Unification News for November 2001

Interreligious and International Federation For World Peace - International Leadership Conference Held in Washington DC

by Burton Leavitt

Responding to the global crisis following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) initiated a new Ambassadors for Peace program series in America with an International Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., on October 13. The program, titled "Forging a Vision for Renewal of the Family and Nation," addressed the issue of how America should move forward to promote lasting world peace.

The conference drew more than two hundred leaders in the areas of politics, religion, media, business, health, education, and community service. Distinguished representatives of several embassies-including His Excellency Pascal Bodjona, ambassador of Togo, and officials from the embassies of Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Niger, Nigeria, and the Philippines-understanding the significance of the concept of Ambassadors for Peace, were in attendance.

A number of clergy and lay members of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths, among others, also participated. These men and women were uniquely positioned to dialogue with one another, many having already committed themselves to the notion that world peace depends upon cooperation among the faiths of the world. Recognizing that religious loyalties far outweigh political loyalties in the minds of most people, these thoughtful and well-educated believers acknowledged that religion is at the root of most national and cultural identities and thus most conflicts. Harmony forged among the world’s religious believers is therefore at the heart of fully resolving these conflicts. The conference was notable for its solemn interfaith prayers for peace, as well as its wisdom in recognizing the common values held by the world’s major religions, values that offer hope for a viable world community of nations in the future.

Many religious themes, including the meaning and quality of the afterlife, were explored. Rev. Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak, chairman of the IIFWP, addressed this topic, observing that "the contemporary culture generally seeks an easy life, more relaxed, self-centered," which reflects the interests of the physical self, but our spiritual self, that part which is eternal, "seeks after truth, value, and higher purpose." It is this spiritual dimension that has come to the fore during the recent tragedy and motivated so many across America to give sacrificially to help those who have suffered the loss of loved ones, jobs, and more. "Live for others, serve others, love others," Reverend Kwak advised. "These are the best elements for growing our spiritual self to perfection." His insightful presentation also included consideration of what true love in marriage and the family must mean to God Himself, the origin of life, love, and the family.

Reverend Kwak’s point of living for the sake of others was echoed by otherJamong them Archbishop George Augustus Stallings of Imani Temple, who asserted, in reference to America, "What is ours is not ours. We are but stewards, to share with others who are more unfortunate." This attitude of unselfish giving led Bishop among them Archbishop George Augustus Stallings of Imani Temple, who asserted, in reference to America, "What is ours is not ours. We are but stewards, to share with others who are more unfortunate." This attitude of unselfish giving led Bishop J of the Heart of Fire Ministries, another speaker in the conference, to immediately rush to Ground Zero after the attack in New York. There he remained for days, praying with and comforting the survivors, the wounded, and the crews. Through his experience, Bishop Johnson confessed, God’s desire for lasting world peace "was etched ever more deeply in my soul." He concluded, that in a time of such crisis, "everybody becomes zero. You don’t look at color or IQ. You look at what they have for the sake of the nation and the world."

Many thoughtful opinions were offered by participants on how to proceed toward a stable world peace. Radio talk-show host Armstrong Williams called on Americans to remember that it is only God who is carrying them through. "We have been given another chance," he explained. "We have been given a chance to preach the truth, not just what is politically correct." How true it is, Rev. Levy Daugherty of the American Clergy Leadership Conference reminded the audience, considering that not so long ago we were burning flags in this country, and prayer was taken out of public places. Now, he said, "even the president says, ‘Pray for America,’ and American flags are everywhere."

Rev. Michael Jenkins of the Family Federation for World Peace poignantly stated that "America is now on the cross" and is facing a challenge to exhibit a greater love and forgiveness, as Jesus did. He called for more emphasis on interfaith activities, expressing his conviction that "a massive aggressive outreach should happen between Christians and Muslims," to which one imam present responded, "Yes, we are one."

Throughout the conference, certain ideas relevant to world peace-that it is anchored in each person’s relationship with God; that it is nurtured in the family, a school of love and morality where the most basic virtues are learned; that it prospers as people practice true love and self-sacrifice; that it requires the breakdown of the barriers that divide people according to race, nationality, religion, language, and culture-were discussed again and again in different forums.

A number of religious and community leaders acknowledged in addresses during the program their indebtedness to Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the IIFWP, for his thoughts on how to achieve world peace. Discussed was Reverend Moon’s proposal that the United Nations create another chamber, one in which the world’s religious leaders would meet to consider issues pertinent to peace. He has urged that each nation appoint religious leaders to participate in such a body. He has recommended, as well, that the United Nations become vitally active in strengthening and revitalizing the family as the most significant transmitter of human values. Reverend Moon’s speeches on many important topics were made available, as was literature from a number of faith-based organizations.

Author Peter Brown addressed the question of how to transmit to the world’s children a vision of peace that will shape their future. He began with James Allen’s words from As a Man Thinketh: "Cherish your visions; cherish your ideals; cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, and loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts, for out of them will grow delightful conditions, all heavenly environments; of these if you but remain true to them, your world will at last be built." Brown went on to talk about the influences that lead children away from a world-level vision based on an ethic of unselfish love as God intended and how we can counter those influences.

A particularly stirring talk was given by Ms. Suraya Sadeed, an American-Afghan leader who has traveled to Afghanistan nineteen times as part of the relief effort over the years since the Soviet invasion. She mentioned having seen many children there whose faces had turned blue from the cold who could have been saved by even one blanket. "Almost nobody can understand the pain of Afghanistan," she lamented. "Two generations have been raised in war. They have been there; they have been terrorized." She cited the example of a typical young man she knows whose mother died when he was five, whose father died when he was ten, and whose house was burned to the ground when he was fifteen. She said she had written a letter to President Bush pouring out her grief. "Mr. President," she wrote, "my pain is so deep I can’t even talk to anybody." Moved by her testimony, the newly appointed Ambassadors for Peace took up a collection of over $1,000 for her relief work.

At the close of the conference, the participants were commissioned as official Ambassadors for Peace, joining the ranks of over 4,000 leaders worldwide-including former heads of state and prominent religious leaders, scholars, and journalists-who have already accepted such appointments. This initiative was previously advanced through a series of seminars convened in around the world, including Australia, the Czech Republic, Kenya, Mongolia, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, and Uruguay.

The new Ambassadors for Peace appointed during the Washington program pledged to: 1. promote interreligious dialogue; 2. support programs aimed at strengthening marriage, the family, and the moral education of youth; 3. engage in service projects that assist those in need; and 4. work to ensure that the media report fairly, truthfully, and objectively.

The conference-which was co-hosted by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, the American Family Coalition, and the American Clergy Leadership Conference included the insights of other remarkable participants whose contributions have not been reviewed here. From service projects in Africa to interfaith meetings around the world, many significant events were shared at this conference. Several participants said in the closing hour that this was the best interfaith gathering they had ever attended.

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