Interfaith Peacebuilding


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Interfaith Programs

UPF Chair Makes a Pilgrimage to Nepal

Nepal-2010-08-01-UPF Chair Makes a Pilgrimage to Nepal

Kathmandu, Nepal - On his first visit to Nepal, the International chairman of UPF, Rev. Hyung Jin Moon was charmed by its people, culture, religions, and food. He and his wife Yeon Ah spent time with government leaders, Ambassadors for Peace, youth, and families, ending with a visit to the birthplace of Buddha in Lumbini.

The visitors were welcomed at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu on July 30 by Members of Parliament and Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian leaders. They received a seemingly endless sea of flower bouquets and scarves that Nepalese traditionally give to guests.

The Vice-President of Nepal welcomed the international delegation to his office that afternoon and the Rt. Hon. Subash Nembang, Speaker of the Parliament, received us in his chambers at the Parliament at a gathering attended by the Secretary-General of the Parliament and other MPs. In the evening, we went to the Boudhanath Temple to offer prayers and incense. A World Heritage site, this is the temple that travelers visit before crossing the Himalayas to visit Tibet or China, praying for a safe passage; on their return they offer prayers of gratitude.

Former Ambassador of India to Nepal, K.V. Rajan and his wife, Geeta, joined us at a restaurant for dinner, and afterwards we walked around the area and entered a shop that sold Buddhist paintings, called tankas. We stayed there until closing time. Having spent seven years as a practicing Buddhist, Rev. Moon understood all the imagery and stories on the various canvases.

As is his custom, he rose the following day for 3:00 AM exercises, meditation, and devotion. At a 5:00 AM meeting at the Peace Embassy, a Filipino woman married to a Nepalese spoke about her love for Nepal, her Nepali husband, and the Hindu culture (her family is Catholic). Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, a member of Parliament, talked about his father, who was a soldier, and his grandfather, who was a high priest serving the king of Nepal.

The Prime Minister of Nepal received the visitors at his official residence at 7:30 AM. Hon. Ek Nath introduced the visitors, followed by comments from Dr. Thomas Walsh and Mr. Taj Hamad of the UPF International office in New York, Amb. Rajan, and Minister G. M. Gurung from Sikkim, India.

The first words of the Prime Minister were, "Please convey my warmest greetings to Father and Mother Moon." He spoke about his first meeting with them ten years ago, recalling vivid details with fond memories. "I see how people respond positively to Father Moon and his teachings. It is good – they will have a bright future."

"To create a new world we must give inspiration to young people," he added, noting that this is what Father Moon is doing. He lamented the "denigration of moral values. We need to teach and provide the proper environment for youth today. This starts with the family." The Prime Minister concluded by praising the leadership of Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, saying, "He is doing a great job."

Then we went to the Presidential Palace for a meeting with H.E. Dr. Ram Baran Yadav. "Nepal is passing through a critical period," the President reflected, "but it is essentially our own fault." He mentioned that Lord Buddha was born in Nepal and added that the most faithful woman in Hindu mythology, Sita, was also born in Nepal. In fact, she was born in the president's home town. The president provided breakfast for the visiting delegation.

A gathering with young Nepalis followed. Rev. Moon talked about how his father disclosed the essence of God’s nature as a parental love that is willing to die for the sake of its children. He described his own struggles trying to understand his father and how his insights into love differ from those of other religious leaders. Father Moon talks about the heart of parents who are willing to die over and over for the well-being of their children. He challenged his audience to adopt a family ideal that goes beyond sibling relationship because brothers and sisters can still fight, and instead seek to love from a parental position. He emphasized inheriting the true love of God, which was lost by Adam and Eve and restored through the mission of the Messiah.

At the end Hyung Jin and Yeon Ah Moon had their photos taken with each couple present, delegations from various parts of Nepal, and the Indian delegation of about 60 people. Their openness and approachability touched many hearts.

That afternoon, 500 Ambassadors for Peace gathered for the 2010 Assembly of the Ambassadors for Peace of South Asia. Rev. Moon welcomed them and talked about his father’s life. After meeting Jesus at the age of 15, he devoted himself to carrying out a calling from God. Understanding that selfish love was the root of conflict conflict, he taught that the key to peace is the family, and the key to the family is God, whose love is invested for the sake of others. He advised them, "You have to let go of yourself in order to be able to become one with anyone, whether it is with God, with your spouse, with your children — or even with yourself."

One Ambassador for Peace said afterwards, "He could explain things so clearly and so deeply."

Upon their arrival, a lottery was held to choose a family for Hyung Jin and Yeon Ah Moon to visit. They drew the names of Ek Nath and Blessie Dhakal. In the intimacy of their home, Rev. Moon commented on his many good qualities and advised him that whenever he is praised he should to offer it up to God. Ek Nath was then asked to point out three good points about his wife and three points about each of their four children (they are expecting their fifth child). Then Blessie was asked to do the same thing. Tears flowed, as her heart was touched by this recognition. The parents were advised to make a special appointment with one child each week and take them to dinner, spend time with them, and make them feel loved and special.

The following day again began with 3:00 AM devotions, exercise, and meditations. Sixteen people then flew to the birthplace of Lord Buddha in Lumbini. This is a rice-farming area in southwest Nepal, near the Indian border. The trip was  a pilgrimage to seventh-century BCE sites connected with a man who exerted a powerful influence on history. We walked around the memorial park and saw the pond where Buddha was given his first bath and the tree under which his mother placed him. We stopped there and offered prayers. On the other side of the pond is a pillar about Siddhārtha Gautama, who was born into a royal family. Part of the inscription reads, "Because Lord Buddha was born there, he made the village of Lumbini free from taxes and obligated the residents to pay only one-eighth of the produce as land revenue instead of the usual rate."

We took off our shoes to enter the main excavation site marking the birthplace and spent about 20 minutes inside. Rev. Moon seemed to want to get as close as possible to the heart and spirit of Buddha, offering prayers and touching the stones, seeking to absorb something of the spirit of Buddha.

Each Buddhist nation has been given land to build a temple in the area. We were unexpectedly invited to a meeting of about a hundred people at the temple constructed by the Sri Lankan government. About 20 monks chanted and offered garlands of marigold flowers to Hyung Jin and Yeon Ah Moon.

Afterwards, we flew back to Kathmandu and from there to Bangkok.

Read reports about visitss to Thailand and the Philippines.

NOTE: Religious Youth Service-Nepal, a project of the Universal Peace Federation, invites international youth from various religious backgrounds to join in a service-learning experience in the scenic city of Pokhara from September 25 to October 2. For more information, click here.

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