Unification News for April 2002

ILS Nigeria: A Kola Nut for Dr. Kwak

by Michael Kiely

"I am a promoter of peace, a lover of peace, a dispenser of peace, a radiator of peace.... Wherever I go, I will go to promote peace, interreligious peace," the Hon. Jerry Gana, the Nigerian Minister of Information and National Orientation, told organizers of a conference on peace in Abuja, Nigeria, recently. Speaking of the organizers of the event on prime time national television, he said, "I salute the wisdom of your objectives... I want to identify with this People of Peace."

Gana said he was attending the conference, held Thursday, March 28, 2002 at the Nicon-Hilton Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria, at the "direct" request of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

At the conference, entitled, "Renewing the Nation: An Exploration of Principles and Practices that Strengthen Families, Educate our Youth, and Rebuild the Society," Gana was one of 16 Nigerian VIPs to receive the prestigious "Ambassador for Peace" award. Speaking in an interview shown to an estimated 30 million plus viewers of the NTA nine o’clock evening news, he said of the award, "Of all the awards I have received, this is the top award.... I am very, very delighted and honored."

Asked as he was leaving the conference what was his mission as an ambassador for peace, he replied that it was "to promote peace so the family, community and nation can live in peace." Looking to the nation’s presidential elections to be held next year, he mused out loud, "If before the national elections we can have more conferences on peace like this one on both a national and a state level, we will have an atmosphere for a peaceful and hitch-free election."

The conference sought to provide "a new vision of leadership based on the principle of living for the sake of others," said IIFWP World Chairman Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak, who was the keynote speaker at the event. Lamenting that national and world leadership and institutions had historically been "dominated by self-interests," Dr. Kwak encouraged political, religious, academic, media and NGO leaders gathered for the conference to live by a "broader vision of serving others and contributing to world peace."

The approximately 250 ministers and their representatives, senior government officials, academics, clerics, military and media who gathered for the day-long event were more than twice as many participants as conference organizers had expected. This was "la creme de la creme" of Nigerian society, one journalist observed.

Impressed not only by the high caliber of the participants but by the religious balance they exhibited, Dr. Sheikh Lemu, National President of the Islamic Education Trust and a highly respected Islamic scholar, said he was particularly impressed that this organization could bring serious Moslems and Christians together to discuss peace. He said he particularly appreciated the "willingness" of IIFWP "to embrace other views."

"Such a genuine drive for peace by IIFWP can really bring peace to the nation," Dr. Lemu said. "If there is any organization that can foster peace in this nation, it is IIFWP." He said God must have "inspired" Rev. Moon to found this organization and added that he "identified with" the organization’s "emphasis on education of youth, religious dialog and peace."

Dr. Lemu lamented the emphasis today on what he called "technical education" and "the total neglect of moral education based on the fear of God." The solution to the nation’s problems, he said, was for "individuals to center their lives on God." He appreciated the IIFWP Character Education program because it encouraged individuals and families to be "centered on God."

After a morning opening plenary and presentations on Character Education, HIV Avoidance and various IIFWP projects, Dr. Kwak gave details about the spiritual world and the importance of our preparation for it while on earth. He also cautioned participants not to abuse their sexual organs because it belonged not to them but to their spouses.

"Only the spouse has the key to your sexual organ," This Day newspaper, with a large readership among educated urbanites, quoted him as saying. "There must be no other kick-starter to your sexual organ in addition to that of your spouse," the paper said he cautioned the gathering.

Dr. Kwak concluded his presentation with a Blessing in marriage ceremony in which some 39 couples and individuals took part. In the ceremony participants renewed their wedding vows and rededicated their marriages to God in service to others.

The minister of State for Industry, Chief Lawrence Nwuruku, was the first to step forward in response to Dr. Kwak’s call to come forward for the Blessing. He and his wife attended the whole conference except the Blessing during which she had a meeting with the wife of Vice President. Later when she heard that there had been a Blessing she gently chided her husband for not calling her on her mobile phone to come to the Blessing.

Dr. Kwak’s lecture and the Blessing "can change lives," said Drs. Emmanuel & Patricia Idigbe, Directors of the National Institute for Medical Research. Dr. Idigbe said Dr. Kwak’s lecture was "quite profound" and gave them a "new understanding." He said he realized now the importance of creating a God-centered lineage.

Another couple that participated in the ceremony were Dr. and Mrs. Dr. Bashiru T. Kasika, the director and head pharmacist at a specialist hospital in Oyo State. They are also well respected Moslem leaders. Dr. Kasika led the delegation from Oyo on pilgrimage to Mecca earlier this year.

Dr. Kasika said he understood from Dr. Kwak’s lectures the need for parents in a family to become true parents and expressed his gratitude for the worldwide education Rev. Moon is offering.

At the closing banquet after the Blessing, 16 eminent Nigerians received Ambassador for Peace awards in recognition of their role as peacemakers. Alhaji Dr. Shehu Musa, Head of the Independent National Electoral Commission and a respected Moslem leader from northern Nigeria, pledged to do his best to "live up to the title." He thanked Rev. Moon for "his religious vision in founding this movement."

In a traditional gesture of Nigerian hospitality, former ambassador to Ethiopia and Founder of the African Refugee Foundation, Chief Olusegun Olusola, made a special presentation to Dr. Kwak. "I dip my hand into my pocket and find one piece of Kola nut," Amb. Olusola said. He then offered it to Dr. Kwak.

"This is what the poorest man in Nigeria might offer you – with his prayers," Amb. Olusola said.

The Kola nut is a traditional symbol of unity and welcome, often used by traditional chiefs to welcome guests into their palaces.

Prof. Yusufu Ogbaje, Chaplain to the President, Secretary General of the National Interreligious Council and President of the Baptist Seminary in Obomosho, offered the Christian concluding prayer. (There was also a Moslem prayer.) On learning that there may be another IIFWP conference on peace later this year, he said he would like to personally be involved in organizing it.

In attendance at the conference also was the Minister of Police Affairs, Mr. Steven Akiga.

In addition to the three government ministers who personally attended the conference, four other ministers sent their direct representatives: Abba Gana, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory; Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, Head of Service; Mrs. Pauline Tallen, Minister of State for Science & Technology; Chief Dubem Onyia, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

Also present were Former Minister of Science and Technology, Maj. Gen. Sam Momah; the wife of the Minister of Works and the woman leader of the ruling party, PDP, Dr. Josephine Aninih; President of the Institute of Work and Society in Akwa Ibom State, Chief Ita D. Ekpott; Assistant Director General of Customs; the Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, one of the preeminent universities in Nigeria; and about 140 other high-level dignitaries.

Dr. Kwak met with the Vice Chancellor after the conference and is in the process of signing a Memorandum of Intent to establish a sisterhood relationship between Ahmadu Bello University with the University of Bridgeport and Sun Myung Moon University.

NTA, the largest television network in Africa, gave the IIFWP event extensive prime time coverage for two nights after the conference.

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