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Interfaith Programs

UPF-Vienna Commemorates Jerusalem Declaration

Vienna, Austria - An interreligious Sunday Service was conducted in Vienna on May 26 to commemorate the signing of the Jerusalem Declaration 10 years ago by religious leaders during the first “Middle East Peace Initiative” conference in Jerusalem.

Mrs. Zena Eggough, who serves as Vice President of UPF-Austria, participated in the recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which took place May 14-19. She was one of the more than 40 religious leaders and peace activists who had gathered in Jerusalem in order to commemorate the remarkable “Jerusalem Declaration” signing. Even being a devout Catholic, she was moved when she heard that a group of American Christians had buried a cross as a symbolic act in hopes of paving a way for Jews and Muslims to be open to reconcile age-old resentments against Christians.111

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In her sermon she also described her experiences during their excursions to the holy sites where Jesus had dwelt. She was deeply touched when she saw the three nails which Father Moon had hammered into an olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane during his first visit in 1965, one for each of the Abrahamic religions. She also mentioned that she could feel how painful it must have been for Jesus to be forsaken by his closest disciples. People can experience something similar when close loved ones betray them. She also explained how this pilgrimage had so much more significance for her compared to previous trips she did with Christian friends, since UPF's focus is to bring peace and work for reconciliation together with people of all faiths.

Before Mrs. Eggough’s sermon Mr. Peter Haider gave an explanation about the 10 years of activities which comprised the Middle East Peace Initiative. To set the stage, a report produced by Dr. Leo Gabriel and broadcast on the Austrian State TV channel was shown featuring the program in December 2003 when 3,000 pilgrims came from Europe, USA, and Asia. It brought back the memories of "Peace, Shalom, Salam Alaikum," which everyone sang during the march through the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

After this movie Mr. Haider read a text which explained how the signing of the “Jerusalem Declaration” by leaders of all three faiths, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, was seemingly guided by a good spirit from above, and what an impact the MEPIs had. He quoted from Shelly Elkayam’s article: “A Religious Model in Action: Sun Myung Moon and the Middle East Peace Initiative, 2003 to 2005,“ in which she states that through the MEPI conferences and gatherings, the violence in the region diminished significantly.

There were more than 120 people in the audience, which included Ambassadors for Peace and other guests. Many remained for another two hours over lunch in order to get to know each other better and share in a family atmosphere.

For a report about the May 2013 interfaith trip to the Holy Land, click here.

                                                         

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