On November 29, the International Leadership Conference (ILC), taking place from November 28 to December 1 in Washington, D.C., had its first full day of panel sessions covering the freedom of conscience, marriage and family, solutions to protecting the environment, and freedom and responsibility of the press.
A theme resonating throughout the conference thus far has been the importance of engaging respectful dialogue across political and religious lines. “An overarching theme I’m hearing today is that it’s time we come together,” said Hon. Bill Delahunt, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, “and I think it’s particularly meaningful in the aftermath of the American election. We are at a moment when the country is divided. That’s not healthy for democracy, and if America is divided it’s not healthy for the world. What we all realized during the course of the campaign is that there are multiple Americas and large segments of the American population that have profound anger. We need to meet that challenge as well.”
Another theme, highlighted by Ambassador R. James Woolsey, Jr., former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, was that of action and the courage to face difficult issues despite how uncomfortable or insurmountable they may seem. During lunch, he gave a talk in which he invited participants to educate themselves on the threat of nuclear war. He delineated the severe consequences of such an event, and expressed his hope for people to “wake up” to this issue because “we can’t duck hard problems” and “think it’s so unpleasant to work on because the consequences are so bad.” According to Ambassador Woolsey, addressing this issue in a fruitful way “requires a certain spirit of rejection of the way this has been dealt with for decades.”
Participants also took part in a much-anticipated highlight of the conference: the announcement of the winner of the 2017 Sunhak Peace Prize, awarded to the person or persons who best contribute to human development in the spheres of stewardship of the environment and sustainable peace.
They closed the day with a performance by the world-renowned Little Angels Folk Ballet of Korea at the National Theatre, a breathtaking and heartwarming spectacle that conveyed the peace-loving spirit of the Korean people and the beautiful culture and arts produced throughout Korea’s 5,000-year history. True Mother, co-founder of The Little Angels, was present at the performance, as well as Dr. Sun Jin Moon, President of FFWPU International.
The Little Angels 2016 United States Tour is a benefit performance for the Children’s National Hospital, and at the end of their performance Dr. Ki Hoon Kim, Continental Chairman of FFWPU North America, presented a check for $25,000 on behalf of the founders of The Little Angels to the Children’s National Hospital.
SESSION II: SECURING FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE – A UNIVERSAL CONCERN
Hon. Woody Burton, member of the State Legislature in Indiana and the driving force behind the “In God We Trust” state license plate, opened the second session of the ILC about securing the freedom of conscience by sharing his experience of standing with resolve to protect the freedom of speech and religion, specifically the right to practice prayer in government.
Professor Viktor Yelenskyi, member of the Ukrainian parliament, then presented historical facts and statistics demonstrating the gradual exile of religion in government and society juxtaposed with a rising consensus that religion be free to manifest itself in all social spheres. He summarized the state of religious freedom and peace among religions: “Historians estimate that 200 million people in the last two millennia have been killed because of religious affiliation. Religious affiliation plays a role in 65 percent of all armed conflict today, and in only 20 percent of countries are all religious groups treated the same.”
Dr. Sam Zakhem, former U.S. ambassador to Bahrain, followed in sharing both positive experiences with and continued hopes for religious freedom and peace among religions. “I served an ambassador for the United States under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and served in the Colorado state Senate and House, but I’m most proud to be a UPF Ambassador for Peace,” he said.
Hon. Jose de Venecia, former Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Philippines and Chairman Emeritus of UPF, addressed the theme of interfaith reconciliation and shared about his campaign to create an interfaith council in the United Nations that can generate ideas for bringing about the end of violence in the Muslim world, as well as uniting civilizations that encompass multiple religions. “Territorial, geopolitical, and religious problems intertwine and remain a constant problem in many parts of the world,” he said, adding, “All too often, atrocities are committed in the name of religion. However, violence in the name of religion is contrary to reason and God’s nature, for there can be no religious motivation for violence.”
The session closed with a Q&A session. Conference participants asked thought-provoking questions to the panel, such as, “What will it take to solve these problems peacefully?”, “How do we talk about religion in America and highlight its role as a key source of love?”, and “How do we bring religion back?” Among solutions discussed were bringing people together and encouraging a focus on similarities as well as dialogues toward reaching understanding and unity.
SESSION III: WHY MARRIAGE AND FAMILY ARE IMPORTANT FOR A HEALTHY AND STABLE SOCIETY
The third ILC session spoke to the sacredness of marriage and the role of the family as the cornerstone of society. Hon. John Doolittle, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, moderated the session, stating in his introduction that “we tend to idealize families, but they’re often less than ideal; however, the resilience of the family is important, even if the family is not ideal.”
Hon. Danny K. Davis, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, gave an insightful and anecdotal talk about the value of family, speaking of his own family with great reverence. Married for 47 years, Hon. Davis said he sometimes imagines “how different life would have been” if he did not have his wife by his side. “I wouldn’t have the peace of mind, companionship, or a shoulder to lean on,” he said. He supplemented his address with thought-provoking quotes from William Blake and other astute thinkers, and concluded that “the concept of family begins to grow as you have greater experiences, and rather than thinking of just the immediate group in the household or even extended relatives, family becomes part of what you believe, dream about, and hope for.” In his call to action he stated, “I’m hoping to convince people to spend more time together as opposed to being apart.”
I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother, and I found all three.
Hon. Victoria Kalima, member of the Zambian parliament and newly-appointed Minister of Gender, talked about the state of Zambian society, laws, issues, and programs, drawing a parallel between signs of cultural instability and resulting national instability. She insisted that “relationships between husband and wife, parents and children, and brothers and sisters should be characterized by a profound and enduring love.” She also shared about the recent ILC in Zambia and its focus on alleviating social ills currently faced by the nation, including gender-based violence, child marriage, teen pregnancy, single parenthood, and divorce. She stressed the importance of programs that empower women, so that “society can look at a girl child as someone who can receive an education, not just get married young” for the family’s financial gain. “My appeal,” she said, “is that we work together to have a healthy and stable society. I invite you to partner with us through UPF to end gender-based violence and child marriage.”
Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, former Minister for Peace and Reconstruction in Nepal, boldly stated that “family education determines the future destiny of the entire nation.” Hon. Dhakal presented news of the marriage rededication and Marriage Blessing movements in Nepal, which are becoming national festivals of marriage and families attended by tens of thousands of people. Former Prime Minister of Nepal, H.E. Madhav Kumar, officiated a recent marriage rededication ceremony which was attended by 70,000 people, and also expressed the sentiment at the time that “if the family is strong, our nation is strong.”
Mr. Kenneth Muhammed El, Commissioner of the Rowan County Housing Authority in North Carolina, like Hon. Davis, shared about his marriage and family, and then asked forward-thinking questions such as, “How do we raise expectations of marriage?” and “How do we address the issue that ruin begins in the home?” He noted that our challenge as a nation is to elevate the woman, and acknowledge women as the “key to life.” He said that “marriage needs to be dissociated from trends and fashions, and reinstated as a sacred extension of the Creator.”
Cheryl Wetztein, Manager of Special Sections for The Washington Times, then closed the session with statistics and facts about family issues faced by the United States, including falling marriage rates, the “tsunami of pornography causing problems between men and women in their romantic relationships,” and alternative family forms, and provided evidence for why traditional marriage is the best family structure for children, adults, and society.
SESSION IV: PROTECTING OUR ENVIRONMENT – PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTOR SOLUTIONS
Hon. Rob Wittman, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, opened the fourth session about protecting the environment with a talk on the responsibility of both the public and private sectors to protect the environment for future generations, and expressed his interest in seeking opportunities for these two sectors to join in partnership in this joint mission.
Hon. Kessai Note, former President of the Marshall Islands, described the fragile environment of his country and its susceptibility to sea level rises caused by climate change. Environmental negligence is “already creating insurmountable challenges to our environment, economy, and way of life,” he said. “The entire Marshall Islands could become submerged in water in less than 100 years, and neighboring countries in the Pacific has similar conditions.”
Dr. Richard Lindzen, Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, took a different approach to the issue of climate change, and presented thorough scientific evidence toward debunking extremism in today’s campaigns on the greenhouse effect and global warming, and relaying the perspective that the issue of global warming is “almost an entirely political one.”
“The most important and useful measure for both the public and private sphere will be the ending of anti-CO2 climate alarmism,” he said. “The fact that the alarm shifted from global cooling to global warming in the 1980s provides ample evidence that the issue was not with climate per se, but market control of the energy sector.”
Hon. Richard T. Schulze, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives shared anecdotes about his lifetime of “pride, enjoyment, and love of the outdoors”, and how he came to be involved in wildlife conservation. “In America, the conservation attitude is that the user pays, and the public profits,” he said. “The amount of money that the hunter, fisher, and outdoorsman pay into the funds for outdoor conservation are enormous.” On a more emotional level, he told the story of a friend who got closer to his daughter in three hours of hunting together than he had in his entire life. “It’s not about the hunting,” he said. “It’s about the personal relationship that such things build, the kind of relationship that overarches politics and religious differences.” He closed by saying that the “most effective and sensible approach to good stewardship of the earth and its inhabitants is to continue the work we’ve done in conservation, not only for sports and the outdoors but for all people of the earth.”
SESSION V: ROLE OF MEDIA – FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PRESS
Guy Taylor of the Washington Times moderated the final session of the day about the freedom and responsibility of the press, in the present-day atmosphere of the media as the “absolute intersection of technological change and the human ability to speak truth to power.” He challenged participants to deliberate whether the media is having “a positive or a corrosive effect on our collective ability to provide honest journalism.”
Hon. John Conyers, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, then shared his perspectives on the American media and evolution of the internet. He invited participants to practice an active awareness of the biases that exist in mainstream media, and to be mindful of the nature of the media in terms of its geographic concentration and motivations, and how those factors affect the distribution of information in this nation.
Hon. Biman Prasad, member of the Fiji parliament, enlightened participants on the reality of the freedom of the press around the world, and the fact that in many regions, the media serves primarily to “amplify the voices of elected representatives in government.” He stressed that “democracy cannot flourish in an environment where media freedom is restricted.”
Humphrey Hawksley, BBC correspondent and author, then talked about Europe and the role of the media there, particularly the effects of uninformed popular sentiment promulgated through social media. He also spoke of “the post-truth era,” when “political campaigns are based on facts that are untrue and policies that are unachievable, yet they garner votes in the millions.” He brought up the concept of an echo chamber, defined as “a newspaper or TV [station] that agrees with or bolsters your point of view.” He explained that “voters prefer the certainty of the echo chamber to the muddle of both extremities,” and challenged the audience to “find a Tweet or somebody on Facebook whose views you totally abhor. Find out where they’re coming from, and what their weakness is,” to attempt to move beyond the safety of your own standpoint.
Charles Hurt, columnist for The Washington Times, closed the session by speaking to the role of the media, mainstream and non-mainstream, including everyone participating in this age of social media. He brought up thought-provoking ideas, such as the fact that the United States President-elect is very active on social media. “I have faith that people have a voice and greater access to shaping the media than ever before,” he said.
The conference will continue through December 1 with four more presentations covering the themes of terrorism, foreign policy, global collaboration, and other sectors of thought leadership. On November 30, participants will attend a special session to launch a new initiative of parliamentarians working together to create peace and address solutions to the critical challenges of our time.
Stay tuned for daily insights from the International Leadership Conference here on familyfed.org and on Facebook.
The sponsoring organizations of the International Leadership Conference were founded by True Parents, and continue put their founding vision in motion, a vision rooted in universal spiritual and moral principles that apply to all areas of human endeavor, including the family, society, government, religion, business, academia, media, the arts and sports.
The Washington Times Foundation sponsors thought leadership programs, particularly in the areas of media and journalism, to promote the values of family, freedom, faith, service and citizenship, values that have been weakened and confused in the modern era. The Foundation continues the tradition of media conferences pioneered by the World Media Association.
The Universal Peace Federation and its global network of Ambassadors for Peace apply universal principles to the task of resolving conflict and reconciling the divided human family, and searching for solutions to critical global problems. The World Summit series, the International Leadership Conference series, and a wide range of other programs offer opportunities for global networking and collaboration for the sake of peace and human development. For more information or to get involved in future peace programs by UPF, visit www.us.upf.org.