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Documents from the conference in September 2010

From Religious Freedom to Religious Federalism

Joong Hyun PakHonorable Dr. Arnold Koller, ladies and gentlemen, friends, I very much appreciate the work of Dr. Koller’s “Forum of Federations” and his dedication to world peace.  Just recently, following the deaths of 54 South Korean navy personnel, we held a conference on “Peace on the Korean peninsula” at the university where I am teaching. One of our conclusions was that possibly a form of political federalism based upon the Swiss model, as Dr. Koller describes it, might work.

The title of my speech today is, “From Religious Freedom to Religious Federalism”. Leading up to September 11, this year, we were all reflecting about the losses at the twin towers in 2001. I was in Manhattan at the time and personally witnessed the shock and chaos that descended over the city, like a living hell. Since then, the United States and the entire world have been working towards healing and rebuilding trust and harmony.  But these good developments were again disrupted by the threat of Rev. Terry Jones to burn the Quran at his church in Florida, sparking fears of a repeat of the events of 9 years ago. No one wants to go back to those times of terror and fear.

It is important that we move forward together in building our community rooted in peace. We need to see and act beyond our religious barriers and doctrines, which were an important factor in the events at the world trade center. We need to aim towards a “religious federalism” with a shared covenant that includes three important points:

1)      We determine to work to understand and accept religious diversity

2)      We use our common spiritual values as our reference point

3)      We work side by side toward our common goals

We’ve seen examples in people like Mother Theresa, a Christian, who cared equally for Moslems and Hindus.  Thich Nhat Hahn is another. A Vietnamese Buddhist monk who immigrated to France, he teaches about meditation and a new peace life style that has caught the heart of Europeans of all faiths.

It seems to me that guaranteeing the right to freedom of religion will not necessarily create the conditions for lasting peace. Religious freedom can only go so far, generating attitudes of tolerance and strengthening the independence of religious communities.  We would need to set our expectations higher, ushering in a new age of “religious federalism”. Here religious and cultural identities are reinforced by their interdependence and common commitments to a shared future. Finally, it is the growing bonds of commitment, trust and love that erase insecurities and secure peace.

For that, one project for Ground Zero has been proposed by a UPF Ambassador for Peace in Holland during the consultations that the Universal Peace Federation has been holding about the establishment of a “United Nations Interreligious Council”. You may know about this debate going on within the United Nations to include a body of religious leaders dedicated to world peace as an upper house within the UN. This was first presented formally at the United Nations in the year 2000 by UPF founder, Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon.

Ground Zero is located at the center of the New York financial district, Wall Street. It is well known that the extreme selfishness and corruption there led to the global financial crisis, affecting each one of us and still remains unchecked. Would it not be meaningful if the plans for the new constructions at Ground Zero were to have on the top floors in the main building, not an observation deck and tourist center, but an Assembly Hall where world religious leaders could work together on issues related to peace?

It could contain an interreligious worship center, as well as a conference center where great ethical scholars and peacemakers could meet to give guidance and to influence right order and justice. This would be like an oasis above Wall Street, but whose range could embrace other social and peace-related issues in the USA and the entire world. This could be a beacon of hope towards a new global enlightenment and shared prosperity.

Strengthened with the many valuable ideas we have heard today, I hope we can join hands and work together to build this “world peace community”!

From Religious Freedom to Religious Federalism

By Rev. Dr. Joong Hyun Pak,

Vice President, Interreligious International Federation for World Peace

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