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New York City
November 2003

Jane Goodall Shares the Spirit of Peace with Teens Around the World
by Michelle Accorso

Starting with a moment of silence for all those around the world who are suffering, Rick Ulfik, founder of We, The World, commenced a videoconference located in a room at the UN not much larger than a Manhattan studio apartment. It was convened by We, The World and the Department of Public Information of the United Nations in association with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the Vermont Peace Academy. Over three hundred high school and college students in Vermont and Iowa were linked together with the United Nations where Jacqueline Murekatete, an eighteen-year-old Rwanda genocide survivor, joined several other youth representatives from the Share the Spirit of Peace Youth Summit and the Vermont Peace Academy co-founded by Nina Meyerhof and Jon Schottland.

The featured speaker for this event, which was moderated by Audrey Kitagawa, Advisor for the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, was Dr. Jane Goodall, a UN Peace Messenger and Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research.

The Videoconference Series, Building Peace and Security in the 21st Century, was being convened in recognition of Interdependence Day proclaiming either “co-existence or no existence”, which We, The World launched in September 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the UN-designated International Day of Peace, which occurs every twenty-first of Sep-tember.

The focus of this event was to ex-plore peace education, youth involve-ment with peace building, and sustainability as practices of conflict prevention. After Jacqueline Murekatete was finished telling of the horror that took place in Rwanda when her entire family was abused and killed in the genocide, a student from one of the linked high schools innocently asked the date of the Rwanda genocide. The student’s question indicated that schools are putting current events like these on a back burner.

“I saw a lot of evils,” Murekatete stated: “People getting killed, kids dying in front of me, children crying for their mothers.” After Murekatete learned the news that her entire family was brutally murdered, she put her resentments about the rest of the world aside and came to the United States where she was adopted by her uncle, forced to quickly learn English, and ultimately enrolled at SUNY at Stony Brook. She now speaks in schools and other community gatherings with a man who survived the Holocaust, carrying the message of peace by sharing her story with passionate honesty. When asked by students of one high school what they could possibly do to make the situation better she answered simply, “The best thing you can do for me is to educate yourselves so that this doesn’t continue to happen.”

The conference continued with increasingly compelling stories being revealed. A young woman from Yugoslavia, along with her family, sought to escape the terror of their country by moving to the United States expecting a life of peace and security. The day they arrived, approximately one half hour after their plane landed in New York City, the first World Trade Center was struck down. It was the unforgettable morning of September 11, 2001.

Kimmie Weeks told of his life growing up in Liberia and how after witnessing six-year-olds being trained for the army, realized something had to be done. As early as high school, Weeks knew he had to stop the robbery of childhood. He, too, devotes much of his life to traveling around the world to educate youth. Oran Cohen from Israel takes a slightly different approach. Although also active in the education for a peaceful world movement, Cohen doesn’t just focus on children and young adults in hopes of making a difference. He is involved with a youth organization that arranges for Palestinians and Israelis to sit in a room together and talk about anything besides politics. “This helps them to relate on a human level,” Cohen says. “Each one always thinks they know who the other is, but they don’t. So they talk about common interests and hobbies and get to know each other as human beings instead of religious or cultural labels.”

Dr. Jane Goodall, the last speaker of the day, said, “I travel three hundred days a year and meet people who often wonder how they can make a difference. In a world of six billion people, what difference can one person make? One person actually does make a difference just by the choice of where they buy clothes.” Goodall commented that we should focus less on whom not to support and focus more on who to support and how we should treat each other on a daily basis. “Chimpanzees have taught us a new respect,” she continued, “In many ways they are more civil with each other even when they are fighting.” Stressing the importance of wisdom over intelligence, Dr. Goodall emphasized that the ultimate goal is to be able to find a way to live in harmony with the world. And who better to begin this process than children?

This videoconference is just one step We, The World is taking to educate and inform students around the country with the objective of an improved future. By carrying the message of peace around the world, these youth organizations, and advocates such as Dr. Jane Goodall, begin the process so desperately needed for safe and healthy lives deserved by all who travel this world. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.”#

For more information or to get involved with We, The World visit www.WeTheWorld.org.

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Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 1588, New York, NY 10159.
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