Seoul, Korea—Approximately 400 leaders from 60 nations attended an Interreligious Leadership Conference from 10 to 13 November, 2017, which saw the formation of a new international association of religious leaders dedicated to bringing world peace, the Interreligious Association for Peace and Development (IAPD).
On the second day of the Conference, all of the delegates were invited to join a rally calling for the peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula held at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, where the keynote speaker was UPF co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon. Monsignor Jacques Gaillot, the titular bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Partenia, France, and Rabbi Kevin De-Carli from Baden, Switzerland were among the religious leaders who offered prayers for peace during this gathering.
A number of religious leaders from Europe intervened in this conference, including:
Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooke, the joint president of the World Congress of Faiths, United Kingdom, said: “For real change to happen, people of faith have had to relate to those who wield political and economic power, and to educationalists, and to those who work in the media. We need a shift of consciousness, where the welfare of others is our priority. As Jesus said, ‘You cannot serve God and money.’ Gandhi said, ‘The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.' Many people around the world are praying for peace on the Korean Peninsula, and may that day soon come,” he said.
Ambassador Jakob Finci, the president of the Jewish community of Bosnia-Herzegovina, spoke about the situation in his country. For the last 500 years the area was considered a religious paradise, but unfortunately in the 1990s, with the collapse of socialism and the breakup of Yugoslavia, “our world fell apart.” The war in Bosnia was not a religious one, he said, but was misused by the political leaders. Since the signing in 1995 of the Dayton Accords, which ended the conflict, the Inter-Religious Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina has encouraged greater tolerance and integration of the faiths. He described the council as a meeting point for religious leaders and said, “Diversity is something that exists, and we accept that it exists.”
Monsignor Jacques Gaillot, the titular bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Partenia, France, spoke about his experience at the previous day’s Peace Rally. The monsignor was one of the religious leaders who opened the program with prayer. At one point the ten religious leaders were holding hands on the stage. “We were 10 men, all representing different faiths, different countries, different prayers, and yet we were united. Like a flower on a garland, each is a separate flower but together more beautiful,” he said.
He made three observations. First, no one has the truth—no group, no religion, no church. We are “seekers after God,” as St. Augustin said. Second, we should not accept injustice. As the Jewish prophet Isaiah said, “Then your light will appear like the dawn.” The monsignor said, “You will be a blessing if you fight injustices.” Third, always pursue the way of nonviolence and “be bridges to the vulnerable, the excluded and the unwanted.”
Dr. Elmar Kuhn, the dean of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, Austria, spoke on the topic “Fields of Hope and How to Overcome the Dead Ends of Dialogue.” Despite many high-level conferences of interfaith leaders, peace remains an elusive goal, he said. He highlighted two recent programs held in Lugano, Switzerland, and Rome, Italy, which emphasized the gap between religious values and civil society policy. “There is a gap that separates policy from value-driven action for the common good,” Dr. Kuhn said.
He defined four fields of action that go beyond dialogue. First, religion brings spirituality and personal benefit by linking every person to the almighty God. Second, religion can contribute values to society. Third, it is the responsibility of religion to educate and inculcate religious values in the hearts of our children. Fourth, religion can deal with Europe’s problem of migration. The integration of migrants and refugees is not only a political task; religious leaders also must participate. Dr. Kuhn concluded by thanking UPF co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon for organizing the Peace Rally that had taken place the day before and for the invitation to the IRLC. He urged the audience, “Go into our society and share the message that we are children of God.”
Rev. Dr. William A. McComish, dean emeritus, Geneva St. Peter’s Cathedral, Switzerland, reported on the Geneva Spiritual Appeal, of which he is an author. The appeal declares: “Religion should never be used to justify violence, exclusion, discrimination, or exploitation.” It was developed in 1999 by a group of international religious and political leaders, including Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim spiritual leaders and the president of the Red Cross, U.N. High Commissioners for Human Rights and for Refugees, and the general director of the World Health Organization. The appeal calls for the following three principles: first, a refusal to invoke a religious or spiritual power to justify violence of any kind; second, a refusal to invoke a religious or spiritual source to justify discrimination and exclusion; and third, a refusal to exploit or dominate others by means of strength, intellectual capacity or spiritual persuasion, wealth or social status.
Archimandrite Vladimir Milovic of the diocese Budimlje-Niksic, Serbian Orthodox Church, Montenegro, said, “The critical question is how we can make sure that the fundamental values that should guide the political processes in the world — respect for human dignity, peace, justice, freedom, tolerance, participation, solidarity, and sustainability — can be maintained in times of change. No compromises can be made concerning these basic values. Even if policy choices may differ, our unity should be rooted in these values.”
He referenced the interfaith document Initiative on Shared Wisdom (ISW)–Thought and Action for a Sustainable Future, which insists that “a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities that would stand beside the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” is an unconditional necessity for a just, peaceful and sustainable world. The archimandrite comes from Montenegro, a country with “a tradition of a multi-confessional society, where three major religious traditions (Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and Islam) have been intertwined and have coexisted for centuries.” Learning about differences and how to understand them “deepens the understanding of one’s religious beliefs and mutual respect,” he said.
Dr. Sheikh Hojjat Ramzy, the director of the Oxford Islamic Information Centre in the United Kingdom (Sunni Islam), who described some of the world’s problems, including pollution and war. “Humans are killing each other on a scale never seen before,” Dr. Ramzy said. “It is time to go back to the Scripture and discover the verses of peace that have been ignored.” He called for the participants and all religious leaders to work together to protect life, because all life is sacred.
A Resolution was read and unanimously affirmed to launch the Interreligious Association for Peace and Development:
Resolution at the launch of the Interreligious Association for Peace and Development
Monsignor Jacques Gaillot and Rabbi Kevin De-Carli at the Prayer Ceremony at the rally calling for the peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula held at the Seoul World Cup Stadium.