International Symposium Keynote Address
Rev. Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak|
December 21, 2003
Your Excellencies. Respected Leaders. Thank you for attending this International Symposium on "Considering the Root Causes of Conflict and Forging a Path to Lasting Peace." This Symposium is one component of the Middle East Peace Initiative, a project of the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace and the Interreligious and International Peace Council.
Thank you for taking time and bringing your experience, your wisdom, and your good heart to the table, and for joining in this noble and challenging effort to contribute to peace in the Middle East.
We are all aware of the critical moment at which we stand in world history. The world is at a turning point. This is not a slogan. It is a reality. We cannot sit as idle spectators, watching history unfold. Neither can we stand as obstacles to peace. We must take action which is rooted in wisdom, principle, and most of all, rooted in God's true love.
God is the origin of all things, and He is the source of the absolute values according to which we should live. If we are to address and solve the most critical and most difficult problems in our world, we need to understand and connect, vertically, to God's truth and God's heart.
Throughout history, God has expressed Himself, or revealed himself through persons such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammad, and, in turn, religions developed centering on the insight, truths and principles that were revealed to these prophets. Religions have centered on their founders' teachings and lifestyles, and have offered a path to ultimate truth, salvation, and enlightenment. While truth and knowledge of our physical universe can be gained through intellectual inquiry, through science and philosophy, it is religion that has brought to us knowledge of the supreme truths of moral and spiritual reality.
In principle, of course, the religions, expressed through the lives of their believers, are the centers of the wisdom, goodness and harmony we know to be rooted in God. As we all know, however, the reality is often quite different. Without wise leadership and guidance, religious truths are often distorted and corrupted by human passions and points of view. The loyal appreciation for God's sacred word can be misapplied as narrow-mindedness that disrespects those who hold different views. The passion for righteousness can be misapplied as an attitude that is judgmental or intolerant of others. Too often the wide, embracing vision and heart of the founder of a religion is converted into the narrow, sectarian vision of the believer. For this reason, the history of religion is marked by frequent disputes, quarrels, and, as we all know, violence and conflict.
This is a very, very serious situation. The responsibility of religion and believers is great. God reveals Himself to a prophet at a given time and place in order that others can listen and learn from the prophet and, centering on the revealed word, form communities of believers that exemplify the love and goodness of God. God's purpose is never to simply show preference or privilege of one group over another. God's purpose for any revelation and for any religion is to guide human beings so that the world can be restored according to God's original ideal.
Religion was never intended as a vehicle for a chosen few to enjoy personal benefit while others suffer. Religion, as an expression of God's will, always seeks to benefit the whole world. It does not exist for the sake of any special person, people, race or nationality.
For the history of our sins and mistakes, especially for having hurt, offended or mistreated others, all believers should repent, for themselves, for their fellow believers, and for their ancestors.
God's original ideal is to establish one worldwide family of true love and universal peace, a world in which all people live together in harmony, in shared prosperity, and in joy. The foundation for such a world is the absolute value of God's true love, which is none other that the practice of living for the sake of others. True love is not characterized by selfishness. When this principle is applied in all our relationships-----the family, the society, the workplace, the nation, etc.-----the outcome is creativity, productivity and happiness. When this principle is violated, everyone suffers. This is the sad reality today, and throughout most of human history.
Ultimately, our foundation for peace lies beyond even religion itself. God's original ideal of creation did not anticipate the need for religion. God's purpose and hope in creating the universe and Adam and Eve, was that they would grow to fulfill His ideal of true love, becoming a couple united in true love, and producing children as offspring expressing the true love of God. Had they fulfilled their responsibility there would have been no need for religion, for human beings would not have lost their connection to the direct lineage and heart of God.
Religion is God's way of guiding us to recover or restore that original ideal of true love and joy. Restoration of what was lost by human failure is not an easy task, but it is our responsibility. In this respect, we must think even beyond our religions, and look to God's original ideal, that is, the world that God hoped for prior to the Fall of Man.
The absolute and original God of true love cannot be confined or fully expressed through any set of religious doctrines. God's infinite heart and character extends beyond the reach of doctrine. Moreover, although all religions have rituals which help us draw closer to the original being, God is concerned above all with the quality of our relationships with Him and with our fellow brothers and sisters, and much less with the ritual itself. In particular, throughout the history of religion, many man-made elements have been introduced and adopted within religious practices, and often for reasons that are unrelated to God's original inspiration or revelation. In this respect, within the history of all religions, there have been imperfections, and some corruption of the original ideal. For these reasons, we must develop the capacity to think beyond religion. This is very important and necessary at this "turning point" of human history.
God is the source of love and peace. By embracing a narrow vision of God, believers sometimes become agents of misunderstanding and conflict.
Each believer should reflect on the heart and vision of the founder of their religion, considering the founder's lifestyle, universal vision and teachings. If we sincerely and humbly reflect in this way, we will see how distant we've grown in relation to the heart and will of God, and in relation to the spirit and life of the founder.
If we analyze the problems of the Middle East, we see that weaknesses on all sides have contributed to the conflict. If we can recognize this point, we can genuinely move toward healing and reconciliation. This will promote interreligious harmony and cooperation that can serve as the foundation of a true and lasting peace. While the political process is necessary, it alone cannot solve or address the deeply rooted dimensions of the problem. These deeper dimensions have to do with the broken hearts and spirits that have been the outcome of years of violation and suffering. Only religion can address and call us to move beyond the pain and suffering of our experience and toward the realm of true love.
Despite good intentions, brilliant theories and ideas, and despite expenditure of resources and tireless diplomatic efforts, the problems persist. And this is true not only in the Middle East, but throughout our world.
This is precisely why the IIFWP has been so dedicated to promoting Rev. Moon's proposal for an interreligious council to be established at the United Nations.
The IIFWP was itself established only four years ago, in 1999, but it's roots are long and deep, going back more than 50 years. At that time, the Rev. Moon was all alone in presenting his vision. This was a time in Korea following the long years of Japanese colonial rule, from 1905-1945, and after the devastating Korean War of the mid-century. Korea was truly in a most miserable situation at this time, and the Unification Church was no different. There was no money and no foundation of support from among the people. This movement started in the most humble of circumstances, and was built on sacrifice and hard work.
Even as his movement developed under these difficult circumstances, Rev. Moon never focused on the success or prosperity of his own church. He consistently spent more resources, in fact at least three times, and sometimes even ten times as much, on interdenominational and interreligious activities, as he spent for his own church's operating budget. Year after year, for more than 40 years, with unwavering determination, he has continued this tradition. At times, even his own followers have complained about this.
In the last century, Korea was a fertile ground for many missionary movements, especially Christian denominations coming from America and Europe. However, these various denominations often quarreled and were in competition with one another. This was the sad reality. Rev. Moon started interdenominational and interreligious activity to promote harmony and cooperation among these groups. But at that time, few people understood interreligious cooperation as either important or valuable. Many of the Christian movements were very strict, and forbid their followers to engage in such constructive dialogue. They were not allowed to attend services of other Christian groups, much less those of other non-Christian groups. In fact, such activity was often called satanic. Those who participated were shunned.
This was the very difficult environment in which Rev. Moon began his interreligious and interdenominational work. And, yet, despite widespread misunderstanding and persecution, he has developed a truly amazing worldwide foundation. This has not been easy or simple. The foundation has been build on blood, sweat and tears. And, more than the incredible financial sacrifices that have been made, at a deeper level the acts of loving the enemy have been more dramatic and profound. These are the true acts of peace. Regardless of the persecution he faced or the unjust and false accusations and rumors that came from those who opposed his vision, he always practiced incredible discipline of heart and mind. He has been always patient, even in the face of ridiculous and outrageous attack. Always he embraced people, and applied his core principle of living for the sake of others.
Given the hostile circumstances he faced, how could he continue and eventually succeed? Most of all, this is because he realized God's heart and desire. He understood the original ideal of God for human beings and all the creation. He understood God's heart of hope that his children, initially Adam and Eve, would fully inherit his heart of love, and pass this on from generation to generation. The Fall did not affect the physical laws or natural laws of the universe. The sun continued to shine. The water and food supply from nature, the temperature, and resources were unchanged. What changed was the heart of man and woman. The corruption of love is what occurred. This is what must be restored.
For this reason, Rev. Moon practiced love toward the Japanese who had committed incredible atrocities for decades. For this reason, he went to meet Kim Il Sung, the Korean dictator who tried to have Rev. Moon assassinated and who was responsible for the death of so many millions of Koreans.
Since the Fall, God has worked through religion to try to correct the results of the Fall and to restore human beings so that we may fulfill God's original ideal. Religion's value is in inspiring human beings to live an exemplary life, a sacrificial life, a life where we even love our enemies. Religion is not an end in itself. It does not exist for its own sake, but for the establishment of God's kingdom.
Rev. Moon realized that the founders of the world's religions were never narrow-minded or self-centered. Their vision was always broad. They all related to God as the ultimate origin.
He always teaches that religions share many common teachings and principles. The points of agreement are much greater than the points of difference and uniqueness. Therefore, we should always emphasize what we hold in common. In this way we can achieve cooperation and harmony.
God has worked his providence through a line that leads from Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, a line that has three primary religious expressions today, in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As we know, these religious traditions have a common root in the faith, love, life and lineage of Abraham. The three religions share a common ancestry. The three are brothers.
For the sake of world peace, the three Abrahamic religions must unite and cooperate for peace. This is a central prerequisite for peace. The enmity and disunity among Judaism, Christianity and Islam is an historic scandal and brings sadness to heaven and to our ancestors and to the prophets who taught only the peace and love of God. Disharmony only prevents peace from being achieved. It prolongs suffering and contributes to unnecessary bloodshed.
If unity among Christians, Jews and Muslims, for the sake of peace in the Middle East can be achieved, it will have a dramatic effect on world events. If representatives of these great traditions can practice true love and the love of enemies, there is hope of breaking the cycle of violence, not only in the Middle East, but also around the world.
On the other hand, if the leadership of these three traditions do not rise and go beyond current attitudes and practices, it will not be possible to achieve peace. As we can see today, the cost of not changing our ways is unacceptable.
Korea stands distant from the birthplace of the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. During the early years of Rev. Moon's ministry there were neither Muslims nor Jews in Korea. And yet he had the deepest awareness of the painful history of the holy land. Most of all, he understood God's heart and His providence to establish peace. For nearly forty years, Rev. Moon has devoted himself to promoting peace in the Middle East, especially by encouraging dialogue, respect and cooperation among religious leaders and believers.
Through the founders and the scriptures of our world's religions, we know that God seeks peace and harmony. But God does not place his primary hope in external proposals or treaties. God knows that the most brilliant, reasonable and legitimate proposals will never take root if they are unrelated to the grass roots or set apart from the heart, the will, and consciousness of the people. For this reason, proposals alone are not enough. On their own, they cannot touch or move the hearts, stimulate the will, transform the minds, or motivate the actions of large numbers of people. Such a transformation requires other strategies and practices.
God's desire and eternal longing is for one worldwide family of true love, where all His children live together in mutual respect, harmony and cooperation: one world under God. The era of interreligious conflict and disharmony must come to an end, just as the quarrels among nations must come to an end. In this respect, all religions and all nations should repent for past mistakes, and make a new determination for peace.
We must have both international concord and interreligious concord. And more than concord, we must achieve love and the warm fellow-feeling that characterizes familial bonds.
As technology, communications, transportation, and international trade develop, unification will occur more and more around the world. We see evidence of this in the increasing tendency toward regional cooperation, for example, in the development of the European Union. This trend will continue.
In a global age, and at a time when conditions of life are transparent to everyone, it is unrealistic for developed nations to think they can continue to prosper in isolation from teeming masses that suffer from disease, famine and poverty.
I sincerely believe that as we unite with and practice this vision to true love, we will start a new movement that will bring peace not only to the Middle East, but to the world.
This is the vision and purpose of the Interreligious and International Peace Council (IIPC). When we say that the IIPC is a "Peace UN," we mean that there needs to be an international organization that truly embodies a sacrificial commitment to peace. True peace is not simply the cessation of conflict and violence. True peace describes the quality of all human relationships, relationship that should be characterized by respect, appreciation, harmony, cooperation and mutual prosperity. This vision looks toward the establishment of a world of true and lasting peace, a world we may call the Peace Kingdom, or the Kingdom of God. It is a realm of universal true love. This ideal beats within the heart of every human being.
It is actually religious leaders, and particularly Jews, Christians, and Muslims who should step forward, arm in arm, to realize the Peace Kingdom at this time. Let religious leaders form a Peace UN. Let religious leaders of courage stand up and become volunteers of a Peace UN... let us form a new peace corps that will lead the way. Let us form a movement for peace, and lead a true love revolution for peace.
I sincerely ask that we consider this point. What alternative do we have? Are we serious about peace? God's heart is aching. Human beings are dying. Lives are being wasted. Let us be the leaders the world needs at this time.
Thank you and God bless you.
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