The first virtual International Leadership Conference (ILC) organized by UPF of Africa and Europe & the Middle East began with world leaders greeting participants at an Opening Plenary.
The online conference, which was held from September 11 to 13, 2020, was one of three concurrent ILCs, with the other two organized by UPF of Asia and the Pacific and UPF of the Americas. All three ILCs were held under the title “Opportunity and Hope at a Time of Global Crisis: Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity and Universal Values.”
The Opening Plenary, held on September 11, was titled “The World in Crisis—New Horizons for Relations between Africa and Europe.”
Mr. Jacques Marion, President, UPF Europe & Middle East, FranceMr. Marion is a French citizen, born in Cameroon. He has worked for twelve years with Unification Movement programs in Africa. Between 1998 and 2006, he worked in China as a vice president of the International Educational Foundation, based in Beijing. From 2006 to 2013 he served as Secretary General of UPF Eurasia, based in Moscow. He is currently the president of UPF Europe and the Middle East and president of UPF France.
Jacques Marion, the president of UPF for Europe and the Middle East, served as the moderator. As he opened the session, he reminded participants that this event was part of the yearlong celebrations marking the centenary of UPF co-founder Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon’s birth, as well as the 15th anniversary of the founding of UPF.
He announced that many thousands of people around the world were participating in the ILC, which was the result of close cooperation between UPF in Africa and UPF in Europe & the Middle East.
Bishop Mbayor Japheth Ndarchang, President, Arewa Pastors Forum for Peace, Nigeria
Bishop Dr. Mbayor Japheth Ndarchang is the President of the Arewa Pastors Forum for Peace, a coalition of pastors of various denominations in northern Nigeria. Their headquarters is in Asokoro, Abuja, Nigeria.
Mrs. Asmaa Kftarou, Women’s Advisory Board, UN Special Envoy, Syria
A native of Syria, Asmaa Kftaro is actively involved in interfaith work. She is working with the UN as a consultant on Gender Equality. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Islamic studies from the Daawa college in Damascus (2004). She established the Syrian Islamic Forum to work in civil society for women's and children's rights, the empowerment of women and the promotion of the language of dialogue and peace in Damascus. She is the granddaughter of Sheikh Ahmad Kftaro, the late grand Mufti of Syria. She is living in UAE.
Explaining that the tradition of the ILCs is to begin with prayer, Mr. Marion invited two faith leaders to offer an interfaith invocation. The first, representing Christianity, was Bishop Mbayor Japheth Ndarchang from Nigeria, the founder and national president of the Arewa Pastors Forum for Peace. The second, representing Islam, was Mrs. Asmaa Kftarou from Syria, a United Nations consultant on gender equality and the granddaughter of Sheikh Ahmed Kftarou, the late grand mufti of Syria.
Welcoming remarks were offered by Dr. Katsumi Otsuka, the chairman of UPF of Europe and the Middle East, and Dr. Katherine Rigney, the chairwoman of UPF of Africa.
Dr. Katsumi Otsuka, Chair, UPF Europe & Middle East
A citizen of Japan, Dr. Otsuka graduated from Kanazawa University and from the Unification Theological Seminary in the United States. As president of the student movement World-CARP Japan, he organized world conventions and initiated solidarity meetings among students and youth from Japan, Korea, Russia and China in the 1980s and 1990s. He served as president of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification in Japan, as president of the Corporation for Building the Japan-Korea Tunnel, and as the leader of numerous organizations, focusing on the reunification of the Korean Peninsula. He is currently the Chair of the Universal Peace Federation in Europe and the Middle East.
Dr. Otsuka said that because the UPF founders experienced the Korean War and also life as refugees, they were motivated to dedicate their lives to bringing peace to humanity.
Dr. Kathy Rigney, Chair, UPF Africa
Dr. Kathy Rigney serves as the Chair of UPF-Africa. She was sent by Rev. Sun Myung Moon to West Africa in 1975 and has devoted most of her life since then to the people of Africa. Her prime activity is to teach the peacebuilding principles of UPF, and offer a new vision for peace and human development. She received an honorary doctorate degree from the New Covenant International University and Theological Seminary, USA honoring her work for a culture of peace, universal values, character education, and service to humanity.
After conveying greetings and thanks to the participants from UPF co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, Dr. Rigney said, “This online conference ILC 2020 will serve as a framework for a collective moral leap and the global mobilization of human consciousness in order to respond to Mother Moon’s urgent call and to support her many initiatives and programs.”
The session’s two keynote speakers were H.E. Goodluck Jonathan, the president of Nigeria (2010-2015), and Dr. Werner Fasslabend, the defense minister of Austria (1990-2000).
A third scheduled keynote speaker, H.E. Dioncounda Traoré, the president of Mali (2012-2013), was unable to attend the ILC because of unforeseen situations related to political turmoil in his nation. President Traoré apologized and promised to join the ILC next time.
H.E. Goodluck Jonathan, President (2010-2015) Nigeria
President Goodluck Jonathan is a renowned Nigerian politician who served as Vice President of the country from 2007 to 2010, and as President from 2010 to 2015. During his tenure as President, he worked tirelessly to strengthen the capacity of ECOWAS to respond to several challenges and personally led efforts that resolved the political crises in Côte d’lvoire, Niger, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Benin and Togo. He founded the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation (GJF) with a vision to strengthening democratic governance, consolidating peace and stability as well as promoting prosperity through youth empowerment in Africa. He is currently the Chair of the International Summit Council for Peace (ISCP).
H.E. Goodluck Jonathan, the former president of Nigeria and currently the chairman of the International Summit Council for Peace (ISCP), a UPF project, said, “There is no better time than now to look at opportunities in the time of global crisis.”
President Jonathan outlined some values that have been manifested during this COVID-19 period. He said these values give us hope for the future and should be pursued in the post-COVID era:
Sacrifice: Many people have shown their willingness to make sacrifices in the fight against the virus, in particular front-line health workers, many of whom lost their lives.
Solidarity: People of different colors, races and creeds have extended love to one another, offering food items, hygiene kits, medical equipment, and education on how to stay safe.
Capacity for organizing: People showed impressive organizing skills in moving needed items around the world.
Creative solutions: In the face of this deadly disease with no known vaccines, people have devised all manner of equipment to fight the virus and disinfect the environment. In Africa, many people have fought the disease on their own in their homes. Hotels, restaurants, places of worship and gyms have come up with homemade solutions to manage crowds while keeping people safe. “This speaks to the capacity to rise to any challenge,” President Jonathan said.
Identifying opportunities: Many people have used this period to discover opportunities for increasing their finances or their skill set. Online meetings are now common, such as Zoom conferences. There are many new online jobs.
Countries, too, have responded to the restrictions by focusing on local production and depending less on imports. However, he said, African nations need improved relations and closer economic cooperation with Europe.
President Jonathan urged European governments to relax stringent quality control conditions which are keeping African produce out of Europe. He also urged European manufacturers to set up cottage industries in Africa to process raw materials.
Most important, he said, is “the need for all countries to up their medical game.” The passing of our loved ones is painful and, in most cases, avoidable, he said. Therefore, the lessons we’ve learned can’t be wasted.
Africa and the world should rise from complacency and rise to challenges. “Never again should we get caught unprepared for any eventuality like COVID-19,” he said.
Dr. Werner Fasslabend, Minister of Defense (1990-2000), Austria
Dr. Werner Fasslabend was a Member of the Austrian Parliament between 1987 and 2006. From 1990 until 2000, he was the Federal Minister of Defense. From 2004 to 2015, he was the president of the Political Academy of the Austrian People's Party. Currently, he is president of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES).
Dr. Werner Fasslabend, the former Austrian defense minister (1990-2000) and currently the president of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said, “We all are suffering, and we all are trying very hard to get out of this situation and into normal life.”
He recalled that in 1950, when he was a small boy, the population of Europe was three times greater than that of Africa. Now, however, Africa’s population is twice as big as Europe’s, and by the end of the 21st century, it is predicted to be five or six times as big.
“This is such a challenge for everyone that we can hardly master it,” Dr. Fasslabend said. How can there be enough food, jobs, and living space for all those people? he asked.
In the past there have been very good agreements signed between Europe and Africa, he said, but the words on paper were much better than the actions that actually resulted.
“It is necessary to shape a new basis for cooperation between the two continents,” he said. Europe and Africa have so many things linking them, and working together would bring advantages to both continents.
We don’t need new agreements (“so many new papers”), he said, but rather the way to put the agreements into action. He recommended that we bring together the best young people with those who are older and experienced in order to work out effective programs.
“Economic growth is possible only on the basis of peace and stability, on the one hand, and good governance, on the other hand,” Dr. Fasslabend said. We should concentrate on three goals, he said: economic growth, peace and stability, and governance on the basis of rule of law.
Infrastructure should not exploit natural resources, he said. It should be the basis for economic development, able to provide enough jobs for young people.
After the two keynote speeches, Mr. Marion introduced a music video recorded at a concert in Budapest, Hungary, in which South African singer Lebo M sang “Circle of Life” from the film The Lion King.
This was followed by a video about the accomplishments of the Universal Peace Federation over the past 15 years. Following the founding of UPF in New York on September 12, 2005, Rev. and Mrs. Moon traveled around the world on a UPF inaugural tour in which they gave public talks and met many world leaders. The video showed the International Peace Highway and the founders’ vision for a renewed United Nations. It spoke about the more than 100,000 UPF Ambassadors for Peace, referring to them as “one global family under one God.” The video highlighted the UPF World Summits, which have brought together the highest level of leaders from around the world. It mentioned the establishment of six UPF associations dedicated to cooperation among the leaders of various fields. It ended by showing the first online Rally of Hope on August 9, 2020, with talks by Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon and prominent world leaders.
Mr. Marion thanked all those who have contributed to UPF’s accomplishments over the past 15 years. “This is only the beginning,” he said. “I think UPF has a great future.”
Dr. Thomas Walsh, Chairman, UPF International, President, World Peace Road Foundation, USA
Dr. Walsh is the Chairman of UPF International, Secretary General of the Sunhak Peace Prize Foundation and President of the World Peace Road Foundation. He has been a teacher, author, and editor specializing in the areas of interfaith, religious studies, peace studies, philosophy, and social theory. Dr. Walsh serves on the International Council of the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations and the International Coalition for Religious Freedom. He has contributed to and edited more than 30 books related to interfaith, peacebuilding and renewal of the United Nations. He is also the President of the World Peace Road Foundation.
In his Chairman’s Greetings, Dr. Thomas G. Walsh, the chairman of UPF International, referred to the three concurrent ILCs taking place in different regions of the world. Altogether the three conferences have over 30 sessions scheduled, with more than 200 panelists, he said.
He related that at World Summit 2020, held in Korea in February, UPF co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon “spoke of the need for the world community to reorient itself by moving away from exclusively materialistic and self-serving objectives toward spiritual, moral and other-serving objectives. Only in this way … will the world find its way through the challenges we face.”
Referring to our current times as “troubling, disturbing and tragic,” Dr. Walsh said: “Our goal with this ILC 2020 is to explore our way forward. We will consider how we might turn tragic circumstances into opportunities to correct some of our collective deformities and dysfunctions as humanity—extreme inequality, injustice, failures to take responsibility, corruption, disrespect for each other and for the environment. How can we build a better world, working together in a spirit of multilateral cooperation?”
He spoke at length about the ILC themes of interdependence, mutual prosperity and universal values. “These are the guiding principles of UPF, rooted in the vision of our founders,” he said.
Calling the growth and development of UPF over the past 15 years “nothing short of miraculous,” Dr. Walsh said: “It has a mighty wind at its back that derives from more than human effort, or human intelligence. You may call it a Zeitgeist or a Holy Spirit. But in any case, it is at play. We feel the guidance and the blessing of Heaven, and we pray that we can remain faithful to the founding vision, acting always in service to the world, to the ideal of creating a world of universal peace, one family under God.”
Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, Co-Founder, Universal Peace Federation
Dr. Moon, co-founder of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) and the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) was born in North Korea. As were many devout Christians, Dr. Moon’s family was persecuted by North Korean communists. In 1948, she and her mother fled their village for South Korea. Eventually reaching the South, they joined the newly founded Unification Church following the Korean War. Hak Ja Han married the church’s founder, the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon in 1960. Dr. Moon, together with her husband, has played an instrumental role in founding an array of religious, academic, educational, arts, and peace organizations working in more than 190 nations.
The Opening Plenary concluded with excerpts from the speech given by UPF co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon at the online Rally of Hope on August 9, 2020:
“Until now, human history has been a sad one of continuous conflict. Even now, around the world, conflicts are happening everywhere. Why is it that at this time it is difficult to see a future filled with hope? Originally the Creator had a dream. Heavenly Parent wished to realize the ideal of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth together with His beloved children. … [A]s long as Heavenly Parent remains the center of any community or family or society, all problems can be solved.
“However, in today’s world we can see that nationalism, selfishness are rampant. These are characteristics that are far from Heaven’s wish. Our earthly life is limited. How can we live a heavenly life while on this earth? The primary duty is to lead heavenly lives on this earth in preparation for the eternal life in the spirit world. …
“God the Creator is love, God is our Parent. The Parent cannot see the children dying and suffering. As a Parent, how painful must God’s heart be to see His beloved children suffer? We, from this moment—let us really repent on our knees for our shortcomings and really render glory unto Heaven.”