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Two LDS Business College Students Speak at UN World Peace Conference
Two students from LDS Business College spoke to a UN gathering on Thursday, March 6. Zury Marin and Orlando Luna traveled to New York with 16 representatives from The Young Refugees of Utah for World Peace organization. There they participated in a "Youth at Risk" conference designed to inspire future generations to promote worldwide peace and create alternatives to war.
Of the sixteen Utah representatives, only six addressed the conference. Zury and Orlando, both from Columbia, presented a joint speech on "Unity" to a gathering of over 600 people. Their goals were to explain what experiences they have had living in a war torn country, and give a message of peace.
To prepare for their presentation, Orlando and Zury met often with their group members. "The stories they tell are incredible," said Orlando. "My life is just one percent of many of the struggles of those from other countries. They have been through a lot of hard times."
The youth shared their personal struggles and triumphs to persuade conference attendees that alternatives to war can be found, according to Orlando. Zury agrees. Her father was nearly killed in an uprising when he came to the aid of an old woman in danger. "It is sad to see these things happen, and we want to offset what is happening in our countries. We want to help people in countries with violence and terrorism find ways to stop it, or at least get through their problems, so that they can be somewhat helped," Zury said.
The students, ranging in age from 9 to 22, spent part of their time in New York in service activities designed to promote the organization and generate public awareness of their goals. "We are trying to give a message that war isn't going to solve anything," said Orlando, whose own father also nearly lost his life when highwaymen attempted to kidnap him. "I never was sure he was coming back home each night. Some groups terrify people by stopping them on the road and kidnapping some of them. My dad didn't stop. He drove away. They shot four times into his car, but none of them hurt my dad."
Orlando also explained how orphaned children are drafted into the military. "Innocent children lose their homes and families, so they join these groups. Sometimes when they are fighting in the jungle, they put the children out in front to fight first. It is very sad," he said. Both Orlando and Zury relate that growing up in a country of violence robs children of a childhood. "You couldn't enjoy youth because you don't know what will happen to you. But still, I lived happily with my family. I left the country to do something for myself," Orlando said. He traveled to Utah to attend the LDS Business College where he is earning business degree. A 19-year-old freshman, Orlando has been in the US for almost two years.
Zury is a 23-year-old senior earning an executive assistant degree at LDSBC. She left Columbia at age 18. "I saw all kinds of things there," she said.
The Church was a great strength to both Zury and Orlando in times of trial. "I was born in the Church. We knew that we had the Lord with us. My grandmother told us stories of how they had to leave everything and flee, but she knew the Lord was with them. We have to be one-hundred percent positive, because we know we have the Church, and there are a lot of good things that can happen," said Orlando.
Zury emphasized that the World Peace organization is one of those good things. Its purpose is to redirect refugee youth away from their pasts toward a more hopeful future. Membership in the organization requires 100 hours of service project time. Members serve individually and in group projects. "When you do service, you have fun, help others, and redirect yourselves. All of us who belong to this organization have left terrorism behind us in our lives. Some of us are a generation away from it, but we can still see it in our families and our countries," Zury said.
Countries represented at the conference included Uganda, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Sierra Leonne, Sudan, Iraq, and others. The audience for the UN event included Kofi Anna, Secretary General of the UN; John Healy, Director of Amnesty International; Richard Butler, former head of UNSCOM: and numerous celebrities. Members of The Young Refugees of Utah for World Peace, the only youth refugee organization in the US, were filmed for documentaries at the conference by groups from France and Miami. Upon their return, members are scheduled for speaking engagements at LDS Business College, BYU, and Harvard, where they will report their experiences. Information about The Young Refugees of Utah for World Peace can be found at www.utahpeaceinstitute.org
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