Unification Sermons and Talks

by Reverend Chung Hwan Kwak

A Victory for Religious Freedom

Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak
President of Family Federation for World Peace and Unification International

The following are excerpts of Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak's speech given in the Philippines April 25, at the Manila Polo Club. (Missing are the parts "The Blessing" and "The Ministry of the Reverend Moon." The content of these parts are familiar to most WorldTies readers. ) Pictures of Rev. Kwak speaking in Manila can be viewed at www.vasia.com/ucrp, the home page of the Philippine FFWPU.

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.

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 Worlds 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."

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 worlds 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 Peoples Republic of China, North Korea, and Cuba. Pope John Paul IIs 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 "Quran", 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.

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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