Cultural Projects Express God's Creativity

Iforesaw that the 1988 Seoul Olympics would be a festival of peace that would critically alter the world order of the Cold War, and had many of our members from around the world come to Seoul for the event The members helped to guide the athletes and officials from their countries, cheered their athletes, presented them with mementos of their visit to Korea, and served them food. As I expected, even China and the Soviet Union participated in the Games, making them a festival of peace where there was harmony between the Communist bloc and the free world. On the day of the opening ceremony, I sat in the general seating area of Jamsil Main Stadium and watched that feast of peace and harmony with joy.

After the Olympics, I carried on the energy of the Games by founding the Ilhwa Chunma professional football team. The Ilhwa team has won several championships and built up its fame as a football team. Some years later, we founded the football teams Clube Atletico Sorocaba and Centra Esportivo Nova Esperanca (CENE) in Brazil, the home of samba football, and continue to operate them today. The reason I chose to create football teams is that I enjoy the sport. I have enjoyed sports since I was young, and for a time I did some boxing and some traditional martial arts. Footbal 1, however, is the one sport that I continue to enjoy into my old age. In my school days, I used to run around the schoolyard diligently kicking the ball, but now I enjoy watching it. When the World Cup was held in Seoul, a had three television sets set up for me side by side so that I could watch all the games. Particularly, I never missed a game that Korea played.

Football is a microcosm of life. No matter how well I might dribble the ball down the field, if someone from the opposing team who is faster and more skilled than I am comes along and steals the ball away me in an instant, then everything I did until then will be for nothing. Also, even if I might dribble all the way down the field and take a shot at the goal, if the ball hits the goal posts and bounces back, that's the end. It's up to me to dribble the ball, but it takes more than one person to get the ball into the goal. I need a teammate like) i-sung Park who will assist me at the critical moment, or someone like Young Pyo Lee who will adroitly draw the other team away from me.

The most important person is the manager, who watches over the entire team from the sidelines. The manager doesn't himself run or score goals, but his power is greater than that of all the players put together. Similar to the way that God sees things that we cannot see and gives us signs, the manager sees things that they players cannot see. If the players follow the signs from the manager well, they will almost always win. But if the manager sends signs and some foolish players either don't understand the meaning or just play according to their own thinking, the team can only lose.

Football is a sport where we compete over who wins or loses, but it also has significant influence over bringing peace between countries and increasing their cooperation. I was told that twice as many people watched the World Cup as watched the Olympics, which is a festival of athletes in all countries, and this gives us an idea of how much people around the world love football. It has the power to use a single ball that rolls around to create a space of harmony that transcends countries, races, religions and cultures. Football and peace among people are a pair of partners that go together well.

Pele, who was served as Brazil's Extraordinary Minister for Sport, once visited our home in the Hannam Dong neighborhood of Seoul. People remember him as the greatest football player in the world, but the Pele I met was a peace activist. He was wanted to bring world peace through football When he met me, he laughed and said to me, "I once played in Gabon in Africa, but the country was at war then. How do you think we were able play in a place where bombs were exploding all around? Thankfully, there was a cease fire during the time that we played. That's when I realized deeply that football was more than just a sport where we kick a ball around. Football is a means shared by all people in the world for creating world peace. After that, I decided that I had to carry out a movement for world peace through football."

I was so impressed with Pele in that moment that I firmly grasped his hand. We live in a competitive society, where there is a great deal of stress. Stress creates tension in our lives and takes away our peace of mind. When stress accumulates, people can become irritated and sometimes begin to fight each other. Sports and the arts are examples of things that help us to lower our levels of stress. Sports and the arts help us to vent our pent up urges, but they also provide ways for us to bring humanity together as one. The reason that we own football teams and lead a ballet company is that these activities are means for bringing world peace. Pele was already aware of such thinking.

Finding ourselves in agreement, we created right there a new competition of international dimensions called "Peace Cup." We have been holding Peace Cup tournaments every two years since 2003 by bringing famous football teams from around the world to Korea. Beginning in 2009, we plan to hold the tournament in different countries. The 2009 competition is being held in Spain's Andalusia region. Real Madrid and Sevilla, the strongest teams in Spain, and France's Olumpique Lyonnais are among the well known teams that will participate in what I am sure will be the world's best football tournament. Profits from the Peace Cup are used to support football programs for children and youth in countries facing difficult circumstances. In particular, we use football to help children with physical disabilities keep their dreams in life alive.

Working with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the U.N. refugee agency, we held a football tournament for young people in Liberia. This is a country that suffered 15 years of war among different tribes, and people are exhausted. It receives special protection from the United Nations because of its precipitous drop in population. Children and youth gathered together to play football, and sing songs of peace. During the time that they were kicking the ball around, they were able to learn the spirit that can bring harmony between tribes.

There is another project we are preparing with dedication. We plan to build a wonderful football stadium on the border between Israeli and Palestinian areas. We want to bring famous coaches from Europe and start a football academy for the children of the two countries. The adults may point guns at each other, but the children will want to come to the football stadium and kick the ball together. Everyone says it is unrealistic and shake their heads, but we will do this. Already a member of the Israeli cabinet has said the stadium should be built in their area, and a member of the Palestinian cabinet says it should be in their area. I am determined, however, to build it in a way that connects the two sides. I am not a person who allows himself to be pressured by others into giving up my dreams. I am a person who fulfills my dreams with bullheaded strength of will.

One thing people said couldn't be done was the creation of a ballet company. These days, more people in Korea enjoy ballet, and we even have star ballerinas, but at the time that we first created a ballet company Korea was like a barren wasteland as far as ballet was concerned.

Each time I watched ballet, I felt that this must be what art in the Heavenly Kingdom would be like. When a ballerina stands on her toes and holds her head toward the heavens, this stance by itself is a perfect pose for the way we hold God in awe. It has the look of ardent desire. In ballet, human beings use the beautiful body given to us by God to express our love for Him. It is the highest form of art.

Universal Ballet, which was established in 1984, began by performing 'Swan Lake" and "Nutcracker Suite." It has added to its repertoire "Don Quixote", "Giselle", and its own original creations "Shim Chung" and "The Love of Chunhyang" and has now developed to an international standard. Universal Ballet receives invitations from the world's famous venues, and its dancers are credited with adding a uniquely Korean beauty to the energetic moves of Western ballet in a way that harmonizes East and West in their performances. Universal Ballet has a ballet academy in Washington, DC. I also founded the New York City Symphony Orchestra and New Hope Singers.

The arts resemble God's creative work. Just as artists invest their entire .yes int0 their works, God also poured His entire heart into the human beings and the world that He created. The Book of Genesis makes it seem as though tilings came into being simply by God speaking a word, but that is absolutely not how it was. God invested all His energy in creating the waters and land. In the same way the movements of the ballerinas on stage are fruits of creation that requires that they invest themselves totally.

Something similar can be said about football. A football team will put out its entire energy during a 90 minute game. Players chase a ball that could come at them from anywhere. In making a single run for the goal, a player will invest everything he has in life, and invest every bit of energy that he can call up. This is similar to the time that God created the world. To pour out everything we have, to offer ourselves up completely for the sake of one moment in time — this is greaterness.