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American Leadership Conference Looks to a Hopeful Future

Washington, D.C., United States—The latest American Leadership Conference stressed principles and values as the tools that will restore this country.

The ALC was held on November 14, 2015, by the UPF-Washington, D.C., Office, directed by Tomiko Duggan, under the theme “America at a Turning Point: Principles and Values for Building a Nation of Peace,” which also commemorated the 10th anniversary of UPF.

Only the night before, the world was shocked by the terrorist attack in Paris which left many dead and injured, and the world community in shock and disbelief. President Obama called it an attack “not only on France but on all the world and on the universal values that we share.”

It was with a sense of seriousness and concern that more than 120 persons attended the one-day program at The Washington Times which featured speakers and experts who gave presentations on the UPF Peace Principles, the root cause of conflict, the principles of reconciliation, interfaith cooperation, marriage and family, and youth and service.

Dr. William Selig, deputy director of the Office of Peace and Security Affairs, UPF-Washington, D.C., served as the master of ceremonies. Dr. Doris McGuffey, founder and CEO of the Center for Dimensional Transformation in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, began with a moment of silence and offered a moving invocation for the victims of the Paris attacks, which was followed by a video introduction to UPF’s worldwide activities.

Dr. Ki Hoon Kim, regional chair of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification of North America and regional chair of UPF-North America, warmly welcomed everyone to the program and shared anecdotes about the founders. Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon once asked Dr. Kim, “Do you know why you have two eyes and two ears?” Dr. Moon explained that it is to be aware of the visible world as well as the invisible world and to recognize that we are created to be a God-centered individual who recognizes that we are basically spiritual beings having a physical experience. Dr. Kim thanked everyone for attending, being steadfast to our principles, and celebrating UPF’s 10th anniversary.

Session I: “Vision for Peace: Universal Principles of Creation.” Dr. Thomas Walsh, president of UPF International, gave an inspiring presentation on UPF’s background and core values. Ten years ago on September 12, 2005, Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Moon inaugurated the UPF at Lincoln Center in New York. UPF comes on the foundation of many organizations over many decades. The founders created organizations dealing with the media, religion, science, women, youth, sports, arts, etc., and though they are identified as religious leaders, all of the organizations and endeavors they have sponsored have the same purpose—to promote and practice ethical and responsible living centered not on individualistic ideas but on universally shared principles.

The UPF Peace Principles include the follow concepts:

  1. We have a common origin, though it may be called by different names such as God, Allah and Yahweh. By examining the common origin, certain characteristics can be identified:
    1. all things exist with internal character and external form, and
    2. all things exist with masculine and feminine characteristics.
  2. The law of Give-and-Take action, which means we live in an interdependent world and all existence impacts each other.
  3. God created the creation with purpose, known as the Three Blessings:
    1. To become a person whose mind and body are united and centered on God.
    2. To give birth to children not just in a biological sense, but children who are connected to the heart of God.
  4. To be God’s co-creator and serve as stewards of the earth and its resources.

Dr. Walsh referred to the three stages of life, including: (1) life in the womb, (2) our time on the earth, and (3) eternal life in the spirit world. Just as everyone rejoices with the birth of a baby after the nine months in the womb, there will be a celebration with our rebirth into the eternal world after spending 80 or so years on this physical earth.

Session 2: “The Real Cause of Conflicts and the Principles of Reconciliation” was presented by Mr. Ricardo de Sena, regional secretary general of UPF-North America. We all have a desire to live in a world of peace, he said, yet despite our best intentions, we are caught in a world of seemingly unending conflict. The Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO states, “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.” The barriers to peace are found at all levels of society, beginning within a single human being. If we go back 100, 200 or even 2,000 years ago, conflict will be found. We need to go back to the family of Adam and Eve to find out what happened and what went wrong. It was in the first family that corrupted love began a legacy of self-centeredness, greed, jealousy and the propensity to dominate others.

How do we reconcile and get rid of this fallen nature? Step #1: We must reconcile with God through prayer, meditation and the study of sacred text. Step #2: We must learn to forgive and to love one another. He gave three famous quotes. Martin Luther King Jr.: “We never get rid of an enemy by meeting with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity.” Mahatma Gandhi: “When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall.” Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon: “The power of Jesus was the power of love.”

Mr. de Sena gave two examples that demonstrated the power of forgiveness and love. First, the relationship between Nelson Mandela and South African President F.W. de Klerk, and second, between Sun Myung Moon and Kim Il Sung. Mandela spent 27 years in prison, including six years in solitary confinement, yet upon his release he embraced his captor, and went on to share with him the Nobel Peace Prize. Similarly, Rev. Dr. Moon was sent to die in a communist concentration camp, yet upon his miraculous release, thanks to the United Nations forces, eventually he could embrace North Korean leader Kim Il Sung like a long-lost brother. This is the scriptural lesson of Jacob and Esau, who after years of separation, came together in humility and love.

The take-away lessons for reconciliation are: (1) show respect and concern for both sides, (2) treat each other fairly, and, (3) aim for a win-win outcome. As we work to build the kingdom and a better world, we must learn to cultivate our heart through practicing the principles for peace and by living for the sake of others.

The lunchtime speaker, Thomas McDevitt, the chairman of The Washington Times, gave a summary of the newspaper’s history, which Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Moon founded in 1982. At that time, Washington had only one newspaper. Rev. Dr. Moon felt it was necessary to have a counterbalance, particularly during those years when communism was spreading to many nations. Rev. Dr. Moon said that the way to peace must not depend solely on the military, but that equally crucial is the ideological dimension.

Mr. McDevitt said we are living in a similarly dangerous time today. Our traditional values and way of life are under attack. “We live in a time that demands new thinking. We must rescue the treasures of ancient truth and bring them to the 21st century.” This is a time when the old ways of looking at things are not working. Political affiliations no longer matter. “It is time to call on God for answers. The universal culture which will bring us together must embrace all the faiths—Christian, Jewish, Muslim.” He expressed his hope in the millennial generation and applauded Mrs. Moon’s efforts to work with the youth.

Mr. McDevitt shared the exciting news that in September of this year, for the first time in 33 years, The Times reached a point of profitability.

During the lunch, Mrs. Nanae Goto sang several songs which brought a sense of holiness to the atmosphere of The Washington Times ballroom.

Session 3: “Interfaith Cooperation: World Crisis and a Roadmap to Peace.” The moderator, Dr. Antonio Betancourt, the director of UPF’s Office of Peace and Security Affairs, introduced the speakers.

Dr. Walsh spoke about the major advances in the level of world consciousness, particularly in the appreciation of women, and awareness of abuses against women and children. How the world’s view of women has changed represents a paradigm shift. Research shows that violence has been in decline and that the world is less violent today. Statistics show that despite the disasters and calamities in this age, the number of actual casualties is less as civilizations evolved over the centuries.

The Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI), an ongoing UPF project, brings together followers of the different faiths for interreligious dialogue as well as activities to promote and encourage intrareligious interaction, including the different denominations of Islam (Sunni and Shi’a), Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist), and Christianity (Catholic and Protestant denominations).

Dr. Walsh also spoke about Rev. Dr. Moon’s proposal for an Interreligious Council to be incorporated into the United Nations structure so that the religious and spiritual community can provide a moral compass for the organization’s global work.

Dr. Adina Friedman, adjunct professor, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University. Dr. Friedman, who was born in Israel, is Jewish. Her husband is Muslim, and together they have raised their child to appreciate and respect both heritages. She spoke on the theme “Interfaith Peace Building through a Gendered Lens” in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). Dr. Friedman said that one positive aspect of the Arab Spring was the appearance of marginalized groups protesting the existing distribution of power. Women were at the forefront of this. Women have seen limited success, but they are still underrepresented at all levels of governance. She cited the example of a friend in Israel who was appointed as the ambassador to Jordan. Although women participate in the peace process, she recommends greater participation to counterbalance the traditional male control of our institutions.

Dr. Mike Ghouse, founder, America Together Foundation (ATF). Dr. Ghouse’s recent book on human rights, Standing Up for Others, was influenced by Rev. Dr. Moon’s lifelong motto “To Live for the Sake of Others.” Many of the problems that exist between ethnic or religious groups are due to a lack of communication, miscommunication or that we learn about each other by listening to third parties and “talking heads.” He spoke about the “Unity Day” programs that his organization hosts to bring together people of all backgrounds and ethnicities and to break down the walls and barriers that tend to divide us. “We are in conflict because we don't know each other.” He gave the example that if you walk in a neighborhood of ethnic foreigners, you might feel anxious or frightened, yet if just one person greets you, then the tension immediately dissipates. “Better communication is what’s needed. Communication goes both ways. Communication is as much about listening as it is about talking. Don’t be scared to reach out to someone else. Respect the other person, even if they have a different background, language or faith.” All faiths have salutations which encourage a positive message. Hindus: “Namaste,” Jews: “Shalom,” pagans: “Hail to Mother Earth,” Muslims: “Salaam Alaikum,” Christians: “Peace be with you.” “Religion is not the problem,” he said. “It's how the individual practices that religion. He created each of us to be unique, and therefore He gave us each a unique DNA and wants us each to relate to Him.”

Dr. Zulfiqar Kazmi, executive director of The Commongrounds USA. Interfaith dialogue is not a conversation but an action, he said. It touches my heart when I meet another person and exchange greetings. Rev. Dr. Moon was directly connected to God, especially at the time of 9/11. Dr. Kazmi recalled that Rev. Dr. Moon convened a conference in New York of religious and political leaders to pray for peace and understanding. Dr. Kazmi thanked Dr. Walsh for his steadfast leadership and for representing the UPF for so many years. Interreligious and intercultural dialogue will determine our future and whether we live with peace and justice or confusion and destruction. “The future of the world depends on our spiritual connection and how we treat one another, especially to those whose faith and traditions are different from ours,” he said. “We can change the world if we have the will. We have learned from our mentors and other religions. Now it is our responsibility to apply and to live by these principles every single day.”

Session 4: “Marriage and Family: Family Is the School of Love.” The moderator was Dr. Doris T. McGuffey, who had begun our day with prayer. Dr. McGuffey said we must move forward as individuals, families and as a society hand in hand with our supreme creator. The family is the central vehicle and the beginning point of our relationship with God and where we learn the fundamentals of true love.

Mrs. Ernestine Allen, National Mother of the Year for 2011, expressed her appreciation to the organization and to all the delegates in attendance. “We have a huge family here, and I feel completely at home. Everyone is so warm.” On November 28 she and her husband will celebrate 47 years of marriage. When she went to Salt Lake City in 2011, she had no idea she would be selected as the “Mother of the Year.” It was an amazing experience, she said. She was very surprised, yet at the same time knew that God must have been up to something, because she is the 10th of 18 children. From an early age she learned that the elders must take responsibility for the younger siblings. She always knew in her heart that “the family is ordained by God.” Mrs. Allen praised her faith and the “teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and the principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, love and respect, work and wholesome recreational activities.” There are always ways to help another family, she said; there are always opportunities to reach out and “steer someone in the right direction.”

Quoting the late Gordon Hinckley, former leader of the Mormons, the first commandment given to Adam and Eve is for marriage and the sacred power should come from a man and woman lawfully wedded as husband and wife. “Somewhere along the line society has gone wrong. Without good family values we cannot survive. Children are the heritage, and they need to be taught to follow the commandments of God and be law-abiding citizens.”

Mrs. Lynn Walsh, director of UPF's Office of Marriage and Family, and co-chair of the UN NGO Committee on the Family, spoke on “A Turning Point: Marriage and Family.” In her PowerPoint presentation she cited the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says the fundamental functions of the family are: procreation, nurturing, identity, values, and elderly care. In our modern society, the institution of marriage and family has decreased, the number of intentionally childless couples has increased, and cohabitation and infidelity have increased. Because the economy requires second careers, there is overuse of daycare, and many young people lack a sense of identity and tradition.

According to studies, in 1960, 70 percent of those 22-29 were married, while today that number has dropped to only 25 percent. Today 49 percent of marriages end in divorce and one half of U.S. Hispanic children are fatherless.

Those who choose to cohabitate rather than marry have less stable relations. Studies show that single parenting is related to higher levels of poverty. Youth violence and mental health issues likewise are related to single-parent situations, which lack the stability present in two-parent households.

Mrs. Walsh spoke about the importance of marriage as the highest reflection of God's nature. Whatever differences there are between a husband and wife, it is important to maintain respect and mutual trust in the relationship. “We are not going back to old traditional marriages. There is much research on how to communicate and the need to challenge and modify traditional thinking about roles and parenting.” Mrs. Walsh said families must learn the importance of love not only in the physical sense but also in the spiritual sense.

Session 5: “Youth and Service for Living for the Sake of Others.” Moderator Dr. Selig introduced Mr. Jonathan Dromgoole, a student in his senior year at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, who presented a PowerPoint presentation on “For Generations to Come.” He is the founder of the UN Association at Georgetown University and currently serves as chair of the Board of Directors. Youth have become very disengaged and disenchanted with current affairs and particularly with the United Nations, Mr. Dromgoole said. He explained that he founded this organization on campus to raise awareness among his fellow students and particularly to tap into the passion that characterizes young people who want to make a difference in the world. He went into detail about the organization’s structure, the benefits of membership, and their activities. Young people should understand that they are part of this world and that diplomacy is a very meaningful instrument to bring about change. The organization is associated with partners including PLMUN and the UN Association of the National Capital Area. The achievements of this organization include the one “well-worn” advocacy award in 2004 and two UN fellowships.

Mr. Alex Cromwell, instructor at the School of Professional and Extended Studies at American University and a PhD candidate studying conflict resolution at George Mason University. His PowerPoint presentation was on “Youth and Services.” Mr. Cromwell spoke about two programs: Benjamin Franklin Summer Institute with South and Central Asia (BFSI) and the Indonesia-U.S. Youth Leadership Program. The former took place in Peshawar, Pakistan, where Mr. Cromwell worked with students for one month to organize and cultivate what he called a “culture of peace.” The goal was to cultivate a shift in consciousness and to help young people harness that energy as “transformative optimism.” At the end of the one-month summer project, “people felt they were truly a family.” In Indonesia, similarly, the goal was to transform people from different backgrounds in how they think and act and to gain this “shift in consciousness” (thinking, feeling and actions). For example, there are no Jews in Indonesia, and there is regrettably a negative narrative because they have no personal experience. So it was important for the Indonesian young people to visit the Holocaust Museum and hear firsthand stories about a faith tradition that was different from their own.

To conclude, Mr. Cromwell said, “More than anything we want to empower them to change their communities.” He cited German philosopher Nietzsche, who said, “He who has a ‘why’ to live for can bear almost any ‘how.’”

Mrs. Tomiko Duggan, director of Public Affairs and Embassy Relations, gave an exciting overview of this past summer’s Religious Youth Service (RYS) program. A project of UPF, RYS was founded by Rev. Dr. Moon in 1986. In the almost 30 years since its founding, RYS has organized dozens of projects around the world for college-age young adults. RYS activities are based on the organization’s three pillars.

  1. Interfaith cooperation, which included visits to various sacred sites, churches, mosques and synagogues.
  2. Leadership development. The 18 participants from universities across the country and abroad met with congressional leaders on Capitol Hill, the State Department, and the Centers for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Education and the White House.
  3. A service project where “we all rolled up our sleeves and did a project in conjunction with the District of Columbia mayor’s office on volunteerism. We pulled weeds and planted vegetables at a neighborhood farm initiative.”

Mrs. Duggan invited one of the participants, Isabela Barriga, a student at the University of Maryland, to give a testimony about her experience. Isabela expressed surprise at how much could be accomplished in only four days, “It was a jam-packed schedule.” She really grew to appreciate the others in the group, especially on the last day when it began to rain during the service project. “I felt we were connected and transcending religion and race. I realize that youth can play a powerful role. We came together from around the world. If we can do it for one week, then we can do it all the time. It's important to invest in the youth.”

The last session was the ceremony for the appointing of Ambassadors for Peace. Nine awardees were honored: Rashid A. Chotani, MD, Board of Trustees, American Immigration Council and St. Andrew’s Freedom Forum; Mr. Asad Kamal, a Pakistani-American singer and international music maestro; Mr. Sardar Aziz, an internationally known and well accomplished Artist of America; Mr. Jonathan Dromgoole, chair, Board of Directors, UN Association of Georgetown University; Mr. Dan Humphrey, CEO, Points of Life Foundation; Rev. Dr. Glovinia Lewis Williams, archbishop to Africa, Europe and Asia, New Canaan Covenant Ministries; Mr. Kamran Rizvi, human rights activist and former Pakistani political prisoner; Mr. Javed Ali Kalhoro, journalist and International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) fellow; and Mrs. Pearl Forbes, community leader and recipient of the 2015 National Partner of the Year Award.

Dr. Kim gave the closing remarks on the need to keep united, and offered a toast to UPF’s 10th anniversary. “We must always search for common ground,” he said. “If we can all accept God as our Heavenly Parent, then naturally we are all brothers and sisters in one family.”

It was a very inspiring and uplifting day, which brought so many people from different backgrounds together in the spirit of hope and joy. Speakers and participants lingered afterward for refreshments and fellowship.

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