The Words of the Amadou Family
When I joined the movement, only two young men were living in the center with the Japanese missionary, Mr. Iwaoji. Others had come and gone before those brothers joined, but by 1981 or 1982, they had stopped coming. The American and German missionary colleagues of Mr. Iwaoji were no longer there, perhaps because of difficulties they could not overcome in Mauritania. All this is to say that in 1982, seven years after the start of their mission, the providential result was less than wonderful. Nevertheless, the Japanese brother was holding on very hard, trying to establish a foundation of substance. Three more young men joined a while after I did, so in 1983, just seven of us were members when the police arrested and deported Mr. Iwaoji.
During the eight years of his mission, Mr. Iwaoji had worked underground; officially, he was a press correspondent. The cultural divide was real for our Japanese brother, but he left with the satisfaction of having found seven spiritual children, which was a victory, considering the situation of our country.
The arrest of the two full-time members who lived with Mr. Iwaoji took place at the same time. The three of them had been out of the center and returned in the evening to find the area cordoned off by police. Told they were not allowed to enter the area, the three went to an unoccupied house that belonged to one brother's family. They talked, well aware that they were the target of the police investigation. They decided to return to the center and turn themselves into the police. After their surrender, the police arrested two other members at their homes. The situation would have been very serious for the Mauritanians if it had not been for the intervention of one of their relatives who was in a high position in the government. This relative pleaded the fact that they were just young, inexperienced students. Without the relative's intervention, they could have received death sentences for recruiting members for a religion other than Islam.
Mr. Iwaoji was deported; the members were allowed to return to their university studies. Activities ceased and a quiet period followed. Those arrested were being watched. Whenever their activities aroused interest, a phone call from some government authority would warn them off. Three years after the police raid, the Mauritanians who had been arrested left the country, officially to study abroad, but they never came back. Later, in fact, one enrolled in the seminary at Barrytown. Though we had been deprived of our leader and spiritual elders, those of us who remained members tried to keep the spirit of unification. This lasted until the regional headquarters in Abidjan sent us an elder blessed couple -- an Ivorian brother Timothëe Yokpore and his American wife Dee Anne.
This blessed couple were not trained as lecturers, but they had the advantage of living a Unificationist lifestyle, which in itself was an education for us. We often visited them to read and discuss material and share a meal together. This regular contact helped us in some way to keep moving ahead. In 1990, the couple was sent to a neighboring country, and we were left alone again. By that time, we had started to participate in seminars organized in neighboring countries where there was more freedom of religion. This helped us mature and become more committed. So when I came back from a twenty-one-day seminar in Abidjan, I plucked up the courage to invite a few friends and parents to attend a discussion on a topical issue. Most of them responded affirmatively to the invitation. I used a lecture videotape created by brother Kayembe Kalamba and followed it up with an explanation. This led to an exciting debate. We had a warm, somewhat contentious, meeting that evening, but I felt satisfaction from a few people becoming supportive members. Some turned out to be passive, but others have remained members to this day. We were still underground, but we kept contact through meetings held at the house of a brother who lived in an isolated area.
In 1992, during a forty-day workshop in Abidjan, I was chosen to participate in a blessing in Korea for married couples (I was already the father of three children). I interrupted my workshop and went back to my home country to prepare. A week later, I was in Seoul with my wife.
I would like to explain the background to my blessing: In 1989, some serious and painful events took place in my country. In Mauritania and in Senegal, fighting broke out between Moors and Senegaese. At the end of the deadly confrontation, the border between Mauritania and Senegal was closed for three years, until 1992.
My family had gone to Senegal just a week before the trouble started. My wife is Senegalese, and she occasionally went to stay with her parents. In 1990, at the time of my twenty-one-day workshop in Abidjan, I was told that if I wanted to participate in the next blessing, I had to observe a separation period of three years. The closing of the borders separated us anyhow, so this turned out to be easy for me.
So I accepted the offer to go to the blessing and asked my wife to come to Abidjan, so she could hear my news and give her opinion on the matter. We had not met since April 1989 and my telling her about this direction was rather delicate, because although she had not rejected Divine Principle, she had not yet accepted it. Hence, her acceptance of the direction was a victory for me. Moreover, she accepted to begin her first seven-day workshop immediately. Following that, she returned to Senegal and did a twenty-one-day and a forty-day workshop, with the result that she was better prepared, internally, than I was in April 1992, when it was time for us to go to Korea. After our stay in Korea, we went back to Senegal via Mauritania, where she had not lived since 1989. The very day after we arrived, the border between the two countries, Mauritania and Senegal, was officially declared open again. We could hardly believe it; it was such a beautiful coincidence. We gave a long testimony in Mauritania about our exciting trip to Korea.
My family came home to Mauritania in July 1993. My wife was expecting our first blessed child and our son was born on August 25.
The year of 1994 was a consecrated one, because it saw the arrival of ten Japanese sisters and also of an Ivorian brother providentially sent to Mauritania from his home country. I am sure that heaven sent him because he really strengthened us spiritually during his stay. These two arrivals radically changed the spiritual scene in our country. The Japanese sisters enabled us to find, at last, a decent location for our meetings and gave us moral support. They were inspired to create an NGO giving social aid. This they did, and they worked with the cooperation of a number of local NGOs.
The brother from Cote D'Ivoire was a workshop specialist. Although he was young, he was a dedicated and active member in his country. He took us in hand. We were four couples and seven single members. For discretion's sake, we decided to hold our meetings at a brother's house on the outskirts of town, rather than at the Japanese sisters' place in the town center. It was an unforgettable time of enthusiasm and determination, which eventually led us to become a mature team, although at first we were not well prepared. Imagine an entire family -- father, mother, children -- leaving their domestic responsibilities and going, at some risk, to special meetings, and even fasting for seven days, in a hostile environment, especially with regard to the attitude of our own parents. In August 1995, all the single members in the group received the blessing, except for the youngest, who were not the required age. The trip to a neighboring country for the Blessing Ceremony was moving. Today, we have nine blessed children from these couples.
As long as the Japanese sisters remained, all went well. We had weekly meetings. Our wives received guidance from their oriental sisters. The Japanese women even cared for the Mauritanian children as they grew up. In time however, the Japanese sisters received the blessing themselves and have naturally remained in Japan with their families. The Ivorian brother has continued his life course under other skies. Deprived of contact and special care, some families went back to their old (fallen) lifestyles, like Israelites turning back to Egypt -- including three couples who became polygamous.
With a sister as our FFWPU regional leader, who came regularly to visit us, we tried to go forward.
On November 20, 2005, we succeeded in holding our first public conference under the name International Inter-religious Federation, sponsored by FFWPU, with the participation of leading figures from the fields of religion, politics and academia. The president of UPF-Senegal inspired the conference with his peace message, and we nominated twelve ambassadors for peace. I shed tears of joy that day, because for the first time the name of our founder was mentioned without any adverse reaction; rather, the contrary.
We repeated the event on September 12, 2007, with the same success, proving that the first had not been an aberration. The foundation is well and truly in place. We simply have to build on it. The Ambassadors for Peace Association, however, has not yet found a legal framework to develop in. The request for legal registration, made in 2005, still lies in the office of the minister of the interior, for reasons we do not understand. This makes fund raising difficult, thereby holding back our activities and preventing members from attending international conferences. I cannot be satisfied. To move beyond our current situation, I think that we should be able to send our highest-level Peace Ambassadors to our conferences abroad, so they can appreciate the international scope of our federation and bring back home a positive report for their fellow citizens. This would inspire the ministry to accede to our request.
This is my conclusion. We have a foundation; we simply have to develop it. The enthusiasm in our meetings for the cause of peace shows that civil society is ready for action; I am convinced that from the soil of all those years of suffering, isolation and misunderstanding a sapling has at last appeared; we look forward to the emergence of fruit.