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C.S. Yang: Middle East Initiative 10th Anniversary

Address to the Interfaith Conference
Interreligious and International Relations and the Prospects for Peace in the Middle East
Jerusalem, December 19-22, 2013

Dear religious leaders, scholars, brothers and sisters. Peace, shalom, salaam alaikum.

Thank you for participating in this historic Tenth Anniversary Program of UPF’s Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI).

I am very happy to return once again to this Holy Land and this Holy City of peace, Jerusalem. I love this city. This city is dear to the hearts of Jews, Christians and Muslims the world over. We are all saddened by the fact that this holy city, this holy land, and this region are characterized by conflict and division.

I bring greetings and blessings from Mother Moon, who I was just with in Korea. Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon is leading our worldwide movement and guiding the work of UPF. Although Father Moon passed away to the spiritual world in 2012, she is absolutely determined to carry on his mission. Like Father Moon, she has a great love and commitment to the Universal Peace Federation and to MEPI in particular.

When Father Moon began the Middle East Peace Initiative in 2003, his desire was to promote dialogue, mutual respect and cooperation among Jews, Christians and Muslims, as brothers and sisters under one God. When he traveled to this city in 1965, he prayed near the Garden of Gethsemane. He drove three nails into the trunk of one olive tree. That tree is still standing. He said that the nails symbolized the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. His lifelong aspiration was to heal the divisions in the family of Abraham.

Father Moon, the founder of the Universal Peace Federation, believed sincerely that the fate of the world, and even the outcome of God’s providence, were directly related to the unity of the Abrahamic religions. If religious division persisted, then conflict would prevail, not only on the level of religious doctrine but also on the political and military level. In other words, peace cannot be achieved on the political level until peace is achieved on the spiritual level. Thus, he believed that interfaith dialogue was absolutely imperative and necessary for peace.

In May of 2003 Father Moon asked me to gather Jews, Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem not only for dialogue but to draft a declaration of unity among the Abrahamic faiths. This resulted in the “Jerusalem Declaration.” It was signed by high officials of each of the three Abrahamic faiths. Rev. Moon was deeply moved when I reported to him about the Jerusalem Declaration. It seems like only yesterday.

December of 2003 was also a very important moment in the history of MEPI. Once again, Father Moon guided me very directly to organize a program for Jews, Christians and Muslims. He urged me to ask Jews to give honor respect to Jesus and even to repent for any disrespect from the past. Likewise, he urged me to ask the Christians to honor Moses and Judaism and to repent for anti-Semitism and the disparagement of Jews. And he asked me to urge Muslims likewise to honor Judaism and Christianity and to repent for acts that were contrary to the core teachings of Mohammad and the Qur'an.

This was a very challenging task. Nevertheless, it was achieved. In fact we held a special ceremony in Independence Park, here in Jerusalem, witnessed by approximately 20,000 people who had gathered from all parts of Israel and Palestine and from throughout the world. More than 3,000 international, interfaith participants had come from Korea, Japan, Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, Latin America and Oceania.

Since that time, more than 50 MEPI programs have been convened in the Holy Land. I personally have visited this land more than 40 times, including not only Israel, but Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan.

Throughout our conference we will discuss many important issues related to the crisis in the Middle East. Despite the “Arab Spring” there is still a great deal of instability in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and most of all in Syria. The Syrian crisis is especially disturbing, with both the continuation of violence and the millions of displaced persons forced to spend the winter in barren refugee camps. The humanitarian challenge is enormous.

UPF will send a delegation to Geneva next month to emphasize the need for religious and spiritual leaders to be part of the peace process. There is great need for faith-based organizations to be involved, not only in the provision of humanitarian relief but in the process of bringing an end to the conflict.

At our recent conference in Amman, Jordan, UPF produced an interfaith statement calling for a cease fire, the return of hostages, and free and fair elections in the spring of 2014. The statement highlighted the need for spiritual and religious voices and for faith-based organizations to be included and involved in the peace process.

On the foundation of MEPI’s first decade of effort, we want to move forward to a new stage of engagement and activism. Therefore, we are not merely looking back to the history of MEPI but we are looking to the future. It is my deepest hope that UPF and MEPI can make a significant contribution to bring peace to this Holy Land. I have the greatest love and respect for all my Jewish, Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters. I want to see the day when we can live together in peace, harmony and cooperation, like one family, one family under God.

I hope your time during this conference will be rich and rewarding. I look forward to sharing this time together with you.

May God bless you. Let us work together for peace.