The Words of the Williams Family
This Must Be God! (Highlights along the path to national messiahship)
In our life of faith we experience certain moments, which we could refer to as spiritual milestones, in which we might well exclaim, "This must be God!" For most, if not all, Unificationists, the first spiritual milestone would mark our realization of the Truth / Truthfulness / Trueness of the Divine Principle and simultaneously - or not long thereafter - the identity of the True Parents as the Lord of the Second Advent.
In the Divine Principle, the revelations of:
1. the sexual nature of the fall of man,
2. the failed mission of John the Baptist, and
3. the primary mission of Jesus,
Though at first sight highly controversial and hard for fundamentalist Christians to accept, are at the same time most spectacular and powerful. When I received the explanation of the Historical Parallels, then I knew, "This must be God! This Divine Principle must be true and the person revealing it must be the Messiah." Similarly, upon seeing for the first time moving pictures (on video) of Abonim in action with such power and authority at the Madison Square Garden Rally of 1974, I realized, "This must be God! This is the Messiah! At last you have come!"
Joining the Unification Church in Germany back in October 1978, I was matched by True Parents to M. D. in Camberg in June 1981. In our introduction, I found out that not only were we born in the same country (United Kingdom) and city (London), but also in the same hospital (St. Mary Abbot's, Kensington) with both our birth certificates signed by the same Registrar whose name was also Williams, like mine. Besides this, our families were based in Singapore and Sierra Leone, and it turned out that Singapore meant 'Lion City' in Sanskrit while Sierra Leone meant 'Lioness Mountain' in Portuguese. On top of that, the two nations' representatives sat next to each other in the United Nations according to alphabetical order. I saw this as destiny: "This must be God!" Our blessing of the 6,000 couples took place the following year on October 14th at the Chamsil Olympic Indoor Stadium in Seoul, Korea.
Starting our family in November 1988 in Singapore, we were blessed by Heavenly Father with three children within four years: J.-Inshin (three days before True Parents declared the Day of the Settlement of the Eight Stages 'Pal Chong Shik') in 1989 and Myungshin-Mahdi (five days after Young Jin Nim's 14th birthday) in 1992 in Singapore, and Hngshin-Devendra (the day after Heung Jin Nim's 24th birthday) during a tribal messiahship visit to Sierra Leone in 1990.
Perhaps that sojourn in Freetown kindled a desire in us to abandon our externally cozy and affluent environment in Singapore (albeit as members of an underground church) and go out into the mission field. We felt Heavenly Father's love and guidance in deciding to obtain our continental directors Reverend and Mrs Kim Byung-Wooh's approval to first undergo training at the Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) in Barrytown before venturing into a mission country.
Based on our varied ancestral background (my Ceylon Tamil father and Macao Cantonese mother and my wife's Sierra Leonean Sarakulay father and Moroccan mother), we were presented a wide range of choices in which to pursue the Hometown Providence. Thanks to the Unificationist ecumenical perspective that we inherited from our True Parents, we also felt well equipped for the outreach to the diverse faiths represented by our relatives (on my side, Hindu and Catholic paternally, Buddhist / Confucianist / Taoist / Methodist maternally, and on my in-laws' Muslim and Christian fundamentalists).
Like thieves in the night, we stole out of Singapore with our three little children, crossing the border with all our luggage in two taxis into neighboring Malaysia in order to fly to Washington, where my wife's brother took her and the children into his home in Silver Spring, just outside the District of Columbia. On my part, I was to make my way upstate to New York to commence studies at UTS. The theological program embarked upon at Barrytown after God's Day 1995 (Winter Term) was soon disrupted by a set of circumstances. The birth of our fourth child, Sarah-Jeungshin in Silver Spring, Maryland, two days after True Parents' New Hope Farm Declaration, coincided with unexpected financial difficulties. We also heard the same voice that called us out of Singapore once again summon us to be active in the witnessing field for the 360,000 couples blessing scheduled for August of that year.
Particularly my wife's role in the Washington DC Blessed Mothers VIP Outreach Team (which among others resulted in the Blessing of two notable African diplomats who gratefully honored True Parents in Father's Washington Banquet Speech 'The True Family and I' on September 10th) caught the attention of the Regional Director Reverend Woo Chong-Jik, who subsequently invited us to take up the mission of State Leaders for Virginia. Almost immediately thereafter, we received the great honor of hosting the True Children in their delivery of True Parents' message in Richmond. Departing from the customary format of a single member of the True Family flying in and out again just before and after the speech, the entire Family of In Jin Nim and Jin Sung Nim with Shin Myung Nim, Shin Kwon Nim, Shin Sun Nim and Shin Yul Nim spent the whole weekend speaking, going on an outing and celebrating a birthday party with Virginian family members, leaving behind many precious memories.
At the close of an eventful year of promoting True Family Values - including virginity - to Virginians, we received the divine summons to the Chung Pyung 40-day workshop as candidates for national messiahship. Presiding over the lottery of November 9th, Reverend Kwak Chung-Hwan drew to our amazement the mission country of Senegal. "This must be God!" Out of 185 nations, we received the very one where my wife's grandfather Foday Batu D. was born and from where he emigrated together with two cousins on the eve of the Great War in 1914 in order to avoid forced conscription into the French colonial army, a prospect not readily countenanced by any proud Sarakulay warrior. However, man proposed and God disposed, when the three brothers were promptly drafted into the British Field Force upon their arrival in Sierra Leone!
Urged personally by Dae Mo Nim in Chung Pyung not to delay our departure, we set foot with our four young children at Dakar's Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport on February 28th, 1997 to launch our providential efforts in the mission country. In retrospect, we can never render enough thanks to Heavenly Father, True Parents, Heung Jin Nim, Dae Mo Nim, together with the angels, saints, sages and our ancestors for the unfailing protection and guidance we constantly received during our 43-month sojourn in Senegal, which ended with True Parents' mobilization of the Blessed Wives to the Fatherland, coupled with the registration workshop culminating in the Blessed Family Holy Grace Ceremony, which we attended just on the eve of the Coronation Ceremony for the Kingship of God.
Experiencing the Holy Spirit's power, we had witnessed how totally open and prepared the Islamic realm was in receiving the Blessing. At an early stage of our national messiahship presence, my wife had a dream in which her ancestor the Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him (pbuh), came to her and declared that he "could not set foot" in our center. Our movement had hitherto been existing as a Westernized Francophone church on the fringe of a predominantly African traditional Wolof-speaking Muslim society. As such, Muslim guests did not feel 'at home' in the traditional Unification church setting. Moved by the Spirit to love and embrace the land of the ancestors by 'walking the walk and talking the talk', we resolved to eat their food, wear their clothes, speak their language and be with them in their homes and of course in their mosques, particularly in observing their religious festivals.
In addition to proclaiming my wife's descent from the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) traced back matrilineally through the great spiritual guide and religious leader Sheikh Abdul-Qadr, we made ourselves known as Serigne ak Sokhna ('the Reverend and his wife' in Wolof), D., which rapidly opened all doors into Senegalese society. A few days thereafter, the country's secretary-general of imams [prayer leaders of mosques] and ulema [Muslim scholars of religious law and doctrine], El-hadji Moustapha Gueye, declared himself to be "totally in support of Reverend Moon's monogamous ideology".
We soon found ourselves, under divine guidance and inspiration, sharing with our Muslim brothers and sisters how Islam actually favored monogamy over polygamy, and how polygamy was historically restricted to a situation in which the male population had been decimated by wars and persecutions and in which the Prophet had allowed the men to then take responsibility for up to four wives in order to:
1. preserve their sisters from falling into prostitution and immorality,
2. restore the population size back to its critical mass, and
3. possibly correct the demographic male-female imbalance.
Having the name D. meant that we could fulfill not only national but also tribal messiahship in Senegal. Our first D. contact turned out to be a bright young university student speaking excellent English and who had the same name as Sokhna's father Dr. Sheikh Batu D.. He enthusiastically joined CARP and got other brothers from his 17 siblings to sign on as well.
Upon encountering the D. Clan Association, we learned of the legend associated with its lineage, namely that the clan traced its descent all the way back across and beyond the Sahara desert to one Salman Faris, a Persian disciple of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). According to their oral tradition, the Prophet, mystified by daily secret donations left on his table, instructed an attendant to establish the identity of the secret donor by observing the next transaction concealed behind a curtain. Once this was known, the attendant was to mark the donor's garment with black ink as an indication to the Prophet. Finding out it was none other than Salman Faris, the Prophet gave him the appellation 'Al-Dirhamiyou' (the one who donated the dirhams -- the standard currency of the day).
As the nomadic family ultimately made its way to spread Islam from the Middle East towards Timbuktu (now named Tombouctou in Mali), its name was modified, through the Arabic practice of omitting vowels, from 'Dirhamiyou' to 'D.', thereby leaving the core consonants DRM unchanged. The D.s formed part of the Sarakulay tribe which entered the Senegambian region from Mali by way of Jawara (the birthplace of Sokhna's grandfather Foday Batu D.), located at the confluence of Senegal, Mali and Mauritania, Interestingly enough, we noted that the Senegalese, particularly in the marketplaces, would quote prices of goods in their native Wolof language, in 'derem' (derived from 'dirham'), despite the fact that their official currency is actually the Franc CFA (African Financial Community). It was also fascinating to learn that the D. lineage was historically always associated with the priesthood in disseminating and teaching the faith. Carrying this name therefore meant receiving the respect due to a religious leader and teacher.
An unforgettable event was locating Sokhna's long-lost flesh and blood relatives belonging to the branch of the family that Foday Batu D. left behind in Jawara, through the help of a UNESCO official in Dakar. The tearful reunion was rendered even more poignant by the production of old documents such as correspondence and photographs dating back almost forty years. One of the surviving nephews of Foday Batu D. still had in his possession a Sierra Leonean government memorandum signed by his cousin Dr. Sheikh Batu D. (Sokhna's father) during the latter's tenure as the country's first post-colonial African Finance Secretary. Sokhna saw herself in her younger years in a family photograph that her second cousin had received by mail from her father many years ago in response to his request. The Jawara D.s were especially overjoyed to witness the return of Foday Batu's family to Senegal in the fourth generation through the birth of our fifth and sixth children, Sophia-Yeshin and Victoria-Hoonshin in Dakar in 1997 and 1999 respectively.
One of the many mysterious ways in which Heavenly Father worked was in bringing my parents-in-law twice to Dakar as a result of the tumultuous situation in Freetown. Already pre-blessed in 1995 by the Japanese missionary to Sierra Leone, they were evacuated to safety after 'sobels' (soldier rebels) had ransacked their home short of killing them in cold blood. Traumatized by the carnage and in frail health at 75, Dr. Sheikh Batu D. nevertheless experienced much peace and joy in the healing company of the blessed children, having his afternoon naps side by side with his baby granddaughter. Divine Providence had arranged it that he would spend his final days in a blessed family home in his ancestral homeland. When he passed away in early 1999, we, having the care of his funeral arrangements, saw to it that he went to Heaven with his head resting on a Divine Principle book, the True Parents' picture tucked into his suit breast pocket over his heart, and the Holy Blessing ring snugly fitted on his wedding finger.
Being still a Member of Parliament (besides an erstwhile presidential candidate, who had his doctoral thesis on <Post-Colonial Constitutional Developments in Sierra Leone> published as a textbook in African studies) at the time of his demise, he was due to be accorded a state ceremony in Freetown. Flying over from America, his other children rallied to help convey his body in casket by helicopter (there being no regular flights between Dakar and Freetown) to be laid out in state, draped under the nation's flag in Parliament House in the beleaguered Sierra Leonean capital, to receive the last respects by President Ahmed Tejjan Kabbah as well as his fellow parliamentarians, who paid tribute to the many contributions he had made to his country.
Following Sokhna's keynote speech on 'Peace and Reconciliation', the honorable members of the House were particularly moved by, and expressed their appreciation for the fact of our undertaking the risk of entering the war-torn land against the overall outflow of refugees making their way to neighboring Guinea and beyond. While in Freetown, we attempted to establish the whereabouts of the Korean national messiah to Sierra Leone, Reverend Kim, and were told that he was probably already out of the country.
We were indeed not short of reminders of political fragility in West Africa. In May 1998, we bade a tearful farewell to our Eve National Messiah Reverend Nakai's family who were returning to Japan after having lived a year with us in Senegal. The very next day, we received the dramatic news from the Japanese embassy that the Eve National Messiah to Guinea-Bissau Reverend Nishi's family would be arriving in Dakar in the Senegalese Navy gunboat 'Le Fouta', having been evacuated from Bissau upon the violent overthrow of President Vieira by General Ansumane Mane. Amazed at how Heavenly Father replaced our loss, we welcomed our new Japanese family with the furniture and clothes that the Nakais had left behind.
Going to Africa, we had wondered how our children would ever learn the Korean language and how our eldest daughter J.-Inshin would ever become a ballerina as we had hoped. Dakar turned out to be the one city in that entire West African sub-region uniquely offering both facilities! Blessed with a significant Korean community, the city center had a Korean Church with weekend Korean language classes, one of whose members was a Korean lady married to a Senegalese, who wanted her children to know their mother tongue. And so it was that our two elder children were admitted into a class formed specifically for non-Koreans with their very own Sonsaengnim to guide them into the rudiments of Korean conversation! Invited to the Korean Community's Family Day at their embassy, these blessed children were warmly embraced by the Ambassador himself with prizes and presents.
In the heyday of French colonial power, Dakar had served as the capital of all French West Africa which stretched from the Mediterranean coast to south of the Sahara (the Sahel). Senegal's first President following Independence in 1960 was the poet Léopold Sédar Senghor, whose mastery of the French language was such that he had been appointed a member of the Académie Française with the authority to introduce new words to be officially included in the French vocabulary. Still very much a bastion of French cultural heritage, Dakar was therefore not without ballet schools. The fact that J. was able to attend weekly ballet classes for a good three years in Senegal was a testimony to the extent of our Heavenly Father's loving care in meeting even such individual family needs during our mission there.
Realizing our responsibility as the Abel National Messiahs to build good public relations with the diplomatic community, we decided to extend our sphere of contact beyond our own (British) embassy and those of Korea and Japan. A Beninese sister who spoke excellent French rang up the various embassies to make appointments for us to pay courtesy calls on their respective chefs de mission in order to make known to them the work of the True Parents through the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification International. Sister Catherine spoke with so much authority and respect of 'their Excellencies Monsieur D.-Williams et son épouse' that there were days in which we would have two or three ambassadors lined up to receive the three of us, all dressed up, in line with official protocol. By the end of our embassy outreach campaign, we were satisfied that among the thirty-three diplomatic missions visited, those representing the larger members of the United Nations - particularly the United States of America, the Russian Federation, Brazil and Indonesia - had accorded us favorable audiences.
We also enjoyed close personal relationships with the Gambian, the British and the Malaysian ambassadors, the latter two annually inviting us to celebrate the Queen's Birthday and Independence Day respectively. British ambassador David Snoxell practically treated us as family members, including us in his farewell reception (upon his posting to become the British High Commissioner to Mauritius) with Sokhna performing at the piano in a duet with another Englishman on the violin, and myself reciting Thomas Gray's Elegy in a Country Churchyard before an astonished and distinguished gathering. Visibly moved, Ambassador Snoxell told me that the famous English poet, Thomas Gray, was actually buried not far from his hometown. These were but a few of the many precious and nostalgic moments Heavenly Father allowed us to cherish in the course of our stay in our mission country of Senegal.
Notwithstanding the wealth of experience we garnered from all the afore-mentioned, perhaps our greatest spiritual treasure was gained from living with the local Senegalese population at the grassroots level. In fact, desertification was increasingly replacing grasslands with sand, and so it would be more appropriate to say that we walked with our people across the sands of the Sahel in their daily life. Confronted on all sides with poverty, unemployment, crime, disease, corruption, shortages and all the other social ills common to underdevelopment, we and our children could behold with our own eyes God's sorrow at the sight of His children's suffering. Living on a dollar per day, our cooking was done out in the open air, beset by flies and mosquitoes, heat and humidity. And because foreigners were never regarded as being possibly poor, our neighbors constantly looked to us for sustenance and assistance. Very often, we had all types of people hanging around, looking for ways to get money from us, whether by fair means or foul. We also found ourselves giving even the little that we had left to Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees who had gone through hell and high water to seek a safer life in Dakar. Indeed, our fervent desire is to return one day to Africa in order to help end the suffering on that continent by building nothing less than the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
With the beginning of the activities of the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) in Senegal, the prospects of such a future are no longer so distant. In the course of our PR work, Sokhna and I met Dr. Oumar Ndongo, a professor of American literature at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop, and President of the West African Research Association (WARA) in Dakar. Responding positively to the message of the True Parents and the Unification Principle, Dr. Ndongo accompanied us to attend True Mother's World Tour speech in Cotonou, Benin in April/May 1999. Joining us in the Sunday morning pledge service spontaneously, Dr. Ndongo comfortably performed his Islamic prostrations alongside our kyungbae in honoring Cham Omonim, who subsequently received him personally as a Senegalese VIP representative to the conference.
By late 2000, Dr. Ndongo had attended the key IIFWP and WANGO conferences and seminars held in New York, Washington and London, and was able in a short time to organize local conferences for not only Senegal but also Cape Verde and Mauritania. Particularly noteworthy was his ability to bring Muslim and Christian religious leaders together to these meetings. For the inaugural Dakar event, he invited as keynote speaker the University Imam Mohamet Niang, who surprised many of his fellow Muslims gathered there with his statements based on the Holy Qur'an. He declared, "If Allah had wanted one sole religion to exist on the earth, He would have brought it to pass. It therefore followed that Islam allowed for multiplicity and the plurality of religions. Furthermore, Allah is recorded as having sent many thousands of messengers to the earth, Judaism, Christianity and Islam accounting for but a small number of them. It therefore followed that the others must represent faiths outside the three revealed monotheistic faiths, and thus Buddhist monks, Hindu saints and Confucianist sages would be included as messengers of the Almighty."
Invited to deliver concluding remarks from the IIFWP as its international representative, I reflected how for centuries, Christianity and Islam had been in conflict. Because both faiths disagreed with each other at strategic points, their adherents tended to compare the best aspects of their own faith with the worst of the other. Yet, in spite of their divergences, the two Abrahamic religions jointly acknowledged God's greatest prophets such as Moses, David and Jesus and considered the Torah (the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament) as the first Book where God's Word was revealed. Above all, both are characterized by an unshakeable belief in the oneness of God, His majesty and His deep concern for humanity, His highest creatures.
Historically, Christians referred to war against the Muslims as Crusades (taking up arms under the Cross); Muslims similarly regarded going into battle against the Christians as the jihad against the infidels. I however asserted that if both faiths originated from the one and the same God, then no war between the two brothers could ever qualify to be called 'holy'. In reality, nothing could be more unholy than fratricidal conflict. What God would rather see at this time is for all believers to find Him together in an "ecumenical jihad of the civil society: the jihad against economic injustice, the jihad against the destruction of the environment, the jihad against racial and religious hatred and intolerance, the jihad against family breakdown and social disintegration, and so on... and when we will have won this jihad as God's true holy warriors (mujahideen), we will see each other as brothers and sisters in His Kingdom, the Abode of Peace (Darussalaam)."
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