The Words of the Kaufmann Family

Changes In the Work and World of the Inter Religious Federation for World Peace (IRFWP)

Frank Kaufmann
January, 2001

Friends,

Changes in the work and world of the Inter Religious Federation for World Peace (IRFWP) bring us to a moment of transition. We believe the direction is sound, that we are involved in an important step forward, and we invite you to continue on the path together with us.

Many of you have been with us for over two decades. The roots of the IRFWP began soon after the founding of the Unification Theological Seminary (UTS - 1977). Christian ecumenical conversations there led to the founding of the New Ecumenical Research Association (New ERA - 1979). The expansion of this conversation to embrace non-Christian religions led to the God Conferences (1981), and eventually to the establishment of the International Religious Foundation (1981). The Youth Seminar on World Religions (YSWR - 1981) sponsored interreligious and international world tours of pilgrimage for young people, the Council for the Worlds Religions (CWR - 1984) sponsored dialogue among religious leaders, the Assembly of the Worlds Religions (AWR - 1985) convened world leaders in all areas of religion in large conferences and celebrations, and the Religious Youth Service (RYS - 1985) which sponsored interreligious groups of young people in social service projects, eventually led to the founding of the IRFWP (launched in 1989 and established in 1991).

The IRFWP represents the full spectrum of the world religions (its scholars (New Era), its clergy (CWR), and its youth (YSWR, and RYS), and has literally 1,000's of alumnae who have been deeply active and involved in its activities. Additionally, the breadth of IRFWPs power of representation in the religious world includes incomparable spectra in the contemporary religious landscape; from extreme conservatives to extreme liberals in denominational or sectarian, as well as personal commitments.

This interreligious foundation has stood at the center of a great many peace initiatives and emergency actions throughout the years, it has been led by many of the most preeminent thinkers and leaders in contemporary religious circles, and has been the launching pads for many careers which have now established themselves with considerable stature. As importantly, thought coming out of the IRFWP community has set the pace for much of in the theory and practice of interfaith relations not only in the religious venue, but in political, social, and cultural discourse as well.

For this, we say, give yourselves a big hand. You have been the visionaries and the courageous ones. When youre finished applauding, take a deep breath. That was your vacation.

In 1988 the founder of the IRFWP, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, announced the founding of the World Culture and Sports Festival (WCSF) to coincide with the fact that the Summer Olympics were hosted in his homeland of Korea. The WCSF was meant to be an occasion which celebrated the complete spectrum of human striving, naturally including religion, but also politics and international affairs, media, the arts, athletics and other areas. The centrality of religion to the human drama made the IRFWP a core component and contributor to preparations and execution of all these grand WCSF international celebrations.

In 1999 at the 5th WCSF, Reverend Moon founded the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP - February, 1999). This organization, served by Dr. Thomas Walsh as its Secretary General, was founded and designed to create greater cooperation among leaders from the disparate areas of the human experience, most especially religions and nations.

Since its founding, the IIFWP has had a massive schedule of activity; 19 major international conferences, including three at the United Nations, and over 140 large educational seminars in United Nations member states. As you can imagine, since the IRFWP is half of the IIFWP mission, our resources have been devoted almost entirely to the ongoing activities of the IIFWP. (This notwithstanding, the IRFWP managed to maintain a respectable roster of activity in these past years, especially investing in areas of intense international scrutiny and concern, including Muslim-Jewish relations in the Middle East, Christian-Muslim relations in the Philippines, as well as maintaining our ongoing presence at the American Academy of Religion (AAR), and cooperation with other major interfaith organizations.)

The work of the IIFWP, especially at the United Nations, has resulted in the coalescing of a community of international leaders and intimate friends in the diplomatic corps which built impressively on our prior foundation of international work over the years. The expansion, growing accord, and accessibility of this community reached a critical mass point in which we felt it prudent to suspend the independent labors of the IRFWP and establish its mission more fully within the contemporary dispensation of the IIFWP.

IRFWP will now pursue its peace labors as an interfaith community, beyond interreligious dialogue (i.e., dialogue just among religionists). It will now pursue cooperative and shared leadership initiatives with political, intellectual, cultural, and social leaders. The interfaith community represented by the IRFWP will play its leadership role in this cooperative agenda by working together for peace with other leadership communities as The World Peace Institute (WPI - 2001).

This shift is not merely institutional. It is also one of substance and mission. The IRFWP and its predecessors are proud of our contribution to the world of religious relations, interfaith activity, and peace activism in the past more than 20 years. Largely through the sacrifice of Unification families, and the faithful devotion of all of you, the IRFWP has been able to sponsor and convene hundreds of international conferences, youth programs, emergency peace initiatives, and extensive publications series often in uncharted territory. We have sought to dignify the experience of interfaith activists, and to maintain publications and a communications infrastructure which allowed for ongoing relationships and activism among the men and women who have shaped the vision and success of the organization.

It is the view of this writer, advisors, and institutional affiliates that, while interfaith relations still have a road to travel before critics can approve the quality of interfaith relations, there is another view in which one can say that significant milestone on the path to genuine interreligious cooperation has been traversed. The rest is just plain labor.

We have come to a point at which it is now generally accepted by the vast majority of believers that religions should cooperate. The notion of interfaith cooperation is no longer novel or perplexing. Many consider it old news, and are not laying awake nights tormented over how I can believe one thing and still love and respect someone who believes another. While there are brilliant and visionary leaders who have helped create this climate among moderate and decent people, there is also a fascinating reality in which lay people are often far ahead of their leaders on this issue.

We still have a lot to learn. We still will make offensive mistakes, faux pas, and even slip into struggles. BUT in an important way the line has been drawn. We praise the saints and the heros who fought this battle. We bow in humble respect and gratitude, and we support those that will carry this inevitability forward.

The IRFWP now seeks to chart its mission in a modified direction. Religions, and religious leaders and believers, need no longer marvel at the recently discovered ability to speak, sing, pray, and play with believers from other traditions, even with former "enemy" traditions. There still is work to do, but it is no longer the avant garde. The IRFWP now turns its attention to bringing the achievements of its interfaith labors to bear on pressing problems of the day; war and conflict, environmental devastation, issues of gender and justice, and issues of the moral environment and the impact of globalizing technologies.

This is not to say that interfaith until now has ignored these issues. Indeed religions in conversation have often spearheaded global and popular consciousness for these and other areas. It is rather to say the following: Interfaith has achieved enough headway and success, and religion itself of late also has transcended some of the devastating blows of anti-religious ideologies, so that there is an opportunity at present to engage the wider community of leadership and join hands for the common good.

At this juncture, the IRFWP shifts from being a purely interfaith organization, to now conducting its efforts in the context of the IIFWP. We seek collaborative efforts of between spiritual and national leaders for the whole good of all. Our spiritual well-being must be tied to a way of life which evidences equality, justice, and shared opportunity. Religious leaders cannot accomplish these ends working in isolation. The whole human person requires the care not only of their spiritual mentors, but that of the political world, science and medicine, economic, as well as culture, the arts, media, and other areas. The work of the IRFWP will bring it interfaith voice and influence to these ends as The World Peace Institute (WPI - 2001).

You who helped to pioneer so much on the horizon of interreligious relations are invited to continue this work together with leaders from all arenas of human enterprise in pursuit of uplifting the whole person and society.

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