Unification News for June 2002
International Leadership Seminar Auckland, New Zealand
by Dr. John Didsbury,
The seminar in Auckland, New Zealand, May 26, 2002, began 15 minutes early, with the ballroom already full. A delegation of Maori elders from the Ratana Church conducted the traditional Maori welcome or Powhiri (pronounced po-ferie), in which a Maori woman chants a song, and then words and prayers are offered by several Maori elders. Representing our party, Sir Peter Tapsell responded, in Maori. The spirit was respectful yet warm, as representatives of the original inhabitants of New Zealand greeted and welcomed our speakers and guests. Dr. John Didsbury was the M.C. for the day.
Hon. Richard Prebble gave the opening greetings, which were brief but very appropriate. Mr. Prebble is the leader of the ACT party, an outspoken minority party. He is a longtime member of Parliament, and has also written many books about New Zealand society. He spoke of the significance of the family, and the need to take individual responsibility. In a semi-humorous way, he noted: "I started off my political career thinking government could do everything, but the longer I am in government the less I believe governments are able to do." He also said, "One of the reasons why I have been so impressed by this organization is it seems that great universal truth is at the core of it."
Sir Peter Tapsell then spoke, commanding total attention of the audience through his powerful presence, his humble but very wise words, and his endearing character that makes him one of the most well-liked and well respected (former) politicians in this country. It is worth noting that Sir Peter had been chosen by the National Party, while in power, to be the Speaker of the House, even though he belonged to the opposition Labour Party. Some of his remarks were: "Where we need to improve is in our spiritual and moral standard in our country. The very essence of our whole society is family. By that I mean a man and his wife, their children, the grand parents, a three generational concept of the family which I have often heard Rev. Kwak talk about. It was of course the old Maori sense of family and still a good one. If this conference would consider the ways in which we might rebuild the spiritual and moral strength of the nation, then we will have done some good in meeting. Itís something I have heard Rev Moon talk about on several occasions which has brought me to his view."
Rev. Song then powerfully delivered the keynote address, which was attentively received by the audience.
Dr. Walsh then gave an introduction to IIFWP which included a video presentation. The guests were very impressed and inspired by the international scope and impact of the organization.
After the lunch break in which there were many lively discussions among the participants, the conference reconvened for a panel presentation of local projects and issues of concern. The session began with a thought provoking talk by Bruce Logan, in which he highlighted many of the social problems we are facing. His Maxim Institute is a research and advocacy institution dedicated to promoting the role of the family in society. He discussed the absolute necessity for there to be strong families if we are to have a civil society that can function, as it is within the family that vital education is provided.
We then heard a presentation by the Kimiora and Suzanne Pene about the Religious Youth Service and their experiences in Australia working on recent projects there. The Peneís are responsible for the largest Maori youth organization in the country, and are very inspired with the vision of R.Y.S., which mirrors their own organizationís commitment to service and inter-religious and inter-cultural harmony.
Geoffrey Prentice, a long time FFWP member who is a high school teacher in a predominantly Maori school, gave an excellent presentation explaining the basic objectives of character education.
Geoffrey Fyers spoke about the Triangle Television program, Family Federation Report, which has been airing on a local community channel since 1999. The program offers IIFWP an opportunity to communicate to a larger audience, and has proven to be effective in educating and inspiring many people throughout its viewing area (Auckland and Hamilton). Recently the program has been interviewing various religious leaders to discover their views on different issues including life after death, and will be creating a series of shows allowing for inter-religious dialogue and expression.
David Ansty spoke about the partnership between the IIFWP and the Gambia Trust, a cadet character training program which is currently anchoring and looking after the maintenance of two boats donated by IIFWP. The boats are really being enjoyed by their youth, and are utilized in survival training as well as boating skill courses.
Ruth Cleaver, the Free Teens coordinator for New Zealand, gave a talk about encouraging teenagers to be abstinent. Parents were given information and advice about the new Health curriculum and their rights within the school system, and examples of values-based programs being used in some schools were given. She put forward the idea that IIFWP in New Zealand could put together a program advocating the benefits of marriage according to the various cultures represented, and several of the participants have since expressed interest in this project.
The final presentation and a highlight of the day was a very inspiring powerpoint presentation by Dr. Walsh about the Spiritual World and the Blessing. All the attendees were very attentive during this talk, and the spirit in the room became brighter and more charged. The Blessing was given, and the representative couple was Rev. Alfred Palu and his wife. He is a Marshall Islands conference graduate and active IIFWP member who is a Tongan Methodist minister. They appeared to be deeply moved during the Blessing prayer by Rev. Song. Other couples in the audience received the Blessing and felt it was a very significant moment for their couple.
Following the Blessing there was a dinner banquet. The atmosphere was joyful, grateful, and very uplifted. We concluded the day with several testimonies from participants. One woman who was attending an event of ours for the first time, said that she could "feel the spirit of the great Reverend with us all day." She also shared: "And for him to have us share my wedding vows after 28 years with my beautiful husband was just so special, and I take that away tonight. I will share with my children and may they grow up in a marriage that would be as sacred and spiritual as the Rev Moon has this vision for us." Her only complaint was that she hadnít discovered us earlier, scolding us for taking so long to become part of her life!
A gentleman whose brother is the leading Christian evangelist in New Zealand, said that he has been to many conferences but this one was different and very special. He said: "I congratulate you for putting this together and for Rev Moon and the vision that he had. You have to have a vision, my vision was to help save humanity from what is happening in the world and you people are doing it. I take my hat off to you. God bless you all."
Following the testimonies, Ambassador For Peace Certificates were presented to four participants: Rev. Alfred Palu, Hassan Hussein (Muslim leader), David Ansty, and Dr. Singh.
One of the reasons this event was so successful was the diversity and high quality of the participants. Many religions were represented Ė Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Síai Baba followers, to name a few. The Muslims were represented by a delegation of scholars, teachers and community leaders (10 people), who probably rarely venture out into the larger community in this way. They all appeared to thoroughly enjoy themselves, and felt a common heart with IIFWP and the other participants. At least 3 couples representing the Church of the Latter Day Saints, including one of their leaders, attended.
Also present was the party of elders from the Ratana (Maori) Church including some of their key leaders, who were attending one of our meetings for the first time at the invitation of Kimiora and Suzanne Pene. Also in attendance were members of the local Korean, Chinese, Bangla-Deshi, Fijian, Samoan, and Tongan communities. Several of the religious people commented that within their own church community they are able to create this wonderful spirit, but they had never imagined or experienced anything like this in such a diverse group.
Our thanks to True Parents, Rev. Kwak, Dr. Walsh, and the Heavenly realms without whose full support the event could never have taken place. We look forward to deepening our relationship with all participants, and working with them on issues of common concern.
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