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Thai Interreligious Council Inaugurated on Day of Peace

Bangkok, Thailand - The Interreligious Peace Council of Thailand was inaugurated on the International Day of Peace, Sept. 21, 2011, in Bangkok. Other projects for the International Day of Peace included a video clip contest on the theme of peace; the producer of the winning video received a trophy at the International Day of Peace celebration. Also, schools throughout the nation marked the day with a reading of the message of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and observing one minute of silence.

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To watch a 12-minute documentary in English about the development of this council, click here.

Since August 18, 2000, Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of UPF, has advocated establishing an interreligious council at the United Nations. This vision has taken root in Thailand with the inauguration of the Interreligious Council for Peace spearheaded by UPF-Thailand with the full support of the heads of major religions and the Minister of Culture, who is in charge of all religious affairs in Thailand. The inauguration at the Main Conference Hall of the Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday was attended by 600 participants from Thailand and other nations of Asia.

The council will promote cooperation and harmony among religions in Thailand; help religious teachings uplift the standard of morality, virtue, and ethics; and support the establishment of an interreligious council at the UN. Dr. Chung Sik Yong, Regional Chair of UPF-Asia, and Gen. Terdsak Maromme, President of UPF-Thailand, spearheaded this inauguration as a day of hope for all Thai people.

Thailand can be considered the first nation to establish a national interreligious council inspired by the vision of UPF founder and supported by religious leaders and the government. In Thailand 94.6% of the people are Buddhist, 4.6% Muslim, and 0.6%, Christian; there is also a small but influential Sikh community. Just seven days before the inauguration, Pol. Col. Gen. Thaveesak Tuchinda and the organizing committee met with the assistant monks of the Acting Supreme Patriarch of Buddhism in Thailand. The monks gave their full support and blessing to this project. One day later, the Acting Supreme Patriarch commissioned the most influential Theravada scholar in Thailand, the Most Venerable Prof. Dr. Phra Dhammakosajarn (Prayoon Dhammajitto), the President of Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University in Thailand, to speak at the inauguration on his behalf. The Most Venerable Dhammakosajarn commented that the Religious Affairs Department of the Ministry of Culture had been trying to establish a National Interreligious Committee for more than 30 years, but they could not succeed. Thus, he commended the inauguration of the Interreligious Council for Peace.

 

The International Day of Peace and Inauguration of the Interreligious Council for Peace

The International Day of Peace program opened with prayers by Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, and Sikh leaders. The Deputy Director of UNESCO-Asia Pacific Headquarters, Mr. Etienne Clément, read UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for the International Day of Peace 2011 and expressed his best wishes for the success of the Interreligious Council for Peace. Following a video about UPF's work for peace and a reading the message of the Prime Minister of Thailand, participants were asked to observe one minute of silent prayer and meditation for peace.

 

The inauguration ceremony started with a report by Gen. Terdsak Maromme, President of UPF-Thailand and Chairman of the Working Committee for the establishment ICP in Thailand. Then four religious leaders expressed their support.

First of all, Most Venerable Prof. Dr. Dhammakosajarn, on the behalf of the Supreme Patriarch as the Head of Buddhism in Thailand, read a statement of His Holiness’s praise and admiration for the cooperative efforts of all the leaders from different religious backgrounds and gave His Holiness’s blessing for the success of the Interreligious Council for Peace. He also expressed appreciation to UPF for initiating the council as a platform with a universal vision that can connect leaders of all religions to the UN and UNESCO and enable them to work together for peace on the worldwide level. He emphasized that religions should not become tools for conflict but tools for peacebuilding, that there must be no more wars in the name of religion, and that all religions must work together to strengthen the defenses of peace in people's minds and hearts.

Dr. Wisarut Laovithee, representing Sheikhul Imam Aziz Pitakkhumphol, expressed the support of Islam in Thailand for the Interreligious Council for Peace.  He emphasized the role of religions for the salvation of humanity because religions are the stream of life that is the source of morals, virtues, and peace. He expressed hope that the council will empower the religious communities in Thailand to awaken the consciousness of all religious people to embody religious principles and teachings in their lives as the way to bring peace to the nation and the world.

Rev. Nirut Chankorn, the Chairman of the Ruamnimit Churches, a network of almost 60,000 congregations in Thailand, greeted everyone in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the "Lord of Peace." He said that all Christians, both Catholics and Protestants, teach that peace is God’s main goal, as mentioned in many occasions in the Bible such as Jesus' words in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” He expressed his gratitude to UPF for initiating such a beneficial project and said that he is pleased to join the other religious representatives on the council because, "all of us, no matter what religion we believe, are brothers and sisters." He concluded by saying that he prays for God’s blessing upon the Interreligious Council for Peace and for peace in Thailand.

Finally, Mr. Prasert Sriguruwal, Chairman of the Namdhari Sangkat Association of Sikhism, expressed his personal support and promised that his association will fully support such an auspicious project.

After that Dr. Chung Sik Yong, Regional Chair of UPF-Asia, gave congratulatory remarks in the name of the founders of UPF and urged the council to become the gateway to a new cooperation among religions to build a bright future for Thailand manifesting the vision of “One Family under God." He expressed hope that Thailand can become a model nation for building peace and unity.

 

Next was the reading of the Resolution to Inaugurate the Interreligious Council for Peace in Thailand by Dr. Lek Thaveetermsakul, Secretary General of UPF-Thailand and Vice Chairman of UPF-Asia.

Then the Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, and Sikh leaders signed the declaration and joined in a ceremony of pouring water into a common container, representing their unity and oneness of heart, love, and goodwill. As they were doing so, a Muslim school choir sang a song of peace.

Congratulatory Remarks

TH.E. Sukumol Khunpluem, Minister of Culture, gave a congratulatory message. She said, “As the government sector that is responsible for religious, artistic, and cultural affairs in Thailand, I am so delighted with the inauguration of the Interreligious Council for Peace. I am ready to support this council, which is established by the cooperation of civil society, to achieve its goals and vision.”  Moreover, she expressed her gratitude to UPF and the Committee for its work to establish the council.

 

This was followed by congratulatory remarks from other representatives of religious organizations and government organizations.

Mr. Nattapas Intuputi, President of the National Buddhist Association of Thailand under the His Majesty the King's patronage, expressed his sincere commitment to support this council in fulfilling its goals to promote happiness and peace for all humanity.

Gen. Jarun Kullavanich, President of the Council of Buddhist Organizations in Thailand, President of the National Defense College Think Tank Foundation, and former Secretary General of the National Security Council, expressed his admiration and full support for the council. Based on the statements made at the inauguration, he believes that the council can start to work immediately. He committed to its support his network of military, security, scholarly, and religious organizations.

Mr. Anek Sanamchai, representative of the Director of the Office of National Buddhism under the Office of the Prime Minister, expressed the his office's support because the council is committed to work for the sake of peace and it his office's mission to support interreligious affairs. He said that the 50 Buddhist organizations in Thailand would meet to select representatives to the council.

The President of the Catholic Association of Thailand, Mr. Siriroj Chawpaknam, expressed his support for the council. “Jesus came on earth to love humanity and teach people to love God and to love others as they love themselves," he said. "The origin of peace is love that comes from God; without love there is no peace. This is a joyful day when people of all religions can come to dedicate our heart and love at the inauguration of this council.”

Finally, Dr. Suriyadeo Tripati, Director of the National Institute for Child and Family Development of Thailand and Chairman of the National Committee for the Planning and Development of Children and Families, said that, according to the research of his institution and others, Thai society is in a critical situation in terms of its systems of values and morals. The most serious issue is the decline among young people in their moral and ethical awareness and good social and cultural values - the value system that makes Thailand an outstanding nation of giving, friendliness, hospitality, and the land of smiles. People have followed the external rituals and ceremonies of their religion but have failed to practice religious teachings in their daily life. He said that he had the academic research and knowledge but not have the spiritual power to transform people. Only religions have that power. He said he is inspired by the potential of the Interreligious Council for Peace to channel the spiritual power of religious faith and focus it to create the core axis of people’s lives and the core axis of the nation that can transform the people and the nation. Finally, he expressed his total support for the council.

The program closed with appointments of Ambassadors for Peace, awards for the video clip contest, closing remarks from the President of UPF-Thailand, a song of peace by the Muslim Children's Choir, and the Royal Anthem.

The religious leaders, civil society leaders, scholars, government officials, Ambassadors for Peace, and youth leaders attending the inauguration expressed their appreciation to UPF and its founder for the vision, foundation, and means to launch this new level of interreligious cooperation in Thailand. They are inspired by the potential of religious teachings to help solve social problems, reduce conflict and violence, and bring harmony and peace. Some envision inviting other national interreligious councils to a convention to promote establishing an international body.

Nationwide observances of the International Day of Peace

Other activities commemorating the International Day of Peace in Thailand including observances during flag ceremonies at schools throughout the nation on the morning of September 21. With the cooperation of the Ministry of Education and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, about 5,000 schools and 1 million students and teachers heard the message of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and observed One Minute of Silence. For a report, click here.

People throughout the nation were invited to submit video clips on the theme of peace to UPF-Thailand's facebook and youtube sites. Submissions were posted on the Internet, and more than 200,000 people viewed them. The creators of the winning video received trophies at the International Day of Peace celebration, presented by the CEOs of Viriya Insurance Company and Grand Prix International Company. For a report, click here.

For links to reports of consultations in preparation for the launch of the Interreligious Council for Peace click here.

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