The Inauguration of the Universal Peace Federation
(UPF) in Austria was held on
December 18th 2005 in the ballroom of “Parkhotel Schönbrunn” close to the
well-known Schönbrunn Castle in Vienna.
Peace Choir created a beautiful atmosphere by performing Christmas carols and
songs of peace. More than 300 guests filled the ballroom, when the president of
the Austrian chapter of the Interreligious and International Federation for
World Peace, Mr. Peter Haider,
gave his opening remarks. He mentioned that the founders of the UPF, Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Moon, would
have liked to visit Austria
on this occasion as part of a 100-city world tour. Unfortunately the Schengen
list prohibited their entry into Austria. They were represented by
the European president of IIFWP Dr. Yong Cheol Song.
The first part of the program was dedicated to raising
funds for the Baby Hospital in Bethlehem. In order to focus the audience’s
attention on the Holy Land, a video about the
activities of the Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI) was presented. Since
MEPI’s beginnings in spring 2003 more than 40 pilgrimages with symposia,
conferences, peace marches and sightseeing tours were organized bringing
together Jews, Christians and Moslems. Several thousand participants have
visited the holy sites but also the places of today’s conflicts.
Dr. George Nicola, a medical doctor and honorary
president of the Austrian Palestinian community, spoke about the situation in Bethlehem today and about
that particular hospital. He was followed by the Palestinian Ambassador to Austria, Dr.
Zuheir Elwazar, who gave insight into the situation of the Palestinians. As a
special gift of thanks Dr. Nicola gave a present to the UPF that he had
received a few weeks ago from the mayor of Bethlehem,
who was then on a visit to Austria.
“El Shaddai” and other songs from Peter and Ikuyo Wressnigg, an
Austrian-Japanese couple, concluded the first part.
During the break, while enjoying refreshments and lots
of typical Austrian Christmas cookies, you could meet not only Austrian VIPs,
but also people from Afghanistan,
Chechnya, Armenia, Korea,
Japan and the USA, each of them representing organisations of
their people in Austria.
Among others the Embassies of Indonesia, India
were represented. Members of a newly formed Union of Oriental Christians,
representing all the different Orthodox churches, appreciated the support for Bethlehem.
In the second part of the program, which was opened
again by the Vienna Peace Choir, all the guests were invited to participate in
the World Peace Blessing, a solemn reaffirmation of one’s marriage vows and a
promise to respect family values. This Blessing Ceremony was introduced and
carried out by Mr. and Mrs. Peter Zöhrer, President of the Austrian Family
Federation for World Peace.
A video was presented about the UPF Inaugural World
Tour, highlighting its inauguration on September 12th 2005 in New York and special
messages from prominent political leaders. The Native American Elder Reuben
Silverbird, who wore traditional Austrian clothes, gave an appraisal of the
achievements of the founder. Then after a few personal words of introduction
the President of the European Peace Federation, Dr. Yong Cheol Song, read the
message of the founder on behalf of Rev. Moon.
Several new Ambassadors for Peace were appointed,
among them the Viennese Bishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church. 3000 Euros were
handed over to Dr. Nicola for the Baby
“Song of Joy”, the European Anthem and “We wish you a merry Christmas” by the
Vienna Peace Choir concluded the program. The guests were reluctant to go home,
because they were enjoying the unique atmosphere, which had been created.