The Words of the Schellen Family
Beirut, Lebanon - Young people are the hope and future for each nation, and this is even more the case in countries like Lebanon that are seeking to move on from a generation of instability and violence in the region. With this in mind UPF Lebanon decided to make sure that the Beirut stop on the Global Peace Tour -- part of the United Nations International Year of Reconciliation -- included plenty of youth-oriented activities.
Lebanese Ambassadors for Peace enthusiastically organized a drawing competition for high school seniors with the theme, “My vision for the Lebanon I want my children to grow up in.” The aim of this competition was to stimulate a positive vision for the future of the young people, especially in a country where inner strife and conflict does not seem to end and which greatly burdens the young people.
Around 30 high schools from across the country participated. All the drawings were exhibited at the prestigious UNESCO Palace in the Lebanese capital city, Beirut, where the Peace Tour main event took place.
In addition to the drawing competition, the Global Peace Tour activities in Lebanon included meetings with religious leaders, members of parliament and government officials, and a festive dinner for Ambassadors for Peace and other VIPs. However, the undisputed center piece and heart of the tour was the Peace Congress that attracted several hundred young people at the UNESCO Palace.
The evening began with an exciting opening performance by the popular Lebanese singer, Nicolas El Osta. This famous artist agreed to sing free of charge for the Lebanese youth, which was a beautiful gesture indeed. And his performance was great. It really touched the hearts of all the young people and many others in the audience.
Besides the young, the festival attracted religious dignitaries, members of parliament and several leaders of NGOs. Mrs. Siham Khodr, president of a big Lebanese NGO umbrella organization gave a strong plea on the importance of motherhood. Dr Nour Salman, a UPF Ambassador for Peace and head of a children’s organization, spoke for the sake of the children of Lebanon. Both ladies gave very passionate speeches that inspired the audience, regardless their age.
The keynote speaker was Mr. Taj Hamad, distinguished veteran of peace building and vice-president of the UPF International Global Peace Council. He gave the UPF peace message in a way that captured the heart of his audience right from the start when he teased the young people “Is it ok to talk for many hours?” They responded with a big applause and cheers and listened intently to Mr. Hamad’s keynote address -- which was short and to the point.
Towards the end of the program, the winners of the drawing competition were called on stage by UPF Lebanon President, Mr. Thomas Schellen, who moderated the celebration together with Dr. Natalie Domloj, a Lebanese Ambassador for Peace. The moderators were joined by Mr. Hamad and Mrs. Amal Ibrahim, the Ambassador for Peace who had taken charge of the drawing competition, in the joyous task of giving out the prizes to the five winners and presenting certificates of recognition to all the participants in the competition and young volunteers who had assisted in the implementation.
Following another cheer for 40 Lebanese-Armenian scouts who had invested themselves in the projects of the Lebanese Youth Service Weekend organized by UPF Lebanon in November 2008, the stage was handed over again to rousing entertainment. A new group, Vibrations, performed a peace song and then it was time for Escape, a young band with a repertoire focused on Rock and Latin tunes.
Starting off with the GPF theme song, One Family under God, in a fascinating Latin beat and own arrangement Escape quickly got everyone to their feet. Although the time was advanced and many young participants had to depart for home, those who could stay enjoyed a fantastic spirit and danced their hearts out in the name of peace.