A Victory for Religious Freedom
by Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak
Family Federation for World Peace and Unification - International
Distinguished Attorneys, Religious Leaders and Political Representatives of the Philippines, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is an honor, and indeed a great pleasure, to address you this evening.
We gather to celebrate a Victory for Religious Freedom - a truly great moment not only in the history of the Philippines, but also for the world. The decision on the part of the Philippine courts to dismiss the charges against the Unification Church is not simply a victory for the Unification church. This decision represents a most significant expression of the Philippines’ respect for the principle of religious freedom.
The right to religious freedom is one of our most precious rights. It is linked to the way in which we relate, individually and communally, to ultimate reality, or God. While history records countless instances of religious oppression and bigotry, there has emerged, particularly in the twentieth century, an awareness that religious freedom is a basic human right that every state should protect. Today, protections of religious freedom are enshrined in the constitutions of virtually all of the World’s democracies. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 states, "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, this right includes the freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either along or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."
Unification Church members pose with Rev. Byung Wooh Kim, Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak and Sec. Robero de Ocampo
Despite these constitutional protections, however, freedom of religion remains ever vulnerable, particularly when it comes to minority religions and newer religious movements. The history of religions, whether one examines Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Mormonism or others, reveals a typical pattern of persecution and misunderstanding. Many of the most highly revered prophets and founders of the world’s great religious traditions have been persecuted, imprisoned, and even killed. In addition, their followers have often faced similar outrages. The history of Christianity is itself illustrative : its founder, Jesus, was crucified : its earliest disciples and missionaries, Peter and Paul, were imprisoned and killed, and for centuries its most devout followers faced martyrdom. Can we say that such persecution was the result of a correct understanding of the purpose and mission of Christianity? This can hardly be the case.
We also know that under communist regimes, influenced by the atheistic materialism of Marxist ideology, religions have received devastating persecution. This was true throughout the Soviet empire, and it holds true to this day in places such as the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, and Cuba. Pope John Paul II’s recent visit to Cuba highlighted the concerns of religious people in that country, and this will perhaps lead eventually to positive reform.
But, unfortunately, it is not only in communist states where religious freedoms are violated. For example, at the present time in Europe, not only do some Protestant and Catholic Christians persecute one another in Ireland, but several countries, including Germany, France, and Austria, have passed legislation to restrict "sects". The word "sect" is in this case a pejorative term used to describe any minority religion which is out of favor with the culturally dominant majority religion. Just this past September, in Russia, legislation was passed that made it virtually impossible for any minority religion to spread its message to the people of Russia. Unfortunately, such legislation is supported not only by certain secular and atheistic politicians, but also by religious leaders of the dominant religion, the Russian Orthodox Church. One restriction contained in the legislation requires a religion to be present in Russian for 15 years before it will be allowed to conduct public activities. Since virtually all religions were banned during the Soviet era, this regulation eliminated almost all the Protestant and minority religions.
Sadly, too, in a number of Islamic countries, and in direct defiance of the spirit and letter of the Holy "Qur’an", minority religions suffer greatly. In places such as Pakistan and Egypt, Christians and other minorities often are subjected to restrictions of their right to religious freedom. The situation is particularly disturbing in the Sudan, where, in a bloody civil war between the Muslim north and a largely Christian and animist south, non - Muslims are being killed and enslaved.
People of conscience throughout the world are growing increasingly concerned about such abuses as those cited above. At present, due to the awareness of violations of religious freedom worldwide, the United States House of Representatives is considering legislation, the Wolff-Specter bill, that would require the government of the United States to apply pressure and even impose economic sanctions on nations which practice religious discrimination and persecution.
The Philippines has shown great forethought, wisdom, and leadership in recognizing the importance of religious freedom.
The charges initially brought against the Unification Church early in 1996 were based on a profound and unfortunate misunderstanding of what we call the "Blessing" a beautiful ceremony that was held in January 1996 in the Philippine International convention Center. The Blessing ceremony is a religious rite unique to the ministry of the Reverend and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon, but consistent with the principles taught in all religions. The ceremony itself is now open to people of all faiths, and members of all faiths participate. Since the first Blessing in 1960, millions of people around the world, from all faith backgrounds, have participated in the Blessing. Although it is usually portrayed in the popular media as a wedding or marriage ceremony, the Blessing is far beyond that in its meaning. It is a rite which represents the dedication of a couple’s marriage to God. The Blessing is not itself a marriage ceremony, but a spiritual dedication of a marriage. Although all religions have tried to create God-centered families, the strength of marriage as an institution is in fact declining today, God has commissioned the Reverend Moon to call couples of all faiths to a new dedication, and to give this special Blessing to those who do. We all need this Blessing.
These marriage dedication ceremonies, which include both engaged couples and already married couples, have been celebrated in all parts of the world. Up until 1990, the Blessings were held as marriage dedication ceremonies for members of the Unification Church. Since 1992, however, with the establishment of the World Culture and Sports Festivals, the Blessing has undergone a process of globalization. By this I mean that the Blessing ceremonies have come to include all people of all faiths, and do not require membership in the Unification Church. In fact, the Blessing is now carried out not in the name of a specific church, but in the name of the Family Fedaration for World Peace and Unification (FFWPUI).
There have been three World Culture and Sports Festivals (WCSF) - in 1992, 1995, and 1997. WCSF is a global festival involving a wide range of cultural performances, athletic competitions, scholarly conferences, and inter-religious dialogue. At the center of these festivals is the Blessing ceremony, a time when people come together to dedicate their marriages to God. At WCSF III in Washington, D.C., this last November, 39.6 million couples, in an event linked by satellite to nations throughout the world, rededicated their marriage. This June, centered on New York, there will be a Blessing involving over 100 million couples. It would give me great pleasure to see many of you in attendance at this upcoming Blessing.
The Ministry of the Reverend Moon
It has been the Reverend Moon’s sole mission in life to restore God’s ideal of the family, which was lost at the time of the Fall of Adam and Eve. The greatest tragedy of human history has been the loss of God’s ideal of true love, which is to dwell in the God-centered family. The Reverend Moon has always understood that the key to the creation of world peace lies in the establishment of families centered on the true love of God. The Reverend Moon has worked tirelessly for this purpose, and he has taken his message to every corner of the globe. Every organization that he has founded - and they are too numerous to mention here - has as its central goal the establishment of world peace. Above all, the Blessing is the key to world peace, for it works to link the family, the center of love, life, and lineage, directly to God.
Increasingly people around the world recognize that family breakdown, and particularly sexual promiscuity, are undermining the stability of our communities and our societies. - and consequently of our nations and the world. This problem is seen everywhere. As I travel around the world and meet with leaders in every country, I found a universal agreement that sexual immorality and family breakdown are leading the way to ruin. When the family unit begins to unravel, as it surely will whenever fornication, pornography, and "free sex" become commonplace, weakening of the social order will surely follow. The consequences are devastating. Social scientific evidence shows that family disorder leads to increased poverty, crime, poor performance in schools and the workplace, and greater psychological and emotional problems on all levels of society. Surely the children of divorce, abuse, and neglect are the greatest victims, and they are our future.
There is no more urgent task today than to educate our youth in the way of purity and true love. Our youth today must be taught and inspired by an alternative to the degrading sexual promiscuity that permeates most societies. Scientific studies now confirm what religious wisdom has known for centuries, that sexual license and self-indulgence lead to unhappiness. On the other hand, those who understand the sacred and holy purpose of marriage and sexuality within marriage, will come to know supreme joy and fulfillment.
In all nations we must begin to teach our children about the divine value and purpose of purity and true love. If we fail to turn the tide of promiscuity and "free sex" we can only anticipate a future of widespread social disorder and suffering. Government alone can never solve this problem, for the root of the problem is deeper that law. It ties in the realm of conscience and spiritual consciousness. For this reason, the solution to the problem must come through religion. This is why Reverend Moon is so single-minded in promoting the ideal of God-centered families through the Blessing, He does not wish to promote his own church. On the contrary, he has devoted all his resources to support the education of people from all religious backgrounds and cultures.
It is my deepest hope that you can come to know the genuine heart and teaching of the Reverend Moon. If you do, I have no doubt that you will affirm the principles of his mission, and you will even encourage others to come to know him.
Appreciation to the Philippines
To those of you gathered here I wish to say, in behalf of the Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon, from the bottom of my heart, thank you! The Philippines has proven to be a champion of the cause of religious freedom. Your decision is one which displays righteousness, fair-mindedness, and mature self-confidence. You will be a beacon to lead other nations on the right path in this troubled era. I wish to thank the great Filipino People especially your courageous President Ramos and Secretary Bello for supporting justice regarding our movement. They are truly among the most warm, gracious, generous and hospitable in the world. Many of you here worked very hard over the past two years on behalf of our cause. I am greatly and deeply grateful to each of you.
I also want to express my appreciation to God. I know that through the providential hand of God victory has been won. May God bless you, your families, and the great nation of the Philippines.
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