The Words of the Leone Family
Statement Of IIFWP Concerning The March 23rd Crown Of Peace Program
June 28, 2004
Statement on the March 23rd, 2004 "Crown of Peace" Program Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace Contact: Rev. Michael Leone (202) 319-3216
Intense media and public interest has arisen concerning an event held on March 23, 2004 at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC. The event’ s main sponsor was the Interreligious and International Peace Council (IIPC), a project of the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) founded by Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon. IIFWP has a global network of some 50,000 Ambassadors for Peace in more than 160 nations, who are leaders from diverse professional and faith backgrounds dedicated to overcoming barriers of religion, race and ethnicity.
Among the nearly 100 "Crown of Peace" awards presented to civic, religious and diplomatic leaders recognizing their significant contributions to peacemaking, Rev. and Mrs. Moon were honored for their lifetime work with an international "Crown of Peace" recognition. This was presented in the context of a " Ceremony of Reconciliation" among Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders and included the presentation of ceremonial robes and crowns, with the affectionate honor "king and queen of peace." In heartfelt remarks following the presentation, Rev. Moon passionately described the global significance of his mission, and challenged all present to take up the work for peace and reconciliation with equal sincerity and commitment. Many experienced it as a sentimental and urgent farewell after 30 years of investment in America.
Some media reports of this event were filled with misrepresentations, distortions and outright falsehoods. Rev. Moon, a controversial leader of a young, minority religious movement, is an easy target. But claims that the event was about one person, that legislators were "duped" into participating, or that their involvement signifies any religious commitment or affiliation with Rev. Moon, may feed the frenzy that critics seek to create, but they are patently false. A simple review of the documentable facts makes this clear:
Purpose Of The Event
The March 23rd evening celebration was the culmination of an international conference on the theme: "Forging a Path to Peace and Reconciliation at a Time of Global Crisis" held at the Washington Plaza Hotel, at which distinguished participants addressed substantive issues crucial to the search for peace. It was one of a series of IIFWP events that have included six interreligious pilgrimages to the Holy Land in 2003-04 involving 4000 representatives from nearly 70 nations, interdisciplinary conferences in Jerusalem, Gaza, and worldwide, and a women’s peace initiative.
The banquet included a special presentation of reconciliation to a Native American leader, plus a "Ceremony of Reconciliation" among Jewish, Christian and Muslim clergy, including religious leaders from war-torn Israel and Palestine. More than 90 activists and leaders from virtually every state were presented with "Crown of Peace" state level awards for their work. National awards were presented to Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders, as well as to a Native American. While the IIFWP founders were honored for initiating and supporting these efforts, this was not at all an event to recognize one individual or couple alone.
Invitations To The Event
A number of media reports, including the Washington Post and New York Times, have correctly reported that an invitation letter sent initially to every Congressional office clearly identified Rev. and Mrs. Moon as the founders of the IIFWP, and stated that they would participate and be honored at this event. The organizers are proud to honor Rev. and Mrs. Moon for their lifetime achievements and sacrificial efforts to promote world peace, and no effort was made to hide their involvement.
IIFWP has sponsored multiple events on Capitol Hill in the last year, all of which emphasized the "Ambassadors for Peace" initiative. All follow-up notices and reminders for the March 23rd event mentioned Ambassadors for Peace. It is simply untrue that the organizers misrepresented the sponsorship; on the contrary, significant effort has been made to foster name recognition.
Unfair Targeting Of Members Of Congress
It should be noted that many congressional leaders participated in the event for a variety of reasons. Some were invited to address the conference or banquet as experts on international relations or Middle East peace efforts. Some are longtime friends more familiar with the goals and initiatives of the IIFWP, while others stopped by for a few minutes simply to honor a constituent being recognized for their contributions to the community.
Some critics of Rev. Moon’s work wish to exaggerate and malign these leaders’ association with the event. These attacks call to mind those leveled at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was initially feared, maligned and labeled. Dr. King’s detractors, some out of ignorance, and others driven by pure racial prejudice, feared his message of integration and its consequences. He was misrepresented in the media, indicted for tax fraud, and arrested time and again. And many who associated themselves with his work were attacked for refusing to separate from him.
Likewise, many prominent citizens have appeared at events with Rev. Moon in the past, including former presidents, vice presidents, members of Congress, and religious leaders. Why? Because the work is viable, inclusive and relevant to reconciliation, peace and the building of faithful families. There never was any suggestion that their participation reflects an endorsement of Rev. Moon's theology. We are saddened that the very religious intolerance and bigotry that divide the "children of Abraham," and which the IIFWP works to overcome, has once again reared its ugly head. We urge the civic and religious leaders who participated to be clear and forthright about why they participated, and not to shrink from vicious attacks from scurrilous individuals who mischaracterize their good intentions and misrepresent the work of Rev. Moon.
In contrast to the efforts and integrity of much of the mainstream media, the momentum for this "story" was provided by independent "journalists" and " blog" writers who have made no effort to contact the event organizers for a balanced presentation of both sides of the story. They ignore or ridicule any genuine religious motivation, discount the broad-based interreligious participation and distort the aims of Rev. Moon as purely political, with no appreciation of his many achievements. Their sites are a volatile mix of selective information, subjective opinions and distortions, fraught with factual error and having no accountability to standards of journalistic integrity. They have targeted event participants, confronting them with exaggerated claims and misinformation, distorting Rev. Moon’s ideals and teachings. They seek to multiply their own bigoted and paranoid views by creating public reaction, attacking the credibility of all who associate with the ideals and work of the IIFWP, and besmirching the good people who were honored for their hard work and commitment to the ideals of peace.
In the process, the purpose of the "Crown of Peace" awards, and the life and work of Rev. and Mrs. Moon, have been seriously misrepresented. These deserve clarification:
The crown is used in our society not as a symbol of political power or authority, but rather as the symbol of victory or ultimate achievement. A great accomplishment might be referred to as the "crowning moment" of one’s career. Thus the "Crown of Peace" award was designed with the meaning of "champion" of peace, given to those who have demonstrated success in overcoming the racial, religious and cultural barriers that so often divide us. Nearly 100 representatives from across the US and around the world were honored with this award on March 23rd, and each one received a crown emblazoned on the award given to them. Rev. and Mrs. Moon received the international "Crown of Peace" for their lifetime achievements in promoting peace and reconciliation.
The spirit of this award is beautifully conveyed in the poem "Crown of Glory" , written by Rev. Moon at age 16 and printed in the program. It makes clear that those who can love their enemies, even when betrayed, will gain the "crown of glory." Given Rev. Moon’s legacy of respect for all faiths and support for interreligious and interracial harmony, his personal example of love toward those who have maligned him, and the global work these efforts have inspired, such recognition is quite understandable. Throughout the event, reconciliation ceremonies featured Jewish, Christian and Muslim clerics in ceremonial robes. In earlier ceremonies, robes and crowns were presented to honor Moses and Judaism, Jesus and Christianity, and Mohammad and Islam in similar fashion.
Church And State
The "Crown of Peace" awards were held at the US Capitol both to inform legislators about the important work being done by peacemakers all over the nation, and to encourage these heroes through their recognition by our nation’s leaders. Like the Pope or the Dalai Llama, Rev. Moon is concerned about the prevalence of conflict, violence, injustice and moral breakdown in our world, and wants to convey those concerns to leaders everywhere. The IIFWP events on Capitol Hill were intended to focus attention on these concerns and inspire participants to pursue peace through interreligious reconciliation, not to seek any temporal power. While the framers of our Constitution sought to prevent the tyranny of a state-sponsored religion, and protect minority religions from government intrusion, they never sought to remove religious ideals from the public square.
Rev. Moon’s religious views
Some media, echoing the bloggers’ themes, have referred to Rev. Moon’s religion as "bizarre." In fact, virtually every established religion has sacraments and ceremonies that seem "bizarre" when viewed by non-believers, as well as expectations and beliefs based upon faith alone. Early Christians were persecuted as cannibals for the sacrament of communion, which symbolizes taking the flesh and blood of Christ. From God’s presence in burning bushes or the resurrection of the dead to the ascension of sanctified prophets, it is not easy to understand the meaning of these events. To understand the bold assertions made by the Rev. Moon, they must be considered in a religious context.
The Spirit World
The claim that passed-away saints and religious leaders are coming together in the spiritual realm, or historical rogues such as Marx, Lenin, Hitler and Stalin have "been reborn as new persons" through Rev. Moon’s teaching seems hard to swallow for some. But it is based upon some fundamental precepts familiar to people of diverse faiths: that the heart, consciousness and character of a person survives the death of the physical body; that the original goodness in each person is ultimately redeemable; and that whether or not we are aware, our lives and efforts on earth are intertwined with the realm of spirit. To be sure the Bible, while condemning worship of the dead, acknowledges the presence and influence of both good and evil spirits in our earthly lives.
Perhaps most provocative is Rev. Moon’s proclamation that he is " God’s ambassador… sent to accomplish His command to save the world’s six billion people, restoring them to heaven with the original goodness in which they were created." He reports testimonies from the spirit world that he is "none other than humanity’s savior, messiah, returning Lord and True Parent." These terms are loaded with meaning, and open to vastly different interpretations.
Does Rev. Moon mean that he is God, or Jesus? Not at all. Rather he claims an anointing from Christ and an inheritance of the mission and responsibility to restore the whole of humanity. His messiahship is not about power or control, but about service, sacrificial love, and responsibility. His wholehearted, unchanging commitment inspires those who know him. The testimonies of those religious leaders at the event who proclaimed that Rev. Moon is the messiah, can best be understood using the Hebrew meaning of the word, as one "anointed by God."
In the same message on March 23rd, he pledges - at the age of 84 - to continue to work harder than anyone for the cause of peace and the unity of the human family. He challenges every person present to take up the same mission. While he sees himself as a pioneer and trailblazer, the messianic role is one which he longs to share. Sadly most are unaware of the fruits of Rev. Moon’s work in 191 nations, or the transformative power of his teaching to eliminate the barriers of race, religion and nationality, inspiring people of good will everywhere to acknowledge our common destiny and come together as a human family. Once, when asked if he was the messiah, Rev. Moon replied, "I live every day of my life as if I am… and so should you."
Let’s Set The Record Straight
Whatever one may think of Rev. Moon’s proclamations, they ought not to be dismissed lightly. Similarly, media professionals who value truth and fairness should take care not to base new stories upon old prejudices and misinformation. Through selective and out-of-context quotations, mistranslations or out-and-out falsehoods, Rev. Moon’s critics have portrayed serious distortions to the mainstream media, which demand to be addressed. Central among these are:
· Assertions that he is anti-semitic, or seeks the conversion of Jews are false, and calculated to antagonize. A lifetime of interreligious work, wholehearted investment for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East, volumes of his speeches, and his clear record of respect for all faith traditions demonstrate the opposite.
· Rev. Moon’s affirmation of Jesus teaching on marriage: "… God made them male and female, and for this reason the two shall become one flesh, and what God has joined together let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:4-6), has been wrongly twisted into a hateful position. He would never advocate violence or forcible restraint upon homosexuals or any other group. The revolution that he proposes begins in the hearts of men and women, and its authority is the power of true love.
· Those who dismiss Rev. Moon as a "tax cheat" should consider the position of the National Council of Churches concerning his 1982 conviction: "… the whole appalling story of how Sun Myung Moon and his accountant were framed by the government of the United States… should be read by every American who values religious liberty and wants this miscarriage of justice never to be repeated" [Rev. Dean Kelley, Exec. Dir. Of Religious & Civil Liberty, NCC]. Few are aware that he was criminally prosecuted for a tax liability of just $7,300., on proceeds from an account that the church considered public; or that three levels of Justice Department lawyers acknowledged in internal memos that there was no basis for criminal prosecution. Why did 40 church organizations representing 160 million Americans join the NCC in urging the Supreme Court to overturn Rev. Moon’s conviction?
The issues and questions raised by the "Crown of Peace" awards ceremony should be given fair and frank consideration by an unbiased media, before subscribing to the "witch hunt" that this issue has become.
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