The Words of the Tsubata Family

Religious Athletes Compete For Peace: Hosts Support Faith Observances At Athletic And Cultural Meet

Kate Tsubata
July 2, 2007
Seoul, Korea

The International and Inter-religious Peace Sports Festival [ISPF] includes more than 1,240 participants from some 67 nations and 10 major religions, each with certain dietary laws and daily observances. Held at the spacious Sun Moon University in Asan, South Korea, the IPSF incorporates practical ways to honor the participants' faith teachings into every aspect of the conference.

In the capacious dining hall, three different menus are served for each meal: one for the 191 participants who do not eat pork, a vegetarian buffet for the 82 who don't eat meat, and another for the 860 with less stringent dietary rules.

Each day begins with prayer, meditation and devotions, led by a different faith leader each morning. In this way, participants can learn about the core principles of each other's faiths, and experience something of their worship traditions. Athletes and staff wear traditional head coverings or garments of their faith, even sometimes while playing on the field.

Cultural performances are one of the highlights of the festival. Each evening, participants gather at the gymnasium to enjoy each other's songs, dances and other arts. In 2007, special cultural teams have been sent from Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand to perform at the July 6th International Night of Friendship and Peace, and at other festival events.

Athletic excellence is definitely a central focus of IPSF; sports can transcend language or cultural boundaries. IPSF participants are selected based on achievements, such as taking top honors in national competitions. For many, IPSF offers the chance to enter the international level of competition, and to learn from the skills and methods of others.

"It may seem strange to imagine that religion and sports can lead to peace," said International Director John Gehring, "These people are coming from war-torn areas, civil war, or divorce. This is to let them taste of what peace looks like and feels like. It's something they experience so they know it's real, that all these people are now my friends.

"Rather than seek to dilute the passion and fervency of those of each faith, we hope to distill a sense of increased appreciation for spirituality, in all its forms," said Gehring. 'By praying -- and playing -- together, we develop a familial approach to peacemaking. If we come out of this feeling, 'hey, he is really my brother,' then we've done our job."

The IPSF runs from July 1 through 11, 2007, in Asan, Korea. For more information, check the website:

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