CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Speakers at Washington DC Conference Pass on the Dream of Peace
Written by Joy Pople
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Inheriting and carrying forward the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and educating people for peace through the media, schools and at home were the dominant themes of the opening plenary of the International Leadership Conference in Washington, DC, on May 15, 2007.
"Education means learning knowledge, learning to be, and learning to live together," said the president of the UNESCO general conference, H.E. Dr. Musa Bin Jaafar Bin Hassan. "It is a universal duty to teach our children that others who belong to other cultures are people just like them, and have their own share of knowledge and culture." The Oman diplomat stressed the crucial role of the media in promoting peace, "facilitating dialogue between different groups of people" and being, in the words of Russian author, "a clarion of peace."
Dr. Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, spoke of the need for religious people to work together to overcome attempts to wipe out ethnic groups. "Genocide is a spiritual problem," he says, "because it denies the oneness of the human family." He envisions churches, synagogues and temples leading the way in overcoming genocide because of their capacity to reach people at a deep level. "Can you imagine what would have happened in Rwanda if the Roman Catholic church and other churches had stood firmly against the genocide?" he asked. He called religious communities to promote dialogue and mutual trust, demand international intervention and protect victims.
Hon. Jean Augustine, former Member of Parliament of Canada born in Grenada, paid tribute to Dr. King as her mentor and quoted her grandmother saying, "If each of us cleaned the spot where we are, the world would be a clean place." She spoke about the need for more international cooperation, bringing together experts in different fields and opening doors for them to make this world a place of peace, comfort and happiness. She emphasized the role of women and the need for countries such as Canada to open the way for immigrants from other countries to contribute to their fullest potential.
(Martin Luther King III was scheduled to speak at the conference but withdrew because of the unexpected death of his sister Yolanda. Throughout the day, a number of speakers referred to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and expressed how much his legacy meant to them.)
Dr. Ernest Shonekan, former head of state of Nigeria, said, "I believe that by promoting the universal values of family, faith and harmony, along with prosperity and partnership, we can bring together the human family so the world will be a better place for each person." Who is responsible for bringing peace? he asked. Peace "begins in a happy, healthy family raising happy, healthy children who will go forth to promote peace."
The education Hon. Henry Lozano received in his family motivates him to work for peace. He paid tribute to his Native American Apache mother, who raised him to transmit to others the "smile of the generations of his family's soul" and "to do what is right in honor and integrity." Looking around the room filled with people from more than 80 nations, the US presidential appointee to the board of the Corporation for National and Community Services concluded, "Your mother, your father, your grandparents, your children are mine to give a smile to, mine to be a leader for, mine to do good for, and mine to stand beside."
"This is an example of the antidote to genocide of which Dr. Stanton spoke," commented session moderator Dr. Thomas G. Walsh, secretary general of the Universal Peace Federation. The May 15-18 conference is jointly sponsored by the Universal Peace Federation and The Washington Times Foundation, both founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
"Diplomacy via religion" was the topic of the founder of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, Dr. Douglas M. Johnston. "The West has little ability to deal with differences in religion in a hostile setting," he said. He attributed this to the exclusion of religion from the political calculus in the US and suggested faith-based diplomacy as the way to bridge this gap, capitalizing on the ability of religious leaders and institutions to build trust and transcend differences.
He described what his center has been doing in Pakistan through the madrasas, the religious schools, that gave birth to the Taliban. Centuries ago, Western exposure to Islamic religious schools stimulated the founding of western universities, and Dr. Johnston keeps reminding the Pakistanis of Islam's contribution to world civilization. However, the madrasas these days tend to focus on rote memorization of the Qur'an and Islamic principles. Dr. Johnston described how his center is involving local leaders in expanding the curriculum to include physical and social sciences as well as teaching young people critical thinking skills.
Two weeks earlier, Dr. Johnston met with senior Taliban and tribal leaders to discuss ways to advance peace based on shared religious values. "The best antidote to bad theology is good theology," he concluded. "To incorporate religion in addressing intractable conflict is not without difficulties and risks. In every conflict, there are vested interests in making sure the conflict continues. Regardless, the stakes are too high to ignore the challenge. Only time will tell whether we are up to it."
Dr. Hyun Jin Moon linked the interreligious and international focus of the conference with the theme of one family under God. "This dream is not the monopoly of one person, but the dream of humanity," he said.
"White and black, Christian and Jew—if we can look at each other as brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, under one God, how can there be conflict?" Dr. Moon asked. Immigrating to the US as a young child, he learned about the American dream in school. "But to me it was not an economic or political dream; it was a spiritual dream."
He referred to the early American colonies consisting of disparate groups who created a multi-faith nation, based on freedom of religion. "Re-establishing this interfaith vision can be the guiding light in this time of concerns about terror," he added. "There is one God, and America can re-find its soul as a God-centered family." Echoing his father, he said, "I believe this nation has a providential role to play in this new century, if we can bring the message of one family under God to the Pacific Rim area, where three-quarters of the world's population lives."
At the close of the opening plenary, Dr. Bin Hassan awarded UNESCO medals to Hyun Jin Moon and his wife Jun Sook and to Hon. Henry Lozano.
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