Monday, October 25, 2004

The Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI)
of the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) and the Interreligious and International Peace Council

By Frank Kaufmann

The Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI) of the IIFWP and the IIPC is rooted in the theological and philosophical worldview and lived commitments of Sun Myung Moon and his associates.

The MEPI of the IIFWP is grounded in substantial efforts beginning as early as 1985 when IIFWP predecessors and affiliated organizations began in earnest to promote dialogue among the religions of the region.

In addition to religious dialogue, extensive long-term investment in several other areas also informed the basis for MEPI as it functions today. These include family education, projects for racial integration, economic and political foundations, media and media organizations, and initiatives for service and social welfare, and many others. The pursuit of lasting peace in the Middle East requires an integrated, coordinated effort engaging these major areas and more. MEPI of the IIFWP is an implemented and lived ideology.


These are IIFWP’s principles for peace:

1. God exists, and has an original ideal for enduring peace in human affairs which can be learned and realized.

2. The spiritual world exists, has an impact on contemporary affairs, and must be acknowledged and engaged in peace efforts.

3. Peace activists can be effective only to the degree they embody the ideals of peace in character and lifestyle.

4. Stable, God-centered families are the wellspring of peace and all good things in human society. Conversely, all social ills originate from family disorder. Family also embodies the metaphor for successfully attaining peace.

5. Religious leaders should lead by example dissolving all boundaries and resolving all conflict, including religious boundaries and religious conflict. Religious leaders are responsible more than any for setting world affairs aright, beginning with creating thoroughgoing peace and cooperation in all interreligious relations.

6. Religious leaders who demonstrate equal concern for all people absent parochial preferences, who cooperate across religious and denominational lines, should be consulted by secular powers.

7. Peace building and peace keeping requires collaborative participation from all sectors of civil society, including education, business, the arts, sports, as well as social service and community welfare initiatives.

8. Peace in the Middle East requires investment and cooperation from the whole world, NOT just from players immediately or obviously affected by developments in the region.

1. God Exists and Has a Learnable and Realizable, Original Ideal for Peace

This first principle defines IIFWP’s MEPI in a number of significant ways.

A. The conceptual and intellectual breakthrough containing the key strategy and accurate and effective processes for peace will become known first by enlightened, spiritual and religious leaders, NOT first through political leaders or any other secular community no matter how powerful or knowledgeable.

B. The end of the peace process is permanent. It reflects an original ideal. It does not presume permanence of conflict or enmity. Once peace is achieved, it will not have to be mediated by outside powers. It is a natural condition, and an original human desire and state.

C. The strategies and activity which lead to peace are those of reconciliation, not those of compromise, truce, “accord,” “agreements,” and so forth.

D. Reconciliation employs religious and spiritual dynamics that include such applications as repentance and forgiveness.

E. Justice is the natural condition of a truly peaceful society and region; it is not a pre-requisite condition for participation in dialogue, self-reflection, repentance and forgiveness.

2. The Spiritual World Exists, has an Impact on Contemporary Affairs

This reality while not excessively to be seen in the externals of IIFWP’s MEPI, nevertheless informs the development of programs extensively and in a serious way.

Most people hold a number of independent realities to be true, but often fail to connect them on a practical level. Very few people on earth deny the existence of a spiritual world. Virtually all world religions outline a specific relationship between earthly life and eternal spiritual reality. While such matters are respected on the individual level, consideration of these dynamics tend not to be extended to reflection, planning, and implementation on in larger arenas of human life such as national, regional, international, religious, and racial relations. To ignore fundamental and far-reaching beliefs and realities when trying to chart strategies of ultimate consequence (such as the pursuit of lasting peace) is unreasonable.

This tendency to insulate personal religious belief, as well as the tendency to regard current earthly affairs as separate from the spiritual reality which in fact is infused throughout life, results in skewed ideas as to what engaging the spiritual world means. While people feel at home with guidance on the personal level (such as “Grow stronger and deeper on your own path,” “Live in spiritual awareness,” “Help heal and create a better world”), they are unaccustomed to bringing these same dynamics and impulses to social, interreligious, and international challenges.

The vast majority of human beings, especially adherents of the major religions of the region acknowledge the presence and active influence of both beneficent and malevolent spiritual forces. Further, most believers acknowledge the perdurance of human souls, which should naturally create spiritual populations with a stake in the outcome of earthly affairs.

No sound analysis of any social situation deliberately discounts major influences when seeking to chart solutions or paths for improvement. Would the “Roadmap” of the “Quartet” deliberately ignore the geo-political characteristics of the Golan Heights, in its plan and recommendations? No. These realities carry too great an influence to ignore. Why then should the massive influence and impact of an ever-present spiritual reality be overlooked by responsible leaders seeking to forge a sound and sophisticated path past the horrible conflicts and bloody history of the region?

This second IIFWP principle again recommends a leading role for enlightened religious and spiritual leaders in the peace process. Religious and spiritual leaders must engage in dialogue with life and death seriousness to develop as broad a common ground as possible. This is the only way they can qualify to guide experts in all other areas of leadership on the all-important matter of how spiritual forces push contemporary players in the direction of war or peace.

3. Peace Activists Must Embody the Ideals of Peace in Character and Lifestyle

This principle links directly to IIFWP’s creed that peace originates in God and follows processes which extend goodness. Love and goodness (not power or “intelligence”) transform conditions from conflict to harmony. History has not failed to produce “intelligent enough” leaders; it has failed to date to align human behavior naturally and fully with God’s universal love and compassion for all. Smart people can commit atrocities. Smart people can perpetrate narrow, parochial, and selfish agendas. IIFWP acknowledges the requisites of knowledge and power in finally resolving deep conflict such as we have in the Middle East, but only in the context of goodness. Power and intelligence can support the peace process only when applied by leaders who live recognizably for the sake of all people equally. This is accomplished in deed, not word. It is seen in the record of personal daily life, not grand declarations and pronouncements.

4. Stable, God-centered Families Are the Cornerstone of a Peaceful Society, and Model the Path to Peace

There are a number of essential elements to be noted in this section.

A. All relationships in life reflect or approximate family relations. The fullest “vertical” relationship is that between parents and children. The fullest “horizontal” relationship is that between husband and wife. We then have “shades” or “degrees” of relationships which approach or approximate these perfect axes embodied in parent-child, and husband-wife. These include brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and so forth.

The beauty of family (in the ideal) is that it contains and miraculously harmonizes elements of the most extreme difference (generation, gender, character, interests, habits, and infinitely on), among family members all of whom are forced (involuntarily!) into the closest of quarters and all manner of uninvited intimacy. When functioning properly, this cacophony of agendas, characters, habits, interests, preferences, and so forth thrust into a cauldron of inescapable relationship becomes the sweetest treasure and surest anchor in life. This occurs only by the power of love; true love which originates in God’s original design for our lives, and is so powerful as to be able to create life and lineage.

There is simply NO other explanation for the coherence of family (in the ideal).

If we have so perfect a case study in harmonizing extreme difference, it is only reasonable to ground all peace initiatives in a careful and thorough study of this institution; in fact to base it on the institution itself.

B. Not only is the (ideal) family the model for building and maintaining peaceful and harmonious relationships, but the establishment of stable, healthy, loving families, rooted in God’s ideal is the first and most indispensable requisite for successfully attaining and establishing enduring peace.

To date, peace initiatives proceed on the assumption that certain differences are irreconcilable. As a result strategies of these initiatives are grounded in principles of compromise, third party mediation, and even permanent, external policing structures among conflicting groups.

The model of family (ideally) is the substantial argument that no amount of difference is irreconcilable. For this reason, individuals from stable, healthy families are in their way the Ph.D.’s of reconciliation and harmony. These are peace-makers incarnate. The one’s who have lived, realized, and embody the principles and skills for reconciliation and harmonization.

When peace-making is understood as the removal of hatred rather than the removal of conflict, then the cardinal and paramount requisite is the establishment of ideal families. It models harmony, reveals the principles of reconciling difference in productive integration, and creates peace-makers with living knowledge habituated in these divine principles.

5. Religious Leaders Responsibility for the Realization of Peace.

IIFWP holds that peaceful and harmonious life on earth is the originally intended human condition. God created this world and human beings to live naturally and with ease under these conditions. By extension conflict in the world represents a breach from this natural ideal. Conflict is the result of dissociation or alienation from God resulting in our forfeiting the ability to live in ways which result effortlessly in peaceful, harmonious existence.

Religion is the institution in human history and human affairs which exists to heal that breach, and guide human beings on paths which reconnect us to God, and by extension to restore our natural, original good nature and good behavior. For this reason, of all treasure, religious treasure is the most precious; not money, knowledge, or power. It represents the way for a bright and prosperous future.

The historical evolution of societies, cultures, races, and geographically based populations gave rise to many world religions, each with a profound history of guiding and elevating their respective adherents. It is inevitable that the rightful and important history of protecting and cherishing this precious treasure though excellent for cultures in isolation, has led to clash and conflict as travel and technology brought cultures increasingly into contact.

Now as a result religions function with this debilitating dysfunction, pathology, and self contradiction. Each contains excellent guidelines for supporting their own believers’ path to reunite with God and thus with secrets for the realization of peace, yet simultaneously they carry with them the inherited history of conflict and division.

We have always known that when wars involve religion in one way or another they are the most destructive and most intractable. This was true, even when weapons technology and rules of military engagement both served to lessen the potential extent of horror and human carnage. In our present age however we simply can no longer afford the luxury of conflict. Weapons technology has reached proportions capable of total, global destruction, and the 20th century saw the perfecting of asymmetrical warfare which removed those checks on conscience which once served to protect women, children, the elderly, and non-combatants. Hatred and the power of destruction have reached ultimate proportions way beyond anyone’s ability to control.

The ONLY legitimate religious activity under these circumstances is to make reconciliation, harmony, and cooperation an inviolable condition for religious legitimacy. NO religion no matter how “civil” no matter how “established,” has ANY right whatsoever to condone or tolerate words or actions which encourage division, even the tiniest bit. Religious leaders MUST succeed in removing the contradiction and pathology which continues to be part of religious commitment in the world today. This is why religious leaders bear the first responsibility more than any other vocation regardless of how noble or powerful. The ones who first must succeed to pioneer the principles of transcending difference through love, harmony, cooperation, and integration are religious leaders: A. because they claim to be in touch with the divine and B. because they claim to be the stewards over revelations and traditions which provide principles for right living.

We cannot afford to live without religious guidance. We cannot afford to have religions disqualify themselves because they bring conflict and division to the table, the very thing we so desperately need to overcome. Religious leaders must realize the religious call of the age and proudly pioneer among themselves first the sterling and shining example of harmonization of extreme and important difference. If this can be done in the arena of religion, it can be done in every subsequent field in which the treasure at stake is infinitely less precious.

6. The Relationship Between Secular and Political Leaders and Spiritual and Religious Leaders

To the extent that religious leaders successfully fulfill their responsibility of the age, secular and political leaders should be guided by joint, multi-religious councils of this new breed of religious leader.

Of course there have been a great many permutations in the relationship between spiritual and political leadership. Some states involve religious leaders more formally in national leadership; others allow an informal or unspoken influence from religious institutions. In many states the separation has become quite great, and political and economic forces dominate. The United Nations has tended to approach its mission from a political ground. Neither model has proven helpful in the ability of states to successfully achieve enduring peace and international cooperation. States which integrate religious leaders into government have proven every bit as capable and prone to war as secular states which seem to formally separate religion from government. For this reason the position that religious leaders should have greater influence on government is usually rejected by most moderns, especially in the West, and in those global institutions which are dominated by Western theories of social organization.

On what basis then does IIFWP advocate that peace requires religious leaders to collaborate in a fully integrated way with political and secular leaders? The key lies in the point that the religious leader councils must be multi-religious. Until now, the only examples of government including formal religious involvement are when just one religion is involved, for example Muslim countries, or Christian Kingdoms of the past. This cannot work because the religion in this case is tempted to use government power to advance its own parochial and denominational ends. The single religion can use the power of the state to oppress its own citizens, denying religious freedom (to varying degrees even death and torture), and it can use the state to wage war against its neighbors or distant proxies in order to pursue narrow, parochial or denominational agendas. This is the reason why Western philosophies and powers have adopted the principles of non-establishment and “separation.” The terrible thing about this decision of course is that political government loses access to its most important treasure and guide namely spirituality and religion. The central clash in the world today is between two sides which are both wrong in opposite ways. The solution to this clash is multi-religious councils. This accomplishes the best of both worlds, and what is absolutely necessary for peace in our time. Political leaders as well as all stakeholders can benefit from being guided by spiritual and moral ideals, and religions cannot use the state to advance parochialism, denominationalism, and other conflict and war producing habits in which religious leaders and followers have indulged in the past.

Members of multi-religious councils exhibit by the very nature of the council itself that they are true leaders for peace, reconciliation, harmony and cooperation. In this way religious leaders bring two all-important things to the table: 1. they are a living example of having successfully dissolved historical difference, hatred, and conflict, AND 2. They bring the wealth of God’s history, revelation, wisdom, love, care, compassion and humanizing traditions which every religion has at its core.

7. Peace Requires Collaboration Among Governments, Religions, and All Sectors of Civil Society, Including Education, Business, the Arts, Sports, Media, Social Service and Community Welfare Initiatives, and More.

It is always the case that in important areas of conflict (such as the Middle East) there exist a plethora of peace initiatives, and all manner of projects and activities for the uplifting of those who suffer the steady horror of war, deprivation, and insecurity arising from conflict. Every one of these does an important good and serves a vital purpose to respond to the great misfortune that prevails. Unfortunately these projects tend to be unrelated and uncoordinated.

This atomization is not “across-the-board.” Surely there is some degree of cooperation among these many efforts, and almost all projects collaborate or cooperate with some other group or initiative. Conversely, however there is an interesting set of biases and division also at work. Devotion to the different needs which arise from war and conflict create helper-communities which function like “denominations.” Laborers, even for good and noble causes, often become myopic and narrow in their social behavior and style. They (of necessity) create a language world unique to their world of service, their network of relations tends to be constrained to their own field or enterprise, and often leaders come to believe that their work is THE real leader which will bring about peace. For example those involved in religious dialogue might feel that they alone are the ones who can bring peace, others who do relief work on the ground and in the villages might think similarly. Perhaps journalists think that the media hold the key to peace, or artists might think that way. Each might hold some prejudices or biases against the other forms of enterprise. The person working in the slums might deride the “suits just talking in their posh hotels,” or “the egg-heads in their ivory towers,” and so on and so forth.

This sort of “denominationalism of vocation,” is also an obstacle for the realization of peace. IIFWP holds that the integration of all major helping-fields including religious, political, economic, education, media, the arts, sports, social service and many others is necessary to realize peace. This requisite integration is not easily achieved, and surely not achieved just by declaring it should be so. To bring people out from the confines of their respective vocations as well as to engender in everyone respect and appreciation for the different types of work needed and led by “types” completely different, is a delicate, hard-won, and requires as much creativity and investment as your classic forms of interreligious, or interdenominational dialogue. This too is an IIFWP principle of peace.

8. Peace in the Middle East Requires Investment and Cooperation from the Whole World, NOT Just from Players Immediately or Obviously Affected by Developments in the Region.

Until now, most major peace negotiations involving Israel and Palestine have been limited to a subset of those countries immediately connected to the region (namely the Israel, the Palestinian Authority, neighboring countries, and the United States). Often some country will host talks but not act as a stakeholder in the negotiations.

IIFWP rejects this starting point on principle. If those who suffer in the region are considered people first, before any other subset or “division,” (such as Jews, Muslims, Israelis, or Palestinians), then we are facing a “human” problem, rather than a political one. If people are suffering, or if two communities cannot find a way past extreme difficulties and conflict, then everyone in the world should be concerned, and everyone in the world has a stake in the resolution of the disordered situation. We define the situation as a problem in the family. We grieve as a global family and all desire the hasty return to peaceful life.

After this, we further recognize the political, economic, cultural, and religious interconnectedness which ties us all to the Middle East.

The second aspect of this 8th IIFWP principle has do with the fact that every religious and cultural sphere has unique wisdom, views, approaches, insights and so forth, any one of which could hold an important clue or secret to move beyond some part of the impasse. Perhaps a Thai Buddhist leader can see something that eludes everyone else, or a Hindu saint from places utterly remote and seemingly unconnected and unrelated to the Middle might recognize a destructive dynamic to which people more immediately ensconced are blind. Again this reflects the urgent call for interreligious councils to function not only in countries and regions, but internationally on a global scale. Leaders from every nation should go regularly to the Middle East with a heart of love and care, and a deep desire for the welfare of our brothers and sisters currently trapped in destructive cycles of horror and warfare.

Principles and Political Peace Processes

Because Moderns think from political assumptions, even lay people, when told of a “peace movement,” immediately demand public pronouncements, positions, and even action relating to passing political actions and proposals. For example one often meets demands like, “What is IIFWP’s position on the security wall currently under construction by the Israelis?” Or “What is your position on the recent non-governmental ‘Geneva Accord’ for Israel and Palestine?” for example.

In the face of such demands, there is a great temptation to formulate and issue such positions, or to feel that we are somehow failing when not able to offer formal stances on the passing and ever changing politics of conflict and security. To succumb to either temptation is wrong. As clearly evident from its above delineated principles, the IIFWP is not limited in its worldview or thinking just to the narrow realm of political thinking and action, no matter how important political leaders imagine themselves to be. In fact, clear-thinking people should place far less stock and hope in politically driven actions, proposals and agendas, and furthermore should start to point out more openly that the political dominance in modern affairs has been all but hopeless in addressing problems of conflict, injustice, and inhumanity.

The poverty of politics in isolation notwithstanding is NOT to say however that politics and political processes are unimportant. The above delineated principles state repeatedly that political activity, like all other peace-seeking vocations is indispensable in its unique contribution to unified and integrated programs for good. For this reason, those called to political vocations must formulate political opinions, just as scientists must offer their contribution, artists theirs, and religionists theirs. It is not the mission of the IIFWP to issue pronouncements and positions on political agendas for peace, but rather its responsibility is to provide clear principles to guide sound political thinking, to provide religious and spiritual power and guidance in support of political efforts, and to provide a supportive, multi-vocational community with all requisite expertise.

For those in politics, or are responsible to evaluate and position themselves on political proposals and positions, their responsibility is to be able to defend their positions grounded in IIFWP principles. There is no necessary political position based on IIFWP principles, there are only positions that can with greater or lesser success establish their conclusions rigorously grounded in IIFWP principles.

For example, “What is the IIFWP position on Israel’s security wall?” The first answer is “all walls and all division between people is wrong. It is against the original desire of God that all people to live easily in harmony.” But this is not a political position. It is a philosophical position. If the question were slightly changed: “Should Israel build a security wall at this time?” THIS is a political question. An IIFWP Ambassador who attempts an answer to this question must perform the analysis and develop conclusions rigorously grounded IIFWP principles. The question for the IIFWP Ambassador translates as this: “Would building a security wall in this point in time (IN JUST THE WAY IT IS BEING PERPETRATED) lead us in the most rapid, and most humane way to the desired end in which all people in the region live peacefully and in loving support for one another?” Conceivably, two IIFWP members could arrive at opposite answers to this question. It merely falls to the political expert and advocate to demonstrate that the conclusion is unerringly consistent with IIFWP principles and world view.

There might be cases in which a political action or proposal, after being analyzed from the IIFWP world view, is recognized clearly, unequivocally, and unanimously as good, or bad. In such cases the IIFWP might vigorously support or oppose a given political plan, just as it might do for a social or educational plan, a plan for the arts and so forth. The key is not to mistake the MEPI of the IIFWP as limited to the narrow field of politics, nor to presume that the initiative necessarily positions itself on all contemporary political activity. If for example it could be established clearly, unequivocally, and unanimously that a security wall at present absolutely impedes progress toward the time at which no sane person would ever dream of building a wall between God’s children, then MEPI would speak and act. Absent such clarity, IIFWP continues to pour its massive resources into working directly in all spheres to realize the conditions of true and lasting peace; a reality in which walls could not conceivably exist.