Speech at Model UN in conjunction with the UNESCO Center for Peace: Hood College, Frederick, MD, March 11, 2006:

Speech at Model UN
in conjunction with the UNESCO Center for Peace
Hood College, Frederick, MD, March 11, 2006

I would like to thank Guy Djoken and the Unesco Center for Peace for the honor of appearing before you today. I greatly appreciate the work that Mr. Djoken has undertaken with this Model UN - and all of the work that he does with the Unesco Center for Peace.

My name is Tom Block and I am an artist. I have produced two different projects that work towards many of the same goals as the Center for Peace.

My Human Rights Painting Project, in conjunction with Amnesty International, uses a series of portraits that I have painted of human rights figures from around the world to raise issues of human rights, spread the word about the good work of Amnesty International and show how human rights concerns plague all of us. None of us is immune from the need to safeguard human rights for all in our country - and each of us has a responsibility to ensure that all people's rights are respected all of the time.

I have also created the Shalom/Salaam Project, which is based in a virtually unknown tale of mutual respect and sharing of ideas between Jewish and Islamic mystics over the course of almost 1000 years. In fact, due to these contacts, the cores of the Jewish and Muslim religions are strongly, and specifically, interlinked in ways few would suspect. I feel that by popularizing this tale through art and writing, a bridge of peace between Jews and Muslims can be forged and a new impetus for peace in the Middle East can be offered.

Ultimately, I feel strongly, as I know Guy Djoken does, that we must highlight the similarities between people, allowing all of us to appreciate how we are human beings first, and Jewish, Christian or Muslim; African, Asian or European only secondly. What is most important is our humanity - and it is the appreciation of our shared humanity that should inform our love and respect for each other.

In these times of crisis - as all times certainly are - it can seem that many peoples want nothing more than to draw back into their own tribe, and annihilate the rest of humanity. But people of good conscience must fight this impulse - and it is through events such as this model UN, which allow the participants to understand the world from a different, and perhaps foreign point of view, that help strive towards this greater awareness.