40 Years in America
Rev. and Mrs. Moon officiated at an International Holy Wedding for 360,000 couples on August 25, 1995. The main site was at Seoul Olympic Stadium where 36,000 Couples and additional onlookers gathered. The remaining couples were simultaneously linked to the main ceremony at more than 500 satellite locations in 160 nations throughout the world. This was the movement’s first avowedly open Blessing. In 1992, forty-three Muslims and twenty-eight long-time contacts from seven different religious traditions participated in two Blessing ceremonies. However, their presence was not widely publicized. This time, the movement made a public commitment to transcend religious and denominational distinctions. Apart from this, there were practical reasons for reaching out to already married couples from diverse backgrounds. The 30,000 Couple Blessing conducted at the First World Culture and Sports Festival in 1992 was challenging but within reach as there were enough blessing candidates among the membership to meet the goal. There were not enough member candidates to make up the 360,000 Couple Blessing. As a consequence, the movement moved into uncharted territory.
Rev. Moon’s initial strategy for accomplishing the 360,000 Couple Blessing was to have all of the 30,000 Blessing couples bring twelve additional couples each. He soon supplemented this with the direction that all members bring twelve couples. In addition, the movement undertook high level witnessing among the many contacts established through the "True Parents and the Completed Testament Age" world tours. There also were hopes that many in the various federations for world peace and among the 4,000 American women matched with Japanese counterparts in sisterhood ceremonies would either participate directly or aid the cause. Finally, the movement cultivated contacts among religious leaders, particularly among independent African-based churches, ICC ministers who had previously gone to Korea, and representatives of non-Christian faiths who had attended one or more of IRF’s or IRFWP’s inter-religious conferences.
There were breakthrough encounters with leaders of the Nigerian Celestial Church of Christ and the Cherubim and Seraphim movement, also Nigerian based. There also were breakthroughs with representatives of the world’s religions based on the movement’s nearly two decades of inter-religious activity. In late 1994, the movement’s International Religious Foundation (IRF) produced a Blessing video, "World Peace Through Ideal Families," hundreds of which were made available; an attractive Blessing brochure, "Marriage, Family and World Peace," thousands of which were distributed worldwide; an educational manual, "Introducing the Blessing to Members of Other Faiths" which was distributed to movement leaders and missionaries; and a lecture slide program, "The Loving Family and World Peace." From December 1994, IRF leaders gave forty-three VIP Blessing education seminars in eighteen countries. Six months later, Dr. Frank Kaufmann reported, "several hundred social and religious leaders, and more than 100,000 couples from the world’s religions have signed up for the Blessing."
With an event of this magnitude, there obviously were innumerable glitches and problems. Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak, who had overall organizational responsibility, commented, "Anything you can imagine happened at the blessing." He noted, "Bridegrooms and brides came to the organizers right before the start of the ceremony saying they could not find their spouses." Despite the Korean rainy season and typhoon-like conditions and flooding in the days leading up to the event, there were no accidents with vehicles, including the hundreds of chartered busses bringing participants to the stadium. Members also counted it a miracle that the rains stopped just prior to the ceremony and resumed again afterwards.
Rev. Pak reported other "amazing miracles" throughout the world. In the Ivory Coast the transmission company restored a connection at the last moment despite the country’s "terrible track record of not paying for satellite service." Two weeks before the Blessing, through the work of a former President, Mali "[q]uickly...offered 15,000 couples." In Brazil, "on the eve of the blessing all the participants put on their ceremonial gowns and paraded in cars on the streets of Sao Paulo" with local media inflating the blessing total to 400,000 couples! In Papua, New Guinea, the satellite broadcast was carried on prime-time national television, and in Taiwan, the head of the Cultural Revival Association, a government organization seeking to restore traditional moral and family values, "sent out a personally-endorsed government notice to 5,000 heads of district and local organizations encouraging participation in the blessing." As a result, two city stadiums were prepared and "nearly 10,000 couples were blessed."
Apart from its work with VIPs, the American movement did not play a major role in the 360,000 Couple Blessing, particularly at the grassroots level. A number of staff and blessing candidates from among the membership traveled to Korea to support or participate in the main ceremony. Other couples took part in the "satellite blessing" at various locations. However, the locales and precise numbers were unclear. The Unification News published "partial" lists of couples blessed in Korea and by satellite, which approached 1,000. Even if these lists represented only one-tenth of the actual total, the U.S. would have fallen well short of its national goal of 40,000 couples.
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