Address to Interreligious Leadership Conference 2017, Seoul, Korea, November 10-14, 2017
First, may I express my gratitude to you, Mrs. Moon, for your inspiring words and for your life-time dedication, with the much revered Rev. Dr. Moon, to the search for peace and interfaith cooperation. It is a pleasure to be with you again. My thanks, also, to all those who have shared in this work through the organizations you have founded.
Some 50 years ago, as a student, I went to help at a leprosy clinic in South India with fellow students, one of whom was a Muslim from India and another, a Roman Catholic from Sri Lanka. The doctor, wearing a simple dhoti, was a devout Hindu. As I washed the deformed feet of some patients I had a dream of people of all faiths and with good will coming together to heal the wounded, to feed the hungry and to work for peace. It is a dream to which, with unfailing support from my wife Mary, I have devoted much of my life.
For the dream to come true, people of faith have had to get to know each other, apologize for and forgive past bitterness, and learn to serve God not only in holy buildings but also in the refugee camps. Jesus himself washed his disciples’ feet and said that what we do for those in need we do for him.
There has been real progress, even if still there are those who blaspheme God’s name by using it to justify murder. For real change to happen, people of faith have had to relate to those who wield political and economic power, to educators 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, “There is enough for each person’s need, but not each person’s greed.”
Fifty years ago I was active in the Freedom from Hunger Campaign and, in our innocence, we really believed that there could be a world in which no one was hungry. My wife was secretary of the Cambridge World Refugee Year Committee. Naïvely, we hoped that homelessness and refugee camps could be put in history’s garbage bin.
Yet, the dream was not so idealistic as it may seem—if the wealth and human energy expended on war had been devoted to the war on want; if we had made room in our hearts and homes for the homeless; if we had remembered that those who threaten us are, like us, “children of God,” even if they do not know it.
So I appeal to those of you who are young and have your life ahead of you: Do not abandon your dream or give up hope. However little we achieve, we and the world are the better for our efforts.
I first came to South Korea for a peace conference some 30 years ago. I regularly pray for peace and reconciliation in Korea, as I do for the people of the Holy Land and elsewhere. I am sure God hears our prayers and shares our longing, but like a good parent, God will not do for us what we should learn to do for ourselves. So I hope Koreans who live in this beautiful country know that around the world people are praying for peace on the Korean Peninsula, and may that day soon come.