Articles From the November 1995 Unification News


WFWP in Beijing

by Nora Spurgin, WFWP American President

For many individuals and organizations, planning a program at the NGO (non-governmental organization) Forum in Huairou, China, was no simple matter. I felt as if I had a bad case of "Beijing Block" for the last half-year; deadlines were early, commitments were late, and information was inconsistent. I could only envision an enormous, chaotic flea market of the world's women selling their wares, their agendas, their struggles and their visions.

Huairou, almost 25 minutes to one hour outside of Beijing, was all this and much more. There were the bicycle paths lines with blooming rose bushes and graceful willow trees, romantic in the misty light of the summer night. There were brightly-lit hotels and stores; uniformed guards standing in absolute focus at their stations. There was music- ah, such music!-the music of women expressing the sorrows, struggles and pain of their oppression. There was other music expressing the near-ecstasy of feminine creativity crying out to their Creator Father-and-Mother God.

There was the meeting and sharing and laughing. There was the vibrant color. Beautiful women dressed in every color of the rainbow. Some were adorned in headdresses and others donned brilliantly-colored scarves. On the other hand, there were those who made a statement by their lack of adornment, with shorn or shaved heads. And there were those who covered their bodies completely and those who flaunted them.

Huairou, a resort suburb of Beijing, was a combination of established hotels and newly constructed apartment complexes with bare cement floors and whitewashed walls. It was obvious that the Chinese Organizing Committee had made much effort to meet the needs of the NGO Forum, which hosted up to 25,000 women. In addition to hotel meeting rooms, many tents had been set up for workshops and seminars. A large stage faced an audience of women gathered around tables under brightly colored parasols.

Hundreds of programs, workshops and seminars were scheduled all day, every day, throughout the eight days. Most of them were held in tents or small meeting rooms holding up to 60 or 70 people. Due to the large numbers of activities and people and the open character of the forum, many events were canceled or changed. One day, I attended two events in which the presenters did not show up. In both cases, someone took charge and guided the meeting in sharing experiences with each other.

WFWP International had scheduled a seminar for Sept. 2, featuring Maureen Reagan as a keynote speaker, with four panelists. The meeting room we were assigned to was a small room for sixty, and we were told we could negotiate for more space once there. Upon arrival we discovered a larger room with a capacity of 200 in the same hotel with a two-hour opening. Trying to negotiate for it proved a tedious process, and we were finally told it was first-come, first-served: if it's available, use it.

On the evening before our event, the Australian WFWP members showed us a sticker design they had made featuring "Celebrate the Family." Ms. Reagan decided it would make a great poster design, so Jennifer Hager, WFWP representative from Hong Kong, took it to the nearby business center where she scanned the design into the computer, enlarged it, and added the information about the speaker, time and place. Using a color copier, we had instant posters. After dividing into teams, we soon had, posted around the city, twenty color and fifty black-and- white posters advertising our event. One half-hour before our seminar was to begin, a Japanese WFWP member who is a student in China discovered that the group using the larger room had not completed their program and were planning to continue into the next hour. The student, however, presented a solution. She had found an auditorium just a short distance away which was available, easily seating 350. It was spacious and, to our amazement, air-conditioned. It didn't take much discussion for us to decide to move our event there. Stationing guides along the way, we moved all the guests to the auditorium.

Although our beginning was chaotic, in the end our program was attended by between 400 and 500 people and many representatives of the press. Most impressive was the introduction of WFWP representatives from seventeen different nations, including: Korea, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and America. (Nigerian representatives canceled due to lack of funds, and our representative from Brazil could not get a visa in time.)

The program opened with a short video on WFWP, greetings by our international president, Mrs. Gil Ja Sa Eu, introduction to WFWP by Mrs. Motoko Sugiyama, and the keynote speech "We Can Be Heard" by Maureen Reagan (the full text of this speech can be found in the latest WFWP national newsletter). She said, "We are builders of our communities. The peacemakers on a daily basis. Ask any mother the art of family peace and you will receive a lecture in psychology and understanding which will rival any course in a university. Family values is not an abstract notion, it is the real day-to-day workings of a family unit. Each family unit is a group of individual human beings with their own particular experiences. The dreams, the goals, the ambitions of each of those family members is important....

"A family is a foundation of society and at its center is the woman. The fulfillment of her dreams is essential to the harmony of the family. Deny her value and there is chaos. So long as the least of us fails to reach the simplest of our dreams, we are all, as women, undervalued....

"The voice of women, the day-to-day knowledge of real people with real dreams, the role of women in the 21st century will be heard. It is as though the 20th century was the time to find our voice; now we must speak with authority for the world to listen."

The panelists were: Dr. Kyung June Lee, speaking on "The 21st Century and the Education of Young People," about the movement to recover morality through true families; Kuei-Mei Huang, professor of Chinese culture, University of Taiwan, "Women and the Reconstruction of Family Ethics"; Mrs. Keiko Kaneko of Japan, "What is the True Liberation of Women?"; and Princess Zarayda Tomano of the Philippines, "In Search of a New Ideology of Education and Values which can Strengthen the Family."

Our seminar was given a glowing write-up by Mary Kenny in the British newspaper, The Sunday Telegraph:

"One could see immediately the appeal of the Moonie cult: it centres on the anxiety that is growing in so many countries at the erosion of `family values.'

"`Where before, infidelity was a rarity, now it is the norm,' lamented an Islamic speaker from the Philippines, Princess Zorayda Tomano. `We are seeing the separation of parents everywhere, and children growing up in families without adequate parental guidance. The ideal of a man and a woman united by marriage to have children is no longer honoured.' A professor of Chinese culture from Taiwan, Kuei-Mei Huang, said that the world trend towards `broken marriages, extramarital affairs, family violence and single-parent families' was among the most disturbing aspects of modern society.

"The Moonies, however daft and dotty they seem in the mass-wedding pictures, nonetheless have a growing constituency because there are enough people in the world who feel genuinely worried about the decline of traditional values, towards which the churches seem so weak-kneed and irresolute. And far from being drawn into the debate on whether we should have women priests, or reduce the `patriarchy' discernible in the traditional value-systems, these folk are much more anxious about the lack of effective patriarchy in society in general.

"Prof. June Kyung Lee, a principal at the Sun Moon University in Seoul-a quietly-spoken, serious woman in a neat, powder-blue suit-said that one of the causes of crime and delinquency today is that the relationship between father and son had so widely broken down. `Confucius taught that the basis of morality is the relation between father and son. Filial piety is the root of respect and of honour. Filial piety develops honour towards our relatives, our teachers and those to whom we owe respect as well as towards our parents. Filial piety teaches parents to become models for their children, for two- thirds of behaviour comes from example. parents should show honesty, respect, care and love.'" I've quoted this at length because it is so refreshing to read a journalist who has an inkling of what our community effort is all about.

The seminar, entitled "True Families: A Moral Renaissance," gave WFWP delegates an opportunity to stand together and make a statement for the strengthening of the family and the resurrection of morality in our society.

As we leave Beijing behind us, our experiences there will live on as a reference point-a time when women's voices mingled. In the words of Maureen Reagan, "The voices of women, the day-to-day knowledge of real people with real dreams will be heard. It is as though the twentieth century was the time to find our voice; now we must speak with authority for the world to listen."

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