CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Belize Youth Catch the Vision of Peace
Written by Larry Moffitt
Sunday, April 13, 2008
On Sunday, April 13, 2008, Dr. Hyun Jin Moon arrived in Belize to receive a bouquet of flowers from the acting mayor of Belize City, and a handshake from Hon. Manuel Heredia, Jr., Minister of Tourism and Aviation and Hon. Erwin Contreras, Minister of Economic Development and Industry – both dedicated Ambassadors for Peace.
Like most days at the beginning of the dry season, this one was sunny and hot, with humidity you could cut and pack into tubs like butter. Bounded on the landward side by that Guatemala and Mexico, English is spoken officially in Belize, and Spanish is a near universal second language. Its long Caribbean beach is protected by a barrier reef second in size only to Australia’s.
They are a British Commonwealth nation, a former colony, and they still print the Queen’s face on their money. The national pipe dream of this 300,000-person snorkeler’s paradise is to become another Singapore, and although well-intentioned, there doesn’t seem to be a clear plan how to do this. The first order of business might be to become another Panama, minus the ditch.
Almost 50 percent of the population is under age 18, which means a great deal of the country’s resources are spent on services such as education and health. And, it is hoped, character education. It also means the country’s workforce is relatively small, at least for now. To their credit, Belize is not saddled with the karmic burden of having annihilated the native population, as the Spanish did in Argentina and Chile. Most people are either descendants of the Mayans or African slaves brought over by the British.
Belize combines the atmospheres of a continental country and a Caribbean island. Except for the Maya Mountains south and west of Belize City, the land tends to be flat. We drove through beautiful savanna on the way to the interior capital of Belmopan. The land one was once giant mahogany forests. But when the British discovered the hardwood trees they imported slaves to denude the landscape.
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Foreign Minister, Attorney General and Minister of Trade combined, and an Ambassador for Peace, spoke at one of the banquets. The government of Prime Minister Barrow took power in January 2008 and has been waging a campaign against government corruption; all the new cabinet ministers are fully with this, and there is a feeling of new energy and hope in the country because of this.
Hon. Carlos Perdomo, Minister of National Security and head of Belize Defense Force and Police Department (and an Ambassador for Peace), is active in youth and service work. “The problem we have here is gangs,” he said, “young black men killing young black men.”
Prime Minister Barrow is one of the few public officials who is not yet an Ambassador for Peace, but most of his cabinet members and friends are. He received our group with a brief courtesy call.
Everyone we spoke with, in government or the private sector, is hungry to see character education instituted as a national program. Such educational programs, as well, as an end to racism and religious non-cooperation, were emphasized by Hyun Jin Moon everywhere he went.
At an evening banquet, Hyun Jin Moon spoke eloquently about how the dream of building "one Family under God," to get humanity back to the original dream of God at the time of creation, and how 2,000 years ago Jesus wanted to fulfill that same dream. He described his father’s call at age 15 to carry out that dream in our time. “It is not a nation’s size, but rather its vision and values that determine its future and fate,” he added. “The United States became a global leader because its core values, were centered on the sovereignty of God and this became the basis for its policies and government. If Belize aligns with the vision of one family under God, it can lead all the Americas.”After the keynote address, new Ambassadors for Peace were appointed. Hyun Jin Moon called Mark Cuellar to the stage and together they sang Elvis’ gospel hit “If I Can Dream,” as a powerful finale to the International Leadership Conference.
The group took a two-hour drive to San Ignacio, the second-largest city in Belize, to meet with hundreds of students. On the way they stopped at the Mayan historical site Xunantunich (pronounced, well, about like you’d think it would be). We crossed a river by ferry, walked into the rainforest and stood at the base of an enormous Mayan pyramid, the site of ancient rituals, and looked up.
“We’re going to the top,” Hyun Jin Moon said.
“Yessir, however, we are running a bit late and the mayor is waiting– “
“We’re going to the top.”
And up we went, everyone huffing and puffing, except Hyun Jin Moon. The top of the pyramid was high above the tallest trees of the high-canopy rainforest. We could see everything. We stood where the Mayan high priests once stood. Eventually, however, eviscerating a sacrificial captive and showing his still-throbbing heart to the crowd, or coming up with a better-than-average calendar, was not sufficient to save their civilization from the mass die-off and evacuation of the 800s AD. We pondered these lessons as we descended the steps back down to the 21st century.
A few minutes later we arrived at the Center for Educational Training in Cayo, where 300 teachers and students from numerous schools, along with the mayor of San Ignacio, welcomed us.
What awaited us with flowers and the official dignity of San Ignacio was the fruit of the labor of two 18-year-old young ladies from Belize who had attended the December 2007 Global Peace Festival in the Philippines and returned home on fire with a desire to share that vision. Dian Vasquez, a college student who dreams of becoming Belize’s prime minister, and her best friend, Catherine Garnett, began by gathering their circle of friends and organizing a chapter of Youth Federation for World Peace. Then they began teaching their teachers, the leaders of education in the community and the mayor, a young man himself at age 29. They taught the UPF character education content using PowerPoint slides they created themselves.
When we arrived at the event, they had gathered students, teachers and principles from at least seven local high schools, colleges, and technical schools. Mark Cuellar opened the meeting by saying, “This is the time to change yourselves, your nation, the world with true love. Dr. Moon came to convey that vision to you!”
Hyun Jin Moon was able to capture the hearts of the young people, who were between 12 and 18 years old, giving a deeply moving speech about the dream of God. Even those who were somewhat reserved in the beginning were drawn in by the talk. “If you sincerely respect these teachers, would you not feel that they are like your mother?” he asked. “If you had a close friend, would you not say that they are like your brother? Originally all humanity was to be one family centered on true love under one God, with no walls. Two thousand years ago, the son of a carpenter embraced the mission to save all mankind centered on this very dream. Now, all of you are to inherit this dream.” By the end of the presentation, they pledged to become the owners of God’s big dream.
At the end, just before we toured the host school, Dian addressed the gathering with a poise not often found in one as young as she. She urged all those present “to become Ambassadors for Peace as Sun Myung Moon did, from a small cottage in Korea. He transcended the vision of peace in Korea – from his community to society, and eventually, the world.”
It has been three decades since Belize became independent from Britain. Its Ambassadors for Peace include leaders from all sectors of society. Belize has remarkable youth such as Dian and Catherine, who exhibit the spirit of ownership and have ignited a youth movement. It is a place of great hope. Before leaving, Hyun Jin Moon inscribed a motto for the UPF movement in Belize: “Be the Center of a Hemispheric Renewal of the Christian Spirit Centered Upon the Dream of God to Build One Family Under God!”
The heroes of Belize are national leader Ernesto Gomez, Mark Anthony Cuellar (who does the high-level contacting) and the Japanese women. They are helped by good unity with the Guatemala UPF, who sent people to help prepare for the tour. Ernesto and Mark are the good shepherds for the Ambassadors for Peace. They are united with each other, have much wisdom and experience, and they have a sophisticated network.
Rev. and Mrs. Pan Gun Kang, who live in Virginia and Miami, came to lend valuable assistance for the tour. They pulled together the team to make preparations and get the Belize Peace Embassy ready to receive visitors.
The key point to remember about Belize is that the Ambassadors for Peace program actually does work. In encouraging people to take ownership of the vision for a conscientious and moral society that transcends our artificial barriers of race and religion.
The are 2,000 Ambassadors for Peace in Belize. The nucleus of this active group are people who went to an International Leadership Conference in Korea or the U.S.; they saw, or rather felt, Rev. Moon's vision through the UPF content, and at many such conferences, Hyun Jin Moon’s full-tilt oratory. They returned to Belize with their batteries charged, starting every conversation with, “I just had the most amazing experience…” That’s the shining miracle and blessing of Belize.
Of course it helps if the vision is a compelling one that doesn’t require a lot of salesmanship. Fortunately for this particular vision, the severity of the global crisis of public and private morality has many good people searching for something exactly like what we teach. And when they find it, the light bulb goes on.
After several years of leadership seminars, Ambassadors for Peace permeate every strata of society in Belize, from cabinet ministers to high school teachers. Largely the movement has grown by Ambassadors for Peace talking to their friends about it, which means it’s not an artificially-induced vision. It runs on its own steam.
Another key point, whether a happy accident or a far-sighted strategy, is that it’s an excellent idea to educate school teachers in the seminar content. When you teach solid, reality-based character education to the average person, they say, “Cool.” Some will even get inspired to change their own conduct. But when you teach these things to an educator, it’s automatic that their first thought is, “Hey, we can teach this stuff.” And they did.
For some reason the values-oriented lecture series works well with people who live among teenagers and young adults, observing daily that the incidence of teen pregnancy, gang violence, deaths, and sexually transmitted diseases is climbing off the top of the chart.
Educating educators is why the foundation in Belize has grown so deep and wide. The lesson here is if you give people the right vision, and you empower them to act, they will do God’s will at blazing speed.
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