Articles From the October 1995 Unification News


The Third IRFWP Congress "Realizing the Ideal: The Responsibility of the World's Religions."

by Dr. Thomas G. Walsh-Louisville KY

On August 20-27, 1995, at the time of the second World Culture and Sports Festival in Seoul, Korea, the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace held its third international Congress on the theme, "Realizing the Ideal: The Responsibility of the World's Religions." One hundred and twenty scholars and religious leaders from around the world participated in this conference whose Honorary Chairman was Rev. Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios, Bishop of New Delhi and the North of the Syrian Orthodox Church of the East, and former President of the World Council of Churches,.

The conference featured five distinct sections organized around the general theme of the Congress. The first section, chaired by Dr. Sheldon Isenberg (University of Florida) and Dr. Robert Carter (Trent University, Canada) was focused on "Religion and the Ideal Individual." The participants considered the way in which the religions of the world have understood the ideal of human nature or human character. Paper topics included the following: "The Bodhisattva Ideal" by Dr. James Duerlinger, "Hindu Ideals of Life" by Swami Chidananda Saraswati, and "The Ideal of Human Nature from the Point of View of the Koran" by Haji Mohammad al-Qaaim S.F. Sawada. Unificationists, David Fraser Harris and Dr. Hemram Gyaram, wrote papers entitled, respectively, "Heaven is Not for Individuals" and "Why Religion is Essential in Forming the Ideal Individual."

The second section, chaired by Dr. Charles Selengut (Drew University) and Dr. Thomas Walsh (International Religious Foundation), had as its theme, "Religion and the Ideal Family." This section explored the teachings and practices of marriage and family within the world's religions. Protestant Christian, Catholic Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh, Yoruba (African) voices were heard. Dr. Thomas Selover, now teaching in Canada, presented a paper on the Unification view of the family. His paper was titled "We Families: The Family as Principle, Pattern, Pledge and Practice in Unification Religious Life." Dr. Anthony Guerra, Dean at the University of Bridgeport, wrote his paper on "The Puritans and the Family: Theological and Social Perspectives."

The third section was chaired by Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein (President, University of Bridgeport) and Dr. Michael Mickler (Academic Dean, Unification Theological Seminary). The theme for this section was "Religion and the Ideal Society." Once again, persons representing a wide range of religious perspectives offered papers on the theme. Dr. Mickler's paper was on "The Ideal Society and its Realization in Unificationism."

Section four was on "Religion and the Environment," Chaired by IRFWP's Secretary General, Dr. M. Darrol Bryant. Dr. Bryantwrote a paper on "The Wondrous Creation: Contra the Modern Myth of Mastery." Hon. Voyce Durling-Jones, a Native American and member of the IRFWP Presiding Council, wrote a paper on "Sacred Keepers of Earth and Sky: Mythopoeic Vision of a Sacred Ecology and Land Theology in the Americas." Dr. Ellen Chen of St. John's University wrote a paper on "Taoism and Ecology" and Dr. Peter Phan wrote on "Eschatology and Ecology: The Environment in the End-Time." Rev. John Gehring, Executive Director of the Religious Youth Service, wrote on "Religion as a Team Player in Shaping our Environment: The Unification Church's Potential Offering."

The fifth section was a special colloquium for religious leaders who addressed the topic, "Realizing Peace in the Twenty-First Century: The Responsibility of the World's Religions." This section was chaired by Dr. Frank Kaufmann, Executive Director of the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace. Among the religious leaders present for this colloquium were IRFWP President, Bhai Manjit Singh, the supreme head of 20 million followers of the Sikh religion; Sheikh Ahmed Zabarah, the Grand Mufti of Yemen; Rev. Dr. F. Lambert-Carter, pastor of the oldest Congregational Church in Australia, St. Andrew's; Professor Hassan Mohammed F. Garib Allah, Former Chancellor of the Omdurman Islamic University in the Sudan; Maria Celia Hernandez Rodriguez, a coordinator with the Roman Catholic Archepiscopate in Honduras; and, two Muslim Muftis from Russia, Natigulla Ashirov, who chairs the Executive Committee of the Higher Coordinating Center of Russian Muslim Clerical Administration, and Muhammed Albogachiev, who chairs the Russian Republic Clerical Center.

The Opening Plenary of the conference featured the Founder's Address for IRFWP's Founder, Rev. Sun Myung Moon. This speech was entitled, "Religion and the Ideal World." In his talk, Rev. Moon stated that, "religious leaders should take the lead in ending the world's corruption and wrongdoing. While religions remain indifferent to widespread lawlessness, inequality and injustice, religion can neither find its way out of the swamp of present reality nor move towards the ideal....I believe that religious leaders have the responsibility to lead unconditional and sacrificial lives for the sake of others, and to teach this way of life to others."

Following the Founder's Address two of the Presidents of the IRFWP offered remarks. First, the Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak, Chairman of the International Religious Foundation, and, second, the Venerable Sul- jung Jun, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Korean Buddhist Cho-gye Order. The Opening Plenary closed with a special tribute and presentation, made by Dr. Ninian Smart, an IRFWP Presiding Council Member and Distinguished Professor of Religion at the University of California at Santa Barbara, in appreciation for the leadership and inspiration of the Founder, made by Dr. Ninian Smart, Distinguished Professor of Religion at the University of California at Santa Barbara. [plaque text: "On the Occasion of the 2nd World Culture and Sports Festival and the 3rd International Congress of the IRFWP we, the Presidents and Members of the Presiding Council, extend our heartfelt appreciation to Reverend and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon for your consistent spiritual and moral leadership in a troubled world, and for your abundant and unwavering support for harmony among the world's religion through the IRFWP's work for world peace. Furthermore, we are honored to be present a the historic Holy Wedding Ceremony of 360,000 couples who have dedicated their families to God and humankind."

The conference was treated to an additional Plenary Session featuring Hon Voyce Durling Jones, speaking on the role of indigenous religions, particularly Aztec and Native American traditions, in shaping a new paradigm shift for the twenty-first century. She said, "We must all choose to seek a new paradigm that will safely guide us into and through the 21st century. We can choose to have nothing less than a transformation and restoration, an unfolding of a shared vision from every religion and spiritual tradition gathered here isn't easy and it takes patience. Waiting for hours or even centuries for that one brief moment of possibility. That moment is here now."

The Closing Plenary allowed representatives from each conference section to offer a reflection on his or her experience. Each spokesperson offered an eloquent statement of both deep analysis of the proceedings and profound appreciation for the opportunity to gather in this way under the auspices of the IRFWP.

After the formal close of the IRFWP Congress on August 24, participants stayed on in Seoul for three more days. On August 25 all participants loaded buses in the rain to observe the Holy Wedding Ceremony held at the Olympic stadium in Seoul. Despite the cloudy and rainy weather, participants were awestruck by the magnificence of the Blessing ceremony for the 35,000 couple present in the stadium. That same evening, IRFWP Congress participants, along with guest from other conferences held in conjunction with the World Culture and Sports Festival, attended the Congratulatory Banquet at the Little Angels Performing Arts Academy. They were treated to an unforgettable group of performers, including, of course, the Little Angels themselves. On this evening, the Founder oft he World Culture and Sports Festival, spoke to the guests on "The True Family and I."

The following day, August 26, participants were taken on a tour of the ever-expanding Sun Moon University, located 90 minutes south of Seoul. While at the university, the guests were offered an overview of the teachings of the Unification Church, presented by Dr. James Baughman. On the final day, August 27, participants went on a tour of Seoul and departed either that evening or early the next morning.

According to the participants own reports this was one of the most successful conferences they had ever attended. We felt that there was so much grace and heavenly blessing coming our way. Although the dedicated staff -- especially Frank LaGrotteria, Robert and Asae Sattinger, and Keng Tan -- of the IRFWP worked extremely hard, day and night, for many weeks and months preparing for this meeting, without God's loving grace we could not have achieved such an incredibly high level of spirit. We are grateful to have a part to play in the unfolding of God's providential unifying work through the IRFWP.


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