Representatives from four major religions in Korea organized a religious festival aimed at tearing down the walls between them. The World Religious Peace Committee organized the 2016 World Religion Culture Festival at Jeonju and other sites during Sept. 20-24. The committee comprised of representatives from Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant and Won Buddhist traditions. The latter is a native religion of Korea, which was founded by Sotaesan (1891-1943), who claimed to reach enlightenment in 1916. Its three constitutional missions are propagation, education and charity. The religion has no formal links with Buddhism. Together the four religions reaffirmed that they have a common goal, "practicing compassion and love." The festival offered various cultural events and gave people the chance to learn about the unique characteristics of each religion. The highlight of the festival was the World Religion Forum held on Sept. 21. The forum explored how each religion promoted compassion and leaders at the forum pledged to promote harmonious relationships among religions. At the forum, Edouard Firmin Matoko, UNESCO's assistant director-general, gave a keynote speech to some 300 religious leaders. "Interreligious dialogue needs serenity of self and an effort to sustain inner balance," said Matoko. "The festival shows the source of a culture of peace and I'm very pleased to experience it." Bishop Vincent Ri Pyung-ho of Jeonju said at the forum, "As religious people, we are the same in agonizing about how to practice compassion." Venerable Seongwoo of the Buddhist Jogye Order said, "Compassion and benevolence mean to respect other religions and love one another. Having compassion and loving each other is the true meaning of religion." The event was also held while there has been mounting international concern over North Korea's nuclear weapon and missile programs. In early September, North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a nuclear warhead, prompting new calls for sanctions against the isolated state. According to South Korean media, the developments in the North's nuclear program have lead some lawmakers in the South to call for the country to develop its own nuclear weapons as a deterrent.
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