Žilina, September 28, 2022. One of the highlights of the 13th edition of the Week of Christian Culture festival was the celebration of the 4th anniversary of the international initiative Tree of Peace, which is implemented by NGO Servare et Manere in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic. The event connected with the awarding of the association’s awards and the opening of photos from the expedition around the world took place in the Diocesan Center in Žilina. It was attended by ambassadors, diplomats and guests from Brazil, Dominican Republic, Israel, Japan, Canada, Austria, Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland, Vatican City State and Slovakia. Speakers from Tonga, Tuvalu, Russia, the United Kingdom and Fiji addressed the participants via recordings. The co-organizers of the high-level event were the Roman Catholic Diocese of Žilina, the Žilina self-governing region and the Town of Žilina. After the address of the Bishop of Žilina, Mons. Tomáš Galis, friends and supporters of the ideas of the Tree of Peace greeted the special guests with their speeches.
“Greetings and good afternoon from Tonga in Oceania. Ladies and gentlemen present at the celebration of the fourth anniversary of the international initiative Tree of Peace of Servare et Manere. I extend my congratulations to this NGO and the organizers of this important celebration of the fourth anniversary of the international initiative tree of peace. Four years can be a relatively long time and it takes people with strong minds, hard work and leadership talent along with trustworthy and respected supporters to make these achievements and reach this important Milestone of the fourth anniversary. In 2020, I was accepted as an official Friend of Peace from Tonga because I admire the noble aim of the preservation of historical war memory, fostering ideas of peace and friendship among nations and spreading an ecological message by planting trees as a symbol of peace with respect to nature. Therefore, I congratulate and express my thanks to the initiator of this project – our friend Dr. Marek Sobola. It is my prayer that this Slovak NGO continues to prosper with more achievements and successes in its project Tree of Peace in the years to come. My best wishes to you and may God bless you,” said His Eminence Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi, Diocesan Bishop of Tonga and Patron of the initiative for the Kingdom of Tonga.
“Greetings from Tuvalu to your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. It is indeed an honour and a privilege to be invited to say a few remarks in the opening of this gathering of peacemakers. Peace, as we know, is so important in any society, it is so obvious that societies must live in peace because without peace no nation and no individual can move forward. Only in a peaceful atmosphere can mankind secure greater height and progress in life. Living in peace is all about living harmoniously with others, living harmoniously with your neighbors. It is indeed a way of life, in which we respect and love each other, in spite of our cultural, religious and political differences. And allow me to quote from a great leader, known to mankind, what he said about peace. Jesus said, and I quote: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. May God bless us all.” His Excellency Sir Iakoba Italeli GCMG, former Governor General and former Attorney General of Tuvalu addressed the diplomats with these words. Sir Italeli is the Patron of the initiative for Tuvalu.
His Excellency Ľubomír Rehák, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Republic to Russia, laureate of the two highest awards Servare et Manere and long-time friend and supporter of the association also sent a speech on this exceptional occasion. “Due to my work commitments, I am unfortunately unable to attend today’s ceremony in Žilina. However, I would like to highlight the activities of the civil association Servare et Manere and especially its driving force – Secretary-General of the association, Dr. Marek Sobola, and his reliable background – Mrs. Dominika Sobolova. In cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and with the presentation of the Good Idea Slovakia brand, you have already organised a number of valuable events and have become a respected institution. The granting of Special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council is a testament to this. Today, your flagship project – the Tree of Peace – marks its fourth anniversary. In the years to come, as a participant and consultant in several projects, and a proud laureate of your awards, as well as a true friend and supporter of this project, I wish you every success and many good ideas. I also wish for more support for your project from all sides, but especially from the state, whose good name you so excellently spread abroad,” said Ambassador Rehák.
Mrs. Gerry Manolas, Chair of the Memorial Association for Free Czechoslovak Veterans, sent a greeting from the Tree of Peace, which was planted in Brookwood by Mrs. Zuzana Čaputová, the President of the Slovak Republic: “This tree is special because it reminds us that the peace that we now enjoy was thanks to the sacrifice and courage of the veterans that are buried here today. It is my honour to take care of this tree and to enlighten the visitors of its importance. I wish every success for the project; it is more important than ever, especially in light of what has happened in Ukraine this year”, said Manolas from Brookwood.
Mr. Kyle Stice, Executive Director of the Pacific Island Farmers Organization Network, also spoke from Fiji with a message of peace and friendship “Bula Vinaka and greetings from the Pacific! I would like to share a message of peace and friendship from Fiji but also the wider Pacific. We were very happy to partner with Servare et Manere to plant a Tree of Peace with the indigenous communities here in Fiji, marking a symbol of friendship between the people of Slovakia and Europe and Fiji and the Pacific. As we tackle big problems for farmers and rural people, we need more partnerships and more friendships and this is why we welcome the association and the opportunity to build bridges and build partnerships. Vinaka – thank you!”
After the speeches of the guests, the Secretary-General of Servare et Manere Marek Sobola presented the fruitful results of the Tree of Peace initiative, thanks to which memorial trees are already growing in 18 countries on 4 continents. “The Tree of Peace is associated with the need for peace and with the avoidance of global military conflicts. His main tool is a tree, a living organism that represents growth, prosperity and nature. We want to strengthen the solidarity of humanity and point out global environmental problems: the senseless plundering of nature in all its spheres – on land, in the oceans or air pollution. All actions contrary to understanding between nations and abuse of natural resources lead to great sacrifices. We will be happy if our guests take away a message of peace from Žilina”, said Marek Sobola. “We realize that the 4th anniversary is not significant in terms of numbers, but we chose it because WW1 also lasted for the same amount of time. The memory of the 100th anniversary of this global military conflict was behind the creation of the Tree of Peace initiative”, explained the Secretary General of the association.
The culmination of the festive event was the presentation of Servare et Manere awards. Among the laureates of the “Memorial Medal of Tree of Peace” was the Bishop of Žilina, Mons. Tomáš Galis and the Chancellor of the Bishop’s Office Dr. Štefan Žídek. Other awardees were Mr. Peter Fiabáne, Mayor of Žilina, Mrs. Erika Jurinová, President of the Žilina self-governing region, Colonel Jozef Paluba, Episcopal vicar of the Ordinariate of the Slovak Armed Forces and Armed Corps, Mr. Peter Štanský and Mr. Jozef Feiler. The second award was the “Tree of Peace Around the World Commemorative Medal”, created by Servare et Manere for the participants and supporters of the Oceania expedition associated with the implementation of the Tree of Peace. Among the laureates were the deputy of the Secretary-General of Servare et Manere Mrs. Dominika Sobolová, the photographer of the expedition Mr. Lukáš Macek, Mr. Gabriel Rehák, His Excellency Ambassador Ľubomír Rehák, Mr. Robert Stingray, Mrs. Kristina Stingray, Mr. Martin Fronc, the Mayor of Divina village and the Milan Rastislav Štefánik Society. During the meeting, the Thirtieth Jubilee Tree of Peace was planted in the garden of the Diocesan Center in Žilina. A significant moment of the 4th anniversary celebrations was the delivery of the confirmation of obtaining Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, which was issued to Servare et Manere in New York on September 28.
Until now, the trees of this initiative are growing as witnesses of the desire for peace, in addition to Slovakia, also in Australia, Fiji, French Polynesia, India, Liechtenstein, Germany, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, Austria, Romania, United States, Serbia, Tonga, Uzbekistan, United Kingdom, but also in Russia, where the basic message of the initiative – friendship, peace and understanding between nations – remained unheard. The aim of the project is to promote the message of peace by planting memorial trees on all continents. The Tree of Peace is a European, international and strictly apolitical project. Its main idea is the motto “Let’s make love the lifeblood of this world.”
The Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Austria and Switzerland as well as the Press Office of the Bishops’ Conference of Slovakia reported about this event.