The webinar of the Interreligious Association for Peace and Development (IAPD), a UPF project, was held on September 11, 2020, under the title “The Spirit of Cooperation, the Way Toward Peace.”
Rev. George Ogurie, President, FFWPU Nigeria; Coordinator, IAPD Africa
Rev. George M. Ogurie is a graduate of the Unification Theological Seminary, Barrytown, New York, USA. He is the IAPD Coordinator for Africa and the Sub-Regional Director of HPHC Africa Region II (Southern West Africa).
The moderator of the session was Rev. George Ogurie, the coordinator of IAPD Africa and the president for Nigeria of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU), an organization that is affiliated with UPF.
The speakers of the session were:
Dr. Prophet Samuel Radebe from South Africa, prophet of the Revelation Church of God, author and businessman
Ms. Rubab Mehdi from the United Kingdom, a human rights barrister and interfaith activist
Mr. Aboubacar Thierno Sow from Mali, an interreligious preacher and member of the cultural committee of the Generation of the Three Testaments
Rabbi Dr. Kevin De-Carli from Switzerland, a theologian and historian.
The session focused on addressing opportunity and hope in times of global crisis. The speakers brought out the real need for religious leaders to play a role in uniting people. It was noted that, for the longest time we have allowed our beliefs to divide us instead of uniting us.
The panelists elaborated on the need for religious leaders to focus on peacebuilding and help communities to embrace the Ubuntu spirit (“I am because we are”).
Dr. Tageldin Hamad, Vice President and Director of Office of UN Relations, UPF International; IAPD International Coordinator
Dr. Tageldin Hamad is the Vice-President of UPF International and Director of the UPF Office for UN and International Affairs. He is also Secretary General of the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (WANGO). Previously, he served as Secretary of the Executive Committee of DPI-NGOs at the United Nations, and Organizing Chair for the Summit of World Muslim Leaders conferences held in Jakarta and London. Dr. Hamad is the Global Vice President of Sun Moon University.
Dr. Tageldin Hamad, the vice president of UPF International, opened the meeting with special appreciation and greetings to the distinguished speakers.
He recognized UPF co-founders Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon, who established many organizations to contribute to world peace. IAPD assembled global religious leaders and tapped into the profound wisdom found in humanity’s spiritual heritage. Religious leaders and faith-based organizations, he said, provide the moral compass to deal with the social problems in contemporary society—racism and exploitation, crime, hunger, terrorism, environmental destruction, and more. IAPD harnesses the goodwill and wisdom of the religions that play a unique and essential role in bringing about a world of lasting peace, in which people of all nationalities, ethnicities, races, cultures and worldviews are called to live together in mutual respect, harmony and cooperation—a world that the UPF founders call Heavenly Parent’s Holy Community. Peace is the hope for all ages, but it seems to be so distant, even now, he said. “Peace” is a magical word. Peace is emotional; it is like love: You have to live for the sake of the others.
IAPD is needed at this time to bring oneness, compassion, comfort and security. While nations are individually racing to find the vaccine for COVID-19, IAPD could help nations to race toward unity, togetherness, and love, the ultimate vaccine for all ills. It must be emphasized that by connecting and working together, we can overcome this crisis of COVID-19, and any other crises we may face in the future. The wisdom of all religions is needed in all multilateral institutions, especially at the United Nations, where God, the Origin of peace, is rarely mentioned or called to help bring the peace that the UN originally was created to achieve.
This is a good opportunity for IAPD to work in partnership with the UN, Dr. Hamad said. After all, the role of religious leaders is to be peace-builders, peace-makers, and peace-givers.
Moreover, for this partnership to succeed, women and youth must be included as very important partners. Dr. Hamad referred to the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres: “There is no peace without development, and there is no development without peace. Most important, there is no peace or development without women and youth.”
Presentations by Panelists
Dr. Prophet Radebe, Prophet, The Revelation Church of God, South Africa
Prophet, Dr Uzwi Lezwe Radebe is an African Indigenous Spiritual Leader who holds a Doctorate in Theology and Doctorate in African Medicine, Healing & Facilitation. He is the founder and leader of The Revelation Church of God in South Africa. The church operates more than 60 branches throughout the continent with 7 branches located in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi. He is the author of various articles and books on spirituality and a prominent businessman.
Dr. Prophet Samuel Radebe of the Revelation Church of God in South Africa reminded the attendees that the role of religious leaders is to establish hope through instilling the spirit of tolerance and peace. Leaders become great because of the ability to empower others.
The power of acceptance is a powerful state of mind, he said. The unwavering fight for peace has inspired us to work hard; despite the shift in this pandemic, we have sought each other to meet our needs.
Dr. Radebe said that religious leaders need to accept that we are different and must work together. Our global goal should be to help people understand that spirituality is not a religion but the freedom to reason without the influence of doctrines.
In South Africa, he said, we live by the motto Ubuntu, which means “I am because we are.” We aim to live in acceptance, love, respect, humility, tolerance as well as focusing on unity and teamwork in doing away with tribalism.
As we engage with people from different walks of life, we need to view life with a different lens, lead people and help them acknowledge failures and provide them with a reason to strengthen their resolve, he said.
Ms. Rubab Mehdi, Chair, International Imam Hussain Council, United Kingdom
A human rights barrister and interfaith activist, Rubab organised her first multifaith conference in Pakistan aged just 13, an event sponsored by the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto. Rubab also chairs the International Imam Hussain Council, a Pakistan-based charity promoting interfaith understanding, and is a fervent advocate for the rights of religious minorities. A former European spokesperson for the Pakistan Ministry of Human Rights, Rubab also runs an annual awards event in the House of Lords recognising the achievements of women of faith. Always courageous in speaking out on sensitive issues, Rubab has played a critical role in securing a place for women in settings dominated by men. She was awarded as one of 21 faith leaders for the 21st century in the UK by faith-based media.
Ms. Rubab Mehdi, a human rights barrister and interfaith activist from the United Kingdom, agreed with previous speakers that the role of Ambassadors for Peace is to continue building cooperation and see how it leads to peace from a religious perspective.
Ms. Mehdi explained that the word Rahim means Muslim unity, while Rahman means the all-inclusive God who provides and gives sustenance. His mercy extends to those who do not believe. Rahman also means the womb of a woman. Therefore, the spirit of cooperation is from women, and all humanity cries for the work of the woman. Hence, we need to accept women as equal in humanity and spirituality.
Agreeing with Prophet Radebe, she said that the Ubuntu spirit encourages us to get over inequality. Cooperation begins when we realize that others are our equals and when we recognize the important role they play.
History shows the need for peacebuilding for cooperation, the spirit of inclusiveness and harmony in order to sail through tough times. Harmony helps us realize that both rich or poor are all equal, based on respect for diversity and inclusiveness.
Ms. Mehdi urged us to create conditions conducive for women: cooperation, trustworthiness and integrity.
Without integrity, she said, a person can’t be real, cannot prosper and a government cannot develop.
Mr. Aboubacar Sow, interreligious preacher, member of the cultural committee of the Generation of the three testaments, Bamako, Mali
Aboubacar Sow is an interreligious preacher, member of the cultural committee of the Generation of the three testaments (3 main religions). He is the founder of a blog named: "no constraints in religion" (www.webncr.home.blog). He leads a group of young interreligious leaders in Bamako, Mali, who study the Koran, the Bible and the Torah.
Mr. Aboubacar Sow, member of the cultural committee of the Generation of the three testaments in Mali, introduced himself as an interreligious preacher with a blog platform where he spends time every Wednesday with his brothers studying the Quran. He said he is currently looking to expand the activity worldwide.
Having attended the UPF-organized Africa Summit in Niger in November 2019, he said he appreciates the initiative of Father and Mother Moon to create peaceful communities. The UPF principles invite us to create unity which goes beyond religious barriers, he said. Religions at times have caused violence, but people of faith should work for the greater good. We also need other virtues, apart from faith—such as humility and openness to other people’s opinions.
We need to give people the will and hope to go over prejudice and hatred and show the strong power of faith. The sheikh quoted verses from both the Quran and the Bible that touch on loving our enemies and doing good. In conclusion, he agreed with Mahatma Gandhi when he said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can.” Hatred is the highest form of symbolic violence. When we understand that we have the same Origin in God, we can go forward.
As Ambassadors for Peace, he said, let us work to encourage such efforts person to person, to go over barriers and develop true friendships.
Rabbi Kevin de Carli, Center for Interreligious Studies and Interfaith Dialogue, Switzerland
Kevin De-Carli is a Swiss theologian and historian. He is a board member of the council of the theological faculty’s Center for interreligious studies and interfaith dialogue, and president of the students’ body for theological studies at the University of Fribourg. As Rabbi in the orthodox Jewish community in Baden, he is president of the committee for the maintenance of Jewish culture, the workgroup for Christian-Jewish dialogue and the Argovian council for interfaith dialogue. Recent, he participated in the founding of the swiss council of minority religions, with mainly Muslim, Hindu and Sikh participation, to give mutual support and a base for the legal recognition of these religious communities by the swiss government. In the Swiss Army, he is a staff member of the military pastoral care team with the rank of first Lieutenant. He is responsible for the competence center of military animals and veterinarian service and a board member of the committee to integrate non-Christian religions in the army’s pastoral care.
Rabbi Dr. Kevin De-Carli, a theologian and historian from Switzerland, noted that in the past months we all have experienced firsthand how interdependent we really are. This time of crisis has enabled us to witness both the good and ugly sides of religions and of secular communities.
As a spiritual adviser to the Swiss army, he recalled that some hospitals treated soldiers with respect, while others expected them to work 12-hour shifts without a break, so that their employees could work shorter shifts, as the work was so tasking on their bodies and minds.
As a commanding officer, Rabbi De-Carli narrated how he reached out to religious communities in the canton of Ticino to ask for support, food and rations, some decorations, to celebrate religious holidays with soldiers. The rabbi and the local imam worked together, and not only did the small Jewish and Muslim communities provide special meals for the Jewish and Muslim soldiers on their holidays, they brought enough food for everyone to celebrate on the Jewish holiday of Passover and the Islamic evening meal of Iftar during Ramadan. There was even enough left over for an Easter celebration for the Christian soldiers.
The rabbi reminded people that God is not punishing us this season. God makes people poor so we can be charitable; He makes people hungry so we can feed them; He makes people sick so we can heal them. God puts people in danger so we can save them. God gets angry at people and tells us they deserve punishment; He wants us to argue in their defense, just as in the case of Moses and the golden calf.
In conclusion, he called on people to live their lives and support others, to make their house a home and a place of worship. He also addressed the misconception that life is short and miserable and death is eternal. Life is eternal and death is temporary, he said. Each and every immortal soul lives on.
The participants asked how to overcome the struggle between people of different religions. The panelists reminded people that no religion is superior to another.
We need to embrace the Ubuntu spirit and mutual respect in recognizing and respecting other people’s beliefs.
The speakers further emphasized the need to have understanding and respect for everyone’s belief and not look down on others. There’s more that unites religions than divides.
UPF is playing an important role, reaching out to different religions in an effort to unite humanity. It is not easy being a peace-maker, and the path of truth and peace has always been lonely, but keep building bridges without compromising.
In their concluding remarks, the panelists encouraged participants to strive to be more spiritual than religious; then the world will be a better place. We call God one, and we are all dependent on Him.
In his concluding remarks, Dr. Hamad mentioned he was encouraged to see the zeal in everyone. He urged the participants to walk away from self-centeredness and called them to live a life in service to others. In this way we shall be closer to God.
The moderator, Dr. Ogurie, summarized the session by highlighting key words from the panelists regarding the need for religious leaders to become spiritual healers. He also emphasized the need for UPF and IAPD to engage in more such discussions.