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Y. Miyake: Address to 32nd International Leadership Conference

Address to 32nd International Leadership Conference, Seoul, Korea, August 26–29, 2018


Peace, Development and the Role of Religious Leaders

 By Yoshinobu Miyake, Shinto Priest and Scholar, Japan


When we, religious leaders, try to seriously deal with real world peace and development issues, it’s inevitable that we dialogue and cooperate with politicians who are involved in international institutions and governments of each country. Even if religious leaders mutually understand each other and address world peace and development issues, it’s not going to be effective without the cooperation of politicians. In that sense, it is meaningful that this UPF International Leadership Conference is not just a gathering of religious leaders but also an assembly of many politicians and representatives of international organizations in this framework.

On our part, we religious leaders have three options to take:

First, I would like to express my opinion on the discussion among religious leaders. I have attended more than 200 international conferences over the past 40 years and more than 1,000 interfaith meetings in Japan. However, despite the huge amount of time, budget and human resources spent on this type of gathering, it is hard to say that notable results have been obtained. The answer is easy. In short, it arises from a lack of knowledge of the religious leaders who attend meetings of this kind. Of course, I don’t mean to say that they lack insight into the faith to which they themselves belong; in that case their insight is extremely good, whether it be an archbishop, an imam or a guru. The lack of knowledge that I point out here refers to other religions to which you do not belong, or a religion that is denied by your religion. There are also many religious leaders who deny the acts of their own believers who try to learn about other religions. However, if, for example, you try to build a winning football team to compete for the FIFA World Cup championship, it’s not enough to be merely doing physical training of your team players; you should analyze the opposing team well. The same can said for us.

Second, religious leaders must constantly interact with politicians in order to reflect the vision of “how we should be as citizens” in real society, and we need to cooperate in realizing that goal. Politicians have much to gain in spiritual and material support through dialogue with those who are spiritual leaders for many peoples. Especially, since religious organizations represent “a large number of votes” during elections, politicians cannot proceed with policy tasks ignoring what religious leaders say. In that sense, in a democratic society, religious leaders can exercise their influence on politicians. And this ILC is exactly the golden opportunity.

Finally, I would like to reflect on the case of “dictatorship states” such as China, North Korea and Syria. In these countries, there is no way for politicians to utilize “elections that reflect public opinion.” Even so, it will not be an option for them to become a dictator’s order-taker for their own personal protection, or to join the side that suppresses the peoples and be the arms and legs of dictators. I visited the mountainous area of Yunnan Province at the southernmost tip of China bordering on Myanmar and Laos just a year ago, and I interacted closely with religious leaders of ethnic minorities there. Since I saw and heard circumstances that we cannot overlook, I met with one of the top leaders in the Communist Party in Beijing and advised him that “we are closely watching this situation.” We, religious leaders, should not be on the sidelines. Just one month ago I joined other world religious leaders in a public appeal in front of the White House in Washington, DC to protect the human rights of minorities in the U.S.

It is our mission to contribute to the peace and development of the world.



To go to the 32nd International Leadership Conference Schedule page, click here.