Unification News for November 2003

Tripod of Peace: Understanding The Three Declarations

Robert S. Kittel
November 2003

The tripod, more than a dove, may be an image that correctly symbolizes peace. The representation of a dove and olive branch as a sign of peace reaches back to the time of Noah. At the end of the 40-day flood judgment Noah released three sets of doves to check if the waters had subsided. When the second dove returned, "lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth" (Gen. 8:11). Ever since the dove and olive branch have symbolized peace.

But peace is more than the end of a period of severe judgment and turmoil. The traditional definitions of peace are: "a state of tranquility," or "the cessation of war." But peace can also be defined as a time of "public quiet, order, concord and contentment," and it is in these later expressions that a tripod may more appropriately stand for peace.

In order not to get a blurred photograph, the camera must be stable -- unshaken on any terrain. The four legs of a table or chair can be stable but only conditionally, if the floor is perfectly flat and the bottom of all four legs form a perfect plane. How many times have you been in a restaurant and had your coffee spilt because the table wobbles? Since the tripod can create a situation where the camera will be unwavering, it could symbolize the qualities of peace that are eternal, unchanging and unconditional. In this scenario, there is one camera supported by three legs. That creates an unshakeable or peaceful environment where the image will not be distorted.

IIFWP has, in essence, over the summer created the foundation for what it believes is a tripod for world peace.  Three major conferences held in three of the worlds hotspots have each resulted in proclamations signed by leading religious leaders, political thinkers, former heads of state, and academicians that lay a foundation for world peace. With over a thousand signatures, these documents address the most pressing problems that now stand as roadblocks to peace.

In May 2003, one hundred and thirty one Christian ministers went to Israel on a pilgrimage of reconciliation. Having understood that Jesus originally came to bring peace and did not come to die on the cross, they buried a wooden cross, representing the crosses that they had already taken down from their churches throughout the United States before beginning this pilgrimage. Then in reaching out to a similar number of religious leaders from the other two monotheistic faiths, namely Judaism and Islam, they sought to reconcile the family of Abraham and signed the "Jerusalem Declaration."

The first leg of the tripod reached back into history, healing wounds of animosity that still prejudice current events in the Middle East. Participants of each faith, as the declaration stated, "wish[ed] to repent for the dark parts of [their] past… for persecuting and killing others." Christians repented for "glorifying the execution which ended Jesus’ physical life" while Jewish leaders sought to "liberate themselves once and for all from the burden of Jesus’ crucifixion." In the end, Jews, Christians and Muslims pledged to seek Divine grace and forgiveness, to forgive and reconcile with each other, and to build "one family of G-d."

One month later, in Washington DC, the second leg was added. Building upon the Middle East Peace Initiative, participants gathered in the capital of the nation most responsible for establishing the United Nations at the end of WWII. Central to their mission was the call to establish inter-faith assemblies not only at the local and national level, but also "establishing an Interreligious Council at the United Nations."

As an integral part of this, the IIFWP worked closely with the American Family Coalition which assisted conference delegates in visiting members of the United States Congress, both the House of Representatives as well as the Senate. Religious leaders discussed the Interreligious Council initiative and explained to their political counterparts that the family of true love is the building block for world peace, both in terms of character and moral education as well as a model of government. The relevance of this program could be understood from the headlines on the front pages of newspapers across America; death and destruction was unabated in the Middle East and on the opening day of this conference, the U.S. Supreme Court had just legalized homosexual relationship.

The significance and central point of the "Washington Declaration" was that religions must take a role in overcoming the painful history of conflict, misunderstanding and separation, and are indispensable to good governance. The seventh article in this declaration stated that ideally religions would "manifest the highest moral and spiritual values… would embody true and enduring love… and be the central axis and model of good global governance."

The final part of the tripod of peace was put in place in Seoul, Korea on August 15, 2003. Nearly 360 delegates, from 120 nations convened what was justly called the Summit of World Leaders. The delegates represented one of the largest Interreligious gatherings ever assembled on the Korean peninsula. A subset of these deliberations was a concurrent committee that offered creative and bold steps to solving the 50-year old division of the Korean people. After all, one of the few times that the United Nations advocated military intervention was during the Korean War where 16 nations, including the United States, came to defend South Korea against a communist-backed assault from the North.

The "Seoul Declaration" laid the groundwork for establishing a "kingdom of true love and peace." The seed was sown by participants dedicating themselves to the "fulfillment of God’s ideal, for the sake of the coming generations, particularly through the establishment of blessed families of true love that apply the principle of living for the sake of others and go beyond the barriers of race, religion and nationality."

The image that encapsulates this vision was the Closing Plenary session. There H.E. Hamilton Green, the former Prime Minister of Guyana, was flanked by IIFWP Chairman, Rev. Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak, and surrounded by more than a dozen religions leaders from around the world. After reading the Seoul Declaration by His Excellency Green, delegates stood in line to sign this historical document.

The common theme running through the titles of these conferences was that the world, now more than ever before, was at a turning point. Moral confusion, political turmoil, corruption and the new scourge of global terrorism have made this point self-evident. Unanswered, however, is the question of how we can overcome these impediments to peace.

IIFWP believes that this series of three conferences is far more than a gathering of hundreds of people in areas of turmoil across the world as a show of solidarity and good-will. Lasting solutions to world peace require multiple approaches.

Firstly, historical resentments are real; they cannot be ignored. Hatred is like a ghost of the past that haunts and ferments bad relationships. We are spiritual and emotional beings that are influenced by these powerful, sensitive forces. The history of our past cannot be overlooked in seeking peace; historical enmity must be reconciled by players of this age.

Secondly, peace must be based on models of good governance. The heart of a political thinker who has his or her national self-interest at stake is quite different than that of a religious leader who is answerable to God. Politicians can be likened to an exasperated parent coming to their wits end, demanding that their disobedient children "just stopping fighting." In doing so, they could be appeased with cessations of hostilities and lulled into thinking peace has been restored.

But the religious heart must go further -- it calls for the cessation of hatred. Parents, at their best, would use conflicts as learning opportunities and would not be satisfied until the errant sibling expresses sorrow and seeks forgiveness and reconciliation from the wronged party. Any institution that separates the spiritual and religious from the political, educational and financial dimensions of governance will be crippled and shortsighted. It will likely not deal with the primary root of the problem.

And finally, true peace seeks peace more for others than for oneself, more for other nations than for ones own nation. Peace must be altruistic; it lives for the sake of others and is future-oriented, thinking more for the unborn next generation than the living. So without families where God’s blessing and love permeate each person’s heart, where vertical and horizontal relationships are clearly identified and honored, and where sacrificing for others flourishes continuously… peace will be like an unquenchable thirst. The underpinning of peace both in the individual and globally is the family.

In summary, peace means healing the past, building models of good governance that complement the spiritual and physical dimensions of our human nature, and creating blessed families were we learn through experience the value of living for others.

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