Religious Youth Service in Washington DC
Washington D.C. – The Religious Youth Service (RYS), a project of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), held a program from May 20 – 28, 2016 for 17 participants from the Generation Peace Academy (GPA) college preparatory and faith building activities.
This is the first time that GPA incorporated RYS as a part of their educational program – a decision made by the students selection of RYS attendance from several early summer options that GPA had considered. Three GPA staff members, Louise Honey, Jan Pearson and Francis Marsal, joined in this summer’s RYS program.
Initiated in 1986 by UPF founders Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his wife, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, RYS focuses on developing young people’s personal leadership and peacemaking skills through interfaith education and service programs. The RYS training on how to make a practical difference in the world is built upon three pillars:
- Interfaith education: to understand and learn respect for people of all faiths .
- Briefings by experts about conflict resolution and peace building: to learn from leaders of the communities of faith, government institutions and NGOs
- Service activity: to practice and develop team-building skills by organizing and engaging in real acts of service for others
This year’s RYS in Washington, DC was uniquely organized to introduce GPA participants to the core values of different religions and how those values are expressed in the daily lives of the faithful. Personal explanations of their core beliefs were given by a Jewish rabbi, a Catholic priest, a Buddhist monk, a Protestant minister, and a Muslim educator. The students also visited important religious sites in Washington – the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the 10th largest Catholic cathedral in the world; Washington Hebrew Congregation, where the students were physically introduced to a Torah scroll; and The Islamic Center, a beautiful mosque serving as a cultural and educational center for Muslims and non-Muslims.
GPA students were also briefed on varying strategies for peace building by government officials at the Department of State and the Department of Education; by diplomatic staff at the embassies of Russia, Indonesia and Lithuania; and by policy analysts at the Heritage Foundation and the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy.
To provide additional understanding of Washington, DC and the real world context about discussions of conflict resolution, GPA were provided with a guided tour visits to the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Memorial, the World War II Memorial and John F. Kennedy’s grave site.
The evening schedule of presentations for GPA students featured discussions with many senior members of the Unification Church community who worked intimately Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon from the early 1970s.
The RYS program’s final activities included the collective effort on a very hot day by all the students to clean the large historic house designated as the UPF Washington DC “Peace Embassy”. The RYS graduation ceremony was conducted in the Founders’ Room at The Washington Times where each participant was appointed as “Youth Ambassador for Peace”.
The first full RYS -GPA program required eight nights and nine days of investment by students and staff. Through close observation and involvement with the students, both GPA and RYS staff members recognized the important value a well executed RYS program offers to the GPA and comparable youth education and faith building programs.
From the frank testimonies of the GPA students, it was acknowledged that the program was both eye opening, inspiring, and provocative in providing a view into the faith-based efforts of so many exceptional people who are working effectively and seriously at the highest levels of government and society on making their ideals into a reality, on creating a better, more peaceful world.
This summer’s program has initiated discussions and planning about developing a large and more effective cooperation between RYS and GPA.
Check the FULL REPORT and testimonies of the participants
Contributed by: Tomiko Duggan, Executive Director UPF Washington DC and Project Director, RYS Washington DC