Unification News for

February 1998


RYS Service Project in Bangladesh

Japanese 2nd Gen. Play Key Role
by Rev. John W. Gehring-NYC

Rural education in developing countries often suffers from a lack of concern and material support. Low levels of education and inadequate school facilities acts as a hindrance to future healthy development. Bangladesh, a nation more known for its widespread poverty, dense population and disastrous floods then for its rich culture and warmhearted populace, currently suffers from the underdevelopment of its educational infrastructure throughout its countryside.The Unification movement has in the last two decades worked in rural Bangladesh largely through social and interreligious outreach programs. The International Relief Friendship Foundation (IRFF) has for nearly a decade supported the building and development of rural schools in Bangladesh in an effort to promote educational uplift. Recently, the Women's Federation for World Peace-Japan (WFWP-J), in cooperation with the IRFF has sponsored the construction of Jaigeer Primary school in Sengair Thana, Manikgonj district around 40 km. from Dacca. In order to facilitate the construction of the primary school in Sengair village where the IRFF had previously build a small school, the WFWP-J and the International Religious Foundation (IRF) jointly sponsored an international Religious Youth Service (RYS) project from December 22-December 30. The international RYS project involved forty five volunteers from eight nations and was largely organized and run by Bangladeshi RYS alumni. The international project was the fifth time since 1991 that the RYS has held a major service project in Bangladesh but this project marked the first time that many other nations took part. The projects success stemmed largely from the involvement and cooperation of many of the RYS Alumni Association who have formed active chapters in Dacca, the capitol city and in Chittagong, a major port city. Since the RYS Alumni Association began in 1995 they have also sponsored and organized numerous activities and seminars in different parts of the country and publish a newsletter.Second Generation Share As A Community of FaithThe RYS is a leadership training that promotes moral and spiritual values through education programs, interreligious sharing and work service. The RYS host nation of Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim country but it has a significant Hindu, Christian and Buddhist populations, all of which were represented in this project. The Bangladeshi participants were joined by international participants who were largely from the Unification tradition. All those involved worked together on creating a community of harmony dedicated to peace and the service of humanity.

Part of the RYS education experience included a visit to a desperately poor slum in city of Dacca. Many of the participants were deeply moved when they visited the habitats for they had a chance to deeply realize the difficulties that the everyday struggle for food and subsistence presents to so many of the world's people.The physical work of constructing a school side by side with local villagers was the central action that brought this diverse group together to form the "RYS family". As each day passed, the news spread throughout the village community about the people who had come from different countries to their village in order to build the new school. Each day saw the numbers of local volunteers grow as father's and mother's and children of all ages found ways in which to team up with the RYS members and contribute to the work, the morning prayers, the spontaneous singing and general good natured sharing. Among the international participants were ten Japanese second generation students who used the opportunity of winter break to experience first hand the life of people in a country whose external situation is vastly different from their own. For each of these idealistic youth, the experiences of working with men, women and children of the village helped create a bond of empathy and add a touch of uncommon wisdom. Individually and collectively each could grow to understand more clearly some aspects and challenges that their peers face daily while growing up in "the third world".

Despite the shock of massive poverty that people came to realize as they stared at it face to face, their was an even stronger insight and image gained from by international participants during the Bangladesh experience. That separate experience served to provide a hope and a dream for each of the participants. The other image, an image that stands in stark contrast to the biting poverty of the sprawling slum, is an image that was built through the living memory of personal experience. It happened as a result of each participant developing a relationship with the children of the local village in Bangladesh who each day faithfully joined them in working side by side in the construction of a new primary school. As one participant stated in his reflection, "My image about Bangladesh was so much changed by looking at the bright and joyful face of village children". The work that these RYS young people offered serves as a way to contribute to the dreams of the Bangladesh children while the people of Bangladesh helped remind the international participants of what is of real and lasting value in life.

The second generation that took part in the project can take satisfaction in the fact that their actions are a reversal of a pattern set up by the original second generation failure of elder son Cain. Cain told God in a mistaken denial: "Am I my brother's keeper?" These young people were clearly saying and showing God that the second generation is determined to be their brother's keeper.

Unification second generation members were an active part of the larger RYS community of faith. By joining with like minded peers they could receive hope and spiritual stimulation in the knowledge that God has been preparing a remnant from all the world's faith and cultural traditions. This diverse body of prepared youth comes willing to accept the challenges that face our troubled world. They come prepared to join together in a new spirit of cooperation to help create the long awaited dream of both God and humanity, the Kingdom of God on Earth. Villager's Moved By RYS Example. One village leader commented on the efforts of the RYS,

"We are very much moved by your unselfish dedication for our poor village. You taught us how we should help each other unselfishly and the importance of cooperation" .The comments of the Bangladeshi village leader are very much the fulfillment of the vision of RYS founder, Rev. Sun Myung Moon's vision. Rev. Moon shared at the inaugural RYS project in the Philippines in 1986: " Man's unity with God is not a matter of beliefs and doctrines in the mind. It must be expressed in actions of love and service to others." Through young people of all faiths coming together and serving this village, the essence of religion was displayed in the form of a spirit of loving cooperation. A model of "True Religion" is being provided, this model is essential for a world growing in skepticism and moral confusion. The RYS is in a way providing a bridge that provides a patterns for peaceful transition into the 21st century.

Yoshiko, one of the young Japanese participants shared these reflections,

" Despite language limitations, we realized the possibility of unity among different races and religions. I could discover more similarity in the inner heart of the people.

RYS is a wonderful project to seek for spiritual unity and extend service to needy people."

RYS has for twelve years been providing a model of peaceful cooperation that is based on unselfish love. Through its efforts in nearly thirty nations it is seeking to model the true spirit of religion and provide a substantial training for all young people who are willing to be their brother's and sister's keeper.

For more information on RYS or if you would like to help organize a project or contribute to RYS please contact our office.

RYS, 4 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036
Phone 212-869-6023 ext. 429 Fax 212-869-6424
email rys@pipeline.com

Rev. John W. Gehring is the Director of RYS International.

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