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Peace Education

Leadership Conference in the US Offers Perspectives on Culture Wars

Mr. Dinesh D'Souza, from the Hoover Institution, Stanford University The three themes of faith, family and service intertwined through the presentations during Session II of the International Leadership Conference in Washington, DC, on May 16, 2007.

Mr. Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Media Institute, reviewed recent trends in the US news media, with the addition of cable channels and Internet sources. He commended Fox television news, which includes both liberal and conservative commentators. Sixty percent of Americans think that the popular media are bad for values. He believes that America's "departure from God's moral precepts is the cause of its widely-perceived moral decline."

New York Times best-selling author Mr. Dinesh D'Souza, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, said "Radical Muslims charge that America is not a Christian society but an atheist one, undermining the Muslim religion and weakening the Muslim family."

Mr. Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Media InstituteUntil the 1960s, he said, there was a consensus that there was an external moral order and a set of rights and wrongs (such as the 10 Commandments) to which human beings were accountable. Since then, a rival morality, a "new morality' has become prevalent, especially among young people. The new morality can be described this way, "If I am faced with a certain decision or dilemma, I don't go to my parents, preachers or teachers—or even God—I dig into myself to the internal rudder to guide me in how I shall act."

What America can and should do is show the rest of the world the other America, the America they don't see in the movies and on television. When Dinesh D'Souza's mother came from Goa to visit him, he took her with him to church. She was puzzled to see a Catholic church in California full of people, because she never would have guessed from the popular media, which is widely watched in India, that people went to church in large numbers.

The dividing line in the future will be between those who believe and those who do not believe, he concluded--between those who uphold a morality and those who do not.

Mr. Jim Flynn, president of the American Family Coalition and secretary general of UPF-USA Dr. Sulayman Nyang, professor of African and Islamic Studies at Howard University in Washington, DC, said, "Some of us took to task Dr. Samuel Huntington and his thesis of the clash of civilizations. It is not a clash of civilizations but a clash of values within civilizations. Civilization is also like a relay race. The United States took the baton from the British and are passing it on to the world." He said that many of the things that are wrong within American society are things that traditional Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, will reject.

Mr. Jim Flynn, president of the American Family Coalition and secretary general of UPF-USA, noted that as Dr. Nyang said, the culture war is not between different religious groups but between a faith-affirming perspective and a faith-denying perspective.

"One important lesson of that is that people of faith need to come to an understanding of areas of commonality: the importance of family, honoring family, etc.," he added. "Because of the internet we cannot insulate ourselves from what is happening around the world."

"What I believe is the most critical issue facing America and the world is what is the proper role of faith in the public arena?" He explained that there are those who seek to divorce religion from the public debate. "If we do, we separate ourselves from the moral and spiritual root of society," he cautioned. "Dr. Knight's organization shows that American society has become a society of confusion. People worry that if faith and religion are allowed in the public arena, they will be forced into a faith that they disagree with, into a religious society which is exclusive."

Mr. Flynn challenged the audience to "look at fundamental principles that go beyond doctrines that can bind us together." He read the list of the five fundamental principles of UPF's Ambassadors for Peace Initiative. In particular, he invited constructive discussion about the first principle: "There is one God who is the Creator of all and the Parent of humankind."

Dr. Sulayman Nyang, professor from the Howard University at Washington, DCThe founder of UPF calls religious leaders, as the conscience of humankind, to transcend their boundaries for the sake of one family under God.

One person in the audience pointed out the need to distinguish between Islam and Muslims" "There are people who talk about radical Islam. There are Muslims who are radical, but Islam itself is not radical." A Moroccan reported that during World War II, when Morocco was a colony of France and the Vichy government asked Morocco to hand over its Jews, numbering more than 200,000 people, to the Nazis, the king refused. "These are all my people," he said. "Both Jewish Moroccans and Muslim Moroccans. How can I turn my people over to them?"

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