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CALENDAR OF EVENTS

December 2018
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Speeches

In recent years, democracy has begun to spread in Africa. Nigeria has enjoyed over eight years of uninterrupted civilian, democratic rule. Yet, religious and ethnic tensions continue throughout the continent, and growing disparity in economic structures between the haves and have-nots has heightened tensions between economic classes in Africa.

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The twentieth century will be marked by the magnanimous women and men who made the ultimate sacrifice for truth and justice, peace and nonviolence, conflict resolution and community reconciliation. They were the peace ambassadors of the people-powered revolution of the Philippines, the velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia, the modern civil rights movement of the United States of America, the freedom movement of South Africa, and the satyagraha of India.

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I had been involved with the national prayer breakfast fellowship in Washington and had seen how spiritually motivated lay persons operating on the basis of their personal religious faith were able to reconcile differences between peoples—sometimes bringing wars to a halt with no one the wiser for how it took place. I thought to myself: if this kind of activity could be captured in a compelling book that could be made available to policymakers and diplomats, then perhaps government could learn how to build upon it.

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It is a privilege to share some thoughts with such a distinguished assembly representing nations from all the continents on the key topic of providing vision and leadership at a time of global crisis.

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In Africa, when the poverty is so severe, people ask me, is God for Africa, too? When they go without food, there is tendency to ask, is God for Africa, too? Thank God, Africa is for all of us. And for all the things that have gone on in the past and those that may be in the present, we thank God because now we can feel protected, not by armies but by peace.

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All people hope for peace. This is a universal value shared by all human beings, regardless of their race, national origin, educational background, or religious belief. The ideal of a world characterized by harmony and cooperation among all people is rooted in the conscience of all people.

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In the company of members of the international diplomatic community, I must begin by expressing my heartfelt appreciation to the United Nations. I would not be here today if it weren't for the UN. All Koreans love and respect the UN – even more so with the appointment of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. We have our national sovereignty today, due to the courage of the men and women of the United Nations, led by the United States, who fought and died to liberate my homeland from totalitarianism.

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We live at a time when the world is facing one global crisis or another. The increasing wave of terrorism, for instance, is one global crisis of immense proportion. The lingering Arab-Israeli conflict is another one. What shall we also say about the high level of poverty existing in some parts of the world while others live in affluence? The spread of conflicts, civil wars and political instability give rise to despair and violence in some parts of the world. The crisis in governance in countries with weak institutions, the inequity that characterizes global trade, the controversy about the damages to the environment through human activity, and global health issues including the existence of incurable diseases, among others, suggest that the challenges are indeed many and varied.

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We have witnessed a very serious decline in humanity's awareness of, appreciation for, and practice of universal spiritual and moral principles used as the foundation on which our contemporary world was formed. It is my hope that we can work together with more effort and dedication to solve the world's critical problems.

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We need meetings of the religious leaders, congresses of religious leaders, where they will discuss not their differences in doctrine but the world situation. I don't think there will be serious differences of view when the topic is war and peace in a given region or peace on the planet or the global ecological crisis. I believe that these issues are very important for religions.

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The proposal to establish an interreligious council relates to the UN’s mission and its Millennium Development Goals. In bringing together councilors representing governments, religions, civil society, business and academia, it would serve as a model of integrated governance. It would draw on core spiritual and moral principles to provide solutions to critical global problems. Its authority would depend on the personal standing, status and actions of its members, the Ambassadors for Peace. Its program would be action-based and result-oriented, including research that will bring about real progress towards achieving a lasting peace.

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We need to take into account the full dimension of human beings, particularly the religious dimension—which is not fully integrated into debates at the international institutions or at the national levels. Despite that, we can say there is hope, because in national conflicts, especially in Africa, the belligerents and peacemakers find it impossible to reach an acceptable solution without integrating the religious leaders and traditional leaders in the peace process.

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