AN INTERNATIONAL PEACE CONFERENCE LED BY CHILDREN
The Attlee Room was packed and overflowing with an audience of over 150 diplomats, MPs, business people, community leaders, educators and young people.
Children and young people were the main speakers and they stole the show. Some shared moving accounts of their own stories – leaving family at the age of 12 to escape from Afghanistan and travel overland to Britain; a mother disappearing because of conflict in Zimbabwe; losing relatives to bomb-induced cancer in Iraq. Others described the experiences of children in conflict situations – fear, trauma, lack of all facilities. They challenged the audience through speeches, song and poetry to feel the impact of conflict on children.
One girl summed it up in these words:
MPs were well represented and made a significant contribution. Members of the DFID Select Committee, chaired by Malcolm Bruce MP, led a lively question session, with penetrating questions, especially from the young people.
The adult speakers responded gratefully to the children's lead, welcoming their appeal for peace. They were Ms Sughra Ahmed, Dr Basil Mustafa, Rev Dr Toby Howarth, Rev Jay MacLeod and Prof Ram Gidoomal CBE.
The conference outcomes can be listed in different areas:
The Government reaffirmed its commitment to help children affected by conflict, for example through its work on behalf of child soldiers in Africa. DFID is strongly committed to address the causes of conflict and to support health, education and economic development in countries affected by conflict.
Personally we were challenged to consider our response and action at different levels – personal (inner peace), family, local community, nation and global. Peace begins with relationships. Like the 'Good Samaritan' who practised peace in a context of bitter conflict, we are to 'go and do likewise'. We were reminded of key concepts related to peace: challenging fear and hypocrisy and supporting truth, justice, empathy and hope.
There is a need for a Centre for Global Understanding and Peace, where people can meet regularly from all over the world, for learning, research and sharing together. This should be in a neutral place such as a university, free of government control, where senior officials, who advise governments in conflict situations, can study and share together without fear.
A DVD is being produced to spread the conference message, based on the conference speeches, comments and interviews.
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