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December 2017
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Peace Education

Conference in Los Angeles on Building a Nation and World of Peace

Los Angeles – The third in a series of UPF-USA conferences entitled “The USA at a Turning Point: Building a Nation and a World of Peace” was held in El Segundo, southwest of Los Angeles, on Nov. 15 and 16.

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Mrs. Tomiko Duggan, acting secretary general of UPF-North America, welcomed the 70 participants. She quoted former US President John F. Kennedy, saying the work we do “is right” and we shouldn’t quit until God says, “Job well done.”

Dr. Ki Hoon Kim, chairman of UPF-North America, greeted the guests and said there is a real need to remove barriers between people, religions and nationalities in order to create lasting peace. He described how UPF Founder Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon encouraged people from former enemy nations to marry across boundaries to create lasting peace.

Session I: Nation-Building, Good Governance and the United Nations

Dr. Thomas Walsh, president of UPF International, spoke about the complex international relations that have developed after the end of the Cold War, including increased tensions between Islam and the West, plus China emerging as a global power.

In 2000, he said, Rev. Moon had urged the United Nations to adopt an interreligious council. “The next year on September 11, the US was attacked. Rev. Moon could see the potential for violence unless greater interfaith effort was undertaken,” Dr. Walsh said.

Dialogue and cross-cultural understanding are essential, he added. “A month ago we had an interfaith consultation in Amman [Jordan] about the crisis in Syria, with Sunni and Shia speakers. Further conferences with religious leaders are planned in Jerusalem and Geneva,” Dr. Walsh said. “UPF is becoming a respected partner not only by religious leaders but political and social scientists,” he continued. He encouraged the audience to develop UPF in the US.

Mr. Ricardo de Sena from UPF International's Office of UN Relations, citing Rev. Moon’s advice to “Marry someone outside your tribe,” said: “One nation which my native Argentina doesn’t like is Brazil, where my wife is from! But we love each other centered on God.”

Session II: The USA at a Turning Point: Building a Nation and a World of Peace

Mrs. Diana Olga Elizarraras Kim of the National Council of Women’s Rights in Mexico, said, “We can only keep peace by keeping love in the family. Of course, women are important to teach these values, love and caring for one another. A nuclear family with an atmosphere of love and understanding and tolerance will bring peace.”

Mr. Philip Hellmich, director of peace at the Shift Network and the creator of a Peace Ambassador course to train people in peacebuilding, said that science, spirituality and inner peace are needed to systematically map out ways to create peace.

Professor David McGuffey, president of InterConsult USA and leader of the workshop Swords into Plowshares: Enemies into Friends, suggested that a basic restructuring of the US economy is needed to foster peace. “Serious inequality leads to frustration, which leads to anger, and anger leads to violence,” he said. “Drastic immigration reform is needed,” he added. "The vast majority came to the US for the same reason our ancestors came to this country."

Dr. McGuffey also warned of the dangers of rising sea levels resulting from climate change. “If we work together, we can find solutions—working together in the same leaky boat to help the human family.”

Dr. Gary Spanovich, founder of the Wholistic Peace Institute, said, “Like Mahatma Gandhi, we must take responsibility in order to build our nation and a world of peace, and we too must use a spiritual approach,” he said, adding that Jesus had done the same. “If we choose good words and actions, we grow our spirit,” he said.

“Listen to the voice of the Lord within. Give our spiritual nature a voice at the decision-making table. It will guide us to create a culture of peace,” Dr. Spanovich said.

Rev. Kevin Thompson, pastor of the Family Federation for World Peace San Francisco, referred to the words of Rev. Moon that in order to build a world of peace, each person must transform into a peaceful person “If we can focus on one nation under God, we will do well,” he said.

After dinner, El Segundo City Councilwoman Marie Fellhauer welcomed participants and a proclamation from Chris Holden, majority whip of the California State Assembly, was read, commending the participants for their work for peace. Keynote speaker Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said, “UPF is a necessary organization. The ideas of this international organization need to permeate into the hearts and the minds of the people of this nation." The head of the largest sheriff's department in the United States, Lee Baca was appointed Ambassador for Peace.

Session III: The Significance of Marriage and Family for a Stable and Prosperous Society

Rev. Michelene Millsap, co-pastor with her husband at Sadoc Christian Peace Family Church, said, "You can make a difference, because your decisions impact those around you.” She recommended: “Be committed to personal change. Begin with Christ, and with that commitment you can make good relationships, including with your spouse. Abide in Christ and let him guide you in your path.”

Mr. Nat Nehdar, Pasadena city commissioner, said that Rev. Moon had commissioned many high-quality gardeners and asked them to plant many seeds. "They believed in him and passed those seeds along, cultivating them and spreading them throughout the world.”

Dr. David Burgess, former coordinator of UPF in the Northwestern US, called the family the most important human institution. He said there has been a tidal wave of change in the family structure: a 700 percent increase in births outside marriage since the 1960s and an exponential increase in the incarceration rate, with the greatest number of inmates coming from broken families.

"Social science research indicates that children who feel parental love feel less hostility or aggression, have a healthy independence, positive self-esteem, and positive self-adequacy,” Dr. Burgess said. “That self-esteem comes from the parents, and when it is internalized they grow well.”

Mr. Frank Sepehrnia encouraged the participants to use social media to get the message of UPF out. He noted that many Muslims were in fear after the 9/11 attacks due to the media reports about Muslims. “If we don’t speak up for ourselves, someone else will do it for you. If you don’t stand up for yourselves, who will?” he concluded.

Session IV: The Need for Interfaith Dialogue, Mutual Respect and Cooperation and the Vision for Youth

Rev. Tom Cutts, president of the American Clergy Leadership Conference, said he learned from an imam not to pray just for peace but for God's peace. Religion has been sidelined because believers couldn’t work together, he said. Yet religion transmits values and teaches people how to cooperate with one another.

Imam Seyed Shamshad Nasir of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in the Southwestern US said it was important to bring youth to such meetings. “God put it in us to love one another,” he said. “Ahmadiyya Muslims believe that from anyone’s mouth and heart can come words that will guide people to God. We all must respect one another and all the prophets of God to have a peaceful world,” he concluded.

Mr. Naokimi Ushiroda, head of the Unification movement's campus organization, the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles, talked about inviting leaders of various religious groups on campus to an interfaith dialogue. Through such dialogue, he said, “We can give God a voice on campus; we need to take the initiative to embrace one another in peace. If we model what we believe in, the youth can begin to trust what we say.”

Reflections

Mr. Arin Ghosh encouraged youth to work together through joint service projects “within our faith and expand to other faiths, allowing self-realization.” From the youth perspective, “we must push the bar higher; if not, someone else will pull it down,” he said.

Mr. Teddy Choi, a Korean-American, said, “I am a proud Ambassador for Peace at 72 years old. I escaped from North Korea during the Korean War. I followed my father, who was a doctor. We were born-again Christians, and he prayed before he served each patient.” He continued: “We must invest in youth. They are our assets. Without our youth we cannot have peace.”

Ambassador for Peace appointments

Four new appointments were made: Mr. Joseph Campbell, Ms. Joanie English, Rev. Mutima Imani and Mr. Philip Hellmich. At lunch another Ambassador for Peace was appointed: Mr. Mehdi Zokaei, an Iranian businessman and chief editor of Javanan Magazine, the most widely-read Iranian magazine, with an international distribution of 280,000.

The final conference in the series will be held in Chicago on Dec. 13 and 14.

For the text of the speech by Gary Spanovich, click here.
For a report in the Javanan Magazine, click here.

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