The Words of the Cho Family
Asunción, Paraguay - An energetic crowd of 25,000 packed into Asunción’s historic Club Olimpia Stadium burst into rowdy and prolonged cheers at the Global Peace Festival (GPF) on July 5 as Founder Dr. Hymn Jin Moon told them “Paraguay would play a leading role in building One Family Under God.” The Paraguay GPF is the first of 17 planned throughout the world in 2008.
“Before we are Paraguayans, or Americans, or Koreans; before we are Christian, Muslim or Jew, we must understand our fundamental identity as the sons and daughters of God,” Moon said. “We must look beyond our differences to the things that unite us and can bind us together.” Faith leaders from many traditions opened the festival with a moving display of unity and affection, culminating with a call for God’s blessing by Bishop Manoel Ferreira of Brazil. Ferreira, who leads an international Assembly of God congregation of several million, also announced that he was inviting the Global Peace Festival to come to Rio de Janeiro in December.
Interest in the Paraguay festival reached a fever pitch in Asunción as the limited supply of tickets quickly ran out. When local radio station Popular 103 FM ran a contest to give away the last 1,000 tickets to young people who brought a donation for the capital’s poorest children, more than 4,000 actually turned out and filled the streets for ten blocks around the station with cheerful teenagers hoping for the hottest ticket in town.
On July 3, at a mini-Festival held to coincide with the end of a city-wide cleanup and beautification effort, several thousand schoolchildren from 70 city schools gathered for a celebration of their work. The service project, sponsored by the Global Peace Festival and Mayor Evanhy de Gallegos and the City of Asunción, was the first of its kind in the country.
More than 250 international leaders from 80 nations -- including eight former heads of state, 30 congressional leaders from South America, religious leaders, academics and youth leaders convened for a three-day International Leadership Conference and Young Leaders Summit sponsored by the Universal Peace Federation and the Youth Federation for World Peace.
José Luis Chilavert, the extroverted soccer hero who scored more than 60 goals for Paraguay in international competition despite being a goalkeeper, welcomed the international delegates. “We’re proud of being Paraguayan,” Chilavert said, “but we’re even prouder that you have come here to our country to kickoff the Global Peace Festival for 2008.”
The conference attracted more than half of the newly elected senators and deputies of the new Paraguayan government. “We are making progress towards the United Nations’ goal to create a culture of peace,” said UPF Secretary General Thomas Walsh.
The conference also met with outgoing President Nicanor Duarte at the Presidential palace, congratulating him on the nation’s first peaceful and democratic transition of power. “It was hard to build the base of democracy;” said Duarte, “the foundation is never seen. Our future generations will go much farther than we have gone and I wish you all the success in the Global Peace Festival.”
The Club Olimpia finale brought together some of the hottest South American groups for a real battle of the bands, with Argentine music sensation Alejandro Lerner (www.alejandrolerner.net) topping the bill, with strong support from the Cuban rap group Chapa C, Factoria (Panama) and Dalmata (Dominican Republic). Earlier in the show, the Paraguayan National Symphony Orchestra and Ballet, and Paraguayan groups Los Olejos and Generations warmed up the crowd.
The work of peace-building continues long after the stadium finally fell silent late Saturday evening with GPF organizers announcing a significant investment into a character education and service initiative for the Asunción schools. “This is the start of a new chapter in Paraguay’s history,” said Thomas Field of the Victoria Company, one of the leading local backers of the Festival. “The time has come for this nation to shine,” said Senator Lillian Sameniego, the Festival’s organizing co-chair.
“Una Familia baja Dios, One Family Under God -- yes or no?” Hyun Jin Moon challenged the crowd during his speech. For Paraguay and the city of Asunción tonight, the answer was unequivocally “Yes!”
The next GPF is scheduled for August 9th in Washington, DC.