Unification News for January 1999

Realizing the Interfaith Ideal: Action Beyond Dialogue

Inter-Religious Federation For World Peace
Frank Kaufmann -- NYC

From December 18 - 20, 1998, the Inter-Religious Federation for World peace, sponsored the conference Realizing the Interfaith Ideal: Action Beyond Dialogue in Washington D.C. The program transpired at two venues, namely the conference hotel, and the Washington Times. The concept for the conference revolved around an initiative calling for religious leaders to work formally with the United Nations.

This vision was enthusiastically received by the 126 international participants in attendance. The program consisted of 13 speakers in a carefully developed series of thematic sessions. The keynote address was given by Father at the Washington Times banquet (entitled An Understanding of Life and Death). Participants came from 30 countries. These included religious leaders, Christian clergy from several denominations, scholars, religious activists associated with religious and social organizations, and United Nations representatives. One of the most encouraging outcomes of the conference was the fact that the United Nations participants acknowledged the conference initiative as inspired, legitimate, timely, necessary, and doable. The opinions of the United Nations participants are noteworthy because the conference concept is a religious one, not a UN one. Thus its viability and credibility can be assessed only by those to whom the working relationship is being proposed.

The conference was called as a means to fulfill a providential necessity and was required to take place by a mandated deadline. Its call came late, at a difficult time, and to a badly understaffed community. Finally, the scope and parameters of the conference changed often during an unthinkably limited available time frame. The fact then that it was widely and publicly acknowledged as a significant achievement, and a recognizable contribution, shows that the blessing of God was on the effort. Credit must also be given to the effectiveness and responsiveness of Unificationists in the field, both domestically and internationally. Our united effort resulted in the presence of leading participants from the world of religion.

The end goal for the conference was to present a proposal for religious leaders to form an interfaith leadership body directly related to the United Nations. The essence of this proposal was encapsulated in Reverend Kwak’s speech entitled New Directions for Interfaith. In a carefully developed thesis, Reverend Kwak writes:

... For this reason, world peacemaking calls not only for the wisdom of statesmen and diplomats, but also fore the wisdom of the world’s religions, as embodied in the most honored representatives of those religious traditions. To implement such a program would involve a re-structuring of the UN as currently conceived. For, in addition to the representation of nation states, there would be representatives of the world’s religious traditions.

The essence of this thesis then was distilled into a declaration which was presented to participants to sign depending on if they consented. The declaration was signed by 100% of those in attendance. This was beyond the best hopes of the conveners.

In addition to the role of religion in world affairs, the second trademark insight attributable to Father is his understanding of the seamless web linking family order to world order. While peace conversations have transpired for decades, no one has delineated so clearly the relationship between grand matters like world peace and its indispensable dependence on family order. This insight also captured the imagination of participants gathered, and opened many eyes to Father’s unique ideological contribution in our time. This family dimension was ably put forth by the two Unification scholars on the program, Dr. Thomas Ward, visiting professor of International Relations at the University of Bridgeport, and Dr. Thomas G. Walsh, Executive Director of the International Religious Foundation (IRF). Their papers were acknowledged as well constructed, and containing innovative and important content.

Father’s speech was magnificent. The banquet at the Washington Times hosted an additional 130 or so guests from the D.C. area leadership bringing his audience to 250. Father read a prepared treatise explaining the passage from life to death, the nature of the transition, the subsequent nature of one’s existence in the spirit world, and the implications of these realities for earthly life and human responsibilities. Father was gentle, graceful, self-effacing, and endearing. This combined with the fascinating and riveting speech content to create a masterpiece; a truly memorable occasion. The participants attention to Father’s every word struck me as uncommon, and all the more noteworthy given the balmy style of Father’s presentation. Father tied the focus of his hour long speech to the conference theme at the very end in which he explained himself to the participants in this way:

There is a reason that I have addressed the participants of this gathering by speaking about the value of life as it relates to issues having to do with human life and death. You represent religions that are active throughout the world, and I want to stress that it is the responsibility of religious leaders to teach correctly with respect to life and death. Today, the political leaders of the world are seeking to realize world peace and human prosperity through the United Nations. In my judgment, however, the path to world peace will be incomplete if we rely merely on the political, economic and military functions of the United Nations. Political, economic and military aspects can only deal with external, physical and material things. The more internal and spiritual aspects can only be reached through religious teaching and through the unity and united actions of the world's religions.

The heartfelt reception Father garnered through his speech combined with the already extant enthusiasm for the conference theme and initiative brought a rewarding end result. The acclaim for the proposed agenda to investigate and develop the link between religious and political leadership became readily associated with Father, the source of the conference concept, and the benefactor for its substantial implementation. This is as it should be. Now there is much promise. A huge work remains however, if we are to see the eventual accomplishment of this stage toward the development of world peace.

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