Unification News for

April 1998


IRFWP Regional Expansion: The United Kingdom Chapter

by Dr. Frank Kaufmann-NYC

The Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace (IRFWP) is undergoing an era of expansion through the establishment of regional and national chapters.

In the middle of 1997 IRFWP headquarters extended an invitation to all nations to apply to establish a national chapter. Over 56 nations responded requesting application procedures.

Just at this time however, pressure for the Fourth IRFWP Congress (part of the World Culture and Sports Festival (WCSF) began to mount, and we were inhibited from devoting sufficient attention and resources to this most encouraging response.

These limitations notwithstanding, in 1997 and in the months since the Congress, a number of nations have successfully inaugurated national chapters. The first countries to establish chapters were Cote D'Ivoire, closely followed by Benin, both in West Africa, in 1997. The inaugural convocations in these countries were particularly impressive with overflow attendance and participants at the highest levels of both the religious establishment in their countries, as well as having some participants from the political establishment.

Currently Venezuela, Guatemala, Finland, and the United Kingdom have completed or are in the process of establishing national chapters. Communications with the many nations which have applied in order to resume the process of completing establishment in each nation is pending and will resume shortly.

On March 1, 1998 the IRFWP had its inauguration in the United Kingdom. Nineteen people representing the religious traditions of Buddhism, Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox), Hinduism, Judaism, Sikhism, and Unificationism met. It was a simple but effective program consisting of the following elements.

Marshall D'Souza, IRFWP Director for the UK hosted the meeting and acted as Moderator for the evening program. Prayer was offered by Father Anthonious Shenouda, followed by an overview of the history and international activities of the IRFWP presented by Dr. Thomas Walsh, Presiding Council member of the IRFWP, and Executive Director of the International Religious Foundation (IRF).

Following Dr. Walsh's presentation, Dr. Frank Kaufmann, Executive Director of the IRFWP moderated a round-table discussion around the question "What Are the Aspects of Life in the United Kingdom to which Interfaith Endeavors Can Contribute or Respond." Each symposium participant had prepared a written response to this question as their contribution to the session. As a result the conversation and exchange was quite substantial and instructive.

This session began with brief, formal remarks from Professor Ursula King and Rabbi David Goldberg, both chosen for their long association, and intimate knowledge of the work of the IRFWP over the years. Their presentations were followed by responses and open discussion from the floor. A significant number of valuable recommendations and insights arose in this session not only pertaining to the UK situation but also some which are applicable to interfaith realities in other place and more generally.

Many of these presentations related interfaith potential to such areas as education, family life, and social reality including racial harmony, social service, youth issues, care of the elderly, prisons, and other areas where religions can cooperate under shared values and concerns while transcending doctrinal and ecclesiastical boundaries.

It is the hope of the author that those reading this article will consider the possibility of establishing and IRFWP chapter in your nation, region or state. Interfaith activity in almost all cases proves a great benefit to the societies in which it occurs, as well as in the lives of those who engage in it.

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