Malaysian Parliamentarians Attend International Leadership Conference
Las Vegas, NV – Why hold a peace conference in Las Vegas, NV and invite Members of Parliament from Malaysia and their spouses? This city is, after all, well known for gambling, girls and a gala lifestyle—quite contrary to a religious and especially an Islamic way of life.
The delegation from Malaysia consisted of 11 Members of Parliament, eight with their wives, two sons and four staff members led by Dr. and Mrs. Yoo Chong Young, Senior Advisors to the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) of Malaysia. The majority of delegates were from the Islamic faith, but Christianity and Buddhism were also represented. The International Leadership Conference lasted eight days, May 6-13, 2015.
Then, why Las Vegas? This question was put to rest as Archbishop Ki Hoon Kim, the Chairman for the UPF – North America, officially welcomed the guests and explained Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon’s vision for Las Vegas.
Father Moon passed away in 2012. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, and together they co-founded UPF in 2005. But during the last five years of his life on earth Father Moon focused on Las Vegas. He actually started constructing the International Peace Education Center which will be completed and inaugurated later this month by Mother Moon. His initiative also led to the establishment of the Wongo Medical School, the only school of oriental medicine officially registered in the city.
“Father Moon felt it was his mission to take responsibility for evil in this world,” explained Archbishop Kim. “While many religious leaders would never consider investing in Las Vegas, the UPF founder wanted to leave a legacy of helping to change ‘sin city’ into a ‘shining city.’”
Following this Dr. Thomas Walsh, the President of UPF International, addressed the Malaysian delegation on the theme, “UPF’s Global Foundation and Towards a Religious Council at the UN.” He outline the work of UPF at the United Nations over the past decade and a half.
He underscored UPF’s new affiliation with the UN’s Alliance of Civilizations saying it was very much in line with Father Moon’s call for a religious council at the UN in 2000. “In hindsight and seeing the rise of religious extremism today, the Founder’s call for a bicameral system at the UN which would include faith-based organizations was in many ways prophetic,” Dr. Walsh told the Malaysian lawmakers.
The first three days concentrated on sharing the UPF Founder’s philosophy on peace and human development. Presentations were given by: Mr. Ricardo De Sena, Secretary-General of UPF North America, whose presentation was passionate and articulate; Mrs. Kathleen Hwang, from the International Peace Education Center in USA, although more quiet and motherly but still very powerful; and finally Dr. Robert Kittel, Education Director of UPF-Asia and Special Emissary for Education who shared various chapters of our True Parents’ principle from a multi-religious perspective. These teachings were well-received (see ‘reflections’ below).
At the end of three days of education, Dr. Yoo gave a stirring oration concerning Malaysia’s unique role in bringing peace to Asia and the world. His address connected to Father Moon’s life-mission of building world peace while highlighting the special relationship between Korea and Malaysia. He shed tears several times while addressing the Malaysian delegates for one and a half hours. Everyone was deeply touched and it was surely the highlight of the educational section of the workshop.
Following this, participants went sightseeing for two days visiting the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and the Red Rock Canyon in the late afternoon.
Upon returning to Las Vegas, two speakers were invited for the last day. Dr. Haitham Bundakji, Vice-Chairman of the Islamic Society of Orange County in California. Dr. Bundakji explained about his deep respect for Father and Mother Moon, which dates back to 1998. He also shared with the Malaysian lawmakers about the difficulties Muslims face in America especially after 9.11 and more recently because of the rise of ISIS, which he called “the enemy of Islam.”
Dr. Michael Jenkins, Chairman of “Operations Holdings” in Washington D.C., was the concluding speaker. As always, he helped raise the atmosphere with his enthusiasm and love for his mission. He first focused on the financial viability of projects started by True Parents in the US and then went on to explain about UPF’s Middle East Peace Initiative. More than 50 programs have been held (and continue to this day) in the Middle East with the objective to foster reconciliation within the Family of Abraham—the religions of Jews, Christians and Muslims together with their complicated histories. During these visits they met both Palestinian and Jewish leaders, often putting their lives at risk by visiting areas in conflict.
Before the closing dinner, delegates visited the International Peace Education Center. Because the final stages of construction are on-going they could only see the building from the outside. Nonetheless, they took a memorial photo together. The building will be officially opened on May 28th.
Returning to True Parents’ home where the educational programs were held the lawmakers along their wives and children participated in the “Peace Blessing.” Marriages and families were rededicated to God. At the end of the celebrations, just before the closing cheers, Imam Bundakji put everyone at ease by spontaneously offering Islamic prayers for the couples. Father Moon always included the prayers and blessings from representatives of the world’s religions during his interfaith peace blessing festivals.
A family evening with wonderful Korean food, accompanied with singing and group dancing brought the leadership conference to a fitting conclusion.
Four open-ended questions were asked on the last day after all presentations were finished. Participants wrote their answers in perfect English.
- What element(s) of the education program (the first 3 days) was most important for you?
The vast majority, 92 percent, said they appreciated aspects related to family values and the concepts of true love. Second, with 64 percent, was the importance of interfaith harmony. Other areas appreciated by the delegates included: the notion of the spiritual world, Father Moon’s life of sacrifice and commitment, and values-based education.
- Visiting the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and the Red Rocks, what were your impressions?
Literally everyone related the breath-taking beauty of the Grand Canyon with praise for the almightiness of God. Similarly, the powerful impression of Hoover Dam brought on a combination of God’s magnificence combined with human ingenuity, itself also an expression of the glory of God.
- What can we do in Malaysia to help this Peace Movement?
A variety of responses were given with three areas dominating (in order of prominence):
- Help to strengthen family values in society;
- Foster cooperation for government (bi-partisan) and NGOs including Faith-based organizations, and;
- Provide character education for youth.
- How can we improve this program?
Suggestions were very diverse. The three topics that dominated their suggestions were: 1) more education for youth (again), 2) more inter-faith participation, and 3) more participant participation. Other ideas to improve the conference format involved: introducing UPF staff at the beginning, making the program shorter, providing the printed program ahead of time, having a special outing for spouses and women, and organizing an inter-parliamentarian exchange.