Unification Sermons and Talks

by Reverend Chung Hwan Kwak

President's Address at the Welcoming Plenary of the Third IRFWP Congress

by Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak
President of IRFWP - Seoul, Korea

This speech was presented on August 21, 1995 at the Opening Plenary, following the Founder's Address, of the IRFWP Congress

It may seem unusual that an interfaith conference be held in the context of a larger cultural festival, particularly one that features a large international wedding ceremony. Nevertheless, I believe these various programs all share a similar vision and goal: world peace. World peace is one way of describing the vision that underlies all religions. We might also say that in every human heart there is a desire and longing for world peace.

Peace is a multi-dimensional reality. In order for there to be world peace, there must be peace at all levels of being, at the individual level, the family level, the social level, the national level and the worldwide level. Naturally, we must also conclude that inter-religious peace is a pre-requisite for world peace. This is the fundamental principle that guided the founding and the ongoing work of the IRFWP. Too often, political and military conflicts are supported by inter- religious hostility. Instead of religion functioning as a peacemaker, religion-in violation of its highest principles-often contributes to conflict. This situation makes interfaith activity imperative.

Interfaith activity should not be conceived as either subordinate or unrelated to the faithful observance of the teachings of a particular religion. In so far as any given religion espouses the ideal of world peace, believers should actively pursue interfaith harmony and peace. In my own tradition, Rev. Moon has always insisted that we devote a significant amount of our time and resources to promote inter- religious harmony. He has always maintained that, not only the Unification Church, but all the religions of the world have a central role to play in the establishment of world peace. He does not make this claim simply as a social scientist or historian of religion, but as one who believes absolutely in a Divine Providence for all religions to contribute to world peace. According to the teachings of my own tradition, God's will is for all humanity to live harmoniously and joyfully as one worldwide family. If this ideal is utopian, then perhaps God, too, is utopian. Certainly the world as we know it today does not express the ideals espoused by all religions. In fact, the suffering and injustice that are manifest in the world tend to make hopeful and optimistic people cynical and pessimistic. Any conscientious person who looks at the economic inequalities, the environmental decay, human starvation, and the degradation of human love, cannot but be disturbed and wonder if the teachings of religion are of any relevance. The human heart seeks to realize true love and happiness in all relationships. However, when the desire for true love is unrealized, despair and moral decline follow.

What is religion's role in all this. Religions are to manifest the true love of God. To do this the members of each religion should seek to perfect and purify themselves internally and, moreover, seek to relate harmoniously and respectfully with believers from other traditions. Many of us in the Unification tradition, beginning with Rev. Moon himself, have sought to live up to this ideal. This is evidenced in the many interfaith initiatives, such as the New Ecumenical Research Association, the Youth Seminar on World Religions, the Council for the World's Religions, the Assembly of the World's Religions, the Religious Youth Service, the Inter-religious Leadership Seminars, and numerous publications, all dedicated to promoting interfaith harmony. The IRFWP is the most recent and fully developed expression of that effort.

In 1991, the IRFWP was officially established. Since its founding just four years ago, the IRFWP has been active as a leader in the worldwide interfaith movement. This present Congress is the third in a series that began in 1993 in New Delhi. The New Delhi Congress, held as part of the global celebration in the centenary year of the 1893 Parliament of the World's Religions, was devoted to the theme of "Global Harmony through Inter-religious Action." The second Congress, held in 1994, had as its theme, "The Reality of Evil and the Response of the World's Religions." Today, at this third Congress, we gather to discuss the theme, "Realizing the Ideal: The Responsibility of the World's Religions." In addition to this Congress the IRFWP has been actively organizing a variety of conferences this year in Bangladesh, India, Croatia, England, Canada and the United States. All these activities are reported on in the IRFWP Newsletter which is available at this conference.

This Third IRFWP Congress is being held at the time of the second World Culture and Sports Festival. The World Culture and Sports Festival was initiated by Rev. Moon at the time of the 1988 Summer Olympics held here in Seoul. On September 27, 1988, with representatives from 120 nations, he stated the following:

I propose the holding of a World Culture and Sports Festival. Humanity is faced with the historical task of coming to grips with the devastation of spiritual culture, and of building a new culture of peace in which harmony exists among God, man and nature. This "Olympics of World Culture" should contribute to this task by gathering major figures from the arts, the sciences, the news media, religion, economics, and politics, as well as athletes and youth leaders....To promote this ideal of a world culture, it is my intention to make the World Culture and Sports Festivals occasions to celebrate the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity and the creation of ideal families....I hope that all people will lend their support to the World Culture and Sports Festival as a symbol of the will of God and the dream of humanity.

The World Culture and Sports Festival embodies a vision for a new world. It is a holistic vision, and this is why scholars and leaders and young people from all professions, religious, backgrounds and nationalities are gathered here. The unifying component that links all these diverse dimensions together is the quest for world peace. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Holy Wedding Ceremony which will take place in just a few days. The 360,000 couples participating throughout the world in this Holy Wedding represent 160 different nationalities and all religious backgrounds. Each couple will dedicate their marriage and their family to God and the ideal of world peace through true love. It is in the God-centered family that true love can be most fully and intimately experienced and practiced. Truly loving relationships between parents and children, husband and wife, and brothers and sisters, are the basis for our love for our neighbor, our love for strangers, and our love for the environment. In this respect, the Holy Wedding's ideal of family love is not a private or personal matter, but a public act with great implications for the cause of world peace. I truly hope all of you will come to witness this magnificent and holy event. I believe you will recognize the religious significance of the Holy Weddings.

I do not wish to take a great deal of your time this morning. I know you have a great deal of work to do in the coming days. Therefore, let me come to my conclusion. You have come here to undertake a very serious task. The world cannot move toward world peace simply by the will of God alone. If each of us as human beings fail to open ourselves to and be faithfully responsive to the will of God, our world will only degenerate, and unimaginable suffering will occur. You are leaders who can make a difference in the future direction our world takes. Therefore, I hope you do not simply consider your deliberations on the Congress theme, "Realizing the Ideal," as an abstract, intellectual exercise. Rather your interaction, and the relationships we create, can make a great contribution to the actual realization of the ideal.

It is my sincere prayer and hope that your days here will be rich and full of much inspiration. May God bless you and your families. Thank you very much.

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