Europe and the Middle East—The second session of the July 2021 International Leadership Conference was titled “Resources and Tools of Faith-Based Organizations in Support of Reuniting the Korean People.”
From July 27 to 29, 2021, eight sessions of the ILC were held online under the title “Toward the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula: Best Practices in Track II Diplomacy.”
The second session, held on July 27, was co-hosted by UPF with its Interreligious Association for Peace and Development (IAPD). There were a total of 126 participants for the “live” broadcast, with an additional 186 viewers on Facebook.
This focus of this webinar was to highlight the resources of faith-based organizations (FBOs) that could be instrumental in fostering peace, rapprochement and ultimately reunification of the divided Korean people. The panelists presented tools for conflict resolution, reconciliation, peacebuilding, and reconstruction that are unique to a faith-based approach, which sees humanity as one large family under a benevolent God.
The moderator, UPF-Russia President Maria Nazarova, warmly welcomed the attendees and introduced the speakers.
Archpriest Vladimir Fedorov of the Russian Orthodox Church, the scientific director of the Institute for the Study of Orthodox Resources for Peacemaking, Missiology, Ecumenism and New Religious Movements, addressed the webinar through a recorded message.
In the modern era, he said, humanity is facing many threats. To confront these threats and act creatively to resolve them, we are obliged to unite. Archpriest Fedorov said the unification of the two Koreas will be achieved once the younger generation integrate into a culture of peace. He encouraged the creation of opportunities and projects to promote spiritual and moral enlightenment.
Archpriest Fedorov spoke of the phrase “Goodwill toward men”—or, as it is often translated, “People of good will”—and its importance. To him, the phrase relates to those who see peace as a fundamental value for which they must work with one another in solidarity, solving problems together. He described his change of heart toward other religious groups and concluded his talk by stating that peacekeeping is not only the process of ending bloody wars but also the work of preventing conflicts, which requires investment into the sphere of education.
Rev. Dr. Stephen Kim, the co-chair of the Korean Clergy Leadership Conference, an interfaith organization that is affiliated with UPF, emphasized that peace on the Korean Peninsula will have a positive impact on peace around the world, as the peninsula historically has been a region of struggle between various world powers.
He spoke of the role Christianity had in unifying a divided Germany and the substantial social change that it brought about in that country. Christianity also must play a role in unifying Korea, he said, but it must go beyond the evangelical dimension and political boundaries.
Rev. Kim spoke of Christianity not as an ideology or political belief but as a means to bring about unification through forgiveness and reconciliation. He defined “unification” not as forcing two different things to become one, but aiming for integration that restores perfection from what is separated and progresses toward greater perfection. He concluded his talk by encouraging the development of educational materials that support Korean cooperation and spread the values of Christianity.
Rabbi Kevin De-Carli, president of the Interfaith Youth Council of the Geneva (Switzerland) Interfaith Intercultural Alliance, recalled his experiences in reconciling divided groups and people, and his work with religious associations and the Swiss military. He spoke of reconciling conflict on both the personal and institutional level.
He cited an old Jewish proverb: “Be a human. Don’t be religious.” Empowerment can be gained from realizing that we as humans are not needy but are needed by God, he said. This attitude can take the energy out of the vicious political and factionist arguments that take place in our modern age, he said.
Rabbi De-Carli emphasized that we must recognize our basic humanity, our human dignity, and realize that we are needed by others and needed by God. He concluded: “Be a human first in every action, and then be Christian, be Jewish, be Buddhist, be whatever, but a human first and that to the very best degree that you can.”
The final speaker, Heiner Handschin, the coordinator of IAPD for Europe and the Middle East, gave a presentation introducing IAPD, a primary association of UPF which focuses on supplementing political leaders with the wisdom of religious leaders and taking into account the spiritual dimension of working toward peace.
Mr. Handschin talked about the efforts that the UPF founders have made in striving for world peace. He quoted a speech given by Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon: “Although secular authorities rule most human societies, religion lies at the heart of most national and cultural identities. In fact, religious faith and devotion have far greater importance in most people’s hearts than do political loyalties.”
The strengths of a faith-based approach, Mr. Handschin said, include sincere, selfless intentions, the ability to think outside the box and to come up with a visionary perspective on issues. He ended his talk by emphasizing UPF’s and IAPD’s commitment to advocating and promoting the peaceful rapprochement of North and South Korea.
The second ILC webinar concluded with a question-and-answer session moderated by Mrs. Nazarova. Perceptive questions were posed to the panelists, who provided insightful answers in response.
The first question was “What resources of religions and faith-based organizations can be applied in the process of the peaceful reunification of Korea?” Rev. Dr. Stephen Kim responded that “just today, the communication channel was reconnected between the two Koreas” after almost one year after it had been broken off. This shows we need patience, which is one of the virtues that religions teach, Dr. Kim said. Young people in South Korea nowadays may doubt the need for reunification. Therefore, religions have a role to play in teaching them why it is needed—because the Korean Peninsula is linked to world peace, he said.
Another question was how North and South Korea will be able to unite despite their vastly differing ideologies. Mr. Handschin suggested we look beyond ideology. The issue of interfaith will have to be addressed and confronted, he said. Over the thousands of years of their history, the Korean people have been searching for God, he said.
Another question concerned the religious concepts that can be a unifying factor and basis for the reunification of the two Koreas. Rabbi Kevin De-Carli emphasized the idea of the universal family, a concept highlighted by most of the panelists. The fundamental religious insight that we are all created by God, that we are one human family—no matter the religion, race, culture or skin color—is an especially powerful unifying thought, he said.
Mrs. Nazarova brought the program to an end by thanking the panelists and attendees who participated in the online webinar.