Radicalization, religious approaches to gender equality and LGBT tolerance: these issues are all immensely relevant, yet have received inadequate discussion in the halls of the United Nations. On Monday July 17th, at NAHDAMUN, students from a dozen schools and cities around Israel met to discuss these and other key issues relating to religion and global peace and stability. After hours of intensive debate and negotiations, some resolutions passed, one was vetoed, and the best performers received awards for their diligence.

The students, who came to Kafr Qara from as far south as Gan Yavne, and as a far north as Sakhnin, were divided into the ECOSOC, HRC, and Security Council committees, discussing religious freedom and separation of church and state; freedom of speech as it relates to derogatory portrayals of religious figures, and religious radicalization and reform. As per MUN standards, the students handled such key, potentially divisive issues with grace and aplomb, engaging in meaningful discussions of various aspects of their topics, such as whether governments or religious leadership would be the best actor in promoting women’s roles within religious groups. Despite national policies, as each student was assigned a country to represent, a fundamental humanistic sentiment shone throughout the discussions. In their closing moments each committee rushed to pass a resolution—except the Security Council, which was thwarted when the US delegate chose to exercise her veto.

 

 

In the closing ceremony, the principal, Mr. Ashraf Sbehat, addressed the crowd of students, parents, US Embassy staff, and a visiting delegation from Sweden. He congratulated the delegates on their hard work and wished them success in the future. Speaking next, Mr. Mohammad Hamarshi, the MUN coordinator at Nahda High School, talked about the vision that had inspired him to bring the first MUN conference to Kafr Qara.

Omar Massalha, Secretary-General of NAHDAMUN spoke next, stressing that all humans deserve the right to live in peace and safety, and challenging the students present to go out and be a positive force for change in the world to bring global peace.

Dr. Yehuda Stolov, Director of the Interfaith Encounters Association (IEA), talked about the IEA’s work, and how MUN conferences could lead to increased interactions between students of different religious backgrounds in the holy land. Mr. Andrew Dilbert, Deputy Cultural Attache at the American Embassy, which co-sponsored the conference, spoke next. Mr. Dilbert gave examples from his experiences serving in Latin America and the Middle East for how the linguistic, oratory, and negotiation skills that students acquired through MUN could serve them in careers in diplomacy.

 

 

Following the speeches, students were awarded for their hard work preparing for and during the conference. In the ECOSOC committee, the chairs (Aseel, Kareem and Nooralhuda) called up the delegates of Australia (Yusef Sbahat, Nahda School), Azerbaijan (Maryam Amer, Jadida School), and the United Kingdom (Lian Majadley, Al-Qassemi School), to win the Outstanding and Best Delegate awards. In the HRC, the chairs (Adan, Omar and Omri) recognized Belgium (Shaden Akel, Nahda School), Slovenia (Forat Nasser, Bashaer School), and Tunisia (Benjamin Chelsky, Yachad Modi’in) for the Outstanding and Best Delegate awards. In the Security Council, the most advanced committee in the conference, the delegates of Egypt (Fiona Imperial, Tabeetha School) and France (Zohar Yaron, Wizo Hadasim) were awarded Outstanding and Best Delegate.

NAHDAMUN was the final MUN conference of the year for Debate for Peace. Students will continue to participate in an Israeli-Palestinian negotiations simulation over the next two Fridays (July 21 and 28), before resuming with conferences beginning in November. More information is available via the Debate for Peace website. In addition to the interfaith delegation from Sweden (Mr. Adrian Kaba and Mr. Peter Vig from Malmo), an MUN delegation from Holy Land MUN (July 17-21) led by Mr. Daniel Gindis visited the conference in the morning to meet the students.

Diplomacy.co.il congratulates all of the delegates and the conference organizers.

Photo Credits: Marsel Badir

Steven Aiello
Founder, Debate for Peace
debateforpeace.wordpress.com