Celebration of the UN International Day of Peace: an Unqualified Success
By AG HW Fung
The Opening Ceremony
Blue sky, historic cathedral, music, Tai Chi, enlightening speeches and intelligent exchange among renowned media practitioners marked the International Day of Peace celebratory event, which was co-organised by Rotary District 3450 with UNESCO Hong Kong Association and UNESCO Observatory for Research in Local Cultures and Creativity in Education (UNESCO-RLCCE) as the lead organisers, and the Home Affairs Bureau and the Commission on Youth as the sponsors. The event took place in the morning of 21 September 2013, the International Day of Peace promulgated by the United Nations, in the garden of St. John’s Cathedral in Central.
Peace has always been a major core value of Rotary and much work has been done by Rotarians in promoting peace worldwide, including participation in the drafting of the constitution and by-laws of the United Nations after World War II and the setting up of UNESCO. The Rotary Foundation was created with the principle of bringing peace to the World through education and the relief of suffering and by helping people to better understand one another, particularly in cross-cultural settings. Over the years, Rotary has established Peace Research Centers in seven universities and sponsored a significant number of scholars every year to study degree and certificate programs on peace promotion and conflict resolution. It is thus most befitting that when the two UNESCO organisations in Hong Kong hosted the International Day of Peace, Rotary District 3450 joined as a co-organiser. Through the speech of District Governor Eugene, the above significant role of Rotary in peace promotion was succinctly conveyed to the audience. Participants were also addressed by the Guest of Honour, Mr. Lan Hongsheng, Vice President of the Chinese National Federation of UNESCO Clubs and Association; and Dr. Darwin Chen, Vice President (Culture) UNESCO Hong Kong Association and Chairman of the Organising Committee of Peace for all Youth Programme.
The event was honored by the presence of a number of officiating guests apart from the above three speakers, including Mr. Chen Hai Ping, Director General, Department of International Organisations and Conferences from the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of PRC in HKSAR; Ms. Hui Hiu Fai, Under Secretary for Home Affairs; Mr. Lau Kong Wah, Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs; Mr. Lam Leung Chi, Member of the Commission on Youth; Professor Patrick Lau, President, UNESCO HK Association; Professor Samuel Leong, Director, UNESCO-RLCCE Hong Kong Observatory; Ms Karen Zhang, Vice President and Secretary General, UNESCO Hong Kong Association; Consulates General and country representatives of European Union, Finland, France, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Spain and Switzerland; and religious leaders of Ching Chung Taoist Association of Hong Kong, Diocese Hong Kong, Kowloon Mosque, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre, St. John Cathedral and The Confucian Academy. The event was also supported by a number of enterprises, organisations, universities, schools and individuals.
Moment of Peace and Cultural Performance
During the event, the honorable guests and participants present had a special Moment of Peace together by following the “Yin-Yang” Tai Chi movement led by Taoist Tai Chi Master Lee Po Nang, which would help to create an internal dynamic equilibrium. District Governor Eugene shared this special moment with a lot of sweating as he energetically followed the Tai Chi movement under the sun. One thing for sure is that we all felt a bit lighter and healthier after the exercise.
The Peace Day celebratory event was also marked by cultural performances from the younger generation. These included the Flute Duet performance by students from the Institute of Education and the Singing, Guitar and Piano performance by students from the City University of Hong Kong.
Highlight of the Day: Seminar on Peace and the Media
Apart from the above activities which were all conducted outdoor in the nice garden of the St. John’s Cathedral, the highlight of the Peace Day event was an in-door seminar held in the Harold Smythe Hall with the title of “In what ways can media help shape peace in the world?” More importantly, we had Mr. Andrew Wong Wang-fat, a well-known figure who chaired many popular media programs on social and political issues and a former legislator, as the moderator of the seminar; and three distinguished persons from the media as the panelists, namely Mr. Andy Ho, former Information Coordinator of the Chief Executive’s Office of the HKSAR Government; Mr. Man Cheuk Fei, Chief Editor Emeritus of the Hong Kong Economic Journal and recipient of distinguished fellowships in journalism of both the Stanford University and the Harvard University; and Mr. Voranai Vanijaka, the 2010 winner of the MR Ayumongkol Sonakul Foundation “Writer of the Year” Award for his weekly column on Thailand’s politics and society.
The three panelists shared with the audience frankly their experience and insights on the work of media practitioners and its possible conflicts with peacemaking, since incidents that make news are often invariably associated with sensational events which are not conducive to peacemaking. There was also active participation from the audience raising punchy questions and comments on issues and threats faced by the community due to increase in conflicts and decline in harmony. The moderator concluded the highly interactive and interesting discussion with remarks on the importance for ‘Truths’ to be presented in all circumstances, and that war should always be avoided.
Participants were highly impressed by and satisfied with the very rich program on this International Peace Day, as borne out by the fact that many stayed through the seminar which lasted beyond lunch time. This International Peace Day celebratory event has fulfilled its objective of alerting participants to the importance of keeping up every effort to maintain and promote peace in our community. No doubt they will look forward to future events** on peace promotion which the organisers have planned for the first half of 2014.
**Future peace promoting events in 2013-14 include (i) the Peacemakers ConFest to be held during Mar-Apr 2014 by the University of Hong Kong, which is a week-long activity with student conference and festive activities; (ii) the Peacemakers Celebration event to be held on 12 Apr 2014 at the Hong Kong Science Park in which participants, mainly students and young people, will host country booths to offer engaging cultural experience and discovery to promote peace through intercultural understanding; and (iii) the UNESCO International “Arts for Peace” Festival to be held in May 2014 at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, which is a multi-country event emphasizing diversity and open to individuals of all ages, with the featured projects and activities drawing on the force of art for dialogue and social cohesion while promoting individual, cultural, social, political and ecological peace.