When I traveled to Seoul for the World Assembly of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) in 2006, I was inspired by an immense curiosity about what I considered to be a world-level work being undertaken by Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his wife, supported by their children and grandchildren. This goal is the preservation of our most fundamental values as social beings, whose primary and most essential roots are the family and its integration with the community and nation to accomplish the fundamental goal of world peace.
Excited at the opportunity to come to know the main actors in such a wonderful project, I listened to Father Moon’s speech. Sitting among people from many different religions and creeds, I understood that the message of faith, higher religious concepts and religious philosophical understanding expressed by Father Moon was the same one that guides the traditional Christian churches, as it does others that have the same foundations but use different names.
His message upholds the same concepts and words of Jesus; it is just the presentation that is different. I understood that this man dedicated part of his life to studying and comparing the biblical and post-biblical texts, drawing together the threads of religious history from the time of Jesus Christ until the present in order to express, with such ease, the philosophy of the word of God; this is what makes him so special. Father Moon has been called to mould into a single line of thought the whole message of the Bible for the greater edification of the religious traditions of the peoples of the world.
This thought can be communicated beyond national borders to people of other religions, races and colors. This message is really the word of God. It calls for the consolidation of the most fundamental values that allow people to become better and to fulfill what the commandments require of us as good Christians.
I felt much admiration for Father Moon, his message and his words. This was more than a speech; it was the expression of the feelings of a man fuelled by an inner power.
I had the immense privilege to be by his side, as well as next to his wife, when I came to the stage to confer upon him the honorary doctorate degree on behalf of the University of Santa María, of which I am vice-rector, in Caracas, Venezuela. I had the privilege to give him the parchment scroll accrediting him as a Doctor of Law.
While pinning on him the medal, a special moment occurred, the memory of which will never leave me. When I was in front of Father Moon, dressed in my gown and mortarboard, on my chest were the many medals and ribbons that I have obtained throughout thirty years of undergraduate and graduate teaching. Father Moon smiled at me and said, "You have many medals on your chest," to which I replied, "Although you may not have them at this time on your gown, I am very sure that you have medals on your chest which are more numerous and more deserved than mine." This comment delighted him.
Independent of the religious and theological aspects, one point deserves special attention. This is the theme of world peace and what the UPF is doing to re-establish common interests among warring peoples. I have arrived at a great conclusion.
There are, on our planet, organizations promoting the escalation of crises between peoples to the point of war, there are men perfecting the techniques of war in order to control more people, and there are corporations constructing ever more sophisticated weapons to assure the accomplishment of the goals of each conflict. Yet, on a worldwide level, there are very few initiatives coming from public organizations and from NGOs to counteract the advancement of hatred and wars between peoples. We observe with sadness that while diplomats from organizations such as the Organization of American States and the United Nations pretend to live a life of brotherhood and unity among the nations, their behaviors show them to be Pharisees and hypocrites. The nature of the game is that the mask of harmony among colleagues is quickly cast aside when national and other interests are threatened, and people quickly become bitter and distant enemies.
Because of this, organizations such as the Universal Peace Federation should be widely recognized for the work that they are doing around the planet. UPF’s objectives are very clear: the peaceful coexistence and equality of peoples and nations. I believe that what the UPF is doing deserves the respect of all the inhabitants of this planet. If some day, as Father Moon says, we can live the dream of beginning a trip from Patagonia, at the tip of South America, and then travel without being hindered by borders to the eastern hemisphere of this planet, all of us and our children will happily understand that the work of mankind is not to destroy but to build up.
If people in this world can give everything to ensure that human beings can live in peace with their neighbors and if governments can give more to those who have less without taking from them what they have earned, then the principles of true social justice will operate for the benefit of all peoples, promoting better relationships among everyone and the larger common interests. Hopefully, this will be so.
As an academic, I think one of the quickest ways to achieve coexistence, besides the work being done by the UPF, is to create a faculty of peace in institutions of higher education. In all nations, it should be obligatory to teach people how to promote peace and avoid war. We should sow in the developing minds of our youth the most fundamental principles of peace and coexistence: that harmony begins with ourselves and then expands to our families, our communities and the nations of the world.
Perhaps some day we may understand that there need not be another world war which will destroy mankind and all we have done, but that we will become the guardians of our own security and establish a new international order. When we can understand that this is possible, I am sure that the spirit of cooperation, humanitarian aid and selfless giving will rise within the people of the world and flow beyond the borders that divide nations. When the banner of peace becomes the standard that identifies nations and when the interests of each nation become the common interests of all mankind, then we will be able to say that the battle has been won.
Someone said that the third world war may be fought over water. Why don’t we begin working now to avoid this, so that nations will not need to invade others to secure supplies of water? Why don’t we encourage the stewardship of productive and healthy forests instead of destroying them? These are things we should be doing now, because tomorrow is today. Because mankind has been destroying its own habitat, when we no longer have the natural resources to assure our survival, war will break out. This we must avoid.
Hopefully, my reflections about what we can do to bequeath the work of UPF to future generations, far from wounding sensitivities or creating unattainable expectations, will arouse our conscience about what should be done. If this comes to pass, I will feel deeply proud.