Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to offer my sincerest gratitude to the sponsoring nations and distinguished members of the panel for participating in this landmark interfaith forum. In light of the recent terror attacks in Mumbai, India, and as we near the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the timeliness of the an interfaith message cannot be overstated.
These recent events remind me of the attack on New York City on 9/11. I witnessed this violence from school nearby. The event marked the beginning of my personal spiritual journey into my faith tradition, as well as participation in interfaith work.
In my studies, I have found that a reason why many nations are coming into conflict with the United States deals with a loss of moral authority. In short, this means we are not attending to international relations in a manner supportive of reconciliation. My faith tradition, Unificationism, offers a perspective on the Old Testament story of Jacob and Esau that sheds light on the manner in which moral authority and reconciliation is strengthened.
The story begins with two brothers: Esau, the elder, and Jacob, the younger. Jacob craftily steals the birthright of the elder and is forced to run far away to the home of a relative, for fear of being killed by his infuriated brother. There, Jacob toils and works for years to accumulate all sorts of material wealth and a large family. At one point, Jacob decides to go back home. Esau in his anger has raised an army to kill Jacob when he arrives. Jacob sends ahead his family and all of his wealth as a gift to his brother. Esau is moved by Jacob’s actions and they are able to embrace again as brothers. I believe this story sets a standard for leadership that can care for the concerns of others, ultimately leading to reconciliation.
Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states what all human beings are entitled to, we cannot create a just society without respectful and trustworthy citizens. Religious institutions, not government, create systems of education of conscience and values. Therefore, it is critical that religious leadership participate in the United Nations system.
I believe that we can never solve the global terror issue without engaging the world’s religious communities in dialogue.
How can we promote the interfaith agenda at the UN when many faith bodies subscribe to the concept of total replacement and seek to bring the whole of humanity under the umbrella of only their values? I propose that an interfaith body at the UN work on a sister document to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights called a Universal Declaration of Religious Values, which can act as a platform of understanding. This perhaps can incorporate ideas such as reverence, love, and gratitude, and especially address the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated.
I also propose that the present bodies consider a worldwide art contest drawing on the vision of the great American artist, Norman Rockwell, whose "Golden Rule" painting is displayed in mosaic form in the halls of the UN. What is needed is a visual portrayal of people of many faith backgrounds praying together, highlighting in creative ways the similarities of these peoples.
Again, I am most grateful for the participation of this youth panel. We must all overcome the old mindset of “this is my box, don’t touch it!” Instead, let us cultivate open minds and tempered hearts that can lead nations into a global community, and ultimately perhaps to acknowledge themselves as one global family.
I would like to close by sharing a quote from the founder of my faith, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who eight years ago made the following statement in a conference room at the UN:
"World peace can be fully accomplished only when the wisdom and efforts of the world's religious leaders, who represent the internal concerns of the mind and conscience, work cooperatively and respectfully with national leaders who have much practical wisdom and worldly experience about the external reality. . . . Our age more than any other demands that we go beyond our faiths, and the interests of particular religions, and put our love and ideals into practice for the sake of the world."
Alexander Zamunsinski of the UPF Office of UN Relations in New York contributed to this article.