The Words of Reverend Chung Hwan Kwak

IIFWP Convocation 2002 How Our Minds Have Changed: New Considerations for Peace and Security in the Wake of 9/11

Chung Hwan Kwak
September, 21, 2002

This is the address given at the Opening Plenary, on September 21, 2002

I want to begin by thanking the Permanent Mission of Uganda to the United Nations, and Ambassador Semakula Kiwanuka for all his courageous support in creating this program which marks the International Day of Peace. It is also my honor to sit on this panel with His Excellency Dr. Jones Kyazze and Ambassador Nicolae Tau.

I am delighted to extend my warm welcome to each of you at this historic and supremely important international gathering, as we consider what is needed to develop a "comprehensive plan for peace." Many of you are veterans of the search for peace. And I applaud your great work. Since time is short I wish to move straight ahead and offer a few recommendations on our topic of establishing a comprehensive approach to peace.

I believe we all understand that human history develops over time. Human consciousness does not stand still, but has the potential to be enlightened, to develop, and to mature. I know we all hope that, instead of moving backward, humanity moves forward. Human progress, however, is not inevitable. At every moment of our lives we are at a "fork in the road." We make decisions at every second concerning our thoughts, our words, our actions. We all know of times in which we have made the less honorable decision, and times when we have done rightly.

My first point is that we should consider the urgency of the moment in which we are living. We are at a turning point for humanity. I say this not to bring up a tired platitude. But I say this with passion in my heart, and firm conviction. We are at an axial moment. Our decisions will have great impact for the future.

What is the essence of this so-called axial moment? It is that, we are at a time when we can truly establish a unified, harmonious family of humankind. We stand at a harvest time, a season where the efforts and dreams of peacemakers throughout the ages, from all races, religions, nationalities, professions and cultures, can be realized. We are at the point of emerging out of a long and suffering history.

I cannot take time here to explain in detail the reasons I make these assertions. I can only say that from my own experience, I know there is a divine plan unfolding at this time. However, I hope you can at least begin to rekindle your own hope that our dreams are not in vain.

Secondly, for a comprehensive peace, our vision, our dreams, our worldviews, must become more universal and unselfish. It is selfishness that not only corrupts individuals, but the selfish human heart multiplies itself and creates cultures, which are manifest in our families, institutions, and political and economic systems.

The most critical first step in developing a comprehensive peace is to develop the practice of living for the sake of others. We must create families of peace, by creating families of unselfishness. Families that are not thinking only of their tribe, race, nation or culture, but are seeking to love and embrace all people. In this respect I mention the World Peace Blessing movement for marriage and family. Many participants have married internationally, interracially and interreligiously in an effort to show the power of love to transcend differences that often have divided us.

Clearly, too, our corporate cultures must change. We have to establish a model corporate culture, which embodies hard work, service to the customer, and incentives for profit, while at the same time placing the well-being of the society, the nation and the world above profit.

This same principle applies to governments and public service. Sometimes public service is attractive to persons who are more ambitious than they are altruistic. Unfortunately, often the skills needed to fulfill one’s personal ambitions are different from the moral and spiritual virtues that make us exemplary persons.

Thirdly, we need to revolutionize our concept of governance, in a way that requires the transformation of both religion and politics, as we have know them.

If we ask, "how our minds have changed" since 9/11, I think we will receive many different answers. For some, their minds are now angrier. For others their minds are more suspicious or insecure.

The real question is not how "have" our minds changed, but how "should" our minds have changed. On this point I have much to say. But most essentially, we can see that the events of 9/11 reflect the sad reality of our world, particularly what might be called our spiritual or moral state, as much as our political or social state. If we see humanity as one family, 9/11 shows that this family is fractured, with brothers and sisters living in mutually disrespectful and hateful relationships with one another, and with no clear prescription or guidance that can heal these relationships.

Essentially human history reflects the quality of human relationships. Most often human history records a chronicle of human wars and conflicts. Why? Why is the conflict of Cain and Abel one of the very first stories in scripture? We could say that the parents, Adam and Eve, failed to practice good governance as parents, and the children grew distant and hostile.

What is good governance? This is my final point. We need good governance, but what are its characteristics? I want to propose that good governance is characterized by balance and constructive, mutually supportive internal harmony between complementary aspects that are each centered on a universal ideal or vision.

For example, good governance must be based on a rational organizational structure that is effective in achieving goals. But, it must also be based on what we might call culture or core values. A structure that is vacant of core values becomes empty. Or worse still, it becomes occupied by corrupt values and we begin to have efficient structures, which are not rooted in core values and principles. Too often our governments and our businesses have strong structures with weak moral and spiritual cultures. We must pay more attention to the core values, which guide our work.

If corporations become cultures of greed, it is because they have lost their connection with core moral and spiritual values. They may prosper for a time, but ultimately they will fall. Likewise, if governments become cultures of self-interest, because their moral and spiritual foundations are lost, they cannot stand for long. This is as true for superpower nations as it is for developing nations.

Moreover, if religious leaders themselves become dominated by a culture of exclusivism and triumphalism, they will do great harm and eventually decline, for they have drifted from their founding principles of love, service, and care. They will instead, cultivate institutions seeking only their own advancement.

If our core institutions----our governments, our religions, and our corporations----can be renewed according to an ethic of living for the sake of others, we can create a model of good governance, which will transform this world. We can create a comprehensive approach to peace.

This is one of the central objectives of the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace. That is, the IIFWP has encouraged the United Nations to rise to meet a new challenge by taking a courageous and progressive step forward: creating an Interreligious Council within the United Nations itself.

In the coming days, the IIFWP will be taking up this issue in a series of discussions which explore this recommendation, the desired outcome of which is the development of a plan of action aimed at promoting and implementing this initiative.

This may be an alien concept for many, and not only for those in positions of political power. For religions themselves must begin to review or check their own attitudes, practices, and cultures. If an Interreligious Council is to succeed, it will not only require adjustments on the part of governments, but adjustments on the part of institutional religions.

Governance, to be comprehensive, must have balance of structure and culture, of character and form, of principles and practices, and of spiritual wisdom and practical reason.

In this sense, true leadership must also be practiced. What is the character of a true leader? It must balance intelligence and wisdom, persuasiveness with righteousness, and ambition with selflessness. A true leader is one that values truth and goodness, and who has a heart of a parent toward all humanity.

My own teacher for these past 44 years, and the founder of IIFWP, Dr. Sun Myung Moon, has advocated this position on more than one occasion in this very setting.

Since the Millennium Summit, the United Nations leadership has become increasingly aware of its need for a far more intimate relationship with enlightened spiritual leaders. And since 9/11 these same leaders have realized that they have ignored religion for close to 50 years at the world’s own peril. Now we are mired in horrifying consequences of the misuse and perversion of true religion. It is now that the United Nations and all its member states should have a solid and reliable source of consultation on the difficult and elaborate world of religion and interreligious relations.

More and more there is a realization of the need for a permanent interreligious body to participate in the search for solutions to global problems. For example, The World Economic Summit, held in New York last year, sought to include prominent leaders from the world’s religions in its conference.

The IIFWP recognizes that a serious effort for peace, and certainly something as profound as the proposal for an Interreligious Council, cannot proceed fruitfully unless all necessary forms of leadership are brought into close accord, and we have real time in which to make the necessary friendships and professional relationships to see this process through.

In closing I want to restate my point about our being at an urgent turning point in history. What does this moment call for? First, we must rely less on existing institutions and more on the clear voice of our conscience. I believe that our conscience is in touch with universal, cosmic law. Second, we must begin taking steps that are more radical in the practice of love and service to others. For example, I do not believe that a solution to our crisis in the Middle East or to the tensions that currently characterize the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world can be achieved by conventional political, economic and military means alone. In fact, it really should be the case that Jewish, Christian, Islamic and other religious leaders of conscience step forward, showing the ideal of living for the sake of others. The world is waiting for such leaders to emerge.

Dr. Moon created the IIFWP, and the Ambassadors for Peace movement, precisely for such a purpose. I hope our time here can be spent in a way that goes far beyond dialogue alone, and takes us closer to committing to a plan of action for peace. We can no longer sit, talk and wait. It is a time for action.

Thank you very much for your time and attention. God bless each of you.

Rev. Kwak is Chairman, IIFWP

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