Unification News for August - September 1999

RYS sponsors As Friends project in Mongolia

Mongolia, the land of steppes and hills of the legendary Genghis Khan, was the host for the 7th As Friends (Asian Friendship and Service Project) of the RYS (Religious Youth Service). This inter-religious service and learning project for youth was held in the capital Ulaanbaatar from August 14th to August 24th.

There were 32 participants from 5 Asian countries (Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China) and from a variety of religious backgrounds (Buddhist, 7th Day Adventist, Mormon, Unificationist,...). Despite the considerable language difficulties the participants were able to develop a strong unity and a close friendship by living, working and meditating together.

RYS supported the construction of a 2-story kindergarten (for about 40 children) in a poor and remote area of Ulaanbaatar. Until now there was no kindergarten at all in this small village, which required the children to walk several kilometers or to take the bus in order to reach the nearest school. Constructing this kindergarten nearby their homes will contribute to the safety of the children and will enable more children to attend school. The second floor of the small building will be used as a meeting room to provide educational programs for mothers and housewives of the local community. The RYS participants were doing light construction work (with wood, cement and paint) inside and around the building, creating an outdoor toilet, making various toys for the children... The kindergarten will be operated by the Women's Federation for World Peace of Mongolia and is sponsored mainly by donors in Japan.

During the first half of the day the RYS participants were working at the worksite. After the lunch break they would visit the most remarkable cultural and religious sites of the city. The monks and pastors of various monasteries and churches warmly welcomed the RYS participants and gave a brief introduction about their tradition. Through this the RYS participants could learn about the common and different views, without entering sharp theological discussions. The Khambo Lama of the biggest Mongolian monastery received the RYS participants in his office and supported the idea of our project. Among the speakers was also an Indian UN official who spoke about Hinduism, as well as the UNESCO director who spoke about the importance of education.

The educational program of the project was under the supervision of Dr. Ron Burr and Dr. Sherry Hartman-Burr, both professors at the University of Mississippi, and of Mrs Fazida Razak, a Muslim journalist from Singapore. They were leading the staff and participant designed discussions and activities.

There was also time to discover Mongolia's cultural and natural beauty with a visit to a Mongolian National park, where the participants could engage in horseback riding and rock climbing. They could experience the comfort of a Mongolian ger (tent) and get a taste of the Mongolian traditional food, i.e. roasted sheep meat and airag (fermented horse milk).

The project was concluded with a day of reflection in the nature. Participants would keep silence for several hours, meditating on a mountain side. They wrote on a piece of paper their reflection as well as their determination on how they can apply the RYS experiences in their daily lives. Then they would fold the paper into a little boat, make it float on the water and let the river carry it away.

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