Unification News for March 2003

RYS in New Zealand

by Paul Saver

From Jan 4th to Jan 10th RYS New Zealand conducted it’s first international RYS project held in and around Rotorua, world famous for it’s thermal springs. The theme was "Building a Culture of Everlasting Peace". Forty five participants came from across New Zealand, Australia, Japan, PNG and USA representing Christianity (Protestant and Catholic), Sihkism, Buddhism, Islam, New Zealand Maori, Australian Aboriginals and Unificationism. The work projects took place at five different sites and included restoration of grave stones at a soldiers cemetery, clean up of the foreshore of Lake Rotorua, painting, plus clearing of walking tracks. At each work project, RYS participants provided a willing voluntary workforce to assist local organizations serve the community. One such prominent local organization which RYS assisted was Habitat for Humanity which has chapters all through NZ and throughout the world.

For those who have yet to visit NZ it should be said that driving from Auckland (capital city of NZ) to Rotorua one is immediately awe struck by the magnificent beauty of the natural environment reflected in such bio diverse flora. They say it only gets better if you go to more isolated places particularly on the South Island.

The beginning of the project was marked by a traditional Maori welcome. (the Maori is the name given to the indigenous people’s of NZ). This consisted of speeches and prayers by local tribal elders and guest speakers. Prominent amongst the guest speakers was an address delivered by IIFWP Peace Ambassador, Sir Peter Tapsell, who drove five hours from the east coast of NZ to be present. Sir Peter is famous across NZ as a long serving Speaker of the House of the NZ Parliament. He praised the inspiration and vision of the Founder of RYS, Rev. Moon.

After all the speeches all the participants formed a single line and one by one greeted the members of the receiving party with the traditional ‘rubbing of noses’. It was amazing that here in 2003, despite all our ‘advances’ we experienced an ancient ritual that was so filled with meaning and spirit. Furthermore, this traditional welcome was not just a meeting of two Maori tribes but moreover a meeting of people’s of such diverse national, racial and faith backgrounds. Our RYS group was a microcosm of the world.

What a wonderful way to begin an RYS programme. Here we had the elders of the local community and visiting elders speaking with such respect for each other and at the same time upholding the goodwill of the youth who had gathered in Rotorua to serve the local communities. No doubt the participants felt an added sense of responsibility to live up to the expectations being aired about them.

Following the Opening Ceremony, the first day consisted of seminar type activities designed to empower participants, build team spirit, increase awareness and appreciation of interaction styles, increase understanding and appreciation of different faiths, create a vision for RYS and learn interpersonal skills to facilitate greater harmony. Activities with these goals were integral to the programme each evening throughout the week.

From day two, the day began with a meditation/devotional session run each day by a representative from each of the different faiths. Participants could learn first hand of the different approaches to spirituality. The bulk of each morning period consisted of participants engaged in work at the various work sites followed by an excursion/recreational activity in the afternoon. Excursions included trips to the "Polynesian Pools" (thermal pools), Kerosene Creek (hot river), Blue Lake (swimming in a ‘blue’ crater filled with water supplied from under the ground, the Sikh Temple at Te Puke where participants learned more of the Sikh religion and a visit to Whakarewaraewa: a thermal village where the landscapes is dotted with hot spots giving rise to hot pools and springs and mud pools all giving off steam laced with a pungent sulphur odour.

Whilst social service work is a worthy pursuit in and of itself, RYS provides an opportunity for participants to learn about themselves and others through the medium of serving others. It’s called service learning. This is why the seminar component of RYS is so crucial. This includes constant reviewing and reflection throughout the project. Dr. Ron and Sherry Burr, both professional university lecturers and personal development facilitators from the University of Southern Missisippi, USA were brilliant and selflessly gave of themselves to participants to allow for such an enriching experience.

Two Peace Ambassadors from Australia graced the project with their active participation from beginning to end. They were King Lee representing the Chinese community of Sydney and Michael Jarrett, an aboriginal elder from northern New South Wales. Both of these gentlemen were team leaders and brought such a wealth of wisdom and maturity that blended so beautifully with the exuberance of the youth participants.( Incidentally, both Mr. Lee and Mr. Jarrett are men who not only speak of ideals but are men of action. Since being appointed as Peace Ambassadors of the Interreligious International Federation for World Peace both were decorated with prestigious awards for service to their communities. Mr. Lee received the Order Of Australia (OAM) award from the Queen. Mr. Jarrett was honoured with the award of "Australian Aboriginal of the Year" from his local community)

Throughout the week in Rotorua so many participants spoke of the warm welcome they received at all the work sites. At Ohinemutu, the site of the soldiers cemetery, where grave stones located next to the local Anglican Church, were scraped, cleaned and painted, one of the church elders was so moved by the hard work and sincerity of participants, that she offered to pay for all the equipment and materials used to complete the job. On this site a reporter from the local newspaper arrived mid week to write a story that filled half of the front page of the city’s daily newspaper the following day.

No doubt there is an image etched in the mind’s of local Rotoruans who witnessed RYS activities. It’s an image of young people of all different skin colors and appearances laughing and chatting yet working hard together for the sake of others. Here is idealism in action transcending all barriers and showing that God exists and is the Parent of all of us.

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