I discovered Dr. Frank Kaufmann speaking on an internet radio show. Although I had never heard of him, he’s had a decades-long career traveling the world as an adviser and counselor for peace in conflicts between world religions. He is the director of the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace (IRFWP) and is also founder and president of Filial Projects among other organizations. I heard him on Cosmic Citizen, a show that airs on Saturdays, 10 AM Mountain Daylight Time at www.blogtalkradio.com/cosmiccitizen.
When I looked him up and found out that the group IRFWP was a Unification Church organization, I was in shock. I still carried unfavorable associations in my mind with the church founded by Rev. Sun Myung Moon (1920-2012), and I remembered old accounts of church members undergoing a “deprogramming” to be freed from domination and control by this “Moonie” cult. One famous book, “Combatting Cult Mind Control” (1988), was written by a former Unification Church member and deprogrammer, Steven Hassan. He has refined his concepts in several books written since then. See his web site https://freedomofmind.com//. But the highly publicized charges that coercion and brainwashing were used to obtain converts to Rev. Moon’s church have been hard to prove. I did check out Kaufmann’s group IRFWP. It does not appear on Steven Hassan’s list of cults and questionable groups. The Unification church is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.
No one can doubt Kaufmann’s bravery as a dynamic representative for interfaith, a soldier of the movement serving on the front lines of religious conflict. Like many in the field, Kaufmann serves as the citizen of a world-wide religious community at the same time as he maintains “membership” in the church where he first found his faith. This is as it should be for an interfaith worker, “It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is,” as Hermann Hesse expressed it.
Early in his career, Kaufmann spoke out to ease Hindu-Sikh conflict when Sikh militants of the Punjab were waging a bloody and terroristic fight to secede from India and establish an independent Sikh nation. “There is perhaps no greater offering we could make to God than to establish lasting harmony among the religions and religious believers represented here. Conflict between Hindus and Sikhs hurts the cause of all religions. How we long to say to God with one joyous voice: "Look at us. We who love you with all our hearts also love each other!" And then with the same voice say to the skeptic, the atheist, the materialist, as well as to the seeker, "Look at us. Religion and religious belief are not the source of our present problems; they are the cure. Belief in God does not lead to conflict. It is the foundation for lasting peace." (1988!) http://frankkaufmann.blogspot.com/
In the San Francisco Bay Area our front lines are not as fraught with violence and open warfare, though we should probably take a cue from Kaufmann, and treat our issues with as much seriousness. We are people of faith who must face escalating demands from the oppressed, especially from the 99%, demands for social justice, for policies and measures to counteract income equality, and solutions for a housing crisis that forces poor and working people out of their communities.
Kaufmann urges other interfaith workers to be prepared for “a high wire act,” of maintaining a balance when we meet opposition and challenge. He provides a step by step process to guide others in the work. “We enter a world of passions, commitments, and attachments far more powerful even that life and love itself. Religious people easily sacrifice their lives and all that is dear for what they hold true and of God … let us be sure we enter a world where niceness is not the recipe for achievement. We enter a world where being intelligent, or worse clever, is not the recipe for achievement. We enter a hair trigger world where there are 1000s of ways to fail.”
“Religion is entrenched and built with strong protections. If we hope truly to change this, more than pleasantness is in order. Serious interfaith activists should be prepared to meet real fear, and expect to have to battle or even plead at times for courage. Change in the religious world cannot happen in a casual or comfortable way.” (http://kaufmannoninterfaith.tumblr.com/)
Perhaps he has been a good influence. We see in media reports the photographs of clergy being arrested for civil disobedience, of bad immigration law in Arizona for example. Many of us believe, as this interfaith writer does, in the possibility of bringing peace and understanding between different races and communities, and world faiths like Islam, Judaism and Christianity. If ever there was living proof that such lofty ideals are still alive and well, Dr Frank Kaufmann provides it. In his role as editor-in-chief of both Dialogue and Alliance, and of The New World Encyclopedia, he has done effective peacemaking work in more than 65 countries, including conflict-ridden environments like Israel, Egypt and Palestine, Hindu-Muslim conflict zones in India and Kashmir, the Gulf, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere.
Despite the controversies surrounding the Unification Church, Kaufmann has shown himself to be a warrior for truth in the best sense of the word. For his work as a peacemaker and citizen of the world, Frank was nominated for the Guru Nanak Interfaith Award, along with luminaries like the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.
He is currently offering a doctoral level course on Interfaith and is presently writing “The Open Door,” a primer on how to effectively carry out interfaith activity. He says, "As religions, through dialogue, understanding, and reconciliation develop the ability to work together, we must seek to discover what is the positive good for all that can come of these achievements, this new found harmony, this powerful synergy."
Frank Kaufmann was also a contributor to this online news site, examiner.com, http://www.examiner.com/church-and-state-in-new-york/frank-kaufmann