The Words of Reverend Chung Hwan Kwak

The Role of the IIFWP

Chung Hwan Kwak
February 11, 2000
Opening Plenary of the WCSF Convocation
Seoul, Korea

Your excellencies, distinguished members of the panel, most respected participants in this Convocation of World Leaders.

It is indeed an honor and a privilege to address you this morning at the Opening Plenary. I can think of no better topic for us to reflect on today than, "Peace in the New Millennium." As many of you know, the motto of our sponsor, the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, is "the hope of all ages is a unified world of peace." The underlying purpose of the World Culture and Sports Festival is to promote world peace, by emphasizing the importance of strong, God-centered families and the need for international, interreligious and inter-cultural cooperation and harmony.

It was almost exactly one year ago, on February 6, 1999, in this very hotel, that we convened the Inaugural Assembly of the IIFWP. On that occasion we heard from the founder, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, and a number of other distinguished panelists. In his Founder’s Address, Rev. Moon spoke of his vision for the IIFWP. He stated, "The time has come when cooperative and mutually supportive relationships among the world’s statesmen and religious leaders is desperately needed....Since the root of human problems is not merely political, it follows that political or social solutions alone will always be insufficient. While most societies are politically governed, religion lies at the root of most national and cultural identities."

The IIFWP was not born from a recent flash of inspiration. Rather its inauguration came on the foundation of years of preparation and planning, all centering on the principle of unification. That is, the ideal of bringing about fruitful and productive relationships among entities that were previously divided or disharmonious. If we examine closely, for example, each of the co-sponsoring organizations represented at this Convocation, we see a history of bridge-building, whether it be in the area of education, the media, the sciences, religion, the arts, or politics. Each of these organizations has its own institutional history, and each narrative is worthy of study, whether it be the story of the World Media Association’s 1990 meeting in Moscow and its summit at the Kremlin; the historic Assembly of the World’s Religions held in 1985; the first International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences, convened in 1972; or the first meetings of the Professors World Peace Academy, bringing together professors from Korea and Japan for dialogue. Each of our co-sponsoring organizations has dedicated itself to establishing greater unity and understanding among constituent groups which are often either ignorant of one another or even hostile to one another.

The IIFWP builds on this foundation, seeking to form a collaborative network of leaders from all professional fields, national heritages, religious and political backgrounds. This of course is no easy task. Even though we may acknowledge that the aspiration of all races, all religions, and people of all nations is for a peaceful world, this goal still remains unfulfilled. War, conflict, famine, poverty, injustice and broken dreams are commonplace. Suffering remains an ugly reality throughout this world.

Is peace really possible in the new millennium? I, for one, am optimistic, for I believe we will see dramatic changes for the better, and in a relatively short period of time. However, such changes are not inevitable. If we are to see a world of peace in the new millennium, there are many conditions that must be met.

First of all, there must a shift in our understanding of what it means to be faithful and true to our respective religious traditions. Religious identity has too often given rise to the unfair and inhospitable characterization of both other religions and their believers. Each religion, as the bearer of some universal truth, has arisen at a particular time in history and in the midst of particular social contexts. In general I believe the universal dimensions of a religion, most epitomized in the wisdom and good will of its founder, have too often been overshadowed by other concerns. We can all recognize that the history of religion is not one of which we can all be proud. In fact, modern society’s distrust of religion derives precisely from the failure of religious believers to live up to the universal ideals of their respective founders and most sacred teachings.

Because religion is so important in the formation of individual, social, cultural and even national identities, we cannot seriously pursue peace without giving very serious attention to religion. Quoting the eminent scholar of religion, Professor Ninian Smart, "Consider for a moment some of the world’s most explosive trouble spots: Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Tibet, Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine, Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Southern Philippines, and the regard to these, who can deny that religious differences are a major factor? If for no other reason we need to extend education to understanding the other." [IIFWP Inaugural Assembly]

Interreligious dialogue is of critical importance to the pursuit of world peace, and it is central to the program of the IIFWP. In the age of the global village, religions must make peace---both with each other, as well among the internal factions within given religions----as a precondition for world peace.

But interreligious cooperation and harmony are not ends in themselves. Two additional steps are required. The first calls for religion to involve itself in the affairs of the world. Not in an exclusive, sectarian or arrogant manner, but rather by bringing religion’s own universal spiritual insights into the broader dialogue and by encouraging service and activism for peace. Religion has often been rightly excluded from the broader pursuit of peace because of its history of absolutism and sectarianism. However, as religions come to appreciate the importance and even value of those of different faiths, this disqualifying attribute of religion fades. In this way, the contributions which religion can make to the cause of peace are better appreciated.

Secondly, religions must come to a greater appreciation of service, living for the sake of others. By way of example, let me mention the work of the Religious Youth Service, a project of the IIFWP which brings together young people from all faiths to engage not only in interreligious encounter, but to apply their religious ideals through acts of service to those in need. The Religious Youth Service, active for 15 years, has organized service projects in nations throughout the world, and literally transformed the lives of the participants.

More and more there is a growing awareness that the solution to conflict requires more than either political negotiation or the threat of overwhelming force. Frequently, what might be called the non-political factors---culture, religion, ethnicity, national identity---weigh more heavily as causal factors leading to conflict.

For this reason, the IIFWP has proposed for consideration the idea of forming a council of religious leaders who would serve within the context of the United Nations, complementing and enhancing the largely secular and political analysis of global problems and solutions. The IIFWP seeks to work in partnership with other non-governmental organizations, both in supporting the peace mission of the United Nations and in offering proposals for reform and improvement.

The theme of our convocation, "Building a Culture of Peace, Heart and True Families," suggests the priorities of the IIFWP. Lasting peace will not be achieved only through a balance of power. A true peace will require a cultural shift, that is, a shift in basic attitudes. When Rev. Moon first announced the establishment of the WCSF, he described its purpose as one of contributing to the "Building of a new culture of peace." Central to the foundation of culture, along with religion, is family. The family, after all, is the place of not merely biological reproduction, but of social and cultural reproduction. Through families a society and a culture reproduce itself, as one generation passes its values on to the next. No society and no culture will long survive if its fundamental ideas and values are not transmitted intergenerationally through the family.

The family is a center of intimacy and love, and through the experience of love within a family we develop our fundamental outlook. We develop what we call "heart," or shimjung. The family is the school for the development of heart. Heart is much greater than ideology, or even religion itself. It is our most fundamental attitude or disposition toward the world and toward others. This fundamental attitude is shaped by our experience within the family.

If we are to build a new culture of peace, therefore, we also need to affirm and encourage the establishment of families which can both embody and transmit a culture of peace. We need families that transmit heart, or, we can say, true love. This is why we say, "true families."

Stated most simply, the term "true family" refers to a God-centered family, a family that lives according to God’s ideal. If God, the universal origin of all life, love, truth and goodness, can form the basis of family life, then a new culture within the family can emerge. The family can itself become the school of a new culture of heart, and a new culture of peace. Of all civic, non-governmental institutions, the family is the most basic, and the most profoundly significant in shaping individual persons.

I hope that in the days ahead you will be witness to the breadth of the IIFWP’s vision. This Convocation is an expression of its hope. So too is the international blessing and marriage dedication ceremony we will observe on Sunday. World peace is possible. As you see couples from all nations, races and religious and cultural backgrounds stand together with shared ideals, as well as a shared determination to build a new culture of peace, I believe you will see hope for the future.

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