United for Peace: Farley '13 and Bullock '14
On February 14 in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations, students Addie Bullock ‘14 and Eliza Farley ’13 along with teachers Lissa McGovern and Jennifer Anderson joined over 1500 students, NGO (non-governmental organizations and UN mission representatives from around the globe in the UN program United for a Culture of Peace Though Interfaith Harmony. Here, members of various missions and committees of the UN, along with representatives of cultural and religious traditions shared a vision and hope for a world united in peace.
Opening the conference, President of the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly H.E. Mr. Vuk Jeremić reminded participants that the quest for peace and respect for all is the foundation of the UN Charter and as the world works “to establish a culture of peace and non-violence, all people of faith should respect and support the ethical tenants that we all have in common.”
Farley explains, “It was a great experience to be able to hear from diplomats and ambassadors such as Mr. Jeremić, as well as the ambassadors to the UN from Iraq, the Philippines, and Kazakhstan and the heads of influential religious Non-Governmental Organizations.
“The role of religion in international conflict has always been fascinating to me, but speakers like T. Hamid Al Bayati, the ambassador from Iraq, really inspired me to learn more about the diverse religion in our world in order to identify the similarities and differences between them in order to understand the different values in countries all over the world. The program definitely opened my eyes to the important of religion in other countries, as well as why it becomes so important in international disputes.
Representative Hamid Al Bayati’s discussion of his belief in the unity of religious traditions also resonated with Bullock who remarks, “for me, the most impressive part of the day was listening to Mr. Al Bayati speak. Not only was he an incredible speaker, but as a representative of one of the more volatile countries in the world today, it was interesting to hear his perspective."
Bullock and Farley also both appreciated simply being in a hall of immense history. Eliza explains, “although I have spent a large amount of time role-playing delegates for various countries in the United Nations General Assembly as part of Berkshire’s Model UN club, it was an enlightening experience to be able to sit in the actual General Assembly Hall in the same place as leaders from all over the world.”
Bullock also describes her interest in the United Nations explaining, “The UN provides a platform for nations that would normally never communicate directly to one another, such as Iran and Egypt, an arena for interaction without any repercussions. This forum allows for multilateral action and discussion which leads to finding solutions to world issues that are actually viable.”
In addition to stirring speakers discussing a common theme of peace for all people through cooperation, the program included choral music and a “symphony of peace prayers” from 11 representatives of many traditions ranging from indigenous peoples to Buddhists to Muslims and humanist traditions. Concluding the day’s program was a world peace flag ceremony in which each of the 193 countries and two observer nations’ flags were presented and all of the day’s participants offered the intention “let peace prevail in the world,” offering this hope for each of the 195 nations represented. Flags, carried by representatives of each country then wound around the great hall of the GA as joyful music played.
Attendance at the program comes as part of Berkshire School’s participation in the Railroad Street Youth Project Peace Initiative NGO of the United Nations. This year Bullock, Farley and Ms. McGovern have joined a newly formed board to direct the activities of the RSYP Peace Initiative NGO. It’s the intention of the group to encourage broader participation among area schools in peace-related activities of the UN and to bring initiatives of the UN to this local audience through contacts created at the UN. Helping to guide the group that has representatives from local high schools, Mount Everett, Monument Mountain, the RSYP and Bard College at Simon’s Rock is Michael Johnson who serves in this group while also leading another NGO to the UN, Pathways to Peace.
Both Farley and Bullock have participated in developing the Berkshire School Model UN Club, and in participating in the RYSP PI NGO they take their passion of global studies beyond the theoretical actions of model UN and hope to bring the work of the UN to their school. Through this program they will help other Berkshire School students to have the opportunity to participate in activities of the UN through the NGO.
-- Lissa McGovern, English teacher and faculty advisor to the Model UN Club