Understanding Islam, South Korea – 4 February 2012

at the Chung-ho Buddhist Cultural Center
organized by the Korea Society for UN Initiative for Peace among Religions (KSUNIPAR)

Imam’s Lecture to a Buddhist Group in Korea

“Understanding of Islamic Culture” was the theme of a special lecture by a Korean born Imam to a group largely of seasoned Buddhists trained in Vipassana meditation regime in Kangnam, Seoul on the evening of February 4, 2012. The lecture was a highlight of an official UN Week for World Interfaith Harmony, 1-7 February 2012, and the lecturer was Imam Abdul Rahman Lee Ju Hwa of the Korea Muslim Federation and a serving Imam at the Central Mosque in Seoul.

The Imam was schooled in Saudi Arabia (National Medina Islamic Theological University) and Japan (Meiji University) where he majored in Arabic, Islamic theology, Arab area studies, earning degrees from both institutions. Since 1994, he held a number of official positions at Seoul’s Central Mosque reaching the position of Imam in June 2010, thus becoming the very first Korean-born Imam in the world.

His one-hour lecture touched on most of the major principles of Islam. The lecture obviously was a well constructed and concisely delivered dissertation of what Korea needed to hear at this early juncture of Islam’s inroad to Korean society. The lecture was followed by a Q&A session in which some spirited but respectful questions on various aspects of Islamic principles and tenets were put to the Imam who took pains to answer them with grace and patience. Copies of the lecture notes were available; they were also posted on cafe.daum.net/ksunipar.

It was on the whole an admirably animated event with high contents of educational value. The Imam’s soft spoken and articulate presentation provided an aura of scholarly undertone.

The lecture was organized as a part of observance of the World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW) proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on a proposal by H.M. King Abdullah of Jordan in 2010. It was held at the Chung-ho Buddhist Cultural Center in South Seoul where some 50 Buddhist devotees were in attendance. It was a historical occasion in that a serving Imam was pleased to visit with a Buddhist institution to deliver an important talk (in fact right in front of Buddha’s golden statue) on Islamic culture to Buddhist adherents to coincide with an official UN Week to honor world interfaith harmony.

The event was organized by the Korea Society for UN Initiative for Peace among Religions (KSUNIPAR), a non religious, civil society organization dedicated to ensuring harmony and mutual respects among numerous religions in Korea and elsewhere. The organizers were delighted by the most constructive and peaceful way the whole event turned out which has given them an added incentive to do more of the same in the future involving other religions as well. The success gained was possible thanks to the international framework of interfaith harmony of religions that acted as an umbrella for spreading the message of peace around the world. I also call it an example of grassroots level interfaith harmony action for which the usual fanfare and propaganda hypes were relegated to an appeal of the United Nations in which the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan provided critical inputs.

As the evening was wearing off, I was reminded of the often repeated truism: “There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions and there will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions”. What about another popular quote?: “One who knows one, knows none”. A food for thought! Hmm!
Yoon-Yul Kim
Representative,
Korea Society for UN Initiative for Peace among Religions
(2012/02/07)