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Family Federation & UPF walk Boyne 'Peace Road'

The Irish 'leg' of the worldwide "Peace Road" event drew inspiration from the ghosts of the past as participants assembled and carried out a 40 minute walk through the historic battle site. After a visit to the Interpretive Centre which showed clearly through audio-visual presentation, that although the site at Oldbridge, Co. Meath, on the banks of the Boyne river, was a theatre of religious war in the 17th century - it has now become a symbol of reconciliation in modern Ireland. A place where both orange and green can reflect on their identities and a future 'peace road' which will hopefully harken a new battle cry for peace, now that the peace process has been successfully charted by brave politicians, church and community leaders, following on the sacrifice and suffering of so many innocent victims.
May the perspective gained on the Peace Walk serve as a reminder of the need to respect our shared history. God willing it can help us forge new identities together where our common humanity can be mutually respected, so that we never again fight each other for political, nationalistic or sectarian gain. Those who took part felt refreshed, renewed and happy to construct part of the worldwide peace road which will lead us hopefully to an Ireland where true love and peace abound for all faiths, cultures, peoples and traditions based on the universal family values we hold dear.



Radicalisation and Violent Extremism in Europe: Focus on Prevention

Dec 5th, 2017 – EU PARLIAMENT, Bruxelles

by Colm Ó Cionnaith, UPF Ireland:
This very stimulating, thought-provoking and in the current context of 21st century Europe, urgent topic, was the matter at hand for discussion by UPF Europe’s latest initiative: the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace -IAPP.

The EU parliament chamber in Brussels was full of distinguished attendees and representatives of various NGOs and stakeholders on the invitiation of Flávio Zononato, the Italian M.E.P from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats who guided the programme and assisted in preparing the distinguished panel, made up of Jean-Marie Bockel, a high-ranking French National politician and social conservative; Afzal Ashraf, a British military academic with expertise in the Middle East and religious conflicts; Seyran Ates, a muslim female Immam from Berlin and Prof. Brigitte Maréchal, a Belgian Political Scientist, Islamologist and Sociologist. All raised interesting points and gave great analysis of the current tension that exists in Europe between culture and religion, some like Jean-Marie emphasising the importance of balancing the secular nature of the French Republic, which promises equality and freedom to all with the necessity of values and particularly the need for the state to recognise the positive aspects of religious practice in the education of children and the emphasis faith traditions give to the family as a bedrock for successful and happy individuals.

I was quite captivated by our female Imam from Berlin who has to overcome constant opposition and indeed requires protection from the state to allow her to continue her ministry in what she described as a ‘liberal mosque’ in Berlin, where all comers are welcome, regardless of their gender or political philosophy. She came across as a very open-hearted person who obviously loves her faith, but also cherishes the freedom which Europe gives her to practice and promote it the way that she feels called to. Following the presentations by the panel, there was a question and answer session, which was inevitably too short! However, those of us eager to pose our questions were comforted by the knowledge that the second part of the conference was to follow in the afternoon in the nearby Renaissance hotel.

My impressions from the afternoon session was that things were a lot more relaxed and we had more time to teethe out some of the issues raised earlier in the parliament. Contributions to the afternoon session were also provided by MEP for West Midlands’ Ms. McIntyre’s parliamentary assistant, who outlined a very successful project in her constituency which helped to create a better atmosphere for religious tolerance and respect and hoped that this work could continue to find funding after Brexit. French muslim leader Camel Bechikh gave his perspective of growing up in France as a proud citizen and adherent of his faith and painted at times a stark picture of the conflicts between those two systems.

Perhaps this for me was the biggest take-away for the day: how do we encourage religious adherents to participate in politics in Europe, where they feel the freedom and democracy not as a threat to faith but as a protection and a basis, not for conflict, but for social good. The next day I was lucky enough to be invited to a similar meeting organised by Jan Figel and chaired by the Vice-President of the EU parliament Mairéad McGuinness as part of the EUs new responsibility for Freedom of Belief & Thought under the Lisbon Treaty . I congratulated the VP on the initiative on behalf of UPF and reminded her of our event held the previous day and the commonalities shared by our respective conferences and organisations.



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