Unification News for December 1998

South Africa hosts RYS

Building the rainbow coalition with love
by John Gehring—NYC

South Africa is at a social and cultural crossroads and the destiny of this important nation is still undecided. In the post-Apartheid era, the initial movement of reconciliation has been taken. The potential confusion and brutal interracial violence that some feared has not occurred. Racial relations seem to be improving as the society offers more opportunities for mixing and more opportunities for non-whites to take roles of authority. Yet, while these encouraging signs read hopeful, many of the nations ‘white’ citizens are claiming that the rapidly rising crime rate as a reason to abandon South Africa and find a new home.

This transition period in South Africa is a time of moral crisis and danger. Some tragic statistics illustrate the gravity of the situation: 1,500 HIV cases are reported daily, one of four babies born has the virus, South Africa has the fastest growing HIV rate in the world. Economic disparity is wide and creates an environment which is like a blanket of fear. The fear of those that have wealth and are afraid it will be taken away and the fear of the working poor, afraid of losing even the little they have.

High unemployment among black workers and labor unrest is prevalent. The younger generation that was so strong in creating social change is now facing a situation where they face a rate of over 40 % unemployment. What changes will the youth create with their enormous energy, and what are the dreams they will struggle for when faced with an environment of family breakdown, a growing rate of teenage pregnancy, and an increase in drug use and trafficking?

All Africa and the world are looking and hoping for South Africa to make a peaceful and prosperous transition into the next century. The nation has a standard of living which is for many the best in the world. South Africa has a national economy which has the ability to fuel growth and development throughout a substantial part of Africa. Conversely, the collapse of the economy would create economic catastrophe for the region. Socially, morally, economicly the nation of South Africa carries with it the hopes and fears of a world looking for substantial grounds to believe we are entering into a millennium of peace.

RYS Project Background

The work of the RYS and the IRFWP includes the challenge of creating working models of reconciliation, cooperation and peace building centered on the internal foundation of religious cooperation. RYS has provided in five continents a working model of young adults from all communities coming together an providing service for a public purpose. This power to unite faiths together is centered on the understanding that the root of religion is true love and the practice of true love is demonstrated in the act of selfless service to others. This is the principle for which Rev. Sun Myung Moon initiated the RYS in 1985.

The RYS has considered having an RYS project in South Africa over the past decade yet it was only after the completion of the RYS project in Uganda in September, 1998 that a substantial opportunity arose to carry out a move towards building an RYS foundation in South Africa. On October 3, 1998, European IRFF’s sub-director, Massimo Trombin and RYS director, John Gehring held a one day seminar in Soweto on the theme of , "Creating models for peace and development". This seminar drew youth from the formerly ‘black’ township together to listen, discus, plan and vision out a better future for South Africa. This pilot seminar was co-sponsored by the Youth Federation for World Peace-SA and was in part a test to see if their was local interest and support to do future RYS activities in South Africa. The response was positive and enthusiastic.

As a result of talks held during that time period with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment of Gauteng Province a partnership with the RYS was set up and a project under the theme, "Creating a new paradigm for human and environmental harmony" was scheduled

for December 11-14 . The ministry agreed to help provide environment training and subsidized the housing for the thirty participants and staff which attended for the initial RYS project.

A key element in carry out the RYS project was the efforts of Bushy Rankale, who works with the government and is the YFWP-SA President. Bushy acted as the project coordinator and helped pull together Christian, Hindu and Unification youth from the various organizations in the province. In addition, Toshio and Brigette Wakabayashi (IRFWP-SA) and Mr. Zenzale Kunene the President of the FFWPU-SA support the project both logisticly and financially.

The Project Begins:

On December 11th, thirty participants and staff representing four nations and various regions of South Africa gathered in Johannsbug for a project orientation. This orientation served to bring all the staff and participants together in a way in which they could commit to working towards the project theme of "Creating a new paridgm for human and environmental harmony". General agreement and commitment to the goals of the RYS vision were agreed on and responsibilities of staff and participants were explained.

Following the orientation staff and participants journed an hour outside of the Johannsburg area moved by van to the countryside where the RYS stayed at the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve and worked at the Diepkloof Farm Museum. The projects housing and work took place on the reserve which is located on a beautiful piece of of countryside whose landscape is flowing with low, rugged foothills, deep green grasslands and a multicolored array of wind bent wild flowers.

The weather at the project site in December is sunny and warm as it is summer in South Africa. Crystal clear, blue skies accented the pleasantness and freshness of the environment. To the daily amusement of the participants, in the breaking hours of dawn and early twilight the large population of baboons would make their way down to the cabins and loudly state their presence.

Most RYS participants were from the city and were really surprised by the beauty of their own country. Leaving the environment of a crowded city and going into the countryside where each person had a chance to reflect and appreciate the beauty of creation was an important element in contributing to the success of the project. Many participants, with child like enthusiasm, enjoyed the opportunity to milk several of the local farms cows during the early morning hours.

The RYS program was enriched by the mixture of backgrounds from which the participants came from. Contributing to the good will was the ease in which Hindu and Christian youth shared their ideas on morality , faith and the future in an open and free exchange. An important element that contributed to the interest of this project is that a new South Africa is in the process of being build. The formally disenfranchised people of color in South Africans now have a genuine stake in their nations future, they believe they can make a difference and this made the exchange of ideas a forum which will impact the future.

The work portion of the RYS was done in cooperation with the Ministry under the guidance of the farm managerment. The farm that hosted the work also serves as a historic museum, it is a reconstructed home of a "boertrekker" (South African Dutch settler) built in 1844. The home was reminiscent of the way of life prior to the discovery of gold, in that rugged frontier. Among tasks taken on by the RYS participants were digging fields, cleaning areas of weeds and preparing soil for planting. Although the work was difficult, participants adjusted and were able to surprise the farm staff by the amount of work they accomplished.

The Environmental rangers at the park made several presentations to the participants, showed videos and involved teach in a series of games that dealt with nature and the environment. A second education theme focused on the family and purity and Zenzale Kunene, FFWPU President made a presentation and participants teamed up to discuss a series of question that dealt with the issue of family life.

On the closing evening, a large fire was kept under the star filled South African sky. Participants gathered for song and dance in the early evening and continued singing and dancing till 2:00 AM in the morning. African traditional songs, chants of Hair Krishna, Unification Church songs, Christmas carols all filled the air and people found ways to dance to it all. Such is the way of Africa.

On the final day, one young women during the RYS time of reflection took time to publicly thank the men who participated in the project. She said, "You treated me and others as a sister and that made my time here such a wonderful experience, we really learned how to be brothers and sisters". This environment of true family is part of the goal that the RYS seeks to create. By living as members of God’s family we can create true relationships that are the foundation for learning true love.

As a result of the RYS project, the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment said it would like to work together on future projects. In addition, the Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture has agreed to work in partnership with the RYS on a project outside Pretoria which will run from April 6-12. This week long project will also invite another international participants and seeks to create a working model which can inspire South Africa to take the path to true peace at this critical time.

Future Projects:

For more information on the upcoming RYS project in South Africa please contact : Mrs. Brigitte Wakabayashi at sekai@hot.co.za or fax 011 27 11- 888 2570. Please take your time and visit our RYS website at www.rys.net.

RYS Project with Habitat for Humanity in Philippines

On March 21-28, 1999 the RYS will have a project in the Philippines in which its volunteers will contribute time to work with an international effort being made by Habitat for Humanity.

The RYS seeks participants for this international adventure. Participants are expected to cover their airfare and help with a modest participant fee.

Please contact John Gehring if you or others have an interest in this project. Fax 212 869 6414 or E-mail rys@pipeline.com

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