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World Peace Blessing

Filipinos Celebrate Marriage and Family

Manila, Philippines - “Transformational.” This was how Archbishop George A. Stallings, the president of the American Clergy Leadership Conference, described his recent experiences in the Philippines.

And this was even before the main event—the Interfaith Peace Festival in the afternoon of the last day of an international and interreligious conference, Jan. 11, 2014 at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City in the province of Rizal, a suburb located east of Manila.

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In that festival, 14,000 Filipinos gathered to celebrate marriage: both purity before and fidelity in marriage. Young people recited the “Pure Love Pledge,” in which they promised to remain abstinent until marriage. The couples who were already married renewed their vows while newlyweds promised to be faithful to each other and to raise their children according to these universal standards.

There were 10,000 people inside the Ynares Center and another 4,000 people in the overflow area set up outside. They witnessed religious leaders from 20 faith traditions standing together to honor marriage, which is universal for all the world’s religions.

The Philippines movement has conducted nine such large-scale marriage-centered festivals over the last 22 months for more than 100,000 participants. The largest was in January 2013 at the Araneta Coliseum in Manila in which 13,000 couples participated. This program a year later was a follow-up to that event, since many people who attended wanted other family members to have a chance to also rededicate their marriages.

To start the main event, 21 religious leaders from 20 faiths participated in the “Water of Harmony” ceremony, in which they poured water in a common vessel as a mark of harmony and oneness of heart. Then they jointly offered prayers. Dr. and Mrs. Chung Sik Yong, chairman of UPF-Asia, officiated.

After the marriage rededication, Archbishop Stallings shook the rafters with his impassioned speech. The Filipino audience responded in kind. “You are the agents of [social] change and God has been waiting for you,” he said. Then he repeatedly asked them, “Can you do it?” With each response the audience grew louder and louder, “Yes we can; yes we will. Yes we can; yes we will. Yes we can; yes we will,” they shouted. It was electrifying.

He concluded his address with a saying from Ghana: “The ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people.” He added, “And the restoration of a nation begins in the homes of its people too.” He then ran across the stage and out into the audience, and once again the Filipinos erupted in cheers.

Earlier in the program, Dr. Charles S. Yang, chairman of UPF International, explained that “the family is more than the cornerstone of society; it is the very core of God’s purpose of creation.” The family is the only institution that God created, he reiterated.

Concluding his remarks Dr. Yang explained the scalable nature of true love:

It is not too difficult for a country to develop economically. The hard part is to maintain your moral and ethical values in the midst of economic prosperity. The key to this, as UPF Founder Father Sun Myung Moon taught, is to live for the sake of others. You should live more for the sake of your family than for yourself; more for the sake of your society than for your family; more for the sake of your nation than for your society; and more for the sake of the world than for your nation. This is the nature of love. Love always sacrifices for the greater good.

The mayor of Antipolo, Hon. Casimiro “Jun” Ynares III, opened the main event welcoming the packed house. He used the analogy of a passenger train saying that we all have a common vision and mission which unites us on “our shared pilgrimage towards the Kingdom of God.”

Special guest and five-time Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Philippines, Hon. Jose C. de Venecia, Jr., expressed his sympathy for the more than 8,000 Filipinos who died and four million displaced due to typhoon Haiyan.

He also publicly acknowledged the contributions made by UPF, the sponsor of the event. Hon. de Venecia described UPF as “the greatest and most powerful organization in the world.” He said this was not only because of its worldwide foundation but more precisely because it is working to bring together people of all nations, races and religions.

Spontaneously, he then invited his friend Hon. Mushahid Hussain Sayed, a senator from Pakistan, to the stage to greet his Filipino family. Senator Sayed referred to Father Moon as a global bridge-builder who was building bridges between people from various countries, religions and civilizations.

The University of the Philippines Concert Chorus performed at the beginning and end of the program. And after the keynote speeches tenor, Elijah John Marquez, sang a solo number, “When We Believe/”

The end of the family festival was a special candlelight memorial for the victims of typhoon Haiyan. Winds measuring 315 km/h (195 mph) made Haiyan the most powerful storm ever recorded to strike land.

In hushed silence, an honor guard led six families of victims to the stage for a floral offering to the departed and those who are still rebuilding their lives.

The house lights were lowered as the audience lit candles. A video tribute showed scenes of the death and destruction that cut through this island nation on Nov. 8, 2013, reminding everyone of the innumerable losses on that fateful day.

Many shed tears—again.

Related reports:

Conference Promotes Healthy Families as the Key to World Peace
Asian Interfaith Clergy Network Launched

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