LIVINGSTONE, Zambia (eTN) – Some hundreds or so dignitaries and spectators alike gathered at 11am on Saturday, August 24, 2013, at the designated “Peace Park” area in Mosi-Oa-Tunya Falls (more popularly known as Victoria Falls Park) to witness yet another “peace tree-planting” by the International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT).
This time, however, the occasion marks a significant milestone in Zambia’s history, as the tree-planting ceremony coincides with the 20th edition of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) General Assembly. As such, tourism luminaries from around the world and the African region as well as dignitaries including former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, former Zambian Tourism Minister Patrick Kalifungwa and former Jordanian Tourism Minister Akel Biltaji, who has been tasked by His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan to represent him at the ceremony and plant a peace tree on his behalf.
IIPT President Louis D’Amore expressed “sincere appreciation to H.E. Senator Akel Biltaji of Jordan for traveling to Livingstone to join us in this re-dedication of the Victoria Falls IIPT International Peace Park with six olive trees from Bethany Beyond the Jordan, site of Christ’s baptism, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and where IIPT dedicated an International Peace Park on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the first year of the new Millennium as a legacy of its First Global Summit.”
Mr. D’Amore added that with the planting of these six olive trees to day, Jordan and Zambia – are now symbolically linked as “places of peace” through Victoria Falls and Bethany Beyond the Jordan.
“We are most honored to have with us today His Royal Highness Chief Mukuni of the Leya people on whose lands Victoria Falls is located, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, first president of Zambia, and Dr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organization,” said the IIPT president in closing the ceremony.
The IIPT founder told eTN: “I am also pleased to announce that as we re-dedicate this Peace Park today – some thirty more peace parks are being dedicated in South Africa, the Caribbean and India as these towns and village dedicate themselves to peace as part of IIPT’s new Peace Town initiative recently launched with Skal International.”
Significantly for Zambia, the event last Saturday at Mosi-Oa-Tunya Falls marked the third time it hosted a major IIPT event in eight years. Zambia first hosted a regional African IIPT conference in 2005, then again in 2011.
The 20th session of the UNWTO General Assembly is currently ongoing in Livingstone and Victoria Falls until 29th August, 2013, and is jointly co-hosted by the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe.