Conference in Manila on Healthy Families as the Key to World Peace
Written by Dr. Robert S. Kittel, Director of Education, UPF-Asia, and photojournalist
Saturday, January 11, 2014
Manila, Philippines - Father Sun Myung Moon taught that you have to love your enemy. Dr. Chung Sik Yong, the regional chair of UPF Asia, went into the details at the opening session of the International Interfaith Peace Conference in Manila, Philippines on Jan. 10, 2014.
“This means marry your enemy, sleep with your enemy, shop with your enemy and watch TV with your enemy,” said Dr. Yong, a South Korean national. His conclusion: “Because I learned to love my Japanese wife (who was seated in the audience), the world is better.” Knowing the historical animosity between these two nations, the audience exploded with laughter and applause.
Earlier, Hon. Ma. Josefina "Joy" Belmonte-Alimurung, vice-mayor of Quezon City, welcomed the 218 delegates from 19 nations saying that her administration was very pleased that UPF-Philippines had its headquarters in her city. UPF and her government share the values of “equality, inclusiveness, empowerment and freedom,” she said, adding, “Confrontation should have no place in our world.”
Rev. Mark Abernathy, co-president of the American Clergy Leadership Conference, spoke next. “People think about the United States of America as a place to come to for success, but it’s only successful in the dollar; it’s not successful in spiritual avenues, the essence of our whole life,” he lamented.
Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, former minister of Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation from Nepal and third speaker, emphasized that “to transform our families, rebuild our nations and to create a world of peace, an inclusive approach of interfaith and inter-path dialogue is absolutely needed and should be promoted in all sectors of the society.” In the best practices session later in the day he gave details of his work in Nepal.
The two-day conference touched many people deeply as it created the tangible spirit of “one family under God.” In a show of religious solidarity representatives from eight different religions, both East and West, offered prayers together to begin the conference.
Reflecting on his experiences after attending the conference American evangelist Rev. Abernathy exclaimed, “You reached the common person. The teachings of UPF Founder Father Moon were simplified; they were explained clearly. Especially inspiring was Dr. Yong’s testimony about loving your enemy. UPF’s principles of peace are so amazing and powerful. There was no resistance [in teaching them to people from diverse religious backgrounds]!”
Master Kuo, Yeh-Tzu, founder of the Sung Shan Tsu Huei Temple in Taiwan, had met this movement in 1995. Commenting about how it has developed, she said she was especially “inspired to see so many young people.” For this reason, she said, this organization will definitely continue to grow and “move forward.”
UPF was established in 2005 on the foundation of decades of work in the fields of interfaith harmony, community youth service, and academic dialogue and understanding.
“Our mission,” said Mr. Mahadi Bin Mohd Ismae'ly, a conference participant from Malaysia, “is how to make our families better.” He made it clear that in order for this to happen the silent majority who also believe that good families are essential for peace and prosperity “need to wake up” and speak out. He expressed confidence that UPF’s educational programs have the power to do this.
Mr. Pablito Alcover, project development manager at Montalban Planters Agro-Development Association, Inc., from the Philippines, said, “This conference was a turning point in my life.” He outlined his life-long quest for peace from being a communist at the age of 18 to an intelligence officer in the Philippine Army. Finally, Mr. Alcover expressed his gratitude for the universality of UPF’s principles of peace that focus on family-building as the basis of peace and development.
There were three components to the program: sharing the universality of UPF’s principles to the diverse interfaith audience and showing some of UPF’s best practices, an interactive session to foster participant participation on the topic “Social Ills and Family Breakdown,” and launching the Asian Clergy Leadership Conference.
The speakers for the interactive session were:
- H.E. Most Rev. Deogracias S. Iniguez, Jr., chairman of the Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines
- Rev. Dr. Clement Rajakumar, vice-principal of St. Stephen’s College, India
- Rev. Thomas George, Clergy, Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Malaysia
In the session on best practices Dr. Paul Chang, the main educator for Taiwan’s Interfaith Rally for Marriage and Family, explained the background behind the rally of 300,000 in Taipei on Nov. 30, 2013, to uphold the importance of marriage. He highlighted UPF’s role in bringing the Eastern religions into the coalition.
“UPF-Taiwan has very strong interreligious connections and helped to organize the Taiwan Interreligious Coalition for Cherishing Family at the end August last year.” Continuing on, he said, “We held press conferences on Sept. 7 and 18. Then we started a nationwide signature campaign.” Things mushroomed from there, “It was a miracle beyond my wildest imagination,” he told the conference participants.
Next Archbishop George Augustus Stallings, co-president of the American Clergy Leadership Conference, shared about UPF’s Middle East Peace Initiative, which has brought more than 14,000 clergy, scholars, government officials and peace activists from around the world to the Middle East.
Archbishop Stallings identified the problems as “inheritance vs. inhabitance,” which boiled down to “the inability to live together as brothers and sisters.” MEPI is a project of UPF and uses a “Track II” diplomatic effort to foster goodwill and understanding among the ancient religious rivals.
Building on this, Sultan Pax Mangudadatu, Al Haj, chairman of the Mindanao Peace Initiative and former Philippine representative of the 1st District of Sultan Kudarat, addressed the conference delegates.
He emphasized the monotheism in both Christianity and Islam to promote religious understanding among his people. “We have only one God in the universe, that’s why we have only one man [as our first ancestor, Adam].” His simple logic hit the mark, “If we had more than one God, then we would have more than one grandfather.”
Sultan Pax talked honestly and directly with people from both communities. He has become one of the most successful governors in the Philippines, bringing both peace and prosperity to the Christians and Muslims of Sultan Kudarat.
Concluding this session Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, the convener of UPF-Nepal’s South Asia Peace Initiative, focused his remarks on building inter-ideological dialogue among the Maoists, the royalists and the democratic forces in Nepal.
Again using Tract II diplomacy and centering on what Father Moon called “headwing democracy,” Hon. Dhakal organized a series of 14 programs that fostered face-to-face dialogue among former enemies parallel with his government’s ongoing peace process.
The highlight of this peace conference was the launching of the Asian Clergy Leadership Conference and a separate report has been published on UPF’s website.
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