Creating a World of Peace - The Thought and Works of Sun Myung Moon by Joon Ho Seuk

Volume 7 - The World Religions and Peace - World of Peace [Part 3 of 9]

2. Religion and Peace

Reverend Moon points out that peace, most fundamentally, has to do with the quality of relationships; it describes a state in which relationships are harmonious and cooperative. He notes that, just as harmony occurs in the natural world as objects behave in accordance with the internal physical laws of the universe, so likewise, harmony and peace are achieved in human relationships when we follow the spiritual and moral laws of the universe.

Reverend Moon states that, for this reason, without an understanding of God, and God's principles, peace will never be achieved. The reason the worlds great spiritual teachers have advised us to live according to spiritual principles and to avoid material pleasures and comforts is precisely because our physical life is both very significant and very temporary. Like a fetus developing in a mothers womb, our physical life on earth is a time of spiritual development, training and growth, a preparatory school for our eternal life. Just as life in the womb precedes and prepares us for our life on earth, our life on earth precedes and prepares us for our life in the spiritual world.

When we think of peace, says Reverend Moon, too often we associate peace with the administration of political power. That is, we often think that peace can be brought into being by an external force or by some external law. Peace, however, does not begin from the realm of politics or government. Peace begins with the individual. Furthermore, peace moves from the most internal dimension to the external, from invisible to visible, and from spiritual to physical. Thus, when we speak of the individual as the foundation of peace, we refer most fundamentally to the internal character and spiritual awareness of the individual.

Three Essential Tasks

From "Religions Mission for World Peace," Little Angels Performing Arts Center, Seoul, South Korea, August 27, 1991.

In the Founders Address at the first Assembly of the Worlds Religions, which was held in New Jersey in 1985, I identified three essential tasks for religious people. First, all religious traditions should respect each other and, at the very least, work to prevent conflict or war between religions. Second, all of us, as cooperating religious communities, should serve the world.

And third, in order to fulfill the mission of religion, we should contribute to the development of world peace by means of an organization in which all religious leaders would participate.

Now is the time when all the worlds religions should keenly feel central responsibility for the realization of world peace and should take action for this purpose. The future happiness of humankind cannot be achieved through the pursuit of economic prosperity alone, but only by overcoming conflicts between ideologies, between cultures and between races through inter-religious understanding and spiritual harmony.

Reverend Moon constantly emphasizes the idea that the first challenge for peace is within the individual. If the individual cannot establish personal peace by establishing harmony and cooperation between the mind and body, then there can be little hope of a world of peace. And solving the individual character problem, says Reverend Moon, is primarily a matter of spiritual development.

Religions have always played a significant role as moral guides, instructing their adherents in the norms of right and wrong. A familiar expression of this role is seen in the great codes of conduct set forth by many of the historic religious traditions, ranging from the Ten Commandments in the Jewish and Christian scriptures to the Five Precepts of Buddhism. The fact that the teachings of widely separated traditions contain so many similar principles testifies to an underlying commonality of religious understanding.

Prescribing rules of conduct is only one aspect of the guidance offered by religion. Underlying any rules of conduct is a center and touchstone of moral reasoning. Fundamentally, religions teach unselfishness.

Through means that range from religious narratives to the examples of saintly personalities, religions encourage people to set the interests of their fellow human beings on a par with their own.

The principle of "living for the sake of others" is not the teaching of any single religion or moral philosophy. We recognize this principle at work in the lives of Jesus, Moses, Mohamed, Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Gandhi, and other such spiritual leaders. Not only is it a great teaching, it is a practical guide or rule for action and practice. The greatest religious founders understood this principle to be as basic as the natural laws of the universe. When we violate this law, there are grave consequences.

Peace itself has its foundation in the application of this principle.

Religious Youth Service

Reverend Moon established the Religious Youth Service (RYS) in 1985 as a tangible expression of the ideal of living for the sake of others. In its 20-year history, the organization has provided more than 120 communities in 43 nations with a model of peace building through its inter-religious service programs. The RYS model of service includes living together as a religiously and culturally diverse community dedicated to the basic spiritual principle of living for the sake of others. The RYS community presents to communities in need their volunteer service and a substantial example of fruitful cooperation.

This model has proven to be effective in helping people to heal past wounds and gain their own vision of how to rebuild their communities.

RYS has often worked in zones of conflict: Sri Lanka, Southern Philippines, Belfast, the former Yugoslavia, Uganda, India, and South Africa. It has inspired individuals to lay down their arms, put aside resentments and begin to make change. Other projects have sought to focus on Aboriginal people (Australia, New Zealand, Guatemala, USA) while some focused on issues surrounding the environment (Trinidad and Tobago, Paraguay, the Czech Republic, Malaysia).

Religion has also made a valuable contribution in expanding the concept of "community." When we only care about our circle of our family and friends, or people with skin the same color as ours, or our own nation, we do not contribute much to an improved world community. It is not easy for any of us to override our mistrust and to act responsibly in the universal community. Religious experiences can open our awareness of participating in that boundless world.

It is for these reasons that Reverend Moon urges a greater respect and consideration for the religious perspective in the efforts to bring peace to the world. These efforts must take into account the full potential of the human being, not only as a political, economic, and social being, but also as a spiritual being with spiritual needs and a capacity for spiritual wisdom and insight. Our vision of peace, says Reverend Moon, must be comprehensive, and any institution we establish to build a world of peace must be comprehensive in the same way.

The Need for Religious Values

From Thomas G. Walsh, "Outside View: New global peace initiative," UPI Outside View Commentator, September 28, 2005.

Until now, democratic societies have been accommodating religious pluralism by establishing a secular common ground. This fosters civility but at the sacrifice of religious belief. The cost is high. Without religious values, society does not provide the nourishment that can sustain civilization. Only religious values bring out the highest qualities in people and allow them to fulfill their purpose in life.

Reverend Moon calls for the return of religion to the center of public life and a reversal of the trend that has relegated religious values to the private sphere. In order for this to happen, individual religions will need to transcend their exclusivism and acknowledge the values that they share in common.

In pluralistic societies, the teachings of one religion cannot be imposed at the expense of the other faiths. Most people will reject religious teachings that cause hostility when they are practiced. In the same way, a strict application of secular values can also lead to exclusivism and can erode the traditions of cultures that hold religious worldviews.

Reverend Moon cautions that the prevalence of the secular worldview will continue as long as religions are divided and their claims are incompatible with each other. While scientific thought claims to be universally valid, individual religions continue to hold fast to exclusive and often competitive beliefs and practices.

Reverend Moon proposes and promotes a discussion of the commonly shared values that provide the grounding and orientation of the major religions. These values can provide the common ground that can result in a unified voice in the area of moral education. Commonly shared values can become public values, since they do not favor any one religion over others. 

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