The Words of the Tewarie Family
Women for Peace Conference, New York, April 2006: A Personal Report
Varishna Ramlochan Tewarie
May 17, 2006
The Hague, Netherlands
In April 2006, my mother and I had the honor to attend the 'Women for Peace' conference of the Universal Peace Federation in New York City. As a college student, I am used to taking a lot of notes. So, thanks to my day-to-day diary of the conference, I can share some of the experiences we had.
We spent our first day in Manhattan and attended the opening dinner at the New Yorker Hotel. I was amazed to see so many women from different backgrounds in one room. The largest part of the delegation was from Korea and Japan. There were also women from the United States, United Kingdom, Afghanistan, Israel, Jordan, Czech Republic, Germany, Finland, France, Spain, Italy, Malaysia and Australia - and we were from the Netherlands (even though my parents are born in Surinam and my roots are in India). So there was considerable diversity in the room.
The conference started with a great surprise, because we heard that we would meet George W. Bush senior, 41st President of the United States of America, the very next day! He was kind enough to invite us to the George Bush Library and Museum at the Texas A&M University. After a three-hour flight with a chartered airplane, a tour in the library and a wonderful lunch, we moved to the Conference Center at the University Campus. The meeting started with a Korean song about peace and an introduction by Dr. Lan Young Moon the international president of Women's Federation for World Peace. After a few more introductions, Mr Bush gave a wonderful speech.
George Bush Library and Museum at the Texas A&M University
He first talked about the relations between Japan, Korea and China. History has produced many tensions between these countries, and Mr. Bush hopes that the future will bring prosperity and peace to all these nations. He also talked about the many travels he makes for his work. He is currently working with Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States, to raise money for the victims of the tsunami: these two men, from different political backgrounds, who ran against each other for president, can still work together when it is for a higher cause. His stories about his wife, Mrs. Barbara Bush, were amazing and touching. Mr. Bush strongly believes that life is all about faith, family and friends. He said the most beautiful day of his life was the day that his sons were elected governor (George Bush for Texas, Jeb Bush for Florida). But his wife reminded him of their wedding day and he changed his mind quickly!
He told more stories about his loving wife and children, which shows how important family is to him. The participants had the opportunity to ask questions. With a little encouragement from my mother, I asked him a question about finding a balance between a successful career and family life. He told us that reading to children is a very important moment of the day. Even though he was very busy, he always tried to make time to read to his children and so did Mrs. Bush. After taking many pictures with the President, he left and we walked around the beautiful campus of Texas A&M University, and then returned to New York. It was a memorable day for all of us.
The third day of the conference started with an introduction by UPF's Karen Smith, who works at the United Nations in New York on behalf of the Women's Federation for World Peace. She stressed the importance of an inter-religious council at the UN, since all the universal principles of religion maintain that everyone can live in harmony and peace. The current system of the UN is great, but not the greatest. She explained the UPF Peace strategy to us and the important role women have to play in building peace. No man can stop a woman! Changing the human spirit is the most difficult step of a peace process, because it is intangible and not measurable in dollars. Women play a crucial role in creating the human spirit.
The second speech was from Thomas G. Walsh, Secretary General of the Inter-religious and International Federation for World Peace. Mr. Walsh introduced the vision and ideals of the Universal Peace Federation and its affiliates. My parents have been involved with UPF for some time, they visited Korea and my father attended a Peace Summit in Israel. This was my first UPF Conference, so this speech was very interesting and informative.
Mr. Walsh told us about the presence of God and that God has a masculine and a feminine aspect. I was very pleased to hear this, because Hindu Dharm teaches this as well. There is one God and He expands himself in many manifestations. Hindu Dharm is the only religion where Goddesses (known as Devis) have such an important role and where women are worshipped. Hindu women learn the power of Matritva (motherhood), Netritva (leadership) and Kartitva (duty). These are the most important characteristics for Hindu women, who want to contribute to their family, society, nation and world. I was very happy to find these aspects in UPF as well.
I was also pleased to hear so much emphasis on spirituality in families. I come from a very close family, and religion, culture, philosophy and spirituality played an important role in my upbringing. You will never find one form of spirituality in Hinduism. There are many forms and all are acknowledged. Some choose prayers, others choose rituals. Some prefer knowledge, others prefer mediation. All these forms are like raindrops in a river - and they all end up in the Ocean of God. It is very important to give spirituality a place in family life, because it makes the family stronger and more stable.
The fourth and final day of the conference started with getting up at 3 o'clock in the morning. Dr. Sun Myung Moon and his wife, the founders of UPF, have a beautiful mansion outside Manhattan, on the banks of the Hudson river, in the middle of nature. We attended a morning prayer (in Korean), with speeches, songs and prayers. Dr. Moon communicates through the tone of his voice and the look in his eyes. It was an honor to meet one of the most popular spiritual leaders of today.
After having breakfast together, the Korean women started singing in Korean. They soon started dancing and, before I knew it, I was dancing as well! It was a wonderful morning in the beautiful Hudson Valley.
We had a tour around Manhattan and then attended the UPF conference in the Jacob Javits Center. We had the honor to listen to Mrs. Dr. Han Ja Hak Moon and her son, talking to us about world peace and the importance of family. The conference center was filled with people from different backgrounds, religions and cultures. Back at our hotel, we had a closing dinner and meeting. We said goodbye to our new friends and left New York the next morning, with wonderful memories.
The conference was well organized and it was informative and fun. I enjoyed meeting new people and listening to their visions of a peaceful world. I thank Mrs. Salaris for inviting me and my mother and for arranging everything so fast. I would also like to thank Mrs. Song and Mrs. Ward for their hospitality and leadership. The conference staff did a great job with the hotel arrangements, transportation and translation. I would also like to thank all the amazing women who made our stay in New York so memorable.
Life begins in the body of a woman, peace begins in her mind and love begins in her heart.