Unification News for February 1999
World Religions at Blessing 99
by Dr. Frank Kaufmann
The Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace (IRFWP) was a co-sponsor of the Special Convocation of the World Culture and Sports Festival (WCSF). Approximately 50 major leaders from the world's religions participated in the convocation. Their presence was important for a number of reasons, as there was an uncommon degree of emphasis on inter-religious dialogue and harmony from Father's this time. This emphasis was particularly evident at the inaugural plenary of the newly founded Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP).
In addition to representing an important witness and foundation for the establishment of the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) at its inaugural plenary, religious leaders also were involved in two other aspects of the week's events, namely the IRFWP panel, and prayers at the Blessing.
On February 6, 1998 the IRFWP held its "Concurrent Panel" on the theme "The Family and the Interfaith Ideal." Five panelist took up the topic which was designed to examine the possible tension inherent in the fact the family naturally pursues strong particular faith for the children. which on the face of it can seen as contrary to the promulgation of strong interreligious attitudes. How then can one be strongly pro-family, and strongly pro - religious dialogue at the same time?
The papers were heartening and imaginative. Speakers from five traditions each spoke well to the conclusion that instilling a strong particular faith during childhood does not interfere with the establishment of attitudes of inclusivity, and embrace of believers from radically different traditions. Professor Mumtaz Ahmad spoke from the perspective of Islam, Professor Selengut from that of Judaism, Venerable Kongchinda offered a Buddhist point of view, Professor Smart, a Protestant (Anglican) perspective, and Archbishop Milingo a Catholic view. This session was inspiring and informative. Additionally the faith representatives who spoke themselves embodied these very paired ideals which they insisted could be fully embraced without internal tension.
The third and most celebrated role for the religious leaders present was that of offering prayers for the Blessed couples together with Reverend and Mrs. Moon during the Blessing ceremony on Sunday, February 8, 1999. This tradition began at RFK stadium in 1997, occurred again in Madison Square Garden in 1998, and continued here in Seoul this year for the third time.
I think it's fair to say that this year representation from different religious traditions was the broadest to date. Eight traditions were represented. (It should be noted that the desire for broad representation clashes with the impulse to produce a briskly paced ceremony that respects the participants and the international viewing audience.) In my estimation that balance was threatened but not tipped.
Professor Shivamurthy Swamiji of Karnataka offered Hindu prayers, Khamba Lama Dambajav from Mongolia offered Buddhist prayers, Rabbi Herzel Kranz offered Jewish prayers, Archimandrite Vikentiy Miskov offered prayers from the Christian Orthodox tradition, Archbishop Emanuel Milingo from the Catholic tradition, Reverend T.L. Barrett of Chicago offered prayers as a Protestant, and Professor Manjit Singh Jathedar offered blessings from the Sikh tradition.
It should be noted that there may be those (perhaps even well meaning) who will be moved from impulses of religious bigotry to condemn these committed leaders of their respective faiths for the role they played in the Blessing ceremony. Unfortunately this sort of divisive behavior may well be around for some time to come in the religious world; a fact regrettable to all decent people and people of conscience. This negative reaction notwithstanding, it must be said that the task of invoking the Blessings of the one true God, over millions of couples, young and old, from all nations and all religions can only be properly understood as fulfilling the highest calling of any leader from any tradition. The lucky couples who were Blessed that day forever will be proud that their vows and their union received prayers and well wishes from a Rabbi, a Jathedar, a Monk and many others. It will be a story each couple can tell to their children and grand-children, and members from all traditions should be proud and thankful to their respective leaders for bringing to the world's attention the unique beauty and wisdom from each great world religion.
There are many deeply moving stories from behind the scenes of such occasions which I hope to share in future writing.
Download entire page and pages related to it in ZIP format
Table of Contents