Unification News for May 2005
Israel Pilgrimage Fifteen
Greetings from Jerusalem
As always the spirit of the Holy Land is deeply moving. Participants of our IIFWP / Middle East Peace Initiative Conference entitled, "Innovative Approaches to Lasting Peace and Stability in the Middle East," includde delegates from Korea, and China and the former World War II enemies America, Germany, Italy, France, England and Japan. It is amazing to see the level of the Ambassadors for Peace that have come from these and a number of other European nations. Many members of Parliament, journalists and key decisionmakers have joined us for this journey for peace.
Mr. Hod Ben Zvi, the secretary general of IIFWP in Israel, welcomed us on the first evening. Father Hatoum offered a prayer; Sheikh Ali Birani and Sheikh Samik Natur offered words of encouragement praising the delegations coming to the Holy Land. Mrs. Glaubach offered a special candlelighting and moment of silence for all that lost their lives for this memorial day [Holocaust Rememberance Day]in Israel. She expanded it to all those from all faiths who have lost their lives in conflict. It was beatiful. We all stood for a moment of prayer and rememberance.
Father Moon's vision is real. Dr. Walsh, as IIFWP Secretary General, is chairing this historic conference. Rev. Song from Europe gave the welcoming address, encouraging us all to truly find the path to peace by understanding God and loving each other.
The next morning began with Dr. Glaubach giving a briefing on the situation in the Middle East as well as the impact of the different journeys to the Holy Land. His testimony was quite deep. "I have lived in Jerusalem for 45 years and still the city facinates me. You can never discover all its secrets. Just think. You are standing on the ground upon which Jesus walked, Abraham came, and Isaiah prophesied. This is the most historic place; all the Abrahamic faiths are spiritually tied here." He went on, "I want to tell you sincerely as a dedicated and loyal Jew, I am so moved in my heart that Rev. Moon would ask us to remember this time of Memorial and the founding of Israel. I want to say that only Rev. Moon can do the work that is really necessary to bring us all together and to heal the divisions of humanity. He is the one that is doing it. He is achieving amazing changes here in the Holy Land. You may not see it but one who has observed these religious leaders and international delegations coming to Israel over and over. This is the 14th time. It is amazing. I see clearly that each journey and group brings a change. It is changing the atmosphere, slowly but surely. It's the continuity and the consistency. It is the spirit of this effort. There has been a long history of movements that have come to Jerusalem and changed history, but this is the movement that is really working to change Jerusalem for peace. Rev. Moon is the True Parent ! "
MEPI has conducted 30 events, conferences and special events and briefings since February 2003. It has been a continuous development. Since the first Pilgrimage of America through the MEPI fact-finding tours, 14 "journeys" to the Holy Land have been conducted. Always the participants are religiously diverse. Some of the key Imams from Europe and the United States are on this journey.
Interestingly about 40 journalists have joined this effort. Articles are going forth across the world. The foundation of Ambassadors for Peace from Israel, Palestine and the nations of the world have come together; a feeling of hope and change permeates the atmosphere.
This morning we conducted our opening plenary. Dr. Walsh gave a clear and deeply insightful briefing on our core philosophy which has two main pillars: 1) Living for the sake of others: Loving our enemies and sacrificing. 2) Reconciliation is the key to achieving peace. We must resolve our differences and live together with love and respect for one another.
Dr. Yang's keynote address was a foundational message. It laid out the fundamental work of MEPI, which is bringing the people of faith together. Archbishop Stallings commented, "This is profoundly deep message. It gives the foundation for everything we are doing." Commenting on the presentation was Dr. Mohsen Mouelhi, the Mufti of the Conference of Sufi Jerahi in Italy. Sheikh Mouelhi's message was strong and clear. He said that what we have heard from the conflict in the Middle East distorts the perception of what religion is about. Islam is a religion founded on the Koran and guided by the words of Allah. It is a religion of profound depth and spirituality that guides all to truly love and serve God. What we are doing here gives a correct understanding of the role and value of religion. Religion, when properly practiced, will bring peace, he said. Islam, Christianity and Judaism are all founded on God's Word and when practiced correctly cause us to live in harmony together. Mr. Larry Moffit, Executive Director of the World Media Association, gave very clear insight that encouraged all the journalists to see that they were on the cutting edge of a most powerful breaking story, which is that religious leaders will make the way for peace in Jerusalem. It is happening right before our eyes.
The next session was an overview of IIFWP's vision and the work of MEPI. A key Knesset member came and addressed the body. He is an Arab member of the Knesset who is quite capable and clear in his leadership. He is a person that sees the value of the IIFWP and really encouraged us to continue. He shared that he has spoken on the Knesset floor many times that weapons, force and walls will not bring an atmosphere of trust and understanding. Only through mutual respect and dialogue can this be achieved.
More reports will follow. We are seeing the way of peace continue to develop on every level. A delegation went to Al Aqsa Mosque today and was well received. It is quite something to see Imam Bundakji, Imam Jodeh and other Muslim Ambassadors for Peace so diligently pursuing the work of peace. They have understood the vision of Father Moon that the one God is calling us to come together now as people of concience and work to bring harmony and cooperation among the religious people and people of concience who have strong moral principles. This is the real battle we are fighting, not against enemies or powers but rather to bring God's people together. When Joshua did this at Jericho, we know what happened. The wall came tumbling down. That is why Dr. Glaubach and so many other Ambassasors for Peace from the Holy Land and from around the world get an overwhelming sense of confidence that as the people of faith come together the things that are not of God will diminish and yield to a New Jerusalem, the holy city that is prophesied in scripture. This is Rabbi Brodman means when he talks about the day coming when many nations will come to Jerusalem and all will be called God's people, the day that is realized upon the return of the Messiah. Ê
Our conference continued on May 12 with the session on IIFWP and Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI). Mrs. Karen Smith, director of the UN office for IIFWP, gave a significant overview presentation on the work and the underlying values and principles behind IIFWP, presenting aspects of faith and the centrality of the family in a fresh and creative way. Showing how our value systems must be strengthened in the family, she explained that those values must extend to bringing good governance to our communities, nations, and the United Nations. She presented realistic and concrete steps that have been taken in that direction by the IIFWP, as well as the significance of the vision and contributions of Rev. and Mrs. Moon.
The professors, scholars, and religious leaders in the audience are looking for a more in-depth understanding at this time. Many of them have become Ambassadors for Peace (AFP) over the last couple of years; through Karen's presentation they could see the vision of IIFWP to truly create a culture of peace not simply in theory but in reality. Now they can realize that the AFP that have been participating with IIFWP throughout the world are the very ambassadors who will make this vision real. Her presentation helped the AFP deepen their confidence in the ongoing worldwide development of peace councils composed of all nations, races, and religions -- of people who are practicing reconciliation and building a culture of peace.
In an overview I presented of the MEPI, I described a pattern of growth and development through the 30 IIFWP events, conferences and pilgrimages. Starting in May 2003 the first group of religious leaders came to the Holy Land with a heart of reconciliation under Father Moon's guidance. They were asked to repent as Christians for the history of anti-Semitism and to end the era of the cross, proclaiming the time has come to embrace one another. (One of the participants, Dr. Zamoran, head of the Robert Schumann Center for Dialogue in Luxembourg, said that this trend of repentance is a fundamental pattern that is now being seen throughout the world.) Well received by Jewish and Muslim leaders, this very first journey opened the door for the Jerusalem Declaration, which was an incredible step forward.
The most interesting thing about the MEPI is that it's simply based on the journeys by approximately 10,000 religious leaders, members of Parliament, NGO leaders and professionals throughout the world who came to the Holy Land over the last two years. We have heard many from Israel testify that these continuous journeys are truly bringing an atmospheric change: What was deemed impossible before is now being seen as possible.
Over lunch Father Hatoum summed up the MEPI work in his gratitude for IIFWP and for Father Moon. He said, "Without this stimulus from outside we would never be able to truly achieve peace. but now I can see peace like a light that is coming over the hill. Peace is coming to the Middle East and we can see it's because Father Moon has been guided by God to push us to seek peace, to not allow us to rest or hesitate. All parties - Jewish, Muslim and Christian - are feeling the desire to seek peace actively. The key to Father Moon's teaching is very simple. - we don't talk about peace; we do the peace."
At the Seven Arches hotel we could enjoy a beautiful luncheon with our participants. From this vantage point on the Mount of Olives, you can see the Old City of Jerusalem, the Eastern Wall and the Golden Gate that one day is to open when the messiah returns. The Dome of the Rock shines almost like a golden diamond in the center of the Old City. Several people asked to give testimony. One was Mr. Rony Wuulf Smolar, who has been a journalist for many years and has covered the Middle East quite extensively. In the work of IIFWP he sees a necessary components - that is, supportive encouragement coming from beyond the Israelis and Palestinians. "Encouragement and enlightened support are now coming and therefore I can see the peace process moving forward. I'm deeply happy to see this."
Mrs. Neilson, wife of Congressman Neilson, shared that she had lived on kibbutzes many years ago and saw with her own eyes that there was no problem for the Jews and Arabs to live together, heart to heart, people to people. She said, :I saw Arabs freely come and work together with us, and we would freely go and help them in their village. My former husband was a dentist and we were welcomed everywhere. Even though many were poor, Jews and Arabs had such a family spirit. I was so sad to see this family become divided by fear and conflict. They already had a common culture and common values. It seems that politics has not been able to allow for that kind of relationship. I see now through this movement that those doors are opening once again to create the structure and environment, or culture that will allow what I saw on the kibbutzes years ago where people would constantly help people." Our next stop was at the separation wall. This time we encouraged everybody to simply gather in silence. We heard views on both side about the wall, but it is most powerful just to see it. As Dr. Yang said in his keynote address, it underscores the urgency of the need for our effort to bring reconciliation between hearts because the wall certainly is an effort of last resort by people who have no hope for dialogue. Archbishop Stallings led us in prayer at the wall; people were encouraged to be open and draw their own conclusions. Our hope is that we can bring such reconciliation and peace that the walls - physical and between peoples hearts - will be dissolved. Next we went on to Yad Vashem, very significant for me in that a new museum has just opened that we had not yet seen. Yad /vashen has been an important stop because we are seeking to understand the tragedies of the past and the bewilderment, anger, sadness and hopelessness that the Jewish people have felt about the Holocaust. There are no words that can describe the immense suffering that is captured in that museum. The museum gives a historical perspective on the growth of anti-Semitism over the centuries, coming to a pinnacle through the rise of the Third Reich with its racist philosophy of the supreme Aryan race. Going through the museum with Mr. Baruch Shalev was a profound experience. He shared the incredible despair that came over the Jews in Germany, who thought they had "made it" as doctors and lawyers. Many of the Jewish community had become very prominent and mingled socially with their German counterparts, feeling that they finally had been accepted and understood, finding a place in society more than anywhere else in the world . Baruch explained, you can't imagine the horror of the people who thought that they had truly become integral to German society to see those very colleagues and friends stand by and do nothing as the Jews being pushed from their homes into ghettoes and finally, under the guise of "relocation," sent off to death camps. On one wall is inscribed a quote by German theologian Martin Niemoller: "First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me." Therefore, part of the IIFWP MEPI experience is to bond with the heart of the suffering that has occurred through religious intolerance and racial hatred and to bring all of God's people together so that we will never stand by silently. If any member of our family is mistreated, we must affirm "Never again."
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