of the
United Nations Conference on Human Settlements
(Habitat II)

Istanbul, Turkey. June 3 - 14, 1996
By Reverend Chung Hwan Kwak
Chairman and President
of the
International Religious Foundation

Honored President, Esteemed Delegates, ladies and gentlemen. I am grateful and deeply honored for the opportunity to address you. I am chairman and president of the International Religious Foundation, and one of six Presidents of the Inter Religious Federation for World Peace, comprising scholars and religious leaders from all member states. Our task, to promote harmony and cooperation among the world's religions, rarely attracts press attention, yet our efforts have successfully protected life, property, and social stability. Furthermore it involves us at the grass roots with populations displaced by war and conflict. We are happy to cooperate with the United Nations. Our documents from Rio and Cairo exhibit multi-religious collaboration and successful consensus building. Our analyses and proposals are moderate and conciliatory. Similarly our sister organization, the Women's Federation for World Peace, introduced progressive yet respectful views during their participation at the Beijing Conference on Women. I carry with me warm greetings from the founder of these federations, Reverend Sun Myung Moon.

We praise you for choosing the partnership model, and we pray for a happy transition as these new relationships evolve.

On the subject of human settlements and urbanization, I would like to present for your consideration a potential source of solutions, which can be called conscious or positive ruralization.

People move to cities for economic, educational, and cultural reasons. If these could be acquired elsewhere they would tend to stay, or move to the countryside which is more delightful and attractive. At comparable levels of comfort and intellectual stimulation, people prefer the more healthy, more peaceful, and more natural life in the country.

City life, on the other hand has drawbacks. The anonymity characteristic of city dwelling breeds family breakdown, and enhances the likelihood of moral depravity including extreme addictions of many sorts. The absence of nature's beauty and rhythms causes stress and is generative of complex physical and mental diseases, such as cancer and various neuroses and psychoses. We tend to be emotionally closed in the city, and spiritual life is next to impossible. Thus both basic (clean air and clean water) and advanced human needs (security and spirituality) are better met in rural settings. As pollution increasingly causes epidemics, and shortages of clean air and clean water, the upper classes will flee the cities. This should not be a privilege of the elite. Let us take steps for equity, otherwise the poor, especially the urban poor, will suffer a plight far worse than at any time in history.

Presently the economic destiny of nations is tied to cities, but this habit of the industrial age is unnecessary given contemporary technology. Already non-urban settings are preferred by many corporations. In some industries, with a simple fax and a modem for the internet and e-mail, virtually all work can as easily and effectively be accomplished from home. Companies can shed the expense and energy waste associated with maintaining huge urban properties. They can save on commuting costs, and eliminate this near criminal source of urban air pollution.

The same modern technology can also help decentralize education and culture. Television, video, and computers with modems make it possible for anyone to receive the highest levels of education. Distance learning allows a young boy in the Amazon to study with the same Harvard professor as the young lady living there in Cambridge. Through such means, a rural person can gain equal or surpassed cultural and educational sophistication to urban dwellers, thus eliminating a secondary cause for urbanization. If the scientific research and investment which has gone into the study of sustainable cities were equally oriented toward bringing the urban benefits of employment, education, culture, and ever higher standards of living to the countryside, a double benefit could be achieved.

Lastly, the technological capacity for the globalization of economy, education, and culture, including to rural areas is dependent on the establishment of true love families. Unlike animals, the ideal human habitat is a loving home. Distance learning, for example, would fail without the influences of a loving family to protect and guide the student. Technology is value-neutral and can be used to transmit evil and harmful data. Therefore governments and all related partners should support and protect the family. Through family love the all important ingredients of citizenship and sound socialization are bequeathed to future generations.

I hope you will use this statement as you seek solutions to the urgent issues under discussion. Please count on us to help and support the United Nations and its partners in your noble efforts for human betterment.

Once again thank you and God bless your efforts and your countries.