The Words of the Kaufmann Family

A Response from Civil Society

Dr. Frank Kaufmann
Executive Director, Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace
October, 2000

It is an honor for me to speak briefly about work which has been undertaken in conjunction with the Millennium Declaration of the 55th General Assembly.

As many know, Secretary General Kofi Annan prepared diligently for this meeting by producing a forceful and visionary docu-ment entitled We the Peoples. This document respected in a profound way the original vision and Charter of the U.N., and brought these ideals into dialogue with present cir-cumstances, and the current state of the United Nations. The Secretary General courageously acknowledged the U.N. to be an institution sorely in need of renewal and reform. I believe he must be thankful for his long association with Dr. N’Dow, and perhaps others like him, for we find, at long last, an unabashed proclamation that a clearly delineated set of val-ues must underlie all attempts to chart a positive course for the United Nations in its second 50 years.

So acute were the intuitions and perceptions of the Secretary General and those who influenced this direction, that We the Peoples is mirrored with very little modification in the Declaration, which was adopted unanimously by the greatest gathering of heads of state and government in history.

Those familiar with the Declaration know that six primary values are listed as necessary to spearhead this reform: freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature, and shared responsibility.

My job this afternoon is to explain the response of the IIFWP and WANGO to these seminal documents at the theoretical and philosophical level. I am gratified to share the podium with my colleague Dr. Winings, who is charged with accounting for the service dimension and related pedagogies to the transmission of these values. Her presence leaves me more at ease to focus on philosophy and theory, knowing that the all important role of action and sacrifice will be communicated effectively.

Because the Secretary General bears the weight of responsibility for a community of secular and political leaders, he is perfectly correct to limit his orientation at the foundational level to what are called "values." But it is precisely for this very reason that Dr. N’Dow so eloquently cited the indispensable role of non-government sectors, and institutions of civil society. Dr. N’Dow rightly and in a compelling fashion made clear the foundations for human life that "works for all." Our world is a divine drama, it is not a supermarket.

Dr. Kwak was no less clear, when he pointed out while noting IIFWP’s commitment to a "Culture of Peace," that culture differs from "the ‘politics’ or ‘economics’ of peace. Culture suggests such factors as a per-son’s consciousness or mindset. Culture," says Dr. Kwak, "is linked in pro-found ways to ethnicity, religion, the arts, and focusing on culture we are looking more deeply at our human condition and at the roots of human conflict and suffering. Many people today are coming to recognize the need to address the internal conditions which give rise to peace, or conflict." Dr. N’Dow refers to a "globalization of the human spir-it, and a globalization of faith and ancient wisdom and traditions."

It is under this inspiration and insight that the education project derived from the Millennium Declaration of the 55th General Assembly proceeded.

Each of the six values identified in that declaration were isolated and interleaved with the collective wisdom of our race; the fruits of a millennia-long relationship between the divine, and the saints in all times and all places.

Values take on a transformative power only when they appeal to the place we reserved for wonder, for magic, for the sacred, and for that we hold in awe. We revere the ancients. Our traditions are already in our bones... suckled from our mothers’ breasts.

We love the symbols, the icons, the beards, the turbans, and the saffron robes. Values and virtues must arise within our own story, but in the unique horizon of our time, it must at once be my story and ours. My cul-ture, traditions, and story may not be held at the exclusion of others.

Supplementary work was also completed which take up the five key points identified by Dr. Kwak in his keynote address, namely:

1. Character education
2. The family
3. The value of interfaith
4. The role of NGOs
5. The concept of a sacrificial way of life

Our work then proceeded along lines of content on the one hand (infusing the wisdom of the ages into the contemporary values listed), and effective methods and techniques for the transmission of values, and transformation of students (providing sound and tested pedagogy and teaching methods for the seminars) on the other.

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