2021 Global Peace Convention Plenary
Dr. Hyun Jin Preston Moon
August 14, 2021
The theme for the Global Peace Convention this year is “Moral and Innovative Leadership in Peacebuilding for Our Changing World.” It could not be more timely, due to the present circumstances of global uncertainty and seemingly irresolvable conflicts.
While globalization benefited humanity greatly through trade, travel, and communications, there were also real downsides; the Covid-19 pandemic, for instance, showed how rapidly a health issue in one city can become a global crisis. More importantly, it reminded us of the uncertainties of human existence and our inability to find effective global solutions, regardless of the myriad international organizations created for just such a crisis.
As an economic phenomenon, globalization has heightened the inequities between rich and powerful nations and the developing world. This has reignited a politics of resentment and a growing separatist nationalism in reaction. These dynamics have been intensified by the global focus on consumerism and material development that seem to undermine traditional cultures and values, leading some to turn to violent religious extremism.
Thus, we face the irony that while globalization has interlinked our world in remarkable ways, it has also led to increasing fragmentation and antagonism in the spheres of politics and, most importantly, values.
Resurgence of Ideological Conflict
The rise of increasingly powerful dictatorial states that use advanced technology to strictly control their populations is, at root, about underlying values. The collapse of Soviet communism has not bankrupted Marxist ideas nor ended the debate over the source of human rights and freedoms; do they come from the State or are they endowed by a transcendent, principled Creator? Are people meant to be servants of the State, or is government meant to represent and serve its citizens?
Ladies and gentlemen, universal principles that guarantee human rights and freedoms, transcending governments or any human institution, are the foundation of a virtuous democracy. This understanding has been the cornerstone of every successful Western democratic-style government since the end of the Second World War. Today, however, many in the West have lost sight of those values and are turning to more extremist power-politics on both the left and the right, eroding liberty in the name of social justice, equity, welfare and national security.
Meanwhile, the very understanding that there are transcendent truths and principles is being challenged in the media and universities through neo-Marxist intellectual trends, such as critical race theory and deconstructionism, in an effort to breakdown the Judeo-Christian value system of western societies. Democracy, stripped of these underpinning values, and reduced to a competition for power, cannot by itself resolve conflicts and build peace; nor could it maintain the level of liberty and prosperity enjoyed by the West for centuries.
God’s Sovereignty and Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms
Thus, we stand today at a crossroads. What principles, which values, will direct our lives and guide us into the future? The path forward will be determined by our answer to this question. Our choices now, in the early 21st century, will decide whether humanity takes the path to peace and prosperity or to further conflict and chaos. This is a human moral responsibility. Neither belief in one’s religion nor faith in scientific advances relieves us of this dilemma.
Ladies and gentlemen, there are important lessons to be learned from the American experiment. The U.S. Declaration of Independence lays out the foundation of a principled polity with the words, “all men are created equal and endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights.” It proclaims the fundamental value and dignity of every human life, and recognizes as self-evident that the Source of that value, and the rights it entails, is eternal and universal. Therefore, those rights cannot be abrogated by any ruler or human institution.
This was a revolutionary idea at the time and still is today. Yet back in 1776, it was a direct challenge to a world in which “the divine right of kings” held sway. It aspired to create One Nation under God, recognizing God’s sovereignty and not a human one, so that the rights and freedoms inherent in each person made in the image of the Creator could be the national creed of the American experiment.
There was no guarantee that it could be established and prevail. It took nearly a century and a Civil War for America to finally address the fundamental injustice of slavery, which denied the essential rights and value of a whole race of people. In his Gettysburg Address during that war, President Abraham Lincoln asked if a nation founded on such a principle could long endure, and called for dedication to the founding ideal toward a new birth of freedom for all Americans.
The understanding that fundamental rights and freedoms are endowed to every human being by the Creator has endured. Just as Lincoln hearkened to the powerful assertions in the Declaration of Independence, so too did Martin Luther King Jr. a century later during the height of the Civil Rights movement in his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. They recognized the self-evident truth of God’s sovereignty as the source of all fundamental rights and freedoms; that regardless of human failures and contradictions in America’s history, surely, that idea will eventually prevail.
One Family under God
Today we must frame the question Lincoln raised at Gettysburg in a different way: Can a world that is NOT built on such a principle survive?
Ladies and gentlemen, biologically, all human beings share a common DNA. We all come from a common ancestor. In essence, beyond the tremendous diversity of life, we are essentially all related as one human family. Today, those differences are even more pronounced due to the spread of identity politics and globalization that has brought different races, ethnicities, religions, cultures and nations into ever closer, often contentious contact.
To live together in peace and prosperity we must understand that beyond these many differences, we are one family who share the same origin in the Creator God. The vision of One Family under God can unite us since it shows the pathway to true global unity in diversity, as the American experiment aspires to do on a national level. The alternative is continued conflict and chaos among warring power groups based on identity-based politics, rooted in our differences; and, eventually, forced to live under the tyranny of whatever power group wins out in the end.
One Family under God expresses, in a simple yet profound way, a fundamental truth about human life. We are all relational beings. At birth, we are completely dependent on our parents for survival. As we develop in the family, we learn valuable lessons of interdependence, cooperation and co-existence by finding our sense of value and belonging, recognizing the importance of the relationships we build as a son/daughter, brother/sister, husband/wife and father /mother. These lessons are, then, expanded to a larger circle of relationships within the family, and outside the home to the larger society, nation and world.
Family is the central locus of human experience and meaning. Just as the pregnant phrase in the US Declaration of Independence became a catalyst for elevating our consciousness about the source of human freedoms and rights, so too the vision of One Family under God can spark a new awareness of our interconnectedness beyond the innate value of the individual to the most basic human social unit—the family. Imagine the ramifications if we really began to perceive every person as a member of God’s family, sharing in the innate value, freedom and rights endowed upon each one of us through our creation in His image.
It can be a catalyst for raising up our spiritual consciousness to an even higher level beyond the individual level to that of family. Thus, it will provide us the ability to perceive more clearly the eternal principles governing human life, along with the resolve to live by them. Living in resonance with these principles is living under the sovereignty of God. It is the foundation for genuine freedom, lasting peace and prosperity for the entire human family.
Importance of Conscience in Discerning Universal Principles
What will it take to achieve such a lofty ideal? Peacebuilding requires more than good intentions. It must stand upon foundational principles that can be expressed through effective action. We have to remember that we are not the source of our own existence. We cannot arbitrarily create the laws we exist under. Just as natural laws exist and govern the world of Nature, so too do moral laws that govern the human spirit.
In recent centuries, we have learned a great deal about our universe – that it had a beginning, is highly ordered, and functions with mathematical precision. Science itself begins with the assumption of natural laws and principles that are unchanging and absolute. The origin of the universe must be transcendent, and the source of the natural and moral laws that guide it must in itself be unchanging. We call that Origin and Source by different names, but, most typically, we use the word God.
Just as we understand that living in harmony with the laws of nature is necessary for sustaining life on our planet, so too is aligning with the moral laws of the universe necessary for finding meaning and fulfillment in life that can be shared by all people. God and the universal principles He created must be at the center of human existence. True freedom is not doing whatever we like in the moment. It is the freedom to recognize and live by those principles through which true human value and dignity are realized.
That is why freedom of conscience is so important. It is the foundational freedom that recognizes and guarantees the equal value of every person that the U.S. Declaration of Independence proclaims and the Constitution ensures. It recognizes the conscience as the human faculty through which we discern the universal principles that govern our existence and distinguish right from wrong. All other freedoms, such as freedom of belief and expression, are an extension of the freedom to exercise one’s conscience.
Freedom of Religion
Thus, freedom of religion is an absolute necessity in ensuring true liberty. The world’s religions have a vital role to play in bringing about this transformation of consciousness. Extending the importance of freedom of conscience to the level of society means that freedom of religion is an essential foundation for a truly free and ethical society. But freedom comes with responsibility.
Throughout history, God has inspired the founding of various faith and wisdom traditions to elevate human consciousness and cultivate ethical civilizations. And yet continually we see division and even conflict between people of different faiths, although the vast majority of moral precepts they seek to live by in daily life are exactly the same. The source of their contention is often rooted in differing institutional orthodoxies, doctrines and traditions while they aspire to many of the same spiritual principles and goals, such as loving thy neighbor, living a moral life rooted in truth and righteousness and, eventually, create a world of peace.
Just as it was people of faith that engendered the American experiment, it should be the faithful that leads the world to peace by advocating the vision of One Family under God. All faiths should cooperate to build a world free of conflict, reflecting the highest spiritual ideals, rooted in universal principles and values that reflect God’s truth, righteousness, goodness and love for all humanity. Only then could we harness the power of faith to truly transform the world and build true everlasting peace and harmony for all.
Ladies and gentlemen, today human rights are being violated in many parts of the world in ways that fundamentally deny human dignity and innate value. North Korea, in particular, is notorious in this regard. Korea, the country of my birth, has a significant role in resolving this grave injustice against humanity.
I have spoken and written of the Korean Dream, the dream of a country re-united on the foundation of universal principles and values. I look to the providential mandate rooted deep in Korea’s history and culture, predating the current ideological division by millennia. In particular, hongik ingan, or “living for the greater benefit of all humanity” resonates with the spiritual principles of all the great religious traditions and with the high ideals of the Declaration of Independence.
Divided Korea is the last remaining vestige of the Cold War. The North is the last bastion of atheistic communism in its most extreme form. The impact of the principled reunification of the Korean people, artificially divided for way too long, will be enormously significant. Not only will it benefit the peninsula and the East Asia region through greater peace, stability, and prosperity. It will be a light to the world, showing how even the most extreme division and conflict can be overcome. Korea can become a model for many countries in the world, particularly those that experienced colonialism, division and poverty, as it champions the vision of One Family under God as a global advocate.
Family and Character
Ladies and gentlemen, to create a world that substantiates One Family under God calls for moral leaders and virtuous citizens. These are raised in families. Effective peacebuilding with deep roots begins in families. Families look to shape the future of society through each rising generation. Therefore, before we speak of principled societies and nations, we should first speak of families that live in accord with the universal principles we have spoken about.
The family should be the school of love where children learn how to relate with others – parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, you name it -- and where the foundations of character are laid. This provides a child with the model for relating with others in the wider society as an adult. It is also where the child can experience most directly the love of God. The revolution in spiritual consciousness begins with a revolution in the life of the family.
Character education, first in the family, then in schools, should raise future generations with the grounding in moral principles, the spirit of public service, and the practical skills to move the world closer to the ideal of One Family under God. Such families will form the social foundation for realizing that ideal through raising the peacebuilders of tomorrow to actively bring it about.
The Need for Moral and Innovative Leaders
Realizing the vision of One family under God requires leadership that is both moral – rooted in universal principles and values – and innovative – finding creative ways to put these principles into practice. Such leadership is essential to tackle a wide range of challenges.
Our time features a cacophony of conflicting ideas about human identity and society, from the nature of the state to individual identity and gender relations. The result has been widespread moral confusion. That is why we need clarity in the principles, values and vision which could guide us through this impasse in human history. It is important that we understand which ideas will lead to a peaceful, harmonious future and which will dissolve social bonds, leading to chaos and anarchy.
Ladies and gentlemen, the vision that can guide humanity to world peace is none other than One Family under God. It builds off the idea of God’s sovereignty as the source of all human rights and freedoms as well as expanding those ideas to the level of family. It recognizes the relational nature of our human existence and how family shapes and forms our world view. It acknowledges the value of diversity and recognizes the Creator as the common thread that holds all humanity together; just as good parents are the glue that keep their often contentious and competitive children united in love within the ideal of family.
Most importantly, it raises humanity’s spiritual consciousness of the moral laws that should govern a truthful, righteous and good life beyond the barriers of ideology, religion, ethnicity, race or even nationality. It challenges us to rethink our paradigms and look beyond the failures of the past to what could be possible in the future, if we only dare to dream big.
For we, collectively, are the authors of this chapter in human history. Today our world is at a critical juncture, an inflection point. The choices we make, the standards we set, and the leadership we exhibit will have far-reaching implications for the future. Now is a time for clear vision and principled action. I hope that each one of you will become peacebuilders in your respective spheres of influence and join with us in the great movement for global peace.
Let us all commit to become the moral and innovative leaders who invest all of our passion, energy and talent to serve the greatest good -for the benefit of all humanity, that together, step by step, we can finally realize the greatest dream of all, the dream of One Family under God!
Thank you and may God bless you and your families.