The Words of the Ward Family
Given the complexities of the problems of the world, our True Father deeply feels the necessity for the academic and professional community to understand God's ideal and the universal principles which make that ideal possible. Each summer, the International Cultural Foundation helps to make the Divine Principle available to several hundred academics, university administrators, medical doctors, lawyers, diplomats, government officials, ministers and professionals. As these men and women come to realize a greater vision and ideal for the world, they stand in a position to help all mankind.
Summer seminars are a wonderful experience. Primarily it is a time to teach the Divine Principle, to answer questions and to share our understanding and insights day by day. It is an opportunity to interject ourselves into the lives of our guests and make them feel a part of our family -- the rebirth of the human family -- to facilitate the experience of brotherhood which they might have thought impossible. It is not uncommon to witness guests from nations of long-standing conflict coming to be friends and understanding the common moral problems that we share. We leave each seminar having made new and good friends, friendships that bear great personal and public benefit.
We are challenged to present ourselves as we really are -- sincere, open-hearted, compassionate, loving and at the same time serious; sophisticated in our understanding, committed in our views, believing that we are part of a movement which can greatly affect the course of humanity.
The Acapulco seminar brought together 71 participants from 21 nations. As we greeted our guests on the opening day, I felt how special each person was.
The challenge of the week was to present the Principle as a sophisticated theology, yet simple and clear in its explanation of the truth. In the Principle of Creation, the points which were most critical were: positive and negative, subject and object, and the relationship between the physical and spiritual worlds. These points were easily misunderstood. The history lectures often draw out the comment that the Principle is too simplistic. The criticism points to what the Principle omits rather than what it includes. It is very difficult to adequately explain the reason God can work through certain people and certain ideologies more than others.
There was a general feeling of gratitude among the participants for our openness and willingness to be so vulnerable with what we believed. Their previous experience of followers in general was that they were defensive of what they believed.
One of the most special aspects of the seminar was the opportunity to spend time with the guests, to share our heart freely and watch close friendships develop during the week. After a few days we all felt more free to express ourselves. I can remember one lunch with a young professor who has a two-year-old boy. I asked him about his son. He became very quiet and I was afraid I had said something wrong. With tears in his eyes, he turned to me and shared that he had never felt so free to realize how much he loved his son.
I made close friends with an important government official from Venezuela. It was an interesting relationship because he did not speak English and I did not speak any Spanish. By my greeting him and serving him through the day in the most simple way, he came to feel quite close to me. There was one Spanish woman who is a professor in the Boston area who came running over to the reception table just after the VOC lecture, very eager to find out how she could immediately start receiving the News World.
Father has said that heaven is made real when you can be a friend, a teacher and a parent to the world. Throughout the seminar I found myself becoming a friend, a teacher and a parent.
During the course of the week we were able to have a special religious liberties session to inform the participants on this issue and to encourage them to support freedom of religion. It is Father's desire that professors take an active role in supporting our efforts publicly.
In their written evaluations of the conference, many participants felt the most fruitful aspect of the conference to be the chance to meet and learn to know our members, the "personalization" of the movement, in the words of one American participant. One person was "impressed by the personal qualities of the Unification members, courtesy and good humor when subject to radical criticism." A Welsh participant felt that "the theology seems to work in producing well-balanced people," and a Korean living in Brazil wrote, "Learning about the movement's real lifestyle moved me very deeply"
Others expressed appreciation for the good organization of the conference and the question and answer or discussion sessions.
Impressions of the Divine Principle as a systematic theology varied quite widely. On the positive side, the Divine Principle was characterized as "coherent within its principal revelation"; "impressive, all-embracing, demanding and complex as contrasted with 'born again' evangelical Christianity"; "surprisingly ordered and systematized"; and "revolutionary in its theological insights." A German participant wrote that the lectures "enabled me to deepen my thinking about the spiritual background of human life."
On the other hand, some participants criticized the omission of the findings of decades of biblical study; an orientation on the past rather than a growing towards a goal; and the absence of appropriate answers to the "crucial points and questions for which mankind is still in a bad need for concrete evidence." As a systematic theology, one person found the Divine Principle "primitive" and the theory of history "childish"; another felt the theology to be based on a theistic/Marxist viewpoint; still another would have preferred that the lectures based directly on the Level 4 book at least be illustrated by different diagrams than those found in the book.
As suggestions, a Canadian participant wished for a clarification of what is revelation in the Principle and what is commentary. Several noted a need for deeper analysis or more theorizing in order to strengthen some points in the Principle. Others proposed a comparison of action and theology, comprehensive commentaries according to Divine Principle on the Bible and on Buddhist scriptures, and an attempt to promote a deep knowledge of Islam. A British participant suggested the Principle "concentrate on its positive vision; it is not strengthened by attempts to make it totally systematic."
The conference in Abidjan, Ivory Coast was memorable for the great variety of participants, from 41 countries in all -- Arabs and Israelis, West Africans and East Africans, Black Africans and South Africans -- in a setting where they could sit down as friends, despite the conflicts between their nations.
In one unique and unforgettable experience, all present, staff and participants alike, went to a village and shared in the daily life and customs of the village. In this natural setting, external differences between participants seemed irrelevant as we all opened ourselves up to experience something new.
At the end, 45 members of the Ivory Coast family attended the banquet and sang for us.
In their written responses to the seminar, many participants who were attending for the first time were impressed by the lectures and the treatment they received by our members, but expressed a need for more time to digest the teachings. Also, quite a few were struck by the tolerance of the members and surprised at the openness of our movement to consider inclusion of new elements in the formation of our theology. Again, they expressed appreciation for the opportunity for questions and answers and often felt more time could have been profitably devoted to discussion. Although there were many with mixed impressions, the overall impression was favorable.
For some participants from Muslim countries, the Divine Principle struck a responsive chord. An Egyptian wrote, "I understand Divine Principle as a unification theology, but I hope it can be broadened enough to encompass other religious perspectives." A Sudanese found that "the movement's theology about Jesus is much better than in traditional Christianity:' According to a Turkish participant, "the Unification movement is rather a new religion than a new branch of Christianity, and I have a large respect for it." In contrast, two Israelis felt that "rationalization of faith is not necessary"
Many Africans found very positive elements in the seminar. A Ghanaian found the seminar "most fruitful" and was impressed by the view of history in Unification Thought. A Zairian thought that Reverend Moon was "similar to other African prophets who received revelations to bring the divine message to a world in full spiritual crisis." A Tanzanian "didn't find anything during the week which was not useful." A woman from the Ivory Coast wrote, "The Divine Principle seems incomplete to me. I believe that if I could speak personally to Rev. Moon, I would understand it better and would get a more complete version." A Nigerian was especially interested in finding out about programs planned for Africa.
Reactions from other parts of the world were interesting. A Filipino's impression of the Divine Principle w. that it was "an excellent combination of mind and heart" and noted that his university sponsors a program similar to home church. A Malaysian wanted to "explore the relationship between the specific Unification movement concepts and concepts that are fundamental to non-Christian religions." A Mexican wrote, "I appreciate the church's ideology and the dynamism of its members and am willing to help -- from a distance -- your mission."
One American was "surprised to find concurrence between Unification Theology and my own Quaker beliefs and surprised by the comprehensive nature of the belief and its relationship to life and action. The open and generous manner in which you have organized and operated this conference is a beautiful extension and expression of your belief in the unification of mankind." Another American felt that the theology sometimes appeared too logical and too systematic. He was "surprised to learn that God has many human qualities and human-like feelings and emotions."
A Frenchman expressed "renewed surprise to discover the wonderful 'style of thinking and living' of the members of the movement" and that the lectures afforded him "seeds for new meditation."
A Greek participant wrote, "Something very serious is going on. It seems as if firm roots of love and faith have been planted in a receptive world."