Unification News for October 2004

Seminar in Germany on Roads to Peace without Violence

Fritz Piepenburg
June 4, 2004
Secretary General IIFWP-Germany
Bad Homburg, Germany
Maritim Hotel

"If we try to put our experience of the 20th and 21st centuries into a nutshell, we would have to admit that we did not learn our lessons from history. After World War II more than 260 wars took place on the face of this globe. When the Berlin Wall fell, everybody had great hopes for a more peaceful world. But now we are building new walls!" With these words, Karl Meier, president of the German IIFWP, greeted the 65 participants who gathered on July 3rd at the Maritim Hotel in Bad Homburg for a one-day seminar on "Roads to Peace without Violence."

The morning session was dedicated to "comments from a religious perspective." Dr. Elke Preusser-Franke, an educational scientist and president of the Jewish Women's Association of Dresden, led the way by explaining that much of the inter-religious strife was due to one religion's zealous sense of mission to convert another. Jews never felt an urge to convert others, but resent very much attempts by other faiths to convert them.

Comment from the audience

Throughout history Jews had to defend themselves against forced conversion and other forms of aggression, most notably, of course, the holocaust experience of the 20th century. However, she also conceded that the current spiral of violence and contra-violence in the Middle East holds little promise for peace. In her words: "Not every Jew is in favour of building a new wall in the Holy Land, least of all we people from former East Germany, who have first hand experience of such walls."

Prof. Dr. Jčrgen Redhardt, a protestant theologian at Giessen University and a former pastor, voiced his opinion that perhaps Christian history has been the one stained with the most bloodshed. He blamed in particular the exclusivist attitude of Christian mission work for causing much pain and angry rejection among people of other traditions. He also questioned the notion of a "just war," which has been used by each and every government entering war, oftentimes with the support of the main Christian churches. "Sorry to say, but so far Christianity has not played a major role in banning the scourge of war from the face of the earth."

The religious representatives, with Amir Herzog speaking

Dr. Tarek Ali, a German national born in Egypt, and Amir Mohamed Herzog, president of the Association of German Speaking Muslims in Berlin, expressed the Muslim view on the topic. Palestinian tribes, according to Dr. Ali, have been living in the Holy Land since before Abraham migrated from Iraq to Canaan. At that time, Abraham and his family were guests of native people, until they settled there. When Jewish immigrants entered Palestine at the time of Moses, they tried to take the land by force. Again they settled later on among the native tribes and people eventually were able to work out their relationships. Today once more the native people and Jewish immigrants have to come to terms with each other, using non-violent means, respecting the rights and dignity of each other. He also condemned suicide attacks as un-Islamic and un-civilized.

Amir Herzog was especially critical of US behaviour in Iraq. He recalled how painful it was for him to learn of the atrocities Iraqis suffered at the hands of US military in the Abu Ghoreib prison. "Violence is not only coming out of the barrel of a gun. Disgracing and abusing prisoners is a much subtler and more terrible form of violence against humanity."

Ulrich Tuente from the Unification Thought Institute

Ulrich Tuente, director of the German branch of the Unification Thought Institute, finally challenged everyone with the idea that God created mankind in a way that made Him dependent on their positive response and good will--a view that was particularly difficult for the Muslim participants to digest. He also suggested that the different parties channel the forces of wanting to be superior and better into sportive competition, thus eliminating the elements of destruction, growing hatred and resentment.

Even though tempers, especially on the Jewish and the Muslim sides, rose considerably during the following discussion, both parties could suddenly agree that religious freedom in Andalusia (medieval Spain) was great and the peaceful coexistence of the three Abrahamic faiths was exemplary. It was an age when even a Jewish prophet like Moses Maimonides could work without restriction and was respected by other faiths as well. Maimonides received much of his education in the Arabic language. Several of his great works are written in Arabic as well.

In the second part of the seminar, entitled "examples from the field," several NGO representatives reported on their practical experiences while doing service projects. Mrs. Monika Gerbas elaborated on her experiences in Romania and India, where she singlehandedly devised and organized a number of projects helping the under-privileged and thus contributing towards social peace in the region.

Christine Sato, vice-president of the German Women's Federation for World Peace, explained the philosophy behind the Bridge of Peace ceremony, and gave examples of sisterhood ceremonies, such as between Christians from Germany and Jews from Russia, German and French ladies and from other former enemy nations. Using a PowerPoint presentation, Hildegard Piepenburg spoke about the six pilgrimages to the Holy Land, organized by the American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC) and IIFWP, and explained in more detail about the women's involvement during the sixth pilgrimage.

Finally, Monika Kunde recalled her experiences with Jewish and Arab families during her 14-day stay in Jerusalem prior to the sixth pilgrimage. She emphasized the need to simply listen to the other side and share their pains, even crying together to relieve the heart of deep anguish.

The new Peace Ambassadors together with the NGO representatives

Signing the resolution

Four new peace ambassadors were appointed towards the end of the meeting. A resolution, put together from the various presentations, was presented to the audience and signed by all participants.

The resolution confirms that there is only one God/Yahwe/Allah, Creator of the universe, who, because of his parental heart, wishes for brotherly relationships among the human family, no matter what religion or race may be involved. Signatories pledge to work actively for peace in all matters of life, having the heart of an elder brother/sister in mediating the quarrels of the younger ones. They appeal to those in power to abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and follow their conscience, doing everything possible in their power to end human suffering and misery, regardless of whether those people belong to their own nation/culture or to a different one.

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