Articles From the February 1995 Unification News


WFWP: Sisters for World Peace

by Mrs. Nora Spurgin-NYC

When women have a bond of sisterhood, their men cannot go to war against each other. The eight International Women's Conferences for World Peace, taking place in Washington D.C. between January 22 and March 8 are a testimony to the role of women in making peace.

Fifty years ago hostilities ended between their nations. Today they would celebrate that ending and a new beginning, by forging relationships which will span the ocean. They would take each other's hands and pledge:

Through this Sisterhood ceremony I join in friendship with my partner to build a bridge of peace and reconciliation between our two nations, the United States and Japan. As a woman concerned with peace at all levels of human endeavor, I will strive to be a peacemaker and harmonizer in my family, community, society and between nations.

The day's festivities begin with a delicious luncheon held in two separate Japanese and American dining areas, followed by welcoming remarks and orientation.

In the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Crystal City, Virginia stand 500 women from all over America in anticipation of meeting their counterparts (sisters) from Japan. They would become sisters of peace.

Suddenly the doors open and 500 Japanese women find their places beside their smiling American partners. It is a powerful moment. A moment of silence is observed for the Kobe earthquake victims. Welcome and greetings are given by America's and Japan's WFWP presidents. There is beautiful music, building up to the dramatic moment when a curtain drops revealing a beautiful bridge, cherry blossom trees and roses on the stage. It is breathtaking. The emcee, Josette Shiner, managing editor of the Washington Times and Vice President of WFWP, explains the thought behind the stage decorations:

The bridge is symbolic. The design is patterned after the Memorial Bridge which is a symbol of reunion of North and South which was fought during the Civil War. The bridge was built to connect General Lee's home on one side of the Potomac River straight to the other side which is the Lincoln Memorial, the symbol of the North. Half of the bridge looks like the bridge that was built at the Japanese Imperial Royal Palace called Megane Bashi.

Other decorations are merged symbols of America (stars and stripes) and Japan (the rising sun).

After a keynote speech, the ceremony begins. From the first row, American women move to the left side of the stage, and Japanese women move to the right. One by one, they enter the bridge from each end, walking ceremoniously until they meet in the center of the bridge, where they meet and greet each other, sometimes with bows and handshakes, sometimes with hugs. Hand in hand they walk down the center of the stage to dramatic music and return to their seats. Some of the Japanese ladies are wearing kimonos. The Americans, a rainbow of races and colors, are sometimes wearing the costumes of their ancestors' countries.

Having been represented by this first row of 16 sister-pairs, the remainder of the 1,000 women now greet their sisters, exchange information, gifts, embraces, and tears. As Japanese and Americans wipe away not only tears, but painful memories, this becomes a cleansing moment in which the flow of energy brings new life and the promise of a new beginning of cooperation between our two nations.

There are many stories of new relationships between women: one set of sisters discovered that each woman had lost a father during World War II. Many commented that there were special aspects about their sister- matches which seemed as if they had been chosen in heaven. For example, Alexa Ward's sister-match began by saying that her favorite lecturer was Dr. Tom Ward-then Alexa informed her that he was her husband!

Even though they cannot speak the same language, the language of love and care is the language of heaven, and the barriers melt quickly.

Following the ceremony, the sisters attend a reception, spending time learning about each other's lives. Then they are invited to re-enter the ballroom for the evening's entertainment and banquet.

A special treat is a special selection of dances performed by students of the Kirov Academy of Ballet. Directed by Oleg Vinogradov, the exceptional young dancers from around the world capture the hearts of everyone.

The evening concludes with the dynamic performance of singer and actress Shirley Jones, who seems to get into the spirit of the conference immediately, and carries the audience to an all-time high as she leads the whole audience in "Let There Be Peace on Earth."

Although the ceremony is the heart of this part of the conference, there is another part of the conference which can in no way be overlooked. This is the role of the keynote speaker for each conference.

The conferences began with Dr. William Bennett, former secretary of education and author of The Book of Virtues, giving the keynote speech. Obviously a man who believes in family values, he expressed much concern about America's increasing out-of-wedlock births, talked about his wife's work with "Best Friends," a mentoring program for teenage girls, and stated that the federal government cannot perform the father role for America's children, "only men and women can raise children." He expressed the need for men to take more responsibility with their sons, so that the men of the next generation can learn to be fathers.

The keynote speaker for the second conference was Barbara Walters, a co-host of ABC's newsmagazine 20/20, and a woman who has interviewed heads of state and celebrities for many years. Her speech, entertaining and informative, focused on leadership. She listed the three things she saw leaders as having in common:

1. a belief in themselves and in a higher power beyond themselves

2. the ability to communicate

3. they have compassion

She elaborated on the third point by saying that in an interview with Norman Schwarzkopf, he stated, "men who can't cry scare me." She also talked of the need for politicians to find value after leaving office and the painful transition to private life that needs to be made. Every speaker, every performer throughout the conferences has been deeply moved by the spirit of the conference, leaving always with a feeling that they, too, have become brothers or sisters of peace.

The more I work with it, the more deeply I realize that every facet of this program has deep spiritual significance. As we see our True Parents moving to broader and broader circles, we realize that their sphere of influence goes far beyond our small concepts.

The women from Japan have come here at great cost and effort, traveling far, spending long hours in meetings and seeking to understand this country.

One participant from Kobe had suffered the loss of her home in the earthquake. In the rubble, she found her luggage and passport and came to the conference-so serious was she about participating.

It is my hope that many American women can experience this deeply moving ceremony and participate in this magnificent step toward world peace and the restoration of heart.


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