The Healing of the World - June 4, 2009

Part 2: The Wilderness Course

As World War II drew to a close, Reverend Moon, who had been jailed as a member of the Korean independence movement while studying at a Japanese university, returned to his native land.

With the end of Japanese rule, he contacted other Christians and offered to work with them to build God's kingdom on the earth. American Christian missionaries had also heard of this young teacher, and disregarded him as a "country preacher." Korean ministers, jealous of the young man's appeal with their members, rejected him and accused him of espousing false teachings. Because the Christian churches failed to embrace him, Reverend Moon realized that he would have to walk the lonely path of a pioneer.

Subsequently, he was called by God to travel to the communist north. There, he began to teach publicly, despite the dangers of doing so in a country where religion was not welcome. As a poor preacher who looked at the Bible in a new way, Reverend Moon was more vulnerable than the established churches, and, not surprisingly, was one of the first to come under attack from the local communists.

Charged with disturbing the social order, in November 1946, the young minister was imprisoned and tortured. The police thought him dead and threw his body into the prison yard. Some of his followers found him and carried him away to tend to his broken body. Miraculously, Reverend Moon survived and regained his strength. Undaunted, he began preaching in public again.

In April 1948, he was arrested again and sentenced to five years of hard labor in Hungnam prison. He was among the first of the Christian ministers sent to the Soviet-style North Korean gulag. Hungnam was an extermination camp where prisoners were deliberately worked to death. Few lasted more than six months. Yet in that miserable concentration camp, Reverend Moon survived for nearly three years. Although he didn't speak a word of the Divine Principle, many of his fellow prisoners came to him for spiritual strength and became his disciples.

On June 25, 1950, the North Korean army invaded the South in a lightning attempt to unify the entire peninsula by force. UN and American forces, under Gen. Douglas MacArthur, rescued the beleaguered South. One month after the capture of Seoul, UN forces reached the gates of Hungnam prison. In the meantime, the communist prison authorities had begun to execute the prisoners. The prison camp was liberated the morning of Reverend Moon's scheduled execution.

Despite his brutal prison camp experience, Reverend Moon did not immediately flee to the South. Instead, he returned to Pyongyang and spent forty days searching for the members of his scattered flock.

He eventually found a few members and then traveled south on foot with two of them. In the port city of Pusan, Reverend Moon and one disciple built the first Unification Church from discarded army ration boxes. At that time, he told his small following that one day the message of the Divine Principle would be spread all over the world. He prophesied that people from all over the world would venerate that hillside. Reverend Moon's prophecy sounded unbelievable. Yet, it came true. Tens of thousands of people, including 7,000 ministers from America, have made a pilgrimage to the spot. How did this come about?

The Beginning of the Unification Church

On May 1, 1954, in Seoul, Reverend Moon founded the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (popularly called the Unification Church).

The church immediately attracted followers from a major Christian women's university, Ewha University, a school closely linked with the Korean government and with the mainline Protestant I denominations. Because many students were joining the church, the school sent professors to investigate. When several professors also joined, instead of sincerely welcoming this new church, the school persecuted it. The university president ordered the professors and students either to leave the church or leave the school.

Coincidentally, newspapers in Seoul suddenly began to print alarming stories about the Unification Church, about sex orgies and Reverend Moon being a North Korean agent. Reverend Moon was thrown in jail, to be released weeks later when no charges could be found. Again the following year he was thrown in jail on charges of evading the military draft, even though during the time in question he had been in Hungnam prison. After several months confinement-and sensational media coverage-- I the charges were dropped. His release received scant notice in the press. Thus began the pattern of collusion between religious leaders, government and the media to suppress Reverend Moon and his church.

The Mission

Amidst this tribulation, Reverend Moon nurtured a growing community of faithful disciples. It was known as the weeping church. By 1957, churches were established in thirty Korean cities and towns. In 1958, the first missionary went to neighboring Japan; in 1959, the first missionaries arrived in America.

This family of disciples was the foundation upon which the holy wedding, the marriage of the Lamb foretold in the Book of Revelation, could take place. On March 16, 1960, Reverend Moon was blessed in holy marriage to Hak Ja Han. This marked the beginning of the restoration of humankind back into God's lineage. By the power of God and sacrificial love, Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han established the position of True Parents. They are the first couple to have the complete blessing of God, and to be able to bring forth children with no original sin.

Hak Ja Han and her mother, a devout Christian, had also fled south during the Korean War. They soon thereafter joined the Unification Church. At the age of seventeen, Miss Han dedicated herself to the mission of bride of the Messiah. She has, with unwavering courage and dignity, stood by her husband through every hardship.

All people, whether previously married or single, can receive the blessing of God upon their marriages through Reverend and Mrs. Moon standing as the True Parents. The number of couples who have received this blessing has grown, from 36 in 1960, to 8,000 in 1982, to 30,000 in 1992, and most recently, to 360,000 in 1995.

The large weddings represent the unity of humankind by joining together men and women of different races and nationalities. Reverend Moon teaches that through the blessing, fallen men and women can be engrafted into the true lineage of God. Consequently, for fallen humanity, which traces its roots to the false lineage created by Adam and Eve, the blessing is the greatest hope. The couples blessed by Reverend and Mrs. Moon accept God's call to establish ideal, God-centered families. The establishment of ideal families is the starting point for the building of a peaceful world.

Ministry in America

In 1971, God directed Reverend Moon to expand his ministry to the world level by coming to the United States. He saw all that was expressed gratitude for its role in liberating his good in America and homeland. But he also knew that God expected much more from this land that had been so richly blessed. America, which embraces all peoples, races and religions, represents the world. What happens in America has global repercussions.

It was clear to Reverend Moon that America had drifted from its original ideals. Therefore, he conducted a "Day of Hope" speaking tour throughout America in the early 1970s with the purpose of reviving traditional Judeo-Christian values. In 1974, he spoke to an over flow crowd in New York's Madison Square Garden. He then preached in all fifty states, hosting banquets for thousands of society's leaders and maintaining an exhausting schedule. During this time, thousands of young people accepted his message and dedicated themselves to God's providence.

Reverend Moon was invited to the White House, where he met with President Richard Nixon. On two occasions, he addressed members of the US Congress, both in the House and Senate. In 1975, he continued his Day of Hope festivals in Japan and Korea, concluding with a rally at Yoido Island near Seoul which was attended by 1.2 million people. Also in 1975, Reverend Moon sent missionaries to 120 countries, making the Unification Church a worldwide faith.

During the United States' bicentennial in 1976, Reverend Moon spoke to an enthusiastic crowd in Yankee Stadium. Shortly thereafter, he organized the greatest religious rally ever assembled in Washington, D.C. Over 300,000 people of all creeds and colors came to hear him speak at the "God Bless America Festival." At this historic rally, Reverend Moon called upon America to fulfill its blessing as one nation under God, and to create "one world under God."

Why the Persecution?

Reverend Moon's appeal for a true Christian renewal of America was initially welcomed. However, this receptivity proved shallow when, in 1974, he urged Americans through rallies and newspaper statements to forgive the beleaguered Richard Nixon at the time of the Watergate scandal. Any public relations strategist would have advised him against such action, which called on Americans to "forgive, love and unite." Virtually no one at the time was willing to side with a president on the verge of impeachment, but Reverend Moon foresaw the terrible consequences of undercutting the American presidency.

His appeal was met with scorn. He became an easy target for the now hostile media. The fair and objective articles of the past were replaced by ones which portrayed Reverend Moon and his church in the worst possible light. All sorts of allegations from Korea were dug up. In this atmosphere of hysteria, the enthusiasm and idealism of his young followers was reinterpreted as brainwashing. Reverend Moon was portrayed as a hypnotist and an agent of a foreign government. Religious and racial bigotry and persecution, a phenomenon in the United States as old as the country itself, showed its ugly face.

Even though America was founded for the sake of establishing religious freedom, not every American has been willing to extend that freedom to others. Quakers were tried and hanged in New England and Baptists were run out of Massachusetts. The founder of the Mormon church, Joseph Smith, was murdered in Illinois and his followers were forced into the desert. Jews and Catholics were looked upon as tools of foreign powers engaged in international conspiracies. Regrettably, religious intolerance is still with us today. The Unification Church has borne the brunt of it in America over the last two decades.

Trial and Error

The United States government launched a plethora of official investigations of Reverend Moon involving nearly twenty federal agencies. Hearings were conducted on Capitol Hill to warn of the dangers of new religious movements. Rep. Donald Fraser led a Congressional investigation of alleged ties between the Unification Church and the Korean CIA. The multi-million dollar effort came up with nothing of substance.

Meanwhile, a five-year IRS investigation finally produced a politically-crafted indictment against Reverend Moon. This indictment, handed down in 1981, charged him with evading income taxes nearly a decade earlier, as well as conspiracy to avoid those taxes. The government's purpose, however, was to force Reverend Moon to leave America.

When the indictment was handed down, Reverend Moon was in Korea. His lawyers recommended that he not come back to America, since there is no extradition treaty between the United States and the Republic of Korea. However, he did not follow their advice. He was, after all, a man of God, not a criminal fleeing the law. He immediately returned to the United States. He told his counsel:

I will not abandon my mission in America. That I will never do!

Upon arriving in New York for the Federal District Court arraignment he spoke only one sentence: "Your Honor, I am not guilty." The outcome of the trial was a foregone conclusion. He was convicted and sentenced to spend eighteen months in a federal prison. When, despite forty amicus briefs from mainline Christian leaders, legal associations, civil liberty groups and state governments, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, he prepared to go to jail.

The US Justice Department wanted to negotiate with Reverend Moon's attorneys. On the condition that Reverend Moon depart for Korea and never come back to the United States, they said, the government would waive his prison sentence. He flatly refused. His comment was, "It must be God's will that I go to prison. There must be a providential reason why I must go this way."


Without any bitterness, Reverend Moon served time in Danbury Federal Prison. Initially he was received coldly by the other inmates, most of whom had heard about him through newspaper articles or television reports. In only a few weeks' time, however, the other prisoners began to accept this Korean religious leader, not because he preached to them, which was forbidden by prison rules, but because he took the most unwanted jobs and worked with them cheerfully. His positive attitude toward life in prison began to command respect and even admiration from the other prisoners. Some of them began to come to him for counseling and advice.

Some of the inmates openly defended him. One of them, Ed Farmer, wrote a letter about his experiences with Reverend Moon in Danbury.

I was fortunate. I only had to be in Danbury for three months. I knew I was going, and I knew Reverend Moon was there. They had it in the paper every other day. I was curious. As it turned out, I was in the cubicle right next to Reverend Moon's, five feet away. Reverend Moon has a very good sense of humor. It's hard for me to think of a person as being mean or brainwashing people with the sense of humor he has. He truly loves people. I mean, he likes being with them. He likes being kidded, he likes being teased. I never saw a mean act on his part. He never asked for special treatment. He mopped floors, cleaned tables, and he helped other people when he was finished with his job.

When you'd be down in spirit, he'd come along, pat you on the back, and smile and laugh. He doesn't put on a face today, or put on generosity or kindness today and then not tomorrow. Reverend Moon is Reverend Moon, a very steady, ongoing force. I think that man could be happy wherever he went. He carries his religion with him. He doesn't need a book. Everyone feels it. It's very evident.

Reverend Moon has never complained about what the government did to him. He has never accused the government of a witch-hunt, mainly I think because he refuses to dignify it. I find it almost impossible to believe the stories that they spread about him, after having met him. That man would not do those things, it's impossible. My own personal belief is that it was a witch-hunt.

In the meantime, protests were being made all around the nation over the injustice Reverend Moon was suffering. Many Christian leaders who never knew or cared about him began to realize that the government had made a serious assault on religious freedom. Altogether, Christians and non-religious groups representing over 160 million Americans came to his legal defense. A Senate subcommittee, chaired by Senator Orrin Hatch, conducted its own investigation into Reverend Moon's tax case and published its findings in a report which concluded:

We accused a newcomer to our shores of criminal and intentional wrongdoing for conduct commonly engaged in by a large percentage of our own religious leaders, namely, the holding of church funds in bank accounts in their own names. Catholic priests do it. Baptist ministers do it, and so did Sun Myung Moon.

No matter how we view it, it remains a fact that we charged a non-English-speaking alien with criminal tax evasion on the first tax returns he filed in this country. It appears that we didn't give him a fair chance to understand our laws. We didn't seek a civil penalty as an initial means of redress. We didn't give him the benefit of any doubt. Rather, we took a novel theory of tax liability of less than $10,000 and turned it into a guilty verdict and eighteen months in a federal prison.

I do feel strongly, after my subcommittee has carefully and objectively reviewed this [Reverend Moon's tax] case from both sides, that injustice rather than justice has been served. The Moon case sends a strong signal that if one's views are unpopular enough, this country will find a way not to tolerate, but to convict. I don't believe that you or I or anyone else, no matter how innocent, could realistically prevail against the combined forces of our Justice Department and judicial branch in a case such as Reverend Moon's.

On August 20, 1985, Reverend Moon was freed after completing thirteen months of incarceration. Upon his release, major Christian and civil rights leaders, including Reverend Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority and Reverend Joseph Lowry of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, held a press conference to decry the persecution and imprisonment of Reverend Moon and to welcome him back. 

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