Guardian 6 January 2017 Features | Policy & Politics Parliamentarians world wide harp on peace, sanctity of marriageBy Seye Olumide | 05 January 2017 | 2:52 am. ’Parliamentarians across 54 countries worldwide including legislators from Nigeria recently converged on Capitol Hill, Washington DC, to sign a resolution to form the International Association of Parliamentarians for peace.The event which took place at the Kennedy Caucus Room, had in attendance United States parliamentarians, mayors, religious leaders, opinion moulders, and media practitioners.The four-day conference which had as its theme, “Addressing the Critical Challenges of Our Time: The Role of Government, Civil Society and Faith-Based Organizations” was co-sponsored by The Washington Times Foundation and The Universal Peace Federation.The conference addressed sub themes of Best Practices in Leadership and Governance, Terrorism, the Environment, and Role of the Media as well as Marriage and Stable Society, and Securing Freedom of Conscience.Speaking on the event, the lawmaker representing Jos South/East in the House of Representatives, Edward Pwajok and his counterpart who represents Yenogoa Constituency 3, in the Bayelsa State Assembly, Gentle Emelah, commended the vision of the founders of the Universal Peace Federation, Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak JA Han Moon, for initiating the forum, which they say has enabled lawmakers across the globe to interface and share experiences with one another.Another participant, Assistant Director of News, Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Olufunmilayo Wakama while commending the organizers of the conference said the media, as the Fouth Estate of the realm, truly remains the last line of defense for democracy, human rights, justice and peace.She tasked media practitioners to raise the bar “by re-addressing our political discourse, show each other more respect and encourage dialogue as a means to foster understanding, peace and unity.”President of Universal Peace Federation International, Dr. Thomas Walsh, charged the parliamentarians to be advocates for peace and human development, work together on transnational issues, using their strength to counter terrorism, strengthen families and protect the environment.He said legislators must always stand as mediators between government and civil society, using their experiences in law-making and public policy to build lasting peace in the world.The conference unveiled recipients of the 2017 Sunhak Peace Prize: Italian doctor, Gino Strada and Afghan educator, Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, chosen from 225 nominations drawn across 76 nations.The Sunhak Peace Prize is an annual award established in February 2013 by Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon in Honour of her late husband, Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon.It is presented annually to those who have dedicated their lives to humanity and sustenance of peace.The nine sessions were very illuminating; a former Knesset member, Nachman Shai, shared the Middle East experience, how its former leader, Yitzhak Rabin, led Israel to victory in 1967, and later became an advocate of peace after realizing that tanks and submarines were not enough to bring about peace. Though dead, he said the fight for peace is still on in the region.He spoke strongly on best practices in leadership, which include determination, ability to speak the language of accountability, democracy, human rights, and freedom.A discussant from the State of Virginia, Rob Wittman, who served on the Migratory Birds Conservation Commission, spoke on the coming together of the public and private sectors to protect the environment.He gave example of the Duck stamps, which are purchased by Hunters and conservationists to buy up wetlands and preserve habitats for migratory birds. Every public dollar, he said was matched with two private dollars.Apart from the PPP, he also recommended healthy forestry and agricultural practices to preserve the land through harvesting and replanting of cash crops.Another takeaway was the presentation by the Chairman of the Commission on Audit in the Philippines, Michael Aguinaldo, centered on how they have been able to control what he described as “otherwise uncontrolled expenditure” by involving citizens and partnering with Civil Society Organizations.These State actors assist in planning, fieldwork, evaluation and advocacy of government projects; making them very transparent, accountable, and participatory. Because the citizens are engaged and fully involved as partners in nation building, they take ownership of government projects and policies; be it roads, schools, health centers and the like.They geo-tag projects, monitor them in real time, using FB, Twitter, and other forms of social media; thereby maintaining the integrity of these projects from several miles away.A member of parliament from Ukraine, Prof. Viktor Yelenskyi, condemned brutal violation of religious freedom.Narrating a frightening global statistics of an estimated 200 million people been killed due to religious conflicts in the last 2000 years, Prof. Yelenski added that 65 per cent of all armed conflicts today have their origin in religious crisis, with only 20 per cent of countries, treating religious groups equally and fairly.A five time Speaker from the Philippines, Jose de Venecia, said violence in the name of religion is contrary to reason and God’s nature and therefore, religion cannot be the motivation for violence.He gave the example of India and Pakistan’s dispute over Kashmir as territorial and religious in nature, concluding that: “territorial, political and religious problems are always intertwined.”Participants agreed that peace is a subject of great importance and dialogue and the only means to foster understanding, peace and unity.This afforded Moon, a co-founder of The Washington Times, The United Peace Federation and The Little Angels, opportunity to remind parliamentarians of their roles as servants of the people, guided by basic principles of good governance, accountability, respect for human rights and the rule of law.She said good governance is secured not only by the policies and laws of the political system, but by those who hold positions of power being of good character, guided by their conscience and universal moral principles.Dr. Moon reminded participants of the UPF vision for world peace through spiritual and moral values, with a passionate appeal for the preservation of the environment.She noted that the current reality of the world could be transformed into a world of joy, harmony and lasting peace, if parliamentarians the world over will come together in harmony and cooperation for the sake of peace.