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WORLD RELIGIOUS LEADERS SEEK NEW FAITH

by Mary Owen, Sacramento Union Religion Writer

The Sacramento Union, Saturday, August 18, 1990

BURLINGAME – The lobby of the Hyatt Regency looked something like an international people tasting: Nepalese in their orange garb mingled with West Germans in Dutch-boy suits. Turban- headed Sikhs chatted to Africans in intricate native costumes.

Shaved heads, sandaled feet and long flowing orange robes, Indian saris and jewels, Zoroastrian headgear, priestly black frocks, cowboy hats and fringed vests, business suits – an endless sea of ethnic garb whose diversity was mirrored only by the languages spoken by the 500 participants at the Second Assembly of the World's Religions.

Sponsored by the Unification Church, the six -day event drew leaders and delegates from the world's 12 major religions from all over the world. Key international religious figures included the Most Rev. Paulos Mar Gregarious, president of the World Council of Churches, Dr. Inamullah Khan, secretary general of the World Muslim Congress, Tijal Prasa, president of the World Hindu Federation, Metropolitan Philaret of the Russian Orthodox Church, and Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro, the grana mufti of Syria.

"I pray to God to help us in our endeavors to bring all mankind together under one canopy of true religions which will break down barriers that have existed in these religions," said Kuftaro in his invocation to the Assembly Thursday.

Sun Myung Moon

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, reminded the delegates that despite the great accomplishments of all religions, often "wrongful religious zeal and narrow mindedness induce antagonisms and hatred. Further, faith has often held only formality important and disregarded practice."

Moon challenged all men and women of religion to "tear down the walls of sectarianism, make themselves available with unified religious power and act in accordance with God's desires for the greater goal of the realization of world peace.

"All countries, races, cultures and religions should do more than 100 percent for the sake of each other, being generous and harmonizing. . ." said Moon, who founded the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. (Unification Church) in 1954 in Seoul, Korea.

As well as advancing the teachings of Jesus, the church views itself as a reformer, innovator and catalyst in promoting the unity of all faiths, moving toward the goal of a harmonious world. The American Unification Church is taking a stand to eliminate the public labels of "Moonie church" and "Moonie" as a sign that it has come of
age, said President James Baughman.

"The church has never used its resources to explain itself," said John Biermans, a Sacramento Lawyer and church member. "Now it's asking for a fair shake and respect."

Biermans, a former Roman Catholic, said he felt enriched by the exposure to other religions at the assembly. His own denommation, he said, is like any other – misunderstood at times.

Moon I s most publicized transgression was income tax evasion, for which he served time in prison. His followers and many religious personages adhere to Moon's innocence, pointing instead to the fruits of his works.

Not all delegates agreed with Moon, but most were open to the interreligious dialogue taking place.

"The story of human progress is the story of valuable contributions made by spiritual leaders from all places and all times," said Narendra Kumar, founder-director of Manav Mandir, an institute for rural reconstruction in India.

"Worldwide interfaith organizations are searching how to best achieve religious tolerance and harmony among today's multi-cultural and multi-religious societies, " he wrote in a booklet prepared for the assembly. "They are also attempting to replace the religion of dogma with the religion of life."

Sheikh Kuftaro said the "renewed" religion of unified faiths has much to do with rationality, wisdom and spirituality. He challenged religious leaders to stand together so that followers are able to avoid divisive actions.

Assembly speakers noted similarity in the fundamental truths of the world's major religions: African Traditional, Buddhist, Christian, Confucian, Hindu, Islam, Judaism, Native American, Sikh, Zoroastrian and Unification.

Kumar, speaking from the Hindu tradition, claimed: AIl religions were founded on the personal experiences of seers and prophets, aware of an infinite spiritual presence; all proclaim there is an invincible, omnipotent, omnipresent superpower; all proclaim good thoughts, words and deeds as cardinal virtues and teach humane treatment of others.

All, said Kumar, preach to revere truth, honesty, purity, charity and freedom; all forbid self-seeking, injustice, greed, lust, anger, exploitation and extremes of wealth; all call upon humans to overcome egotistical desires, to develop the optimum aspects of their humanity. and all proclaim as their goal the unification of humanity.

Prayers, paraphrased by Kumar, point to the same:

Hindu: "God is one. Sages call Him by different names."
Judaism: "Man. . . is fashioned in the image of God with freedom of choice. With that comes the burden of choice."
Zoroastrianism: "Diversity of worship has divided the human race into countless nations: from all their dogmas we may select one: Divine Love."
Buddhism: "Central concern is the good of all man."
Confucianism: "Do not unto others what you would not want done to yourself. "
Christian: "Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors."
Islam: "0 Mankind! We created you and made you into nations and tribes that Ye may love one another, not that Ye may despise each other."
Sufism: "The lamps are different, but the light is the same."

That which binds us together is stronger than that which divides," said Dr. Huston Smith, of Berkeley, an emeritus professor of religion at Syracuse University.

 

 

Back to THE DOVE Autumn/Winter 1990

 


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