Unification News for October 2004

Ambassadors for Peace Leadership and Character Education Seminar in Tuvalu, Oceania

by Rev. Greg Stone Funafuti

The capital of the tiny island state of Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean, was the venue for a four-day character education seminar convened by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace and the International Educational Foundation.

The July 13-16 seminar was held at the headquarters of the largest church: the Christian Church of Tuvalu. This denomination encompasses 90 percent of the population. The content of the seminar embraced a combination of the IEF character education lecture series, sample character education lessons, plus descriptions of character education programs currently being conducted in Oceania and throughout the world. The education team was comprised of Rev. Greg Stone, Regional Director of Micronesia; Rev. Paul Saver, Regional Director of Melanesia; John Adamedes and Stephen Osborne, National Leader of Tuvalu. Local Ambassadors for Peace were instrumental in helping stage this seminar and introducing the team to all of the traditional chiefs of each island.

"Valu" means "eight" in the local language, and "Tu" means "together." So "Tuvalu" means the "eight islands together" that achieved independence in 1978 from the British.

Tuvalu was one of the last places on earth to receive the Gospel. A deacon from a church in the Cook Islands was washed ashore after drifting at sea for many weeks. He brought ashore only a Bible (translated into the Samoan language). He taught the people to read, and they soon accepted Christianity from their own study. Christianity quickly spread throughout the other islands.

Soon after this time, something very unprecedented on the world stage occurred. On the island of Funafuti, the island chief offered sacred tribal land for the construction of a church. In all island meetings on Funafuti, the chief offers his position to the church minister, who then sits at the central post of the meeting house and begins and ends all meetings in prayer. Here is an example of a political ruler, in the elder brother position providentially, placing himself and his clan in the object position to a spiritual leader in the younger brother position. Clearly there is no division between church and state on the local level.

During the course of the seminar, the schedule of activities throughout Oceania was presented, and participants signed up to attend upcoming events such as the ten-day leadership seminars in Melbourne and Fiji, the 21-day lecturer training seminar, and the two-month Tong Il Moo Do martial arts instructors workshop. A lot of interest was expressed in bringing Tong Il Moo Do training to Tuvalu.

A prominent woman participant concerned about the spread of HIV/AIDS commented after listening to the presentation on this topic: "I have attended four or five seminars on HIV/AIDS, but your presentations were the first to clearly tell people that the best way to avoid AIDS is for teenagers to remain sexually abstinent and for married couples to be faithful. Your presentations were the best. Thank you so much."

During the course of the seminar, the team was given the opportunity to address all the chiefs from the neighboring islands. Our Ambassador for Peace, the former Governor General of Tuvalu, Sir Tomu Sione, introduced the team. We could present the video: "The World at a Turning Point," give a Powerpoint report on the inauguration of the Interreligious and International Peace Council in Oceania held in Samoa last March, and encourage them to attend future events.

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