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R. Kittel: UPF's Principles for Peacebuilding

International Conference on Inter-Religious and Inter-Cultural Dialogue
Senate Bhavan, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
, October 7-9, 2009

UPF affirms five Universal Principles of Peace:

  1. We are one human family created by God.
  2. The highest qualities of human beings are spiritual and moral in nature.
  3. The family is the “school of love and peace.”
  4. “Living for the Sake of Others” enables reconciliation of the divided human family.
  5. Peace comes through cooperation beyond the boundaries of ethnicity, religion, and nationality.

Each principle will be discussed briefly.

  1. We are one human family created by God.

The way to rise above the pursuit of self-interest is to recognize our common humanity, given to us by our Creator. Just as a parent can intercede in the disputes of the children, it is the parental heart originating from the Creator which helps us resolve the differences that exist between the world’s nations, cultures, and religions.

We do this most easily when we “discover” our own moral and ethical values in other religious traditions. In other words, we must go beyond tolerance and actually build bridges of commonality with other faith traditions. It is for this reason that the founder of the Universal Peace Federation, Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, commissioned World Scripture: An Anthology of Sacred Texts, which was published in 1991. It took a team of more than 40 religious scholars several years to research and write this voluminous work. They researched 323 sacred texts and oral traditions. In the end, they discovered at least 164 common themes held sacred by the religions of the world. Externally, religions appear different (customs, dress, and behavior), but internally there is much more in common than these visible differences.

People often ask, “Why are there so many religions?” The answer is very simple: many religions reflect the nature of God’s loving heart. After the fall, humankind descended into both spiritual and physical ignorance. This meant the natural barriers of deserts, oceans, and mountains isolated one civilization from another. God could not wait for the truth given to one people to migrate to others. The heart of a parent wants to bring His lost children home as soon as possible. Therefore, the many religions are an expression of God’s desperate, longing heart to restore us back to our original state of goodness.

  1. The highest qualities of human beings are spiritual and moral in nature.

Human beings long for truth, beauty, and goodness. Life’s deepest meaning and purpose can be found through the pursuit of these essential yet intangible attributes. Each person has an eternal spirit that transcends this physical life. Spiritual principles are to be practiced in this life so that we are prepared for the eternal world.

“But,” people often ask, “how can Eastern and Western religions be united?” This question usually focuses on the theistic nature of Western religions and the non-theistic nature of Eastern religions.

The key to understanding this is realizing that Eastern and Western religions are addressing different results of the fall. When our first human ancestors departed from the right path, two major consequences occurred: first, we acquired “fallen nature” and secondly, we were cut off from the presence of God’s love through “sin.”

Generally speaking, Western religions are trying to correct our severed relationship with God. To do this they emphasize the existence of God, His loving grace, and the need for us to have faith.

Eastern religions, on the other hand, have a different focus and purpose. They are trying to restore our “fallen nature” of selfishness back to our “original nature” of goodness. Therefore, instead of centering on God, they look at human nature and teach the importance of mind-body unity which can be properly aligned by placing the higher spiritual qualities of the mind above the desires of the body.

  1. The family is the “school of love and peace.”

The family is the cornerstone of peace, and the root of our character and culture. It is in the family that we experience love and the joy of interdependence. In the family, the most basic personal and public virtues are learned. Understanding the family as the “school of love” helps us to recognize that “family” is the most essential human institution. The foundation for a healthy family is a faithful, committed marriage.

Margaret Mead and Ken Heyman, in their book, Family (New York: Macmillan, 1965, p. 77-78) explain,

As far back as our knowledge takes us, human beings have lived in families. We know of no period where was not so… Again and again… human societies have reaffirmed their dependence on the family as the basic unit of human living—the family of father, mother and children.

The most essential elements of civility and being human are learned in the family. When families break down, then societies witness an increase in gangs, drugs, violence, and non-marital pregnancies. There is, in fact, a mountain of sociological data showing a direct correlation.

This is because in the family we should learn to live for others. The family is the first institution greater than “me” which we encounter. “My family” is larger and more important than “me.” Children learn—and love—to make sacrifices for loving, understanding parents. This human virtue of living for the greater good is then brought into society where families live for the sake of communities, communities for the sake of nations, and nations for the sake of the world.

As Mahatma Gandhi taught, the value of sacrifice which is learned in the family:

I would like to see India free and strong… the individual, being pure, sacrifices himself for the family. The family for the village, the village for the district, the district for the province, the province for the nation, the nation for all. I want Khudai Raj, which is the same thing as the Kingdom of God on earth.

  1. “Living for the Sake of Others” enables reconciliation of the divided human family.

By practicing living for the sake of others, we become “other-centered” rather than “self-centered.” The essence of good character is true love expressed through unselfish actions. “Living for others” is a common principle of the world’s religions:

  • Misers certainly do not go to the heavens… but noble men find joy in generosity. - Dhammapada 13:177
  • A gift is pure when it is given from the heart… and when we expect nothing in return. - Bhagavad Gita 17:20
  • When there is greed, the love is false. - Adi Granth, pg. 161
  • All men are responsible for one another. - Talmud, Sanhedrin 27b
  • Give and it will be given to you...for the measure you give will be the measure your receive. - Luke 6.38
  • Give not with the thought to gain, and be patient unto thy Lord. - Qur’an 74.6-7
  1. Peace comes through cooperation beyond the boundaries of ethnicity, religion and nationality.

Lasting peace cannot be achieved through political compromise alone but requires addressing the root causes of conflict. Transcending racial, religious, and ethnic barriers is an imperative of our time. It is faith that can give people the power to forgive and the love to overcome even generations of hatred, resentment, and violence.

The challenge for religious people in this age is to be able to embrace other traditions and ultimately learn to love our enemy. This applies to solving ethnic conflicts, religious bigotry, extreme nationalism, and racial segregation.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us this important lesson, “We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate. We get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity.”

When two enemies reconcile, there is the manifestation of God’s love and grace. Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) expressed this union of opposites most eloquently in the poem, "The Ballad of East and West":

Oh, East is East, and West is West,
and never the twain shall meet;

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at
God’s great Judgment Seat;

For there is neither East nor West,
nor Border, nor Breed, nor Birth;

When two strong men stand face to face,
Tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!

Thank you very much.