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Interfaith Programs

UPF Chairman Engages with Faith Leaders

The international chair of UPF, Rev. Hyung Jin Moon and his wife Yeon Ah Lee visited several nations in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe in 2010 to connect with sacred and historic sites of various religions and meet with faith leaders and Ambassadors for Peace.

Kathmandu, Nepal

The international delegation was welcomed to Kathmandu by Members of Parliament and Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian leaders. Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal received the delegation and spoke fondly of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s visits to Nepal. At the Presidential Palace, President Ram Baran Yadav talked about Nepal’s religious heritage, mentioning that Nepal was the birthplace of Lord Buddha and Sita, the most faithful woman in Hindu mythology.

After beginning the day with 3:00 am devotions, they flew to Lumbini and offered prayers at the site marking Lord Buddha’s birth, the pond where he was given his first bath, and the tree under which his mother placed him as she offered prayers. Rev. Hyung Jin Moon addressed gatherings of young Nepalis and Ambassadors for Peace from throughout South Asia.

Bangkok, Thailand

The next stop was Thailand, the seat of Theravada Buddhism worldwide. The international delegation engaged in discussion with Buddhist monks and visited the temples of the Emerald Buddha and Golden Buddha.

They went to the home of a Thai-Japanese family, Akkapong and Kaori Aransri, for dinner. During the course of the evening, Rev. Moon asked Mr. Aransri to describe his wife’s character and point out three good things he sees in her. Each member of the family was invited to reflect similarly on the other members of the family. Such home visits are typical in Rev. Moon’s travels.

The following day he talked about the exemplary lives of Jesus, Buddha, and other religious leaders and expounded on the Lord’s Prayer as a formula for building a relationship with God. Guests at a banquet included 30 Buddhist monks from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.

Jerusalem, Israel

Speaking to participants in the Middle East Peace Initiative program, Rev. Moon shared some thoughts about the significance of prayer as an instrument of peace. Then the delegation visited many holy sites, including the Garden of Gethsemane and a nearby holy ground dedicated by his father during a visit to
Jerusalem in 1965.

The group also traveled north to a gathering of faith leaders at the home of the Druze leader, Sheikh Mowafaq Tariq. From there they went to traveled to the Crusaders’ Citadel in Acre and El Gazar Mosque, where they were welcomed by the Imam Sheik Samir Asi. After a tour they shared an iftar meal that broke the Ramadan fast.

Rome, Italy

After visiting the churches of St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. John and praying at St. Peter’s Square, Rev. Moon spoke to a gathering at the “Better World” Catholic Center about inheriting the true love of God and testified to the example of his father. Afterwards, he and his wife took photos taken with each of the families present.

To connect with the faith and love of Jesus, Hyung Jin Moon led a small group in climbing the Santa Scala, or “holy staircase,” on their knees, a tradition of penitents expressing repentance for one’s sins and seeking God’s forgiveness. These 28 marble stairs, said to be the very stairs Jesus trod on the way to Pilate’s hall, were transported from Jerusalem long ago.

“When we feel pain,” Rev. Moon commented afterwards, “we understand what Jesus and people such as our parents have gone through. So we understand that we cannot complain or stop because of this.”

Paris, France

In France they went to visit the grieving family of Tony Yuen, who died in a bus accident while returning home with a group of young people from a spiritual training program in the Netherlands. Rev. Moon shared his personal experience of loss, describing how the passing to the spiritual world of his elder brother Young Jin changed his life completely. He explained that the moments a child will remember the most are the moments that are spent individually with his or her parents. So he asked the parents to spend at least one hour per the week personally with each child.

They also went a hospital to visit Tiffanie Maldonado, who was injured in the same accident. They held hands and prayed with her and afterwards spoke in depth with her parents in the waiting room. Returning to Paris, they prayed near the Eiffel Tower.

Wartburg, Germany

In Germany, they visited religious and historic sites, starting with Wartburg. At the castle, Elisabeth of Thuringia invested her life and wealth totally for the poor and the sick. She died young and was canonized by the Catholic Church. There also, Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German. The UPF chairman observed that Wartburg, in a sense, is an early place of ecumenism, since a Catholic saint as well as the founder of Protestantism lived under the same roof and are both remembered there.

The group went to the former Concentration Camp of Buchenwald, where some 56,000 inmates died of overwork and malnutrition. The group formed a semicircle and prayed earnestly for the many people who suffered and died at the hands of the SS.

London, United Kingdom

The proposal for an interreligious council at the United Nations was emphasized during a consultation at the House of Commons. “I am reminded that the first General Assembly of the United Nations was convened here in London in 1946 at the Central Hall of the Methodist Church,” Rev. Moon said, “I also note that the first meeting of the British parliament took place in Westminster Abbey. I believe England has always understood the necessary link between spiritual principles and values, on the one hand, and the public sphere of social, political and economic institutions, on the other hand.”

His contribution was well received, and his religious background and knowledge provide much hope for UPF and the development of an interreligious council at the UN.

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