Nearly 300 clergy and elected officials from 28 nations participated in a landmark conference in New York centered on the theme “Overcoming Division, Building Unity: The role of faith, government and civil society leaders,” where participants explored paths toward reconciliation. The three-day program, sponsored by the American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC) and the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), was held in the New Yorker Hotel from November 10 – 12, 2018.
Participants included Protestant clergy from dozens of denominations, Roman Catholic Cardinal Kelvin Felix from Dominica, Imam Muhammad Elahi of Detroit, as well as Greek Orthodox priests, Buddhist monks, Shinto priests from Japan and Yogi masters from India. Elected officials included former Congressmen Dan Burton and Todd Tiahrt, Georgia Senator Donzella James, as well as legislators currently serving in countries around the globe. Over 50 speakers addressed the event.
The topic of “Marriage and Family as Our Essential Resource” was explored by Rev. Dr. Lounne Rouse, a retired United Methodist Church pastor, and marriage and family therapist from South Carolina. He also paid tribute to the teaching s of Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, the founders of both the ACLC and UPF. “Jesus brought me to reconciliation at age 16, in 1971. The same Jesus visited Sun Myung Moon when he was 16. Rev. Moon teaches that marriage and family and true love are essential resources for solving the problems in this world. I am a true son of Sun Myung Moon and of true love. Let peace start with me,” Rev. Rouse said. “Peace Starts with Me” was the theme of Dr. Hak Jan Han Moon’s 20,000-person rally at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island at the conclusion of the three-day conference.
Pastor T. L. Barrett, Jr., the Senior Pastor of the Life Center Church of God in Christ in Chicago, affirmed the importance of the family ideal as the universal benchmark as well. He said that when he met the ACLC founders about 25 years ago, “There was one mandate that they gave to all of their children and disciples, and that is, to live for the sake of others. I decided I would do that, too. I discovered that when you decide to honor your parents, God will bless you with whatever you need to do to honor that parent. So, God blessed me with insight. That is, to be able to recognize the true identity, the divinity, within all of my brothers and sisters.”
Many panelists complimented the interfaith efforts of Rev. and Dr. Moon. “I have been to many interfaith meetings in my career, but the passionate, focused, consistent effort of the followers of Rev. and Mrs. Moon is extraordinary. I don’t know how you people do it,” stated Imam Elahi.
Dr. Michael W. Jenkins, the National Co-Chairman of the ACLC, emphasized the importance of unity among faith leaders. “Denominations and religions have fought among themselves, making it difficult for people to see the critical role religion must play in bringing harmony and peace to a divided world.”
“Why have peace movements failed in the past?” asked panelist Professor Eliezer Glaubach-Gal, the President of the Jerusalem Peace and Security Forum. He pointed to the key role of values. “Values are stronger than any physical body. To have peace, we need to remove cultural barriers. That can only happen based on common interests,” he observed. Dr. Glaubach-Gal credited the ACLC founders for sponsoring interfaith clergy conferences in Jerusalem for as many as 20,000 religious and civic leaders during the past fifteen years.
“Those of you who came to Israel on those pilgrimages were the heroes who walked the dangerous streets when people in Jerusalem, like me, were hiding in holes, afraid of coming out,” Dr. Glaubach-Gal said. He continued, “The great Rabbi Maimonides was asked by a disciple who the Messiah was to be. He responded, ‘The person who is to unite the nations. He is the Messiah.’ Was Maimonides not referring to the ACLC founders?”
Dr. Thomas Walsh, the Chairman of the UPF-International, told the conference, “Father and Mother Moon have created many organizations. They have this calling from God to transform the world, to build the kingdom of God on earth. They take this calling with absolute seriousness and commitment. They have built a worldwide spiritual/religious foundation and imparted great teachings.”
“It will take the religious leaders working together, but not only faith leaders. Transforming the world will also require the efforts of people who are working in academia, in civil society, in the arts, in sports and in the media,” Dr. Walsh concluded.
At the end of the conference, an agreement was unanimously signed pledging to work together to create a world of lasting peace. According to the resolution, the establishment and development of the Interreligious Association for Peace and Development (IAPD) was endorsed. “Our common ideal is a world in which people of all nationalities, ethnicities, races, cultures and worldviews live together in mutual respect, harmony and cooperation, as one family under God”, the resolution stated.
Submitted by Rev. Tom Cutts, ACLC Director of Outreach