On April 14th, over 100 religious leaders from across the country gathered at The Grand hotel in Long Beach, Calif., for the 2014 Religious Leader’s Peace Conference. Hosted by the international nonprofit group Heavenly Culture World Peace and Restoration of Light (HWPL), the event featured a panel of distinguished religious leaders of different faiths and backgrounds.
The Chairman of HWPL, peace advocate Manhee Lee is an active participant of peace and has been touring the world meeting notable religious and political figures. His visit to Long Beach marks his ninth world tour across three years to spread the message of ending war and uniting religions for peace. On these visits, Lee brings with him peace agreements for the leaders, in hopes that all leaders around the world will sign the agreement and be held positively accountable.
Well regarded religious figures in the panel included Dr. Uma Mysorekar, President of the Hindu Temple Society of North America; Dr. Mary Nelson, Executive Director of the Parliament of the World’s Religions; Imam Shamsi Ali, Head Imam of the Islamic Culture Center of New York; and Matthew Ball, Regional Public Affairs Director for the Church of Ladder-Day Saints.
One question for the panel came from a mother of four, “I have four young adult children,” she said, “and I can’t imagine sending them off to war…. How would you create peace in the world today?” The question was directed to Matthew Ball, the LDS Church Director of Public Affairs in the Northwest Area in charge of settling any misconceptions about the Mormon doctrine or people and promoting understanding among people of different beliefs.
Ball answered, “In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we would do that by following Jesus’ teachings and demonstrating that service to one another.”
Similarly, that concept of community and strength in numbers appeared in Jessi Kaur’s response. Jessi Kaur is a member and interfaith committee representative of Sikh Gurdwara Sahib San Jose, which is the largest gurdwara in all of North America. She founded In Global Synergy NOW (IGS NOW) to establish unity and spread the belief that the quintessential values of all human beings are compassion, sharing and forgiveness.
“If all religions believe in peace, […] then why would there be war? This requires dedication, respect, and dignity. Freedom of speech should be allowed, but always used with respect and dignity. We are all siblings of destiny.”
After the panelists fielded questions from the audience, Chairman Lee spoke on that very idea: destiny, a purpose beyond human means. As he stood on stage, Lee recounted the Hebrew Bible’s references to world peace. He said that the God of the Bible created this world with the sole purpose to reign over it, with all creation living in harmony and peaceable coexistence.
As Lee spoke, people listened. Despite all the difference of beliefs that were present, the purpose of peace united the room into a single-minded assembly as religious leaders inscribed their signatures onto the peace agreements one by one.
“He is traveling the world to make sure the message of peace is reaching out to everybody. I think he is exceptional and courageous, with a young and strong spirit,” Imam Shamshi Ali said about Lee. “Not many people are doing that.”
By the end of the conference, everyone came to realize that at the end of the day, peace is truly only made a reality by those who adopt it not only as external actions, but by an internal, heartfelt, and dedicated purpose.