On the foundation of the achievement of the Washington conference in April (see report in March/April issue of The Cornerstone), the second in a series of religious liberty conferences sponsored by the International Coalition for Religious Freedom was held in Tokyo, Japan, May 23-25th. Its purpose was to expand and deepen the theme of gReligious Freedom and the New Millenniumh introduced in Washington. It focused on three distinct themes. The first, mainly addressed in the plenary sessions, attended by all the approximately 120 delegates, dealt with the international situation and featured presentations by former U.S. Congressman Toby Roth and former Reagan State Department official, Elliott Abrams. The second theme, addressed by one of the two conference committees, dealt with the issue of gJapan and Religious Freedom.h Of particular note were supportive appearances by two sitting members of the Japanese Diet . The third theme, addressed by the other committee, dealt with theoretical and practical challenges to religious freedom posed by psychology and various societal factors.
UTS graduates again played a significant role in the conference. President Shimmyo(e77) and Dean Masuda (e77) of Sun Moon University Graduate School of Theology moderated the two committee sessions dealing with the Japanese situation and presented committee reports at the closing plenary. Dean Mickler (e77) did the same for the committee session dealing with religious freedom and psychology. Daniel Fefferman (e86), Executive Director of ICRF, served as overall Master of Ceremonies for the conference. The conference was preceded by a major Unification Church court victory in Japan which rejected the concept of gmind controlh as a rationale for suing the Church. It is hoped that the new climate of which this conference is a part will lead to greater freedom for all faiths in the region. To that end, ICRF announced the establishment of an Asian regional branch in Tokyo.
The Berlin conference took place on the last weekend in May and was co-hosted by ICRF and the Washington Times Foundation. It brought together 150 distinguished politicians, academics, religious leaders, human rights activists, lawyers and journalists from 52 nations. Among the speakers were member of the Russian Duma, Galina Staravoitova; a former Prime Minister of Ireland, Albert Reynolds (one of the main initiators of the present Northern Irish Peace Accord); and Congressman Charles Canady, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution at the U.S. House of Representatives and one of the main architects of a proposed law on religious freedom.
In recent years, Germany has been particularly intolerant of new religious movements. In the January edition of the ICRF Report, Executive Director Dan Fefferman reported that the German government went so far as to publish, at taxpayerfs expense, a booklet attacking the Unification Church and has placed reverend Moon on the Schengen Treaty list, effectively banning him from entry into most European nations.
The Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985 in the village of Schengen on the borders of Luxembourg, France and Germany. The so-called gSchengenlandh created by the treaty is intended to be an area of free circulation within the European Union. The signatories are Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Portugal and Spain. The original purpose of the agreement, which was fully implemented in July 1995, was to remove all controls at internal land, sea and airport frontiers, allowing travelers to move swiftly without customs or passport checks. Apparently, the treaty also states that any person banned from one of the signatory nations will be banned from all of them and this is why Germanyfs action in placing Fatherfs name on the Schengen Treaty list is so serious. This action has been opposed by some, including the Dutch government which made a point of stating that Reverend Moon is welcome to visit the Netherlands despite Germanyfs actions.
At the Berlin conference, former Free Democrat politician Dr. Achim Rohde called the attitude of the German government towards religious minorities incomprehensible. He cited the example of Reverend Moon, who substantially contributed towards the victory of democratic values over communism, but is banned from entering the country. On the same theme, Prof. Cheryl Lau (Harvard University) expressed her astonishment over the German banning of Reverend Moon and viewed Germanyfs placing of Reverend Moon on the Shengen immigration gblack listh as a misuse of the Shengen Treaty.
At the close of the conference a resolution was developed which is to be presented to leading figures in the political, scientific and religious worlds. ICRF President Bruce Casino, Executive Director Dan Fefferman, European Coordinator Mark Bramwell, Ms. Vicki Barros and Ms. Mary Rand of the ICRF, as well as all other staff members?many of them volunteers of the European Unification Church?worked very hard to make the conference function and served the guests, who were impressed by the excellent organization and the pleasant environment of the Maritim proArte Hotel, where the event took place.
Just the day before the conference (independently from it) six prominent professors sent the press a very interesting document, proclaiming that gan open society needs no ideological control.h The government, they say, should give people the freedom of a spiritual search, even if it is connected with some risks for them. Only concrete criminal actions of the gsectsh, where there are such, should be punished by law. One of those professors is involved in the work of an Enquete (Inquiry) Commission, set up by the German Government to investigate so-called gsects and psycho-groupsh. He was not satisfied with the politicians who are not taking scientistsf opinion seriously enough.
Originally, creating such a Commission was a response to a growing controversy about new religious groups. It came to its peak in the case of Scientology, when the gsectsh issue became a political one, affecting German-American relationship.
The Chairman of the Enquete Commission Mrs.Ortrun Schaetzle (Christian Democratic Party) was very much displeased by the gprovocativeh letter of the professors, which, she thinks, was given to the public before the proper time, because the final report of the commission is about to be presented to the Bundestag. Their letter, sent to the media, caused a series of articles in German newspapers, bringing a new revelation into the country that gno danger comes from sectsh.
The Enquete Commission, namely Mrs. Schaetzle, had to immediately respond to this press attack. Its press-release from May 29 recognizes that gnew religions and ideological groups and psychogroups are a response to the consequences of social changesh. The work of the commission has revealed that only certain of these groups are laden with conflict and that no generalized statements on the whole spectrum of new religious ... and psychogroups can be madeh. Particularly, Bonn politicians are still not happy with Scientology, which they consider not a religious group, but a gpolitical extremist organization.h
As a consequence, the Enquete Commission has decided to no longer use the term gsecth. An essential result of the work of the Commission is to emphasize that the individual is not a gpassive victimh but rather actively structures the course of his membership. This aspect has not been taken into account enough in public discussion until now, says the press-release.
* Much of the content of this article was drawn from reports by Dr. Michael Mickler and Nina Makarova.
( PLEASE NOTE: ICRF is looking for people who would be willing to answer a brief questionnaire on religious freedom in their country and keep ICRF updates on religious freedom issues. They particularly need correspondents in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the smaller nations of the CIS. Their e-mail address is <<ICRF@aol.com>> )
PHOTO: UTS President Dr. Theodore Shimmyo addresses the Tokyo conference.