The Words of the Yamazaki Family

Education As The Royal Road To Peace

Hiroshi Yamazaki
August 24, 2007
Seoul, Korea
UPI Correspondent

As world leaders prepare for next month's U.N. General Assembly in New York, an international organization is advocating reforms of the world body that would include bringing religious leaders into its decision-making and running educational programs for peace.

The Universal Peace Federation, based in New York, proposed a "Peace Education Initiative" Tuesday at the end of a three-day International Leadership Conference in Seoul, South Korea.

Over 300 conferees representing various nationalities, religions and ethnicities and including politicians, senior diplomats, scholars and religious leaders, gathered to discuss approaches to peace centered on the acceptance of universal principles and core values involving faith, family and an altruistic lifestyle.

According to Rev. Dr. Chung Hwang Kwak, UPF's international chairman, the goal is "one family under God, beyond the barriers of religion, nationality, race, ideology and ethnicity." Similar conferences have been sponsored by UPF in various cities of the world this year under the theme "Providing Vision and Leadership at a Time of Global Crisis."

UPF and its affiliated non-governmental organizations have taken steps to implement this vision through education. Most substantially, they have introduced a curriculum on character education for primary, middle school and high school students, which is being taught in public and private schools in dozens of countries, including Russia and China.

Another important pillar of peace, as far as UPF's core values are concerned, deals with gender relations, marriage and family. "Families are the core component of our society, and their breakdown through infidelity, promiscuity and divorce undermines peace," explained Kwak.

The group conducts abstinence campaigns for unmarried youngsters in a number of countries, including the United States, Japan and South Korea. It has introduced educational programs on abstinence and fidelity in a number of African nations as well, as an approach to fighting HIV/AIDS.

While conventional peace movements focus more on social ills and institutional limitations, UPF's approach to peace sounds similar to an age-old Oriental dictum: First, become a master of yourself, then manage your family with love, administer the nation with justice, and finally bring peace in the world.

UPF's social activism is currently most visible in its Middle East Peace Initiative, which has taken tens of thousands of pilgrims to Israel, including the Palestinian territories. These programs have engaged Jewish and Arab leaders and activists in dialogue and cooperation, along with Christian ministers and representatives from other religions including Buddhism and Confucianism. The group has held dozens of peace conferences among all the stakeholders as well as peaceful marches in the streets of Jerusalem.

According to Timothy Miller, vice president of UPF Europe Region One, these programs have engaged prominent leaders including the late Chairman Yasser Arafat, his successor President Mohammed Abbas and Israel's current president Shimon Peres.

Dr. Thomas Walsh, UPF's secretary general, said the secret of the group's success lies in that it encourages religious groups to live for the sake of other religious communities. "Instead of competing for their own doctrinal supremacy, religions should exert their supremacy in terms of their altruistic attitudes towards other religious groups," he said.

The importance of principles and core values in the war and peace equation is pointed out in the preamble to the Constitution of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It reads: "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed."

The Seoul conference was attended by several UNESCO officials and diplomats. Kenya's Ambassador to UNESCO, Dr. Mary Khimulu, expressed her appreciation for the forum, saying, "We will refer the contents to the government for their application."

Unlike many similar organizations, UPF does not shun religious debate in its public discussions. On the contrary, it has been vocally promoting a Religious Council, similar to the Security Council, within the U.N. system. A resolution containing this suggestion has been endorsed by dozens of nations at past U.N. assemblies.

UPF's unique contribution to world peace lies in its concept of education, Walsh said. This includes education of the heart as well as the mind and a focus on living for others, in clear distinction to popular modern trends that advocate self-fulfillment on the individual level and national interest on the international level. He urges governments of the world to partner with UPF in its Peace Education Initiative, through which its various programs can be introduced in their nations.

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