Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Universal Peace Federation’

Peace on the Korean Peninsula

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 27th April, 2012

The division of Korea and the tense military stand-off on the peninsula — which alas sometimes involves aggressive action from the North — is the last remaining manifestation of the Cold War. As was said by one of the speakers at a Korea seminar at the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) in Lancaster Gate last night, this belongs in the 20th century, not the 21st. North Korea remains a menacing mystery for many in the West, and a constant worry for South Koreans, and indeed Japan, given the range of North Korean missiles. Yet the situation is not completely bleak, nor entirely static. The coronation of Kim Jung-Un as the third generation of North Korea’s Communist dynasty was pretty surreal, but Pyongyang did allow quite a number of foreign journalists into the country to witness some of the ceremonies associated with his takeover and the 100th anniversary of his grandfather and creator of the ideology of Juche, Kim Il-Sung. Moreover there are more contacts with the North these days than used to be the case. At the gathering last night it was pointed out that one hotel (yes, just one!) in Pyongyang does have CNN in its rooms and some North Koreans are able clandestinely to watch South Korean TV, even though that is dangerous. Reportedly one million North Koreans also have mobile phones (though foreign visitors who go to the country have theirs temporarily confiscated). It is significant to remember that until 1971, North Korea had a stronger economy than that of the South. In the intervening four decades, South Korea has been one of the most successful Asian Tigers, while the North has languished and many of its citizens live in dire poverty, some even succombing to starvation. Yet the first shoots of a market economy have been allowed to emerge. And China has been urging the North to carry out economic reforms. Probably only after sweeping economic reforms will the reunification of Korea become feasible, though no-one believes that could happen as quickly or indeed as smoothly as in the case of reunited Germany. But in the meantime, all interested parties need to avoid the rhetoric of belligerency and the North needs to recognise that fundamental change is in its own interest.

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20 Years of Abuja

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 18th July, 2011

For the past week, I have been at a Leadership Conference in Abuja, Nigeria, which has attracted an extraordinary range of Ministers (past and present, including several former Heads of Government), academics and religious figures, particularly from Africa but in fact from all over the world — as well as the odd entertainer, such as the singer Patti Boulaye, who is here promoting the work she does on AIDS with children in Africa. I’ll be writing about some of the discussions we’ve had elsewhere, but I want to highlight here the host city itself: one I have often mentioned in my lectures at SOAS — as a planned capital, built from scratch, like Brasilia — but had never actually visited before. This year it is celebrating its 20th anniversary as federal capital, which is a convenient milestone at which to pause and reflect. Building began in the 1970s, at the height of Nigeria’s oil bonanza, but that subsequently stalled, and the construction is still continuing, far from complete. Many high-level civil servants and foreign diplomatic staff reportedly used to go back to Lagos (the former capital and by far the country’s largest city) at weekends, as they found Abuja to be so boring. But these days there are more facilities and it is actually rather a green and pleasant place, with a nicer climate, fewer traffic jams and a much lower rate of criminality than Lagos. There are few “OMG, wow!” buildings than in Brasilia, but the main mosque is rather fine and stands out against the skyline. I visited the National Christian Centre, which is an immense non-denominational church, which I imagine must be quite impressive when thronged. Here, as all over Nigeria, religion is taken very seriously, and the number of different churches is dizying.

 

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Inter-Religious Council at the United Nations

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 2nd September, 2010

The Chairman of the Universal Peace Federation, Moon Hyung-Jin, has been in London this week, on his first ever visit to the UK, promoting the idea of an Inter-Religious Council at the United Nations. The idea was first mooted 10 years ago by his father, Moon Sun-Myung, head of the Unification Church — a body that has often had very hostile Press, in this country and elsewhere, though its work in peace-building and development in some of the poorest countries on earth is often admirable. A good cross-section of leaders of other religious faiths turned up at Portcullis House in Westminster to meet the younger Rev Moon, who has his own congregation of 4,000 in Seoul, though spent much of his life so far in New York. A soft-spoken, modest man in a simple white round-necked shirt, he argued that the United Nations should have a parental role in the world and that politicians are lost without some sort of spiritual guidance. His message was endorsed by a number of speakers of different religions, including Marcus Braybrooke, President of the World Council of Faiths, who pointed out that although legislation in countries such as Britain has its role in countering disrimination, education against misunderstanding is essential.

Link: www.upf.org

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Mongolia and the Ninth Millennium Development Goal

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 27th September, 2008

World leaders have been in New York this week, discussing progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The sad fact is that there is no way that many poor countries are going to reach their targets by 2015. Moreover, with a few notable exceptions, including Britain I’m pleased to say, rich countries have failed to live up to the promises they made at the 2005 Gleneagles G8 Summit. The MDGs, for those who need reminding, are, in brief, (1) ending poverty and hunger, (2) universal education, (3) gender equality, (4) child health, (5) maternal health, (6) combatting HIV/AIDS, (7) environmental sustainability and (8) global partnership.

Last night, at a reception and seminar at the Universal Peace Federation in London, I learnt that Mongolia, intriguingly, has unilaterally added a ninth MDG to its programme: strengthening human rights and fostering democratic governance. Speakers including the Mongolian Ambassador, Bulgaa Altangerel, John Grogan MP (Chair of the All-Party parlianmentary group on Mongolia) and Dr Nancy Rokola, formerly Visiting Professor for Biomedical Ethics at the Health Services University of Mongolia, outlined some of the extraordinary advances this previously Communist Soviet satellite state has made over the past decade. The capital Ulan Baatur hosted a huge peace festival earlier this month, about which we were shown a short video. And the government is busy promoting Ghengis Khan not as the bloodthirsty vandal he has been seen in the West but as the founder of stable government and administration. As Mongolia is one of only three Asian countries I have never visited (the others being North Korea and East Timor), I’m now itching to see for myself the reality behind the hype!

Links: www.mongoliatourism.gov.mn and www.globalpeacefestival-uk.org

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Muslims in Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 9th July, 2008

There was a lively gathering at the Universal Peace Federation’s building in Lancaster Gate, Bayswater, this evening, when the political and social theorist Professor Lord Bhikhu Parekh spoke on ‘Muslims in Europe’, on the occasion of the launch of his new book, ‘A New Politics of Identity’ (Palgrave Macmillan, £19.99). An academic expert on multiculturalism (and former Chair of the Runnymede Commission) he outlined in his talk some of the reasons why many Europeans are anxious about Muslims, and why many Muslims are anxious about the host community in which they live, not least in Britain.

The two discussants who followed his talk with short presentations were Professor Kenneth Minogue (Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the LSE) and myself. Ken Minogue effectively played the role of devil’s advocate, even to the extent of advocating war in certain circumstances, whereas I was able to parade arguments for: a genuine European citizenship for everyone, irrespective of ethnicity, religion etc; an analysis of British, French and Spanish approaches to social cohesion in Europe; and a recognition of society as a living organism in a permanent process of mutation. Well, as a Liberal Quaker, I would, wouldn’t I?

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