T. Walsh: Address to International Leadership Conference in Mindanao

Mindanao is often in the news as a place of tension and conflict, and as a place where religious differences between Muslims and Christians as well as ethnic differences contribute to the tensions. For this reason, UPF developed the Mindanao Peace Initiative, modeled on Middle East Peace Initiative and South Asia Peace Initiative. These peace initiatives are built on the core values of: interfaith cooperation, good governance, strong marriage and family, and service to others.

I know that the convening of this meeting in Mindanao has not been without its challenges and controversy. Some who do not understand our purpose and motives have not been supportive or have even stood against our efforts. But UPF-Philippines has stood firm and strong on the foundation of its principles. And I want to especially applaud Datu Pax Mangudadatu for his courage.

This conference and this topic are most timely and relevant. I believe that this conference will serve as an inspiration not only to the people of Mindanao and the Philippines, but to people throughout Asia and the world.

Interfaith cooperation and good governance are complementary themes and topics. We may say that one represents the inner world of the spirit and the other the processes and procedures that characterize decision-making. But they are deeply interrelated. On the one hand, both religion and interfaith cooperation need to apply practices of good governance, and on the other hand, good governance depends on universal moral values rooted in religion.

A guiding principle that underlies our gathering is that through good governance characterized by honesty, mutual respect, transparency, inclusiveness, accountability, cooperation, public-spiritedness, unselfishness, and rule of law we can arrive at consensus and achieve positive outcomes and the resolution of critical problems facing our world. This principle applies to the realm of government and international relations as well as to the world of religions and interfaith relations. It also applies to the relations between governments and religions.

Leadership is not only based on experience, intellect, and talent but is rooted in the capacity for good judgment, which in turn is linked to both vision and character. Core characteristics of good leadership include God-centeredness, parental heart, and concern for others, or unselfishness.

These are principles upheld by of the UPF, rooted in the vision of our Founders, Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon. In every area of our work, UN relations, interfaith peacebuilding, peace and security, and humanitarian service, this principle applies.

Peace, however, is not a one-dimensional goal, such as the absence of war. Rather the ideal of peace is quite comprehensive, ranging from peace within the individual to peace within the family, the society, nation, and world.

Also peace is not a secular or merely political concept. Its roots are in religion, as evidenced by the scriptures of all the world’s religions, going back thousands of years. Peace is an aspiration of God and human beings alike. Peace, Shalom, Salaam alekhem.

Peace ultimately has to do with the quality of our relationships. The search for peace is a search for good, constructive, harmonious, and productive relationships, with our spouse, our children, our neighbors, fellow citizens, fellow believers, and for all the nations of the world.

It has been said world peace cannot be achieved unless there is first peace among the religions. Father Moon has always emphasized this point, even when he addressed the UN in the year 2000 proposing the establishment of an interreligious council within the UN system. It was a seemingly radical idea at the time. Over the past ten years, things have changed, at the UN and around the world.

In 2010 the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for an annual “World Interfaith Harmony Week” to be celebrated each year during the first week of February. Thirty-four UPF chapters around the world participated in World Interfaith Harmony Week programs this year.

This year, UPF’s office of UN relations worked closely with other NGOs and the Office of the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, to organize the first commemoration at the UN General Assembly of World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Why is interfaith harmony important for peace and development? For too long, peace has been seen as something that would be secured by governments. That is, the assumption has been that as soon as governments cease invading one another’s territories, peace will be realized.

The League of Nations was established at the end of World War I, at the Paris Peace Conference. Its mission was to prevent future world wars and to foster negotiation as the way to settle disputes. The League, however, was unsuccessful in preventing World War II, which began some two decades later.

Out of the horrors of World War II, the United Nations was formed. The United Nations set up the Security Council so that the UN, unlike the League, would be able to back up its resolutions with force.

But, despite its successes, the UN is increasingly facing problems that it is hard pressed to address and solve. Let me mention three:

First, the UN was set up based on the “state system” that emerged in Europe with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, upholding the principle of territorial sovereignty. The UN was established with this Westphalian principle in mind. However, the greatest challenge of our time is not necessarily from states but from trans-national and non-state actors who are not bound by territorial borders. For example, activist groups of various kinds, including terrorists, have no allegiance to one state. Another example is religion itself, which is essentially trans-national. Also, there is a growing civil society movement of NGOs that transcend borders.

Secondly, many of the challenges which the UN is facing are of an “intra-state” nature.  Consider Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Kosovo, Georgia, Syria, Libya, etc. These are instances not of one state attacking another sovereign state but intra-state insurgencies. The UN is in a difficult position to respond since it upholds the principle of territorial sovereignty.

Thirdly, the UN has not anticipated the widespread resurgence of religion.  Consider the recent visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba.  Religion has not only not withered away but it has been growing, even in places where it is restricted, such as in China and or Cuba.

UPF is in a position to help the UN. In fact, Father Moon has proposed the establishment of an “Abel UN” or a new kind of alliance of nations that goes beyond the Euro-Atlantic presuppositions of 1945. Recently UPF has proposed the formation of an Asia Pacific Association for Peace and Development as a forerunner to an “Abel UN.”

UPF has several areas of strength: it is trans-national, allowing it to function beyond borders; it has special expertise in the area of religion and interfaith relations; and it has a grass roots foundation that allows it to function effectively within borders.

I want to underscore three points:

First: In many respects, particularly in areas such as the economy and science, we live in a secular age that marginalizes religion. At the same time, we are witnessing the rise of a post-secular age, one in which religion is increasingly recognized as an important factor in world affairs.

We live and act in this world not merely as holistic beings, not merely rational professionals. In the areas of life that matter most - birth, death, marriage, family, and the meaning of life itself -religious values are central. Religious beliefs shape our moral perspective and our perspectives on public policy and world affairs. Therefore, we must take religious ideas and values seriously and appreciatively. This applies not only to our own religious ideas but to those of others as well. In this respect, interfaith dialogue is very important, not only dialogue about matters of doctrine but dialogue about building a world of universal peace.

Second, the family is the most fundamental unit of human society. This is true of biological reproduction, of course, but also for the reproduction of culture, tradition, values, and even religion. We create children through the marriage of a man and a woman, yin and yang. The quality of life any children can expect is profoundly linked to the quality of care provided by their mother and father. Moreover, this has a decisive impact on society and the world at large.

Third: building a world of universal peace requires the methods of both “soft power” and “hard power.” On the one hand, we must work to shape and change “hearts and minds” through dialogue, education, and political engagement. At the same time, we must be realistic about the world we live in. However regrettable it may be, history and human development have never been entirely separated from conflict and violence.  The formation of states is as much about care of citizens as it is about security and protection from invaders. In order to establish a culture of peace, we must understand both soft power and hard power.