In Seoul, UPF Conference Celebrates the UN Week of Interfaith Harmony

Seoul, Korea - As events in Egypt moved toward their climax half a world away, UPF convened an International Leadership Conference in Seoul in honor of the first United Nations week of interfaith harmony. The program considered models of peaceful transitions to democracy, with a special emphasis on the often-neglected responsibilities of religious and spiritual leaders to defuse long-standing tensions between different ethnic and minority groups in the days and months following abrupt political change. [For the conference schedule and links to presentations, click here.]

At the opening plenary, Mufti Mustafa Jusufspahic from Belgrade, Serbia, and six other faith leaders offer prayers for peace.

The opening plenary, chaired by UPF President Dr. Thomas Walsh, took place at the Cheon Bok Goong sanctuary in Seoul and began with interfaith prayers from the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Confucian, Shinto, Buddhist and Sikh traditions. Each of the religious representatives shared a reading from their scriptures, lit a candle and offered a prayer for peace, while colorful banners and decorations proclaimed the vision of the week of interfaith harmony.

Following the prayers, the Grand Mufti of Korea, Dr. Abdul Wahab Zahid Haq, spoke on the “brotherhood of all humanity,” and of the great moral imperatives of all faiths to love one another. Dr. Edwin Shuker, a leading member of the Jewish community in Great Britain, spoke of his own awakening to the presence of God, and quoted the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Lord Jonathan Sacks in calling for peace, “bound by a covenant of faith that turns strangers into friends. In an age of fear, let us be agents of hope, let us be a blessing to the world.”

Ida Odinga, wife of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, together with UPF International Chairman Hyung Jin Moon Some of the faith leaders who came to celebrate the  United Nations Week of Interfaith Harmony

Two political leaders also spoke to the importance of shared values and cooperation. “Success in this task cannot be achieved in isolation but calls for all countries to work together,” said the Hon. Evgeny Nikulishev, a special representative of the Russian Senate. “We are working to cultivate the values of tolerance and understanding. Mrs. Ida Betty Odinga, wife of the Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, spoke of the beauty inherent in differences and diversity. “Just as a safari park would be boring with only one type of animal,” she said, “our society is all the richer for its diversity.”

Rev. Hyung Jin Moon, the International Chairman of the Universal Peace Federation, spoke about how God reveals himself in many ways, not only through the teachings of the world’s great religions but also through the mysteries and wonders of the natural world, and through the simple elegance of mathematical and physical laws. “We are all made in the image of God, whose nature it is to give and to love,” he said, “and we must strive to do the same.”

Following the opening plenary, the conference moved on to consider case studies and models of conflict resolution. Many among the more than 150 diplomats, congressmen and women, former heads of state, academics, clerics, and community leaders were in a position to share first-hand reports of dramatic social changes from the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 right up to the demonstrations that began on January 25 in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Dr. Rouchy Saleh, professor from Tanta University (halfway between Cairo and Alexandria), was welcomed with warm applause when he successfully predicted a peaceful and rapid transition in his homeland.

“We have decided to be a free country,” he said, citing also evidence of new cooperation among people of different faiths in the quest for freedom: “They tried to create separation between the Copts and Muslims, but the Christians and Muslims are more united now than before.”

Edwin Shuker, UK; Evgeny Nikulishev, Russia; Abdul Zahid Haq, Korea; and Rouchdy Saleh, Egypt Robert Vandemeulebroucke, Belgium; Jiwan Shresta, Nepal; Olfat El Mallakh, USA; and Ali Alshahrani Saudi Arabia

Dr. Robert Vandemeulebroucke, a Belgian diplomat, spoke of his first-hand experience during the 1989 revolution in Benin, West Africa. After 20 years of failed Marxist philosophy and practice, Benin president Mathieu Kérékou called for free elections, no doubt hoping that the people would reelect him in appreciation for vision for change. But instead, the population voted overwhelmingly for the challenger, M. Nicéphore Soglo.

“It was a politically decisive but also very sensitive moment,” recalled Vandemeulebroucke. “What would the incumbent do? Send his army into the streets, arrest the opposition, send it to jail, and grasp power? Let himself be declared president for life? This hypothesis was not imaginary: it had happened in neighboring Togo and in not-so-distant Zaïre, to mention just those two countries.” History shows that Kerekou chose the high road and welcomed his successor into the presidential palace, concluded the Belgian Ambassador, “setting in train a new history for Benin, which has since become a beacon of order and prosperity in a region where democracy is still very fragile.”

Dr. Fatmir Sejdiu, Kosovo's founding president, spoke movingly of his country's struggle for independence, and of the new nation's determination that all religious and ethnic minority groups would be fairly represented and that their voices would be heard. "I have no doubt that faith in a better world, with tolerance and religious and cultural pluralism, is the only alternative to all of us. Our world is big and rich enough to work together all around the globe for peace, mutual understanding, and tolerance."

Newly appointed Ambassadors for Peace with UPF secretariat and regional staff.

Vladimir Arsenkin, Russia

In all its leadership conferences, UPF aims to bring together people from former enemy nations to promote reconciliation and understanding. One emotional highlight of the conference came when Captain Vladimir Arsenkin, the first Soviet veteran of the Korean War to ever visit South Korea, recounted how he had been overwhelmed by the reception he had received in Seoul from the people who were once his and his nation’s enemies. “I am committed to spend the rest of my life supporting the UPF’s work for peace,” he said.

Other presenters on the topic of conflict resolution included Drs. Soewarto Moestadja, the Minister of Home Affairs, Suriname; Hon. Damry Ouk from the Commission of Legislation & Justice, Cambodia; the Hon. Lloyd Sandiford, Ambassador of Barbados to China; and the Hon. Ahmet Gokjan Saricam, Member of the Grand National Assembly, Turkey.

Some speakers referred to UFP’s proposal for an interreligious council at the UN, commenting on the insights they gained from the diverse speakers. One creative proposal was for a human security council. Prof. Akiko Yamanaka, a visiting professor at Cambridge University and former Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs in Japan, called attention to current discussions of human security and preventive diplomacy that seek to establish relations of trust among nations. Mr. Takahiro Ninomiya, retired Major General of Japan’s Air Self Defense Force, spoke of Japan’s post-war “Peace Constitution” that restricts its military roles to preventing conflict, peacekeeping operations, and offering humanitarian support.

On February 8, the participants were guests of honor at the birthday celebrations of Rev. and Mrs. Moon, held at the Cheongpyeong peace village in the mountains northeast of Seoul. Thanking the audience of more than 1000 for their well-wishes, Rev. Moon urged all present to remain optimistic about the cause of peace. “Never forget that you yourselves must be the embodiment of peace,” he said. Referring to a sermon he gave at the turn of the millennium on January 13, 2001, Dr. Moon again called for a fundamental commitment by the world’s leaders to the three basic principles of a strong personal and family ethics, including absolute fidelity in marriage; fairness and equity in interpersonal relationships, rejecting of all forms of political favoritism and nepotism; and finally full accountability and transparency with public money and public assets.

The ILC participants were guests of honor at the birthday celebrations of Rev. and Mrs. Moon

The UPF delegation from Azerbaijan greeting the UPF founders on their birthday

 See also a behind-the-scenes report: Arriving as Strangers, Leaving as Friends.

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International Leadership Conference Schedule

Seoul, Korea - An International Leadership Conference on the theme "Beyond the Challenges of Our Time: Transforming the Society, Nation and World" brought participants from 50 nations to Korea Feb. 28 - Mar. 4, 2015.

For an executive summary of the proceedings, click here.

Schedule
February 28, 2014

Photo Gallery

To see the entire album from February 28: click here

 

Opening Banquet

Emcee: Mrs. Eugenia Kagawa, Executive Office, UPF International
Invocation: Rev. Dr. Johaness Mazibuko, Alliance Church of Swaziland
Welcome Address: Dr. Byung Ho Son, Chairman of UPF Korea

Opening Remarks: Hon. Yoshinori Ohno, Former Defense Minister of Japan

Report of UPF's Work in Nigeria: Mrs. Kathy Rigney, Chair of UPF Africa
Presented by Mr. Adama Doumbia, Regional Secretary General of UPF Africa

Orientation: Dr. Thomas G. Walsh, President of UPF International

March 1

Photo Gallery

To see the entire album from March 1: click here

 

SESSION I: BEYOND THE CHALLENGES OF OUR TIME: TRANSFORMING THE SOCIETY, NATION AND WORLD

This session featured a keynote address on behalf of UPF’s Co-Founder, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, along with remarks from other high level participants, each focusing on the issues and challenges that we face as a global community, and offering recommendations for the ways in which we can build a better world, transforming our families, societies, nations and the world.

Moderator: Dr. Thomas G. Walsh, President of UPF International

Welcome: Dr. Charles S. Yang, Chairman of UPF International

Founder's Address: delivered by Dr. Sun Jin Moon, Director General, Family Federation for World Peace and Unification International

Speakers
Dr. Vladimir Petrovskiy, Senior Advisor of UPF Russia
Hon. Dr. Myrna Madelo Romarate, National President, Provincial Board Member League of the Philippines
Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, Chair of UPF Nepal

 

SESSION II: THE FOUNDERS' VISION: PRINCIPLES OF PEACE

This session offered an introduction into the core values, principles and teachings of UPF’s Founders, Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon. The primary presenter summarized the spiritual and moral vision of UPF’s Founders and the commentators offered their reflections and insights concerning the value and relevance of the vision.

Moderator: Mrs. Tomiko Duggan, Director, Public Affairs, UPF International

Speaker: Mr. Jacques Marion, President of UPF France

Commentators 
Prof. Masahisa Hayashi, Professor Emeritus, Waseda University, Japan 
Mr. Naokimi Ushiroda, President, CARP (Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles) USA
Dr. Michael Balcomb, President, Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, USA

 

SESSION III: OVERCOMING THE CHALLENGES FACING THE FAMILY

The natural family is the foundation of all societies and civilizations. At this time in history, however, the family is facing significant challenges and, as a result, our societies and nations are increasingly challenged by a wide range of consequences that derive from family breakdown, including increased promiscuity, crime, poverty, mental health challenges, poor performance in schools, and failures to understand and practice good citizenship. UPF is dedicated to strengthening marriage and family and speakers in this session discussed the significance and value of UPF’s vision.

Moderator: Mrs. Eugenia Kagawa, Executive Office of UPF International

Speaker: Mr. Ricardo de Sena, President of UPF USA

Commentators
Mr. Joseph M. Champagne, Former Mayor of South Toms River, New Jersey, USA
Mr. Kazu Matsui, Former Chairman, Saitama Prefectural Board of Educational, Japan

 

SESSION IV: INTERACTIVE SESSION ON FAMILY

During the first hour of this session, small breakout groups discussed the significance of the family and the ways in which to address and overcome contemporary threats and challenges to the family. Following the small group discussions a rapporteur from each group reported on the major points made during the group discussion.

March 2

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To see the entire album from March 2: click here

 

SESSION V: OVERCOMING THE CHALLENGES FACING RELIGIONS AND GOVERNMENTS

The 21st Century has given rise to a wide range of dynamics related to international relations, the balance of power, sustainable development and peace. These shifting patterns present challenges for governments. In addition, the 21st century has witnessed a global resurgence of religion as a significant factor in world affairs; not simply in the form of extremism or fundamentalism, but also in the growth of interreligious dialogue and the recognition that religion is a force for peace and human development. This session, featuring speakers from both government and religion, addressed these topics.

Moderator: Dr. Tageldin Hamad, Secretary General, UPF International

Speaker: Dr. Thomas G. Walsh, President, UPF International

Commentators
Hon. Erna Hennicot-Schoepges, Former President of Parliament, Luxembourg
Prof. Quan Yi Zhang, Zhejiang Wanli University in China
Prof. Jaap Willem de Zwaan, Erasmus University, Netherlands
Rev. Shuei Kobayashi, Chief Priest, Chairman, Jyuzenji Buddhist Temple, Japan
Dr. Lek Thaveetermsakul, Vice Chair of UPF Asia

 

SESSION VI: INTERACTIVE SESSION ON RELIGIONS AND GOVERNMENT

During the first hour of this session, breakout groups discussed the challenges facing both religions and governments, and the ways in which to address and overcome contemporary threats and challenges to the stability of the nation and the integrity of religion. Following the small group discussions a rapporteur from each group reported on the major points made.

 

SESSION VII: ONE FAMILY UNDER GOD: THE BLESSING VISION

At the heart of the lifelong work of Father and Mother Moon is the ideal of the Blessing of Marriage and Family. On March 3 we have the opportunity to witness the Blessing of Marriage. Since 1960, this tradition has been practiced all over the world, involving millions of couples and families, and promoting the ideal of true love, healthy marriages, good parenting, filial piety, and service to others. Speakers shared first-hand experience with the Blessing ideal.

Moderator: Mr. Tuo Huan Chen, Secretary General of UPF-Chinese Region

Speakers
Mrs. Eugenia Kagawa, Executive Office, UPF International
Dr. Tageldin Hamad, Secretary General of UPF International
Mr. Ricardo de Sena, President, UPF USA

 

SESSION VIII: SPECIAL PLENARY: THE WASHINGTON TIMES AND SEGYE ILBO

March 3

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COMMEMORATIVE "FOUNDATION DAY" CELEBRATION AND BLESSING PROGRAM

 

CELEBRATION LUNCHEON

 

CLOSING BANQUET

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