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Interreligious harmony is God's way of life.
|UN Day of Tolerance Observed in 7 Russian Cities|
|By UPF - Russia|
|Wednesday, November 16, 2011|
For the third year in a row, UPF-Russia organized "Run Hour" events, academic forums, social events, and interactive learning experiences in various parts of the nation marking the UN International Day of Tolerance, November 16. To read the UN's Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, click here.
In many cities of Russia and nearby nations, “Run Hour” events took place on November 13 in connection with the International Day of Tolerance. The slogan for the program was “We are for friendship between nations.”
The relay race was started by Ambassadors for Peace in Khabarovsk, and then it was taken up by enthusiasts from different cities of Siberia and the Urals. Young Ambassadors for Peace in Moscow and other cities of the European part of Russia also participated in the activity. Here and there, passers-by joined the runners.
To promote a tolerant attitude to others, participants handed out fliers in support of international friendship and the goals of the project. In many cities, the participants made colorful photos with the slogan of the project “We are for friendship between nations.” A special approach was demonstrated by participants from Kazan, who started the morning by taking a dip in icy water to inspire all people to join in a “Run Hour” in any weather conditions. Young people from the Nizhnevartovsk City Volunteer Center gladdened people's hearts by their large-scale participation in spite of wind and snow; they were joined by a sports star, Baktybek Sharshenov, who is honored trainer of Russia and master of sports.
In some cities, participants handed out flyers with the text of the UN Secretary-General’s address on the International Day of Tolerance. In addition, some organizers conducted a public opinion poll and interviewed the people they met on the meaning of the Day of Tolerance. The result showed that many people understand the necessity of tolerant attitudes in relations between people in everyday life and expressed their desire to strengthen international friendship.
An Ambassador for Peace, activist, and leader of the university volunteer movement, Nadezhda Nizhegorodtseva, participated in UPF-Russia’s Baikal service-learning project in the summer of 2011, and after consulting the UPF-Ural representatives and drawing on her experiences, she prepared a program for the International Day of Tolerance. Here is her story in brief:
At the Zabaikal State Humanitarian and Pedagogical N.G. Chernyshevsky University, a role-playing game “Five Principles of Peace” took place on November 15. Among the participants were students of different departments: law, physics and mathematics, nature and geography, and foreign languages.
There were heated and lively discussions, and as a result we formulated the following Principles of Peace:
A seminar on “Tolerance as a Factor of Interethnic and Interreligious Cooperation and Rapprochement of Cultures in a Globalizing World” was held at the Peace Embassy in Moscow on November 12. About 50 people participated in this seminar. They discussed this difficult but very important topic, expressed support for the principles of tolerance, and proposed concrete projects to promote these principles.
Vladimir Frolov, Honored Artist of Russia, member of the Academy of Science of International Relations, President of the International Center for Public Diplomacy, and an Ambassador Peace, gave the opening remarks, drawing special attention to the role of art in establishing relationships of tolerance and friendship between nationalities. In particular, he used the example of Russia-Georgia relationships and asked all participants to take part in this process. “UPF can do great things in Moscow and in the whole world by joint efforts of all gathered here,” he said.
The next speaker was Jacob Mesenzhnik, an Honored Scientist of Russia, Honorary Member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics and Aviation, President of the International Academy for the Integration of Science and Business of the Lomonosov’s Order, and an Ambassador for Peace. With sadness, he stated that humanity, while understanding the necessity of tolerance “at the same time ignores it in daily life. I can’t stand it when I hear the phrase – ‘these are your problems.’ How can it be possible not to see the problems of others as my own? There is no such thing as somebody else’s problems.” He also noted that prejudice towards people of different nationalities sparks protest in these people, but their response may prove that this negative image is true. “The idea of mistrust materializes,” he warned. “Words materialize in actions, in an increase of crime and hatred which finally poisons the whole world.” Also Mr. Mesenzhnik called participants to “cultivate a different approach, a different attitude, emphasizing that every person has a chance to become a co-creator of something great.” He used the example of Mother Teresa, who noted that things may be pretty dirty everywhere in the world, but, “If each of us would only sweep our own doorstep, the whole world would be clean.”
After that, Valery Emelianov, Director of Scientific Information in the Department of the International Institute for the Study of Monotheism and an Ambassador for Peace, spoke about religious tolerance, which he called “the fundamental form of tolerance” since every religion determines the fundamentals of a human being and his/her view of life. In his opinion, the cause of problems between religions is that religious views are layered with personal subjective understandings, which people often regard as absolute. As a result, “there are irreconcilable attitudes among those of the same religion who think and believe differently and even more so among those of different religions.” He also suggested that religious leaders and believers not focus on the differences and antagonisms but rather look for common points on which to build harmonious relationships.
Elena Kolesnichenko, chair of the Youth Model UN and a Youth Ambassador for Peace, shared about the practical work which her organization does, in particular organizing educational seminars for children of migrants and refugees. According to her, the key to tolerance is the ability to understand each other. At the same time, she noted that tolerance is nurtured in the family. “What we gain from our family later helps us to understand each other,” she said, adding that the volunteers of her organization are striving to work on their own training first. She emphasized: “It is important for us to be an example for the society.”
Another practical example of tolerance in action was the story given by Alexandr Skakov, Director General of cinema video company "Sofinter" and an Ambassador for Peace, about his trip to Georgia as part of a UPF project. He shared how the representatives from Russia and other countries helped improve classrooms at an orphanage, and he dispelled the common view that the conflict on the government level seriously damaged the relationship between the common people of the two countries. He emphasized, “I became convinced about people’s good attitude to us.”
The discussion about tolerance ended with a proposal to organize a concrete project to help children in Africa and with the appointment of four new Ambassadors for Peace.
A blood donation drive took place at the local Moscow Blood Transfusion Station in Moscow’s Tsaritsyno district. In the morning of November 16, six young people gathered at the station inspired by the ideals of tolerance and one world family emphasized by UPF. There are two ways one can donate blood in Russia: for free or for a fee. The usual amount of blood drawn is 460 ml or 15 oz, and it can be designated for a particular recipient in need or used as needed. The staff appreciated that the blood was given for free and were surprised that young people would spend their morning pursuing a good cause without looking for anything in return. This was a new experience for most of the blood donors. Giving blood involves time, effort, and discomfort, but the reward is a deep feeling of satisfaction. Each donor hoped that his or her blood would be used to save somebody’s life or make it a bit easier.
The rich diversity of cultures existing in the city and active position of their representatives was demonstrated at the round table discussion initiated by UPF in Nizhny Novgorod on November 13. The theme of the event was “Tolerance as a factor of international and interreligious interaction, and convergence of cultures in terms of globalization.” Among the participants were representatives of Diasporas, religions, spiritual groups, youth and social organizations, teachers and social workers, and university students.
The event was opened by a presentation about UPF activities. After that, the guests were informed about Dr. Moon’s vision in concern of tolerance and peacemaking. The participants discussed the existing methods of solving international and interreligious conflicts; they also analyzed the hidden agendas and impediments to intercultural interaction. During the discussion, the participants offered different approaches to considering the point at issue and proposed a number of methods to overcome barriers and prevent possible conflicts. They expressed their great interest in mutual cooperation and offered concrete ideas for program that promote establishment of a culture of international and interreligious friendship and respect towards representatives of different cultural spheres.
In the course of summing up the results of the round table, the participants worked out a number of practical steps for carrying out their ideas and made plans for future joint projects.
In the "hero city" of St. Petersburg, a traditional "from heart to heart" meeting took place at the House of Veterans #1 on November 14. A large round table with a samovar united the honored veterans and young guests. Conversations took place in the warm, close atmosphere: some recalled episodes of the war and showed old photos; others were singing war songs and sipping tea. Though the meeting was related to the International Day of Tolerance, the word “tolerance” almost didn't need mentioning. Everyone practiced tolerance, along with love and mutual respect. At the end of the meeting, all participants embraced, wishing they never had to part. The event was initiated and carried out by a Young Ambassador for Peace, a UPF volunteer, Maxim Semyonov.
[Note: "Hero Cities" is a title awarded by Stalin to 12 cities of the Soviet Union for outstanding heroism. More than a million and a hlaf soldiers and civilians died during the 872-day siege by German forces of Leningrad, as it was known then, from September 1941 to January 1944.]
In Russia’s Far East port city of Vladivostok, UPF held its first conference in the region on November 16. Vladivostok is a significant academic and political window of Russia to the Pacific Rim. This city recently marked its 150th anniversary and is preparing to host the APEC Summit in 2012. This forthcoming event has stimulated major construction and renovation work in the city. There are youth volunteer projects and growing international ties.
In preparation for the event, UPF representatives were received by Alexander Logunov, head of the Youth Affairs Department of the Regional Administration. Peter Tarasov, UPF volunteer in Vladivostok, has been cooperating with this department and other Vladivostok organizations in ecological programs since 2007. At the meeting, Konstantin Krylov introduced UPF-Russia’s interethnic and inter-religions youth programs: Play Football Make Peace, Mr. and Miss University competition, and the Baikal Lake service-learning program.
Alexander Logunov described local and international youth volunteer projects and plans for the upcoming APEC Summit. One of the Administration's goals is to establish a healthy climate among the numerous ethnic groups in the area.
The meetings with NGOs provided information about new local initiatives. Many NGOs make efforts to counter drinking alcohol and smoking. The Russian State Railway Company recently responded with a promise to introduce non-smoking cars on trains making the seven-day journey from Vladivostok to Moscow.
The following day, a conference took place at the Equator Hotel overlooking the Golden Horn Bay. Among the guests were a member of the Primorsky Region Duma, representatives of the Far Eastern Federal University, psychologists, artists, religious communities, and NGO leaders.
Peter Tarasov introduced the agenda and stressed that friendship, good neighborly relations, and mutual respect are important qualities to promote in Vladivostok’s multi-ethnic and multireligious society. Ivan Marychev, head of UPF in the Russian Far East, described local sports for peace programs and reported on recent classes on peace he gave to students in the neighboring city of Khabarovsk. He said that the new generation of youth gives him a lot of hope.
Addressing the participants, Galina Medvedeva, the deputy of the Primorsky Region Duma, stressed the importance of involving mass media in promoting tolerance and peace among various ethnic groups. Vasily Shilyev, head of the Baha’i Faith in Vladivostok, shared about his many years of interreligious work. He called for dialogue among religious as a source of peace. Vladimir Izergin, founder of the NGO Clean Vladivostok, called on the participants to develop ecological initiatives.
Konstantin Krylov, Secretary General of UPF Russia, made a presentation about UPF's core values. He stressed that Dr. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of UPF, envisions the coming Pacific era bringing new light to the Russian Far East. Dr. Moon's initiatives to create a tunnel-bridge in the Bering Strait connecting Russia and USA and to promote peace between North and South Korea through the Northeast Asia Peace Initiative will make Russia's Far East an important center for promoting world peace.
For the third year in a row, UPF-Urals organized an event with the children-and-youth grassroots organization “Sirius” There are many barriers that divide people, and opportunities for teenagers from two different regions to meet and interact is a perfect laboratory for practicing the principles of tolerance.
This year, the event on the theme “We all are so different” was initiated and conducted by the Serov team (seven students from the 11th form and two teachers, Liudmila Turanova and Anna Maklakova) for children of the Yekaterinburg children’s home #6 on November 13.
The program opened with songs accompanied by a guitar. The students then spent the next three hours learning the skills of finding merits not only in themselves but also in their peers, respecting and accepting the distinctive features and interests of other people. They were taught to empathize with others and work in a team, group, or family where not only personal but also joint achievements are considered the main goal.
This process was not easy, but under wise guidance of able and tactful teachers, difficulties were overcome and the initial tensions were eased. Children were able to recognize new features in their own and their friends’ characters and experienced both the hardships and joys of relationships. Participants and initiators expressed hope that the experiences will not only remain in the hearts and memory of participants but will also bear good fruit.