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While 2013 was marked by waves of mass murder, civil unrest, oppression, racism, marginalization and divisions, this year’s Global Peace and Unity (GPU) conference offered revived hope of a peaceful, harmonious world. The GPU invited its audience to honor a cessation of hostilities and commemorate the Global Peace and Unity through speeches, workshops and public awareness on issues related to peace. The 2013 GPU took place between November 23-24 at the prestigious ExCel Exhibition Centre in London. This was the sixth conference in the series with the underlying theme of ‘freedom for all’.
Global Peace and Unity debuted in 2005 and was created by Mohammed Ali Harrath, a well known Muslim figure in British society and president/CEO of Islam Channel. With encouraging speakers and messages, GPU aims to both educate and inspire people to realize what might be needed to achieve the making of world a more united and peaceful place.
According to Mohamed Ali Harrath, who is also the Chairman of the Global Peace and Unity Festival,
“The Global Peace and Unity has established itself as a landmark event and is now recognized as the largest gathering of its kind across Europe, with over 10,000 attendees in 2010.”
The conference featured international speakers to motivate and teach those who attended in how to apply peace-based principles to their own lives and in the society around them. The presenters and performers came from different backgrounds and they all had something unique and special to share with the audience. GPU is an event for people of all faiths and nationalities and included exhibitions, concert, lectures, seminars, debates and workshops on media, education, faith and health.
The event was opened by Mohammed Ali Harrath himself. Cassum Uteem, former President of Mauritius, addressed the press conference alongside Mr. Ali Harrath and Britain’s youngest elected female Muslim Politician, Cllr Rabia Bhatti.
“People are really coming together in a lot of special ways this year,” Aaliya, a trainee nurse who attended GPU as a guest told Toonari Post.
“This festival is a reminder that there is a peace-loving, vibrant community here and it makes me feel connected to everyone in a really special way.”
Different populations resonate with different things in different ways, and GPU combined the idea of entertainment, performances and motivational messages into a two-day program. Through this unique combination, GPU succeeded in touching and inspiring thousands of its attendees.
“It’s a modern interpretation of the conservation message,” a 19-year-old GPU volunteer explained. “It’s a new conformist message, a real pledge to global peace and global unity.”
“There is a misconception in the media,” said a 45-year-old teacher and father from Solihul who was attending the two day event at ExCel, that “GPU is for Muslim people only, but it’s not. This event is open for everyone.”
The list of renowned International speakers included; Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid author and producer from the USA, Imam Abdur-Rahman Olanrewaju Ahmed scholar from the UK, HRH Princess Basmah Bint Saud from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Commander Wayne Chance Assistant Commissioner to the City of London police department and Sheikh Shady Al-Suleiman an Islamic scholar from Australia.
Other speakers included Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari MBE FRSA UK , Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss Director of Neturei Karta International from USA, , Rt Rev Riah Abu El-Assal former Anglican Bishop from Jerusalem , Imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen from Denmark , Sheikh Muhammad Al Shareef President of Al-Maghrib Institute from Canada and Sheikh Yasir Qadhi Islamic Scholar from USA .
Dr. Yasir Qadhi, an Islamic theologian and scholar from America said: “It’s great to be back in sixth Global Peace and Unity Event, and I am very humble to be have been part of this event.”
The GPU hosted a beautiful, spellbinding evening of concert by international artists and performers. Nasheed artist Zain Bikha, comedian Baba Ali, and footballer Colin Neal, were part of the event. Junaid Jamsheed, Native Deen, and Najam Sheraz presented deep and heartfelt performances. Their performances were a thematic, harmonic and spiritual supplement to the concert programme.
Mariam Yousaf is a young mother of three and said that the trip from her home in Brussels to London took “three weeks of hard work to organize and execute but GPU is a great way for my children to see good role models, to encourage learning and to experience the diversity, different dialects conference has to offer.”
One of the other key note speakers was Sheikh Yaqoubi who addressed the crowd at the event.
“Given the complexity of the crisis in the Middle East, GPU is a time for people to collectively celebrate the peace in our world and to share the grief of those who suffer in the world. But this year it is special for another reason, because we will be hearing a speech from Sheikh Yaqoobi. I cannot wait,” - said 25-year-old Aisha Hassan from Norwich.
This was also a fundraising event with all of the proceeds going to different charities across the world. The event also featured cuisine from across the world.
The GPU, which reflects the common aspiration of people, offers a peaceful platform for different groups, and has sparked a glimmer of hope for a peaceful solution to worldly divisions.
“I am very thankful that we have this platform,” said a 29-year-old doctor from Kingston-upon-Thames. “So many of us don’t know about diversity and multiculturalism and GPU is a territory to explore this. It’s a place where we can really reach out and build partnerships and bridges.”
The GPU Awards are conferred annually and GPU paid tribute to the continuing struggle for peace and justice here in the United Kingdom and throughout the world. Its awards honor those whose efforts have substantially improved the lives of others. The awards emphasize the importance of moral and innovative contributions of people and organizations. This year’s award winners demonstrated personal integrity and a continuous commitment to realizing a world of peace.
Shaykh Muhammad Tahir ul Qadri from Pakistan was among one of the key note speakers at the event. After spending years in Toronto, he returned to Pakistan last year and led a long march to Islamabad in January 2013. He is the founder of Tehreek-e-Minhajul Quran (TMQ) that has a network of religious and educational institutions in Pakistan and all over the world. Shaykh Tahir ul Qadri addressed the crowd by “thanking the audience and Mohammed Ali Harrath CEO of GPU for organizing the event which has an international significance in order to propagate true message of Islam across the world.”
GPU has been a great platform to promote inter-faith dialogue and collaboration on shared objectives, upholding the rights of a peaceful world and religious pluralism while promoting the ideals of social justice and freedom for all. GPU was successful in its endeavor to engage civil society and leaders in a unique, collaborative exchange on innovative approaches to promoting peace, social cohesion and global unity. The need for a moral and innovative message, which draws upon the principles of our shared human lineage, is crucial in both confronting the challenges and utilizing the people and groups of the global society.
Image credit: Nadia Shabir