends of Iraq. He had accepted an invitation to visit Iraq from the Iraqi Trade Union movement who, he discovered, had welcomed the invasion as a liberation from Sadaam Hussein. He felt the most important point was to listen to the Iraqi people in how to help them solve their problems. Dave had taken Iraqis to the North East to his constituency to visit business people and to show them how the political and civil system worked. He said, “we’re a helping hand” from which Iraq can gain a lot but also we have a lot to learn from Iraq which is, after all, the cradle of civilisation.