NEW YORK — With America still on the mend from one of the most divisive presidential races in memory, religious leaders from around the world convened Saturday in New York City to deliver a message of peace, unity and reconciliation.
Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, co-founder of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, delivered the keynote address at the group’s “Peace Starts With Me” conference to a near-capacity Madison Square Garden.
She called on attendees to bring about “an ideal world of peace” by living “for the sake of others” and practicing “true love in your families, in your neighborhoods, in your tribes and in your nations.”
“Through freedom, peace, equality, unity and happiness, a world with all of these characteristics, this ideal world is not far away,” Mrs. Moon, who spoke in Korean, said through a translator.
The peace conference was attended by a joint delegation from Japan and South Korea, including representatives from Japan’s right-of-center Liberal Democratic Party and South Korea’s left-of-center Minjoo Party and centrist People’s Party.
Earlier in the week the Korean and Japanese delegates met with members of the U.S. Congress to express bipartisan concern about China and the growing threat from South Korea. The conference was held at the Rayburn House Office Building and was jointly sponsored by the Washington Times Foundation and the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace of the Universal Peace Federation.
Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, New York Democrat, said peace can be achieved only when “the dignity of every individual person” is recognized.
“Regardless of political association or religious affiliation, I believe we must stand united as people of good faith to protect our sisters and brothers from violence and other forms of repression,” Ms. Clarke said in a brief address. “Where there is bigotry, hatred and injustice, there can be no peace.”
Mrs. Moon called on America, Japan and South Korea to “unite together as one” and become “lights of the world” for freedom and equality, just as they stood together against communism during the Cold War.
Representatives from the world’s major religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, also attended the peace conference. Pastor T.L. Barrett Jr. of the Life Center Church in Chicago and Archbishop G. Augustus Stallings Jr., founder of the Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation, were among the speakers.
Despite the gravity of the topic, the mood at the Garden was celebratory. A group of young adults, seated near the front and wearing neon-green shirts that stood out in the dark, periodically broke out into applause, cheers and dancing.
The conference also featured ground-shaking performances by Grammy Award-winning gospel singers Yolanda Adams and Bishop Hezekiah Walker.
They were accompanied by a boisterous 2,000-member choir, produced and directed by Emmy Award-winner A. Curtis Farrow, that filled several sections of seats near half-court and dressed in white robes with blue, red or yellow stoles.
Mrs. Moon is the widow of the late Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, a Korean businessman and religious leader who founded and led the Unification Church until his death in 2012.
In 1982 the Rev. Moon founded The Washington Times, which today is owned by a consortium of businessmen affiliated with the Unification Church.
Mrs. Moon continues to lead the religious movement, and recently has been traveling the world in an attempt to unite the faith community.
Her trip to America comes as ideological fault lines exposed during the presidential race have continued to fester six months into President Trump’s term.
The investigation into Russian meddling in the election has heightened with the revelation that Mr. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., met with a Russian lawyer who promised compromising information on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The younger Mr. Trump insists the meeting was insignificant, but Democrats say it’s proof that the Trump campaign attempted to collude with a foreign adversary to swing the election.
House Democrats on Wednesday formally introduced articles of impeachment against the president, although the effort to remove Mr. Trump from office has not gained much traction.
Event materials for the peace conference invoked the words of Abraham Lincoln, who in his Second Inaugural Address implored his countrymen, “with malice toward none, with charity for all,” to work to secure a “lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Mrs. Moon said America first “has to be saved for the world to be saved.”
“I hope that America will never forget its original mission and essence,” she said, “and I hope that you can become the courageous vanguard that will become the light of this world.”
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