Unification News for January 1995
Marriage and Family Seminars in South Asia
by Dr. Thomas G. Walsh-Lexington, KY
Dr. Walsh is the Executive Director of the International Religious Foundation
During a recent tour through South Asia, John Gehring, Executive Director of the Religious Youth Service, and I presented a series of seminars on "Marriage and Family" which were intended to introduce the Unificationist ideal of the family and the Blessing to friends and contacts of our movement. We presented a variety of such seminars, using a variety of formats, including two-day, one-day, and half-day programs. The countries we lectured in were Nepal, which is majority Hindu with minority Buddhist population; Bangladesh, which is largely Muslim; and India, which is majority Hindu, but with Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Christian and Zoraostrian minorities; we presented a half-day program in Amritsar, in India's northern Punjab state, the holy city of the Sikh faith.
Our first stop was in Kathmandu, Nepal, the land of Mt. Everest and the Himalayas. Nepal is a Hindu state with a king and queen, but, ironically, with a recently elected Prime Minister who heads the communist party of Nepal. I should point out that we were privileged to have a private meeting with the Prime Minister and learned that the name of their party dates back a couple of decades whereas their platform has shifted rightward.
Our seminar was entitled, "Marriage and Family for World Peace." Due to the hard work of Dr. Kishur, the national leader, and his able staff consisting of several Nepalese Blessed couples and a group of ten Japanese sisters, well over 100 people attended, most of the adult professionals, including several alumni of the Youth Seminar on World Religions (1982-1985) and the Religious Youth Service.
There was keen interest in our topic, particularly, it seemed, among the many women who attended. Although Nepal does not yet suffer from the serious family problems, for example divorce, that developed societies are experiencing, there is evidence that true love does not characterize most marriages and families. Over fifty percent of those who attended the seminar expressed interest in participating in the Unification Blessing.
After Nepal we traveled to Dhaka, Bangladesh, a small country with over 130 million people, many of them poor. In Nepal we were involved in several programs. The first, was a program on "The Crisis of Marriage and Family: Different Cultural and Religious Perspectives," organized by our dear friends, Dr. Kazi Nurul Islam, Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dhaka University, and Mr. Katsumi Date, Director of the International Relief and Friendship Foundation in Bangladesh, both principals in the sponsoring organization called WARMHEART.
Seventy people assembled for the one-day program which featured presentations by a Muslim, Dr. A.N.M. Abdul Mannan Khan, a Unificationist, Dr. Thomas Walsh, a Hindu, Dr. Kali Prasanna Das, a Roman Catholic Christian, Sister M. Eugenia, a Sikh, Prof. Priti Kana Barua, and a Buddhist, Dr. Praimal Mutsuddi. On the two days following the WARMHEART Seminar we held evening programs on the Unification Ideal of Marriage and Family. Several of the WARMHEART Seminar participants attended these programs along with numerous RYS alumni, a total of forty in all, gathering at the office of the Women's Federation for World Peace staffed by several Japanese sisters. Again there was keen interest in our Blessing. After Bangladesh we traveled to Amritsar in India's Punjab to a seminar organized by local RYS alumnae. Sixty-five members of the Sikh faith assembled to hear a presentation of three lectures by Rev. John Gehring, Mr. David MacLackland, (national leader in India) and myself lecture on marriage and family in Unificationism. The Sikh's have a strong family tradition and represent a kind of "Protestant Ethic" in South Asia. Our lectures were much appreciated and after the seminar we were treated to a tour of Sikhism's holiest, and one of India's most spectacular shrines, the Golden Temple at Amritsar. We also were given a special audience with Bhai Manjit Singh, the Jathedar of the Amritsar Temple, the highest position in all Sikhism, and a good friend of the IRF and IRFWP.
We concluded our tour in Delhi where we had our largest seminar. David and Ursula MacLackland, Mr. and Mrs. Nishi, and, again, many Japanese sisters, organized a very successful two-day seminar with over 200 people in attendance. The India, and perhaps especially people from Delhi, are very outspoken, so our seminar discussion time was frequently punctuated by the expression of very strong opinions, with participants at times shouting at each other. Nevertheless a harmonious spirit prevailed, and in the end over one hundred people expressed interest in either learning more about the Blessing or attending the Blessing.
There were several factors which we took into account in developing the organization of our seminars and the specific lectures. First, we understood that we would be lecturing to many people who would be receiving their first introduction to the teachings and activities of our movement. Second, we understood that we were not lecturing to people familiar with or even sympathetic to the Judeo-Christian heritage. Thirdly, we understood that our assignment from Father, through Rev. Kwak, was not only to encourage our listeners to accept Divine Principle, but to invite representatives from other faiths to the Blessing in 1995.
These three points led us to conclude that we should not try to present Divine Principle as conventionally taught. In particular, we avoided the emphasis on the Bible with all its Hebrew and Christian concepts and characters. As such we were quite selective in our use of slides. Just as our movement in the CIS contextualized the lecture material in order, at least at the introductory level, to better reach an audience of atheists and agnostics, we geared our lectures to a largely non-Christian, interreligious audience. Moreover, we did not view it as our mission to proceed in the kind of argumentative or demonstrative style which seeks to move toward converting the listener from one religious worldview to Unificationism. Rather we sought only to convert them to a profound appreciation of Rev. and Mrs. Moon and the Unification ideal of the family which they have brought about.
The basic theme of our lectures was "Marriage and Family." These were, in fact, seminars on "Marriage and Family" from the Unificationist perspective. Therefore, with this as our guiding theme we taught Divine Principle, and, as much as possible, we sought to make each lecture relevant to a seminar on marriage and family.
We began each seminar with some introductory remarks about the Unification Movement and our reasons for holding seminars such as these. We then showed a short video on Father's life and our movement. The first formal lecture was on the ideals which make up Divine Principle's first chapter, the Principle of Creation. When we taught the Principle of Creation we emphasized God's essential nature as a heartistic and harmonious unity of masculinity and femininity. We stressed the law of give-and-take action and its applicability to harmony and joy within the family. We stressed the three blessings, centering on the family. We introduced the concept of True Parents. In teaching the Fall or the Root of Human Conflict we did not go through the Genesis story of Adam and Eve in any detail. We refer to the Adam and Eve account, but seek to make reference to other stories too, e.g., Pandora's Box or ancient African tales which also suggest the problem of the misuse of love. We attempted to drive home our point about the misuse of love in a more empirical way, referring to sociological, psychological, including educational psychology, criminological, and medical data which support the claim that good families are the base for the creation of good people and good societies. Broken families, rooted in selfishness and the misuse of love, create broken, alienated people and dysfunctional societies. The theological anthropology that undergirds our argument goes something like this. God's essential nature is love and human beings have been created similarly. That is, our deepest need and longing is for a fulfilling, permanent and orderly life of love, for eternity. The family is the structure created by God for the realization of this need and desire. Absent the realization of true love in our lives, all other aberrant symptoms manifest themselves in multiple ways: greed, selfishness, the selfish pursuit of fame or power, drug use, sexual promiscuity and deviancy, etc. In effect, we make the claim that the breakdown of the family is the root cause of human suffering. In light of this thesis, the Adam and Eve story can be understood as one narrative account of this human situation, namely the loss of the True Parents. We did not go into any discussion of Satan.
At one seminar we included a presentation on AIDS just prior to the lecture on the Fall. In that instance, in Delhi, the audience very much appreciated the AIDS lecture for it seemed to be very concrete and relevant to a pressing social problem. It also ties in well with the lecture on the misuse of love and broken families.
The lecture on restoration, or Resolving Human Conflict, which followed the Fall/Cause of Human Conflict lecture sought to discuss principles for overcoming evil -- the Foundation of Faith and Substance -- but without going into the Foundation for the Messiah. We did not emphasize Jesus' mission and we did not discuss Satan. We did go into fallen natures and various vices, and how we can work on overcoming these fallen natures and vices. We emphasize the need to be rightly related to God and to overcome our bodily appetites and selfishness. In addition we emphasized the need to overcome resentment and to practice forgiveness and service to others as the means of overcoming conflict in a family, in society and between groups of people or nations.
After the lecture on principles of resolving conflict we presented an overview of activities of the Unification Movement to illustrate how Rev. Moon has dedicated himself and his movement to world peace by applying the principles of restoration, engaging in activities which promote constructive give-and-take action, reconciliation, service to others, and appreciation for all spheres of human endeavor: science, scholarship, arts, journalism, religion, business, etc. We conclude the overview with a discussion of the Blessing as Rev. Moon's move significant accomplishment and most important activity. At this time we showed the World Culture and Sports Festival video which also concludes with the Blessing.
After the activities overview, we gave a lecture on "The Ideal of the Family and the Four Great Realms of Heart." Here we go into detail of the first and second blessing and, while summarizing much of the previous lecture content, drive home the significance of God-centered family and true love as the solution to the desperate longing of each human heart.
The final session of the seminar consists of a variety of Blessing testimonies and a strong welcome to all seminar participants to seriously consider participating in follow-up programs in preparation for the 1995 Blessing. We sought to have a range of testimonies including older couples and younger couples, international couples and same-nationality couples, matched couples and previously married couples, Unification couples and couples from other faiths. In this respect the wideness of the gate is made evident and no one feels left out.
Evaluation forms and response forms were made available for everyone to fill out, indicating the level of their interest in the Unification Movement's activities and/or the Blessing.
A final word must be said about the work, not only of our missionaries who have been pioneering the way for twenty years now, but also for the Japanese sisters who now grace 160 nations and are bringing great blessing and support for this time of harvest. On the foundation of Mother's tour through forty nations, and True Father's education of the Japanese sisters at that same time, our movement is seeing a time of great rebirth throughout the world.
Our teaching on Marriage and Family is a precious treasure which Unificationists can share with the world. It is our strongest, most affirmative message, and one which the world desperately needs. Through these seminars we saw a tremendous opportunity, and a way to spread the "good news" of the Blessing far and wide.
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