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Peace Tours

Peace Tour in Sweden Explores Interfaith Dialogue

Stockholm, Sweden - Wednesday March 18 was a big day for the Universal Peace Federation in Sweden. The reason for this was that Dr. Yong Cheol Song, Chairman of UPF-Europe, arrived in the beautiful capital of Stockholm in order to deliver his keynote address, titled “A New Vision for Peace in the 21st Century”, as part of the ongoing UPF Global Peace Tour 2009.

Members of Svenska Fredsfederationen (Swedish branch of Universal Peace Federation) worked hard to make the Swedish leg of the UPF Global Peace Tour a great success. And without much exaggeration it has to be said that they succeeded. Sixty-one new guests along with 14 Ambassadors for Peace, together with numerous UPF members, gathered in Bååthska rummet in a parliamentary building in Stockholm´s Old Town for a program full of variety.

The program was grouped into two parts. In the afternoon a conference, including four invited speakers with Lorenz Jolin as moderator, was held. After a short introduction by Ing-Marie Hedberg Kikuchi, President of the Swedish Peace Federation, the four speakers presented their personal views regarding the challenging task of making this world a better place.

Karin Wiking, representing Mother Teresa´s Mission for Charity in Northern Europe, gave some unforgettable insights regarding her experiences working with Mother Teresa (1910-97), the world-famous Roman-Catholic nun who dedicated her life to work among the “poorest of the poor” in Calcutta´s slum together with her Missionaries of Charity; she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

Karin Wiking quoted Mother Teresa as saying: “We cannot do great things, just small things with great love.” Wiking emphasized that miracles often happen in “the world of Mother Teresa.” She concluded by reciting the famous prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

Maynard Gerber, who is a cantor in Stockholm´s major synagogue, told the audience about his extensive involvement in religious dialogue in Sweden and abroad. Cantor Gerber emphasized the importance of understanding other religions as well as resolving conflicts.

He exemplified by relating a Swedish project in Andalusia, Spain, involving youths from the three religions emanating from Abraham (Christianity, Islam, Judaism). When the project was over, everyone had got a better understanding of each other’s faith, Gerber said. He concluded with an old Jewish saying: God created the world and gave it to humankind. Since we blew it, however, we must work together with God to “repair the world.”

Parvez Mansoor, a co-founder of Sweden's Muslim Council, represented the Islamic faith among the speakers. He said that believing in God is the same thing as having hope. He stressed the fact that Islam is a transcendent teaching: “The problem of today is that the realistic view of the world has overshadowed ethics and morality.” Mansoor further distanced himself from terrorists acting in the name of Allah, declaring that the ideology of the Islamist revolutionaries of the present days can be derived from the materialistic thinking of the 19th-century Western philosophers. In spite of the dire problems facing the world, Mansoor claimed, it is possible to finally come to a “win-win” situation.

Kerstin Vinterhed, Ph.D., a well-known Swedish journalist and priest, quoted South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu's words: “We live in a moral universe.” But, Dr. Vinterhed asked, “What are we to do with our tormented world? What is evil?” She came to the conclusion that evil is everything that divides, disunites, and reduces human beings.

When this is happening, the good forces among us must do the opposite, finding uniting factors across religious and other boundaries. She exemplified her point by sharing with the audience a story about a female Harvard professor who found new insights in her Christian faith while living among Hindus in Benares, India.

After a round of questions from the audience, Lorenz Jolin summarized the conference by establishing the fact that followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all believe in the same God, albeit they have given Him different names: Yahweh, God, Allah.

The evening program started with entertainment performed by the versatile guitar player Christer Carlberg and actress Alekzandra Ottander, who read two poems. After that Chainarin Ruengsri and Chai Thaysayam Sritrakun presented popular Thai music. Then James Houston, baritone, sang “We Shall Overcome” with much feeling.

Then the time came for Buddhist abbot Pramaha Boonthin to perform a traditional Buddhist invocation with the assistance of the participants, which helped cultivate a spiritual state of mind.

When Dr. Song began reading his speech “A New Vision for Peace in the 21st Century,” he already had a busy schedule behind him. Before he arrived in Stockholm from Oslo, Norway, he had visited several European countries in a short period of time. Nevertheless, he greeted the audience in high spirits before delivering his important message.

In perhaps  the most central part of the address, about “God´s dream,” Dr. Song said: “Tragically, humanity's first ancestors fell away from this ideal, and this dream was not realized. Nevertheless, God has not abandoned mankind. He has worked patiently throughout human history, waiting in agony and lamentation for someone to realize His unfulfilled dream. Now the time has come to make that dream a reality through the universal vision of ‘One Family under God,’ transcending nationality and creed."

In this way we can fulfill the original mission of Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed and the founders of other religions to create the universal family of God and usher in an age of everlasting peace and prosperity, he said. “The one who has taken on the mantle to realize that dream in our modern era is none other than Reverend Dr. Sun Myung Moon. He has devoted his entire life and resources to the fulfillment of a promise he made to God.” The audience was notably inspired by his speech and gave him standing ovations twice.

Ambassador for Peace Agneta Ottander then introduced five recently appointed Ambassadors for Peace. They were Mohammed Assayesh, Britt Östlund-Levinsohn, Jasmin Häggkvist, Ryszard Golobioski, and Gabriella Kassius. (As a student living in Budapest, Kassius had assisted the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg in his heroic mission of rescuing Hungarian Jews from the Nazi terror in the last phase of World War II.)

The program concluded with spirited music performed by talented artists such as Caroline Williams Band, Sara Fuetsch, Jin-Yong Berglind, and Angela Aku Tarras-Wahlberg.

For the keynote address and more information about the peace tour, click here.

 

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