The “Foundation for the Child and the Family”, within the framework of the International Decade [2001-2010] for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence, organised the international conference entitled: “The child: victim of war and messenger of peace”, in cooperation with the International Peace Bureau and the “Hague Appeal for Peace”. The conference was organised under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Conference took place at Megaron-the Athens Concert Hall in May 2001 and was attended by over 700 people, distinguished personalities who have committed themselves to the fights for peace, as well as personalities from the world of Letters and Art, politics, academicians and university professors, scientists, researchers and sensitized citizens from Greece and abroad.

During her opening speech, Mrs. Vardinoyannis stressed: “We are in Greece, the place where Lyssistrati stood up against war. So many thousands years later, we are here and have the same goal: to protest against war. In fact we are protesting on behalf of a whole civilization, our civilization, which does not only tolerate and allow but sometimes it chooses war, which is the only crime of which nobody is ashamed, as a means to solve differences, to exert pressure or to punish.

However, in this crime, children are the main victims… In the recent years, the war machine does not only point towards children but it uses them against peace. Children are recruited by force, are armed and become fanatic. They are irreversibly destroyed… The “Foundation for the Child and the Family” participates in and tries to help the organizations dealing with children who suffer most. Moreover, our Foundation also supports the efforts of those who try to eradicate the problem. We acknowledge that human solidarity needs various opportunities to provide direct help to the fellowmen, i.e. the humanistic community, and a move against violence and arms, i.e. the peace and human rights communities. And all together, we can build this “alternative” world, this new and different civilization where children and adults can dream!”

Many personalities supported the conference. Those who were present and addressed the audience were: the Minister of National Education and Religion, Mr. Petros Efthimiou, the Mayor of Athens, Mr. Dimitris Avramopoulos, the Mayor of Ancient Olympia, Mr. George Aidonis and the former President of the International Peace Bureau, Dr. Bruce Kent. Those who sent a written message were: Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, the Nobel Peace Prize winners Mr. Frederik W. Klerk and Mr. Wole Soyinka, the former UN Secretary General, Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, the UNESCO Director-General, Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, the President of the Fondation “France Libertes”, Mrs. Danielle Mitterand, etc.

In her speech, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mrs. Jody Williams, stressed: «more courage is needed to deal with the arms without arms than with arms and peace should not just be regarded as a girlish or childish matter but it must be accepted and become trendy”.

During the Conference, the Greek and foreign speakers deposed shattering testimony about the horror facing children in several places of the world, where war and war conflicts constitute a daily reality:

Only in Africa, because of war, 20 million people were forced to leave their houses

95% of the war victims are civilians

80% of the refugees are children and women

Over 50.000 children that die every day all over the world from hunger would have been saved if the global expenditure for war equipment decreased by only 1/1000 and the money saved was offered to these children.

Scientific studies revealed that the radiation that is released from the use of depleted uranium missiles provokes cancer.

At the end of the conference, the speakers summed up the concerns that were expressed during the congress and made proposals about the future steps that are necessary in order to prevent war at an international level.

The President of the “Hague Appeal for Peace”, Mrs. Cora Weiss, stressed: “It is imperative that the 21st century, from its very beginning, brings about the big change, in order that the violence’s civilization is replaced by the peace’s one. But to ensure peace, we must teach peace and justice to the young children who will apply them to their own communities once they are grown up. Peace is not part of our DNA, we must learn it step by step”.

Within the framework of the conference, the Prize “The Hague Appeal for Peace” was awarded to Mr. Vandy Kanyako, head of the “Peacelinks” association in Sierra Leone. It is a prize that is awarded annually to those who promote Peace culture all over the world. To date, this Prize was awarded to the Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. Jose Ramos Horta and the people of East Timor for its struggle for independence. Since he was very young, Vandy Kanyako, worked for the demilitarization of the children and the reinsertion of young former warriors and other children with injuries in Sierra Leone, while he is also an active member of the NGO Peace links which, through music, dance and theatre, helps children and is a bridge between children and the wider society. In 1999, Vandy Kanyako wrote and interpreted the song “It is time to abolish war”, a song which became an anthem of the youth in Africa.