AMMAN — A new global peace organization announced last weekend in Amman that it would create a “peace embassy” in Jordan to launch youth education projects and peace initiatives in the Middle East.
The announcement by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) was made on the heels of an audiotaped threat by Jordanian-born fugitive Islamist extremist Abu Mussab Al Zarqawi that Al Qaeda would renew bombing attacks in Jordan.
Chung Hwan Kwak, Korean chairman of the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP), which is the main organization sponsoring the creation of the UPF, told a packed ballroom at Le Royal hotel in the Jordanian capital that the organization was stepping up its presence in the kingdom with a regional peace education program.
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Regional secretary-general of the IIFWP in the Middle East David Fraser-Harris told the Middle East Times on the sidelines of the November 19 event that plans would be drawn up to find a suitable location for the building somewhere in Amman.
“The peace embassy represents a sharp stepping up of activities in the country and region through this year and next,” he said.
The UN-affiliated IIFWP had organized the event as an inaugural convocation, Fraser-Harris said, adding, “We intend to show that violence and conflict must be countered by overwhelming positive and unifying actions.”
Jordan was still mourning the deaths of 60 people killed on November 9 in an almost simultaneous triple suicide bombing attack on three Amman hotels that also injured more than 100 others, mostly at a Muslim wedding at the Radisson SAS.
Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed the attacks that also targeted the Grand Hyatt and Days Inn hotels killing mostly Jordanians and provoking widespread shock and outrage by the public and media.
Hundreds of thousands of people have demonstrated against Al Qaeda’s Iraq frontman Zarqawi in dozens of gatherings and marches since the bombings. His own brother and tribe have also disavowed him in a 60-signature statement that was published in top national newspapers.
The outpouring of public anger and grief apparently took Zarqawi by surprise. In his audio message on November 18 Zarqawi threatened new attacks on hotels, as well as on embassies and other targets, and he argued that the suicide bombers did not intend to kill civilians, but instead were targeting American and Israeli agents in the hotels.
The following day civil society leaders and a visiting 120-strong US delegation in Amman for the dinner event visited two of the bombing sites. They signed a wall of condolences at the Radisson in the afternoon and conducted a walk for peace from there to the Hyatt.
At the Hyatt Jordan’s leading Islamic scholar Hamdi Murad, members of the delegation and others joined US civil rights leader and former advisor to Martin Luther King, Walter Fauntroy, in prayers for the families of the dead and for peace.
“We are here to demonstrate our deep sympathy with the victims of the terrorist attacks that tried to divert the Jordanian people from their course of peace, which they have been pursuing for decades,” said Sam Zakhem, former US ambassador to Bahrain.
Later on security was tight at Le Royal across the road from the Hyatt. Plain-clothes security officers mingled with an international dinner audience of some 700 people.
Organizers said that the event included about 500 high-profile Jordanian political, business, religious and civil society leaders as well as the US delegation and 80 Japanese mothers and peace activists.
Most had been invited through a committee directed by Murad and General Mansour Abu Rashid, chairman of the Amman Center for Peace and Development and an architect of the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty.
Reading from an inaugural address given in New York on September 12 by Sun Myung Moon, Korean founder of the IIFWP Kwak said that the UPF had been created to renew the United Nations.
Referring frequently to religious texts shared by Muslims, Christians and Jews, the 40-minute speech touched on the need for an “Abel-type” leadership at the United Nations to empower the beleaguered organization to resolve conflict, or as he put it, “[to untie] the knot of Cain and Abel”.
The speech, which outlined the aims and principles of the UPF and was the center point of the dinner event, encouraged men and women to seek to marry people representing different nationalities, races and religions in what he called “exchange marriages”, to help transcend barriers and as a way to peace.
Kwak also read an announcement from Moon’s speech of a visionary proposal to build a road/rail tunnel linking the United States with Russia via the Bering Strait to link an international highway system that would connect the American continents to Asia, Europe and Africa.
According to an IIFWP press release, the tunnel and global highway network would come under international administration as peace zones to allow free movement and exchange of travel, dialogue and development between countries.
Kwak arrived in Amman from Turkey the previous night to address the UPF gathering, as part of a 100-city speaking tour across 70 countries.
Moon, 85, had insisted on personally visiting all 70 countries in the UPF inaugural tour, Fraser-Harris said, but “after completing more than half of the events an adverse reaction to a Malaria medication kept him in Europe while the UPF chairman carried on with the African and Middle Eastern stops”.
Fraser-Harris added that Moon, however, was determined to visit as many countries as possible before the tour ends in December.
Meanwhile, at Le Royal, Moon’s speech, “God’s Ideal Family: the Model for World Peace”, was brought to a close by Kwak with an announcement for Jordanians to join a multinational “peace force” initiative of volunteers that would travel to areas of conflict and suffering to work to mediate conflicts and to improve local conditions.
When it was done, the audience spilled out into the chilly November night. A short distance away workers at the recently reopened Hyatt could be seen repairing bomb damage under spotlights that tried to turn night into day.