The Words of the Erofeeva Family
In Yekaterinburg, a round-table discussion on "Living Heart to Heart," a debate at school No. 163, and an inter-religious gathering took place in honor of the UN International Day of Tolerance, November 16. A program in Ryazan focused on the theme of "Peace Begins with Me," and discussions in Kondoroga focused on ways to deal with extremism.
Representatives of UPF-Urals took part in a round-table discussion on November 18 on "Living heart to heart as children of one home" initiated by the Sverdlovsk Regional International Library. The following issues were discussed: the pros and cons of school programs based on traditional religions; how to form an atmosphere of tolerance in schools, colleges, and universities; and methods of inspiring youth engagement in civil society.
Natalya Erofeeva, head of UPF-Urals, reminded the audience that the UNESCO documents concerning the Day of Tolerance touch upon issues of relations between people of different nationalities, religions, social strata, ages, and abilities. Personal spiritual growth, expanding the capacity to love, and learning think about the benefit of others will help reduce tensions in international and inter-religious relations. Also, the UPF presented its projects in support of tolerance, among them the "Ural -- Georgia: We'll Stay Friends" project that started in Yekaterinburg two months earlier as part of the UPF South Caucasus Peace Initiative. The halls of the library housed the exhibition showing the progress of the project.
The Round Table discussion was topical, acute, and constructive. The participants expressed their desire to enhance their organizations' efforts by learning from the experiences of their colleagues and conducting joint events. Participants expressed their gratitude to the staff of the Sverdlovsk Regional International Library headed by it director, Novopashennaya T.H., for organizing the event. This occasion gave them the opportunity to meet, share opinions on "hot" questions, and make contacts for future cooperation with new organizations.
On November 13, representatives of different spiritual movements in Yekaterinburg held a meeting following up on "The Joint Vigil for Peace" organized by UPF-Urals on the UN International Day of Peace, September 21. Among the participants were Interclub "Sodruzhestvo," the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, the "Star of Transfiguration" movement, the Sahaja Yoga International Scientific School of Universology, the Church of the Last Commandment, and the Unification Church.
The opening address included quotations from the UN Declaration on the International Day of Tolerance and a short historical background about the commemorative day, which was established in 1993. During the meeting, time was devoted to communal prayer for patience and respect for our neighbors regardless of their nationality or belief.
In addition, representatives of various religious orientations quoted from their scriptures about how to develop patience and respect. Representatives of the Brahma Kumaris led a game called Word of Gratitude in which each participant was invited to express appreciation to the others. In conclusion, the participants sang inspiring songs that united them even more: "My Motherland's Origins," "I Love You, Life," and "Hope." The proposal to hold such meetings on a regular basis received unanimous consent.
On November 17, teachers and children of school No. 163 in Yekaterinburg joined the celebration of the International Day of Tolerance. For an interdiscussion of the challenges of tolerance they chose the pattern of the popular Russian TV talk show "Let Them Speak." One team advanced reasons for empathy and respect for people of other nationalities, religions, ages, and physical and psychological peculiarities. The other team insisted on the opposite viewpoint. The hall was equipped with an extended microphone, allowing people to question the presenters. An independent expert registered the arguments and displayed them on a monitor.
The participants prepared seriously for the debates, but their opinions were set in advance. Therefore, during heated discussions, some participants and even the whole teams sometimes changed their opinion and accepted the other viewpoint. The process allowed the issues to be thoughtful considered. The atmosphere at the meeting, in spite of the intense emotions, was friendly, and opposite opinions were given in a friendly manner without any aggressiveness and animosity. Discussions were illustrated by interesting videos. At the end of the meeting, the main inspirer and organizer of the debates, deputy-director of the school, Olga Nikolayevna Tsiplyatnikova, showed the promotional film she created especially for the event.
A long-term partnership exists between this school and UPF-Urals; therefore, UPF representatives were happy to accept the invitation and enthusiastically joined in debates, helping participants comprehend the differences between asocial deeds and peculiarities of culture or behavior, and between "passive" tolerance and "active" acceptance of people who may be annoying.
The UPF leader expressed her appreciation to the teachers and children of the school for the civility of their discussion and urged them to keep striving towards moral development, which can significantly advance the culture of peace.
At the Medical College in the Sverdlovsk region, students debated issues of tolerance. The November 19 event was initiated as the result of cooperation of the College and the Universal Peace Federation. The principal of the college, Lyovina I.A.; deputy-director Lyakhovskaya M.I.; and all the students supported the idea of events that provide opportunities for personal growth, lively discussion, and international initiatives. This time the event was related to the International Day of Tolerance.
Two teams participated in discussions: one of college students and the other of high school students who came from Serov to take part in two events dated to the International Day of Tolerance. In their speeches they emphasized three issues: international and inter-religious tolerance, tolerance towards the people with limited faculties, and tolerance towards people with different forms of addiction. Discussion of one type of tolerance lead to other types. Does "tolerance" mean merely accepting the existence of "others" or does it go beyond that to "understanding and cooperation"? What does it mean to be tolerant of people (for example) with an alcohol addiction? Should we accept their position and say: "Let them live their own way" or should we respectfully condemn the vice and help them overcome it? Is that possible?
Thus, tolerance is not a simple matter. We should examine the notion and then learn to be tolerant in everyday life. Students discussed different situations, tried to formulate key phrases expressing the meaning of tolerance. Discussions helped stimulate thinking and draw conclusions. Still, one can become tolerant only through practice. We cherish the hope that the results of the discussions will be successfully applied in the personal life of the participants.
On November 18, the International Day of Tolerance was celebrated in Ryazan with a free exchange of views on the topic of "Peace Begins from Me." The event at the Maxim Gorki Library in the Saltykov-Shedrin Hall was initiated by the all-Russia association "Teachers for Spirituality and Morality," the Universal Peace Federation, and the Committee for National Security. Among the participants were representatives of these organizations, Diasporas, schools of the city, and the Nobility Association.
Discussion focused on the place and role of each person in establishing the world peace. Regardless of race, nationality, age, and religion, people always wish to be happy. Participants discussed methods of educating people to think about how to make others happy. Such people would be naturally tolerant, understanding, accepting of others, and recognize unity in the diversity of religions, skin color, age, and nationality.
Imam Nurulla spoke about respecting people. Konstantin Krylov, Secretary General of UPF-Russia, spoke about harmony between the spiritual and material aspects of a human being and the need for greater recognition of the spiritual aspect among people working for epace. Andrey Ryazantsev, chair of the Public Security Committee, spoke about how each individual can contribute to world peace.
Shmakova Larisa Petrovna, chair of the Teachers in Support of Spirituality and Morality Association, led a training session on the theme of "Change Oneself." Each argued by himself about how I should change internally in order to make relations with people who were able to create peace within their own soul as well as in the society where they dwell. The basis of such relationships is the Golden Rule: "Treat another person the way you want to be treated." This rule could be considered the foundation of one's home with walls made of faith, hope, love, wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. The roof of such a home is one's family -- the school of love. In a home like this, people would never be unhappy; life would be transformed, with no room for alcohol, drug abuse, tobacco use, AIDS, or other social problems that disfigure people and make them unhealthy, unable to create peace in their soul and environment.
The conversation was beautifully accompanied by a saxophonist. The participants sang songs and shared their impressions at the end of the meeting. They were inspired and unanimously agreed that "Peace really begins from me."
The NGO Council members and Ambassadors for Peace from Kondopoga in the Republic of Karelia worked on the first issue of the Kondopoga municipal district's free newspaper Vector, scheuled for publication on November 22. The event is important because Internet is not in common use in this area of northwest Russia.
On the eve of the International Day of Tolerance, the town's Consultative Council for interaction with national and religious associations met. The first issue under discussion was the prevention of extremism. Mr. Kirilenko P.A., deputy head of the town, reported about the situation in the region. Then participants discussed the practical aspects of promoting spiritual, moral, and patriotic education. Related activities at school 7 and the results of the project were presented by Mrs. Ostapchuk Galina, deputy principal of the school.
There was also a presentation about the project "Veterans: True relationships between generations." Members of the Consultative Council supported the proposal to revive international friendship clubs.
While there have been ethnic tensions in this town near the border of Finland, there are bonds of friendship with other nations. For example, on November 17, the Kondopoga city school 8 welcomed visiting children from Lithuania. Mrs. Olga Podvarko, head of the parents' committee, initiated the friendly exchange with Lithuania, and the children received the invitation through the Lithuanian office in Petrozavodsk, the capital of Karelia. Davidas Saltavovas, from Alitus, Lithuania, gave a picture of the Assumption Church as a gift to the school museum. The school museum was established with the support of the Kondopoga–Herrliberg (Switzerland) Friendship Society.
For information about the UN International Day of Tolerance, click here. For information about UPF's South Caucasus Peace Initiative, click here.