UPF-USA Commemorates International Day of Peace

United-States-2017-09-28-International Day of Peace Observed in U.S. State of Maryland

Crownsville, Maryland, United States—"Together We Can Bring Peace” was the title of a peace breakfast forum held in observance of the UN International Day of Peace.

The gathering was co-sponsored by the Maryland Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives and the Universal Peace Federation of Maryland. It was led by Ms. Jennifer Gray, director of interfaith outreach for the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives, and Mrs. Tomiko Duggan, director of UPF-USA, DC office.

The gathering on September 28, 2017, at the Maryland Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives offered breakfast and endless coffee before the six-person panel began giving their comments on the assigned topics.

Ms. Gray welcomed the 40 guests to the groundbreaking gathering of interfaith leaders. Dr. Manon Gurley, the senior pastor of the Tabernacle Church of Laurel, Maryland, offered the invocation. Ms. Gray then read a question for each of the four women and two men speakers to answer.

The first speaker was Dr. Homayra Ziad, a scholar at the Institute of Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies in Baltimore. The question posed to Dr. Ziad was: What are the values and ethical foundations that are common to all religions?

Dr. Ziad spoke about the need for deep self-knowledge. In Islam, she said, it is important to know oneself and bear witness to one’s religion through service. Each person will come to face God in one’s life, she said, and at that “primordial moment, we carry the immortal spirit, which is God.” From this experience, she said, we strive to seek higher self-knowledge, which is a gift from the benevolent God. It is difficult to be a moral steward in our life, she said, but through ethical involvement in the world we bear witness to what is good and bear witness to the injustices of the world.

Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, the director of social justice and inter-group initiatives at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, was asked: What would it take for the world to be more peaceful?

She answered that during Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in Judaism, one must resolve one’s problems with others, then come before God and repent for one’s own sins. However, she said, the list of sins given by Judaism isn’t just what the individual has committed; each person is part of a community and is responsible for the sins of the community as well. We must own our role as an individual within the community, she said. If we can create a community of individuals who realize what a community must do—strive for justice—this leads to peace and then truth can be realized. We all should honor the dignity of each human being, she said, thus honoring God’s creation of each person. If we disrespect a human being, we disrespect God, as we all are created in His image. She concluded, “We should say this out loud, because silence implies consent to a wrong thing.”

The third speaker was Reverend Doctor Carletta Allen, the lead pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church in Baltimore. She was asked: Because the problems confronting the world are too great for each religious community to work in isolation, what universal actions can religious communities take for human rights?

She answered by first saying that we cannot work in isolation and expect things to change. How a religion is used in society determines how things go.

Dr. Allen, who is an ecumenist, said, “We all should do less talking about the things that divide us and more on how we can be together as friends.” If we work together to do something, it is an organic experience, she said. We should come together to work on “hospitality,” meaning on migration and immigration. “We have allowed our religious traditions to be hijacked by the patriarchy aspects of society, resulting in bad practices and unhealthy agendas,” she stated, and continued, “Only love manifested can save us.” We need to “re-radicalize our youth for truth, love and justice,” she said, and she encouraged the audience to “welcome all others; we all are images of one God. We should help beyond religions, respond to humanity’s needs—together.” She concluded by saying, “There is no greater action than to value each and every human being.”

The fourth speaker was Ms. Nadia S. Hassan, founder and director of the Young Leaders Institute. She was asked: For the world to be peaceful, would people need to change how they think?

She answered immediately, “Yes, of course.” We need to teach young people how to think about others in order to reach their own potential and their best true self, she said. This is the work she does at her institute. “Everyone needs critical thinking skills and reconciliation skills,” she said. “Thoughts become words, which are followed by actions, which invariably creates the character you have.” She added that it is important for parents to teach their children that it’s possible for others to be correct, even though you think you are correct.

Ms. Hassan cited the Koran (Chapter 13, Verse 11), which states that God does not change the condition of a people unless they change what is in themselves. “We should be the change we want to see,” she said. Poverty, oppression, wars, and injustice occur all over the world, but we must, as Michael Jackson sang, “begin with the man (or woman) in the mirror.” She referred to the title of UPF co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon’s July 2017 speech at New York’s Madison Square Garden, “Peace Starts with Me.” She concluded her talk by saying, “I must think, speak, and live peace.”

Rev. Medgar L. Reid, DD, summarized the messages of the four previous speakers. He is the director of spiritual care and chaplaincy services at Keswick Multi-Care Center, an adult daycare center in Baltimore. He was asked: As world peace originates with inner peace, how can we better live together as part of the human community?

He asked the audience, “How can we better live with ourselves? We are not ‘human doings’ but human beings.” Because we are here on this earth, we deserve dignity and respect, he said. Unfortunately, even though human rights have improved, they still are violated frequently. “When you are mindful of who you are, and mindful of who you belong to (God), your collective thoughts and heart cause the world around you to coalesce,” he said. “We shouldn’t just rely on our intellect. We should elevate our sense of spirituality and consciousness, and your presence will automatically elevate all those around you.”

He outlined the seven points that guide his life, which he encouraged others to follow as well. He referred to these seven points as “BRASSRI”:

  1. Belonging: Each person needs belonging. We need to belong to something and to someone, and we get ideas and actions from others. It is a driving force. “I am here because I belong.”
  2. Respect: Each person desires to have respect for who they are, authentically. Not feigned respect to get something but genuine respect from just being human.
  3. Appreciation: Each person wants to hear affirmative words, whether from one’s father, uncle, or spouse.
  4. Success: The man or woman in the mirror is determined and looks within to see what is the desire of his or her heart. Each of us needs to define what is my success, not live by the definition of someone else.
  5. Safety: Each person wants to live in safety, not in a stressful “fight or flight” situation of constant fear.
  6. Romance: Each person desires real romance, and not necessarily with another person. A walk among nature can be “romantic” to an individual; it means to take a break, take time away from stress to re-group and re-energize.
  7. Inspiration: We all need to be inspired; this doesn’t mean motivation, which has a negative connotation. Inspiration is positive and fills us with energy. He confided, “Recently I did my first marathon, 26.2 miles, inspired by a friend. I call it ‘Fat guys run too!’”

In conclusion, he said, “Hurting people hurt people. Be always mindful of our inner voice and try to be at peace within ourselves.”

The final speaker of the day was Mr. Thomas P. McDevitt, the president of UPF International and the chair of The Washington Times, who responded to a question about a vision for the future: What strategies can be developed to transform structures of violence into structures of sustainability and peace?

He began by saying, “Having vision and strategy is very important to my life and work.” He commented, “This is a sacred space, with the presence of these five great people and their words they have spoken.” He commended the organizers for making a remarkable program and said, “We should hold this kind of meeting in each county, town and area.” He also said we should identify important strategies, of which this meeting was one.

Mr. McDevitt reported on another great strategy, the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP), which was founded by Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, the co-founder of UPF and The Washington Times. Gathering parliamentarians together in dialogue promotes the exchange of many good strategies and good insights, he said. The next IAPP conference will be held in Africa. He stated that four points are necessary:

  1. People need to congregate, meet with each other and discuss important contents.
  2. Thought leadership is needed, training is necessary and growth will follow; we need to get the content out to the greater society.
  3. Collaboration is essential. We make a mistake thinking that government is the only solution. It is needed, but we also need input from the media, faith communities, the corporate world and private groups.
  4. Vision is needed. Strategy supports both a vision and a goal. We need a common vision to work together for peace. He stressed mind-body unity and the motto “Peace Starts with Me.”

Mr. McDevitt said it is also essential to support and focus on the family. The family is where important values can be learned.

He praised the speech given by “Mother Moon” in December 2016 to U.S. senators and congressmen in the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building. Dr. Moon boldly started her comments by saying: “Human beings alone cannot solve the problems of the world. We need God’s guidance to solve the horrific problems of the world.” Mr. McDevitt urged the group to find “like-minded people in your own ZIP Code to create a group to work with.”

A lively question-and-answer session showed that the members of the audience not only were moved by the speakers’ comments but also wanted to know “what is next?” One answer came from Mr. McDevitt, who said, “Let’s do this again—county by county, city by city, village by village. I will assist in this process.”

An Ambassador for Peace appointment ceremony followed, led by Susan Fefferman, the UPF Ambassadors for Peace project manager, and Mrs. Duggan. Ms. Jennifer Gray, Ms. Nadia Hassan, and Bishop Keith Allen and his wife, Paulette Allen, all were appointed Ambassadors for Peace.

Mr. Steven McAdams, the executive director for the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives, thanked the participants for attending and encouraged them to work together with the state Office of Community Initiatives. Much conversation and the exchange of many business cards followed the invigorating program.

Ms. Jennifer Gray loved the podium sign, “Peace Starts with Me,” so much that she requested that UPF leave it with her. She said the sign “will be placed on my office door from now on.”

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