Unification News for May 1997

Asian Writers Come to Washington

by Michael Marshall-Washington, DC

Who else but Reverend Moon could bring over 300 writers, poets, critics and literary scholars from thirty different countries of Asia half way around the world with only a few weeks notice to a remarkable and successful literary conference? That is what has just happened in Washington, D.C. where writers and scholars gathered at the Omni Shoreham Hotel from April 23 - 27 to consider the theme: "The Search for a New World Culture for the 21st Century: Asian Literary Perspectives."

They came from East Asia, South-east Asia, South Asia and Central Asia and from cultural backgrounds that included Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, as well as contemporary secularism. A participant from the Altai Republic, one of the independent republics in the Russian Federation remarked that ever since the demise of the Soviet Union writers in those republics had talked about meeting together but it had never happened until now when Reverend Moon had brought them together in Washington.

And who else but Reverend Moon would greet such an august literary gathering by asking them what use literature was? No doubt some of the participants felt challenged by this, but others found it refreshing. Dr. Lloyd Fernando, a professor of literature from the University of Malaysia, chuckled when he recalled what Reverend Moon had said. He thought too many contemporary writers forgot that literature should serve some broader purpose than itself. "They think of the writer as a creator, like God," he said. "Unfortunately, like God, they are often beyond human understanding."

The Founder's Address, delivered at the opening plenary session, was "View of the Principle of the Providential History of Salvation." Father delivered it with passionate intensity, frequently departing from the printed text and sweating profusely, especially when speaking about Jesus and his family. It was as if he were reliving before us the bitter experience of Jesus life that has never been understood. Coming from religious and philosophical traditions other than Christianity, some participants found this hard to relate to. Yet they could recognize the sincerity and seriousness of Father's conviction. Others understood that this was beyond orthodox Christianity and wanted to discuss it further. Mr. Syed Shamsul Haq, a committee moderator and Bangla Desh's leading playwright even raised it in his committee.

Also featured at the opening plenary session was Nobel prizewinning poet Derek Walcott from the tiny West Indian island of St. Lucia. His keynote address laid out in rich poetic language and images his impressions of the Orient and his experience of the intermingling of cultures from East and West in the Carribean. The conference featured numerous other prominent speakers such as: William Bennett, Dr. Orville Schell, Dr. Francis Fukuyama, novelist Bette Bao Lord and Le Ly Hayslip. The two women writers, Chinese-American and Vietnamese respectively gave moving talks that brought to life the positive purposes of literature and its spiritual character.

After the opening plenary session the conference broke up into committee sessions that considered topics such as: The Persistence of Classical and Religious Tradition in Asian Literature, How Asian Literature Is Responding to the Modern World, and The Merging of East and West? Panellists gave short presentations followed by discussions. These were lively at times as in the session dealing with literature and human rights where pro-democracy Chinese and those working in the People's Republic of China debated whether democracy was a fundamental necessity for human dignity or was only to be considered after economic prosperity and political stability were secure.

The second day of the conference was devote to a series of presentations on Reverend Moon's thought entitled: True Character and Family Life Education, developed by the International Education Foundation. These presentations have been given extensively in mainland China and the former Soviet Union. In parts of Russia and in Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, they have been developed into curriculum materials for schools and colleges. The final presentation introduces the Blessing and the International Wedding Festivals.

Some participants confessed that they expected these sessions to be religion of the preaching variety. Most were favorably surprised. The Vice-Chancellor of the Royal Nepal Academy told Mr. Joo and myself that, although he did not believe in God, these were the most logical, rational and scientific presentations he and his delegation had ever come across for showing the need for and nature of moral and spiritual principles to govern human life.

A lady from Malaysia confided to me that after hearing these presentations she could go home with a feeling of hope that she could make a difference to the moral culture of her society by using these materials. Dr. Aner, Azerbaijan's most famous living writer, said that after hearing these lectures he would have material for his writing for the next ten years.

On the last day, participants visited The Washington Times and toured the city's monuments. Several mentioned how moved they were by the words of the Gettysburg Address and of Lincoln's Second Inaugural at the Lincoln Memorial. They returned in the evening to a closing banquet after which they were astounded by the grace and athleticism of the Kirov Academy of Ballet. Reverend Moon's farewell address, "In Search of the Origin of the Universe," gave them further food for thought, after which Professor Yen Chu from National Taiwan University presented Reverend Moon with a gift of Chinese writing brushes on behalf of all the participants.

Reverend Moon is recognized as an expert calligrapher and he wrote seven Chinese characters as a memorial for the conference. They translate roughly as: "The literature (word) of heaven and human literature united through love and heart." This was a fitting motto for a conference that really challenged the participants to realize that literature must serve a higher purpose. If it is not guided by eternal values it becomes spiritually bankrupt and empty form. The encouraging thing was that so many participants seemed to agree with this and saw the need for values that could regenerate family and society while at the same time transcending different religious traditions.

Note: A second conference on the same theme will be held in Washington, D.C. from June 13 - 18, this time for writers from North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa and Oceania.

 Download entire page and pages related to it in ZIP format
Table of Contents
Tparents Home