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Asia Pacific Interreligious Forum for Peace and Harmony

The Interreligious Association for Peace and Development (IAPD), which is a project of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), held its first Asia Pacific Interreligious Forum for Peace and Harmony on Thursday 23 November on the theme: “A Family of Faiths: Common Values”. The Interreligious Forum was a ninety-minute online event attended by 212 registered participants from 24 nations including religious leaders and Ambassadors for Peace representing all major and numerous other faith traditions. Besides those who participated on Zoom, others viewed the event on Facebook or Zoom, making it a total of 1,000 views.

According to the UPF founders, Dr. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon, world peace can only be attained when the endeavors of the world’s political leaders are supplemented by the wisdom and efforts of religious leaders. Any successful strategy for peace must consider the spiritual dimension of our human identity, experience, and interactions. Religious leaders and faith-based organizations are uniquely positioned to influence thinking, mobilize moral authority and be role models for others to follow.

IAPD brings together such people and organizations from different faiths to work together for the common good, standing at the forefront of a revolution of the culture of heart and filial love and can help usher in a world of lasting peace and happiness, a world in which people of all nationalities, ethnicities, races, cultures, and worldviews live together in mutual respect, harmony and cooperation.

So, the Interreligious Forum was an initiative to further this cooperative effort. MC for the Forum was Mrs. Ursula McLackland (Secretary-General of UPF Asia Pacific and Regional Coordinator of IAPD Asia Pacific), who welcomed attendees and guided the proceedings. The program began with an opening prayer by Dr. Kazi Nurul Islam (Honorary Professor and Founding Chairman, Dept. of World Religions and Culture, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh), followed by opening remarks from Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal (Chair, UPF, Asia Pacific), who explained the background and purpose of UPF and IAPD, gave a comprehensive overview of recent and forthcoming activities in the Asia Pacific Region, and encouraged more interfaith activities. After the screening of an inspiring UPF video on Peace Summit 2023, a congratulatory message was delivered by Dr. Charles S. Yang (Chair, UPF International) that included detail about UPF’s status as a most active NGO in the United Nations and the reading of a “Call to Action” from UPF regarding the current conflict in the Holy Land. Then an introduction to the vision and work of IAPD in the region was presented by Dr. Robert S. Kittel (Senior Advisor and Education Director, UPF Asia Pacific) and he also spoke on the common ground for religious harmony, mutual prosperity and lasting peace based on three primary universal values: Living for others; Honoring your parents; Marriage as most sacred union between man and woman, concluding, “You do not need to change your religion to work together”. Special Remarks were given by Rev. Fr. Edgardo De Jesus (Roman Catholic Priest, Diocese of Malolos, Bulacan, Philippines) addressing family issues and highlighting that the challenge of the day is to bring back families to our common sense of faith in God, and, to be wise, fear of God, amusingly but poignantly asserting “like a deodorant, the people who arguably need it most do not use it”.

A Keynote Address was delivered by Dr. Tageldin Hamad (International Coordinator, IAPD International). There were many salient points, including: “the true essence of religion lies not in dogma or doctrine but in the universal call for compassion, mercy and intimate relationship with our divine origin”; “Let us embrace the beauty of our diversity, learning from one another’s traditions and wisdom. In a world where differences often divide it is imperative to recognize
the common threads that bind us, the values of love, empathy, and the pursuit of happiness”; “In today’s global landscape, where division and strife often overshadow unity, our collective responsibility is to foster dialogue, bridge divides and build connections”. A Prayer for World Peace prepared by Ven. Sobhita (Founder and Principal of International Buddhist Education Center, Myanmar) was read by his personal assistant Ven. Tilokasara (as Ven. Sobhita was ill today). After one minute’s Meditation/Silent Prayer, the program concluded with a Call to Action by Mr. Fouad Sobbi (President, Mandaean World Congress in
Australia), who shared some background to Sabian Mandaeans, and from his heart, testified to the great work of UPF and Father and Mother Moon. The MC thanked all the speakers and attendees and informed that the next Asia Pacific Interreligious Forum will be in first week of February (United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week).

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