News and Insights

Danger of Disregarding Voice of Religion

Session 8

Voice of religion as moral compass emphasized at international conference on minority faiths

Michael Balcomb on voice of religion
Dr. Michael Balcomb in 2017. Photo: FFWPU

Second part of a speech given by Dr. Michael Balcomb, President of the Europe and Middle East Region of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, at the 2024 CESNUR Conference. It was held from 12th to 15th June at the University of Bordeaux Montaigne in Bordeaux, France with the theme: “The Contribution of Minority Religions to Society”.

The conference was co-organized by: Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), Université Bordeaux Montaigne – CLIMAS (Cultures et littératures des mondes Anglophones), and International Society for the Study of New Religions (ISSNR).

Dr. Balcomb spoke on 13th June, the second day of the conference, during session 8 (plenary, chaired by Dr. Eileen Barker), which had the theme “The Unification Church and Japan: What Is Exactly Happening?”

Part 2 of Dr. Balcomb’s speech:

See part 1

I’d like to take one more step back from the problems facing us today in Japan to address the wider issue of this conference, the proper place, value and contribution of religion in democratic societies.

Too many nominally democratic nations are falling into the secular temptation to treat religion and religious views as distractions at best, and dangerous at worst.

Our Founders, Father and Mother Moon, have taught that religion has a vital role to serve as the conscience of society, and a moral compass for government.

Sun Myung Moon
Sun Myung Moon speaking at the UN Headquarters in New York 18th Aug. 2000, proposing to reform the UN. On the left Mother Moon, Hak Ja Han, at the rear Dr. Thomas G. Walsh. Photo: Graeme Carmichael / FFWPU

In the year 2000, speaking at the United Nations, Father Moon proposed the creation of an upper house at the UN composed of religious and spiritual, and even cultural leaders. With considerable foresight, he said that their knowledge and wisdom would be necessary to combat the rising tide of religiously motivated violence – and this was before 9/11, before Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIS and much more.

This Council, he said, would be tasked to make sure that the political leaders represented in the UN General Assembly and Security Council would not only speak to their own national self-interest. The council would acknowledge the truth that most of the world’s population is profoundly concerned about the religious and moral values that must undergird a world of justice and peace.

Less well known, among his other insights at that meeting was the thought that being in the United Nations would be good for improving the behavior of religious leaders too. In that egalitarian atmosphere, he hoped they would have to behave themselves, raise their game and work for the common purpose of peace.

That recommendation, which was supported at the time by the Philippines and some other nations, has not yet been adopted, but we remain hopeful.

It’s not just the UN that badly needs to strengthen its conscience. There are just too many examples of declining government behavior all over the Democratic world.

I come here from the United Kingdom, where there have been so many recent government scandals that I’ve lost count. You may have heard of the post office scandal where a respected government agency charged and convicted thousands of innocent men and women – post office managers – for crimes that they simply did not commit. The real culprit – faulty software and corrupt management culture – was known but hidden for 20 years.

Blood donation
Person donating blood in Stockholm, Sweden in 2020. The photo is purely illustrative and not related to the UK tainted blood scandal. Photo: Frankie Fouganthin / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC ASA 4.0 Int  

Another recent example is the tainted blood scandal of the 1980s which remained hidden for 30 years. Hundreds, thousands of people suffered catastrophic consequences and death because of poor controls on blood donations. The government and the National Health Service knew all about this but took no action to remediate the problem even though other nations, such as Canada, dealt with the matter right away.

Now we are in the middle of election season. We are sobered by the recent results in the European Parliament and the rise of extremist positions, even though we in the UK now only observe as spectators! The UK faces its own day of reckoning next month.

I’m a dual American/British citizen and when I look across the Atlantic, I’m deeply troubled by the choices facing the American people in November.

The voice of the conscience, indeed the voice of God, is needed now more than ever in our families, our places of worship, our schools, our society, in politics and in government. We need religious men and women to be free to speak truth to power, and to lead the way by demonstrating and practicing compassion and humility.

Mother Moon uses the metaphor of a railway terminus, like the one we are staying near here in Bordeaux. Trains arrive from everywhere – but at the destination we all have to get off the train and move on.

No religion can be excluded. No religion can be persecuted or marginalised, and people of all faiths – and of none – have to be free to follow the conscience, honour God as they see fit, and hold those that are chosen to lead us to account.

Without a place for God, the prospects for our future will remain dim. As the prophet Isaiah lamented over 3,000 years ago,

“They cry peace, peace, but there is no peace!”

Thank you.

See part 1 of Dr. Balcomb’s speech

Featured image above: From the panel during session 8 at the 2024 CESNUR conference in Bordeaux, France. From left: Dr. Eileen Barker (chair), Dr. Massimo Introvigne (founder and managing director of CESNUR), Attorney Tatsuki Nakayama. Photo: FOREF

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