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.
It is a privilege to be with you today at the outset of this very important ILC2020 sponsored by the Universal Peace Federation. We have held many ILCs throughout the years, but this is our first virtual ILC.
This ILC is taking place across the globe, and concurrent programs are taking place in three geographic regions: the Asia Pacific, the Americas (North, South and Central and the Caribbean) and finally in Africa- Europe and the Middle East. There are, altogether more than 30 sessions, involving more than 200 panelists, including heads of state, women leaders, parliamentarians, religious leaders, media and business leaders and academicians.
In February of this year, we convened World Summit 2020, with several thousand distinguished leaders from 170 nations. At that time, our 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, she argued, will the world find its way through the challenges we face.
Her message was delivered before we learned of the impact that Covid-19 would have in exacerbating many of the world’s most serious challenges: climate change, poverty, social disorder, conflict, to mention but a few. In the wake of Covid-19, we have seen increased disruption and growing threats affecting the world economy, the so-called balance of power among nations, and the stability of our societies and our common life together. Even extremist ideologies thought to have been buried in the ashes of previous world wars have seemingly risen from their graves.
The Covid-19 crisis has caused many of us to reflect on similar times in history when pandemics seemed to accelerate instability and even chaos, impacting great civilizations such as ancient Greece and Rome, as well as Europe in the Middle Ages.
For many, the current time is troubling, discoursing, even tragic.
Our goal with this ILC2020 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 disfunctions 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?
How can we rediscover the common ground, the core values that bind us together as one family of humanity, in such a way that our particular identities, our ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, religion and worldview, as important as they are, do not divide and separate us; do not undermine that greater solidarity that will be essential if we are to solve are most serious problems
UPF underscores values of interdependence, mutual prosperity and universal values. Interdependence indicates that we are bound together as one people, and that what affects any of us in some ways affects us all. Interdependence suggests the need for cooperation over competition, collaboration over hegemony, common cause over quests to divide and conquer. Interdependence affirms mutual respect, and the universal dignity of every person. In an interdependent world, nations seek peaceful resolution of conflict and they seek multilateral agreements that benefit the entire world.
The idea of mutual prosperity proposes that the fruits of human endeavor and human labor can be equitably shared, with systems in place that help assure wide distribution of benefits; not through coercive measures that suppress human freedom and voluntarism, but by means of a higher moral sensibility and vision. If all people live and act responsibly, neither taking excessively nor failing in their duties to contribute to the common good, then prosperity will rise, for all people.
Both interdependence and mutual prosperity require a foundation in values and principles. To some extent, the concept of universal values suggests a global ethics, that is a set of basic moral principles that are shared by virtually all cultures, religions and civilizations. Valuing all human life, mutual respect, avoiding violence, commitment to peaceful resolution of conflicts, responsible care of the natural world, the environment. We are moral and spiritual beings. When we lose sight of this fact, we decline, even when it appears that we are strong and powerful; without a moral or spiritual foundation, that strength, that power will decline. In this sense, religion is extremely important, serving as the wellspring for many, if not all of our world’s core moral principles.
I hope that during this ILC2020 we can give attention to these principles. These are the guiding principles of UPF, rooted in the vision of our founders.
Our deliberations and most importantly your insights and recommendations can give hope to this world at this very critical time. Moreover, your interventions here may point the way forward toward a brighter future, a future that we all seek and long for.
In closing, I want to say how proud I am to work with such wonderful friends and colleagues in the UPF Family. I also must add a word of deep appreciation to Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, whose leadership, guidance and vision made not only this ILC2020 possible, but the entire work of UPF possible, together with her beloved husband, Rev. Sun Myung moon.
UPF was launched 15 years ago. Its growth and development have been nothing short of miraculous. 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.