The Words of the Tardy Family

Human Rights, Women’s Rights and Religious Freedom: Becoming Agents of Change

Celine Tardy and Douglas Burton
September 19, 2009

The Women’s Federation for World Peace USA’s 17th National Assembly had the aspiration of opening a new chapter in the lives of women of peace. The assembly explored essential human rights worldwide, with the emphasis that each person can become an agent of change, through speeches and discussions, concluding with an evening Gala Celebration honoring Mrs. Evelyn G. Lowery with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

On Saturday, September 19, the National Assembly officially began at New York’s Manhattan Center with 275 in attendance. It was opened with a talk by Alexa Fish Ward, President of WFWP, USA, followed by a video and other presentations of WFWP’s history of accomplishments, international activities, relationships with other organizations and ongoing vision.

Mrs. Sheri Rueter introduced the morning’s keynote speaker, Reverend In Jin Moon, the Founder and Senior Pastor of Lovin’ Life Ministries, as the second daughter of Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon. Mrs. Rueter quoted Dr. Moon’s Founding Address for WFWP: “In the 21st century, women will hold a central role in bringing humanity to love, forgiveness, harmony, and compassion.” Mrs. Rueter then shared that these very qualities that are necessary to fulfill this central role were the qualities that Dr. Moon instilled into her own daughters.

In her Keynote Speech, Rev. In Jin Moon expressed the importance of exercising responsibility while striving for freedom and independence. In introducing a new vision for women in the next millennium, she emphasized the role of women as mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters creating families that can achieve peace: “We as individual women can become agents of change in our homes who, starting with ourselves, can usher in a revolution of true love, so that for the first time in history we can claim the proper rights of women in the context of family, nation, and world, and therefore play an integral part in raising up and empowering the future generation to name their own generation as a Generation of Peace.”

Rev. Moon also reminded women in the audience of the equality of each person and encouraged them to not sit still as violations of human rights are taking place. While needing to be the “consciences for the world, nation, community, and family,” they were asked to come together, just like the great luminaries of the civil rights movement came together and work as an organization to make a difference.

Rev. Moon particularly called on the women at the conference to stand in solidarity with women in other countries who are systematically denied their human and political rights. She pointed out that some thousands of Unificationist believers in Japan had been abducted by enemies of their church, forcibly confined for years, and, in some cases, raped in order to break their faith.

Conferees got more detailed information about the crisis of faith breaking in Japan from Mr. Dan Fefferman, president of the International Coalition for Religious Freedom, during the next session, titled Dealing with Human Rights Abuses. Mr. Fefferman showed pictures of the condominiums turned into prisons in Japan -- including barred windows -- that are used to confine women and men for months or years at a time. They then gave a standing ovation to Japan's leading spokesman for human rights, Mr. Toru Goto, a Japanese Unificationist who was held prisoner and nearly starved to death during twelve and a half years of confinement.

Mr. Goto told of his ordeal that began in 1995 and ended in February 2008. After nine years of captivity, Mr. Goto protested with 21-day hunger strikes in the spring of 2004, 2005, and 2006. But the hunger strikes had an effect that was the opposite of what he had hoped to achieve. He explained that the ideology of hatred within the anti-cult movement had so dehumanized his brother and sister that they deliberately withheld food from him for two years after he ended his hunger strike in 2006. He outlasted his captors, who gave up and released him in 2008.

"I come to you ladies, and I ask your assistance to help put an end to forced conversion and confinement forever,” he told the conference.

A discussion session was then led by Mrs. Heather Thalheimer, who was also kidnapped to be deprogrammed in 1981. She shared that throughout this experience she felt like a “non-person” as her kidnappers were trying to take away her voice, telling her, “Nothing you think or say has any value.” Taking away someone’s voice is one of the greatest evils, she expressed, and she went on to say that many people in this world are not being given a voice, giving the example of people with disabilities. Women, she said, are to be the consciences that allow these people to have a voice. Each table of attendees was then given 20 minutes to answer the question “Who in your community does not have a voice, and what can we do about it?”

Answers shared afterwards included the need to give voices to rape victims and women who are otherwise abused. Ideas such as counseling others who have lost their self-esteem initiated the sharing of one woman’s experience in starting her own foundation for this purpose in Houston, Texas. “My organization started with just one woman,” she explained. Another table shared about helping young people stand up and have voices. “Women can give young people a voice with their nurturing,” one man explained.

Attendees were later given the option of attending one of four workshops centered on the theme of Developing a Vision for Peace, including workshops titled: Empower Your Dreams, The Power of One, Heart to Heart with Heaven: Finding Faith Harmony for Couples, and The Relationship Reset Button: Reconnecting Family Relationships after High Conflict.

From 4 pm to 6 pm, a Ballroom Dancing 101 class was offered by Miss Ariana Moon, who taught both the waltz and swing to assembly participants in preparation for the upcoming Gala.

The long-awaited Gala Celebration was held at 7 pm in the Grand Ballroom of the Manhattan Center. Over 400 attendees at the black-tie optional event enjoyed music, food, and a silent auction. As food was being served, entertainment was offered by the Lovin’ Life Ministries Band, performing 7 songs that included “Hero” and “Have I Told You Lately that I Love You?”

Following these performances, the award presentations began with the introduction of Mrs. Evelyn Lowery, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from WFWP, USA.

From an early age Mrs. Evelyn Lowery has been a civil rights activist and leader, as well as the Founder/Chair of SCLC’s Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now (SCLC/W.O.M.E.N) since 1979. A video showing the numerous accomplishments of Mrs. Lowery, also the spouse of Dr. Joseph Lowery, as an “Activist and Advocate,” developing coalitions and alliances with a variety of woman’s groups both nationally and internationally, was shown to the audience before she received the award from Rev. In Jin Moon on stage.

Mrs. Lowery shared at the podium, “We must remember the visionaries and founders of this WFWP movement, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon and her husband, who have pioneered for peace and whom we love. You are indeed instruments of peace and love to the families and children of the world.”

Next, the Women of Promise award was given by WFWP, USA to a woman of only 18 years of age, Ariana Shin Sun Moon. During her introduction it was acknowledged that at an early age Ariana Moon was invited to world-class venues to perform as a piano prodigy. After being home schooled by her mother, she was accepted into Harvard University at the age of 15. She is now a member of the Harvard Ballroom Competitive Dance Team and has provided a dance class for over 200 people twice a week.

When accepting the award, Ariana Moon received a warm embrace from her mother, Rev. In Jin Moon, on stage, and then shared a heartfelt thank you to everyone in the room as well as to her grandfather and grandmother, the True Parents. She then explained that she would like to take this opportunity to also thank her parents. “I would not be standing here in front of this podium; I would not have accomplished anything that I have so far and have such high hopes and aspirations for the future, if my parents had not been supporting me every step of the way.”

Following the awards, three dance pieces were performed by Ariana Moon and members of the Harvard Ballroom Dance Team. The audience was then invited onto the dance floor, which was filled for the rest of the evening.

The following morning, WFWP national assembly participants attended the Lovin’ Life Ministries Sunday Service together with the rest of its congregation. Senior Pastor Rev. In Jin Moon explained to the congregation about the importance of character, which is like a rough-cut diamond that needs to be polished throughout our lives. Rev. Moon reminded those in the audience that “often times it is the mother’s responsibility to cut and polish the character of our children, which, like diamonds, are our symbols of eternity.”

When asked how significant this national assembly was in comparison to past assemblies in the history of WFWP, USA, Mrs. Sheri Reuter, a board member for WFWP USA, responded:

“Women’s Federation is entering a new era of growth in hands on responsibility. The emphasis of this assembly is not just to talk about solutions but to look around and create solutions to real problems, to take action for things that we are seeing around us. The whole morning was about this, especially in our Keynote Speaker’s address, which talked about the role of women. We are not just a women’s organization that only protects the rights of women but instead a women’s organization that comes out of the family; out of the role of women as mothers, as sisters, and wives. This is significant, and that is what is different about this assembly. We are being sent into a different direction.”

Margaret Buhrmaster, a county legislator for 17 years in upstate New York who worked for Governor Pataki to help reform the health care system, responded:

“Over the years since I’ve been interacting with WFWP, it has raised the level of awareness and are bringing us the stories that show and stimulate the empowerment of women. Women are strong; women are able to really make a difference in the world. But sometimes women need to be stimulated. By talking to other women that have accomplished things or by listening to others, we feel, “Yes, I can do that, too,” or “No! I didn’t know that was going on,” or “What can I do? I’ve got to do something to help!” Therefore, I really think more than anything that these reactions are what our gatherings are for, and then we take them out to the world. It’s like “Teaching the Teachers.”

WFWP, USA is a national chapter of WFWP International, which was established in Seoul, Korea, in 1992 by Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon. Since 1997 WFWPI has held general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations, along with only 137 other NGOs in the world today.

Written by Celine Tardy, with contributions by Douglas Burton 

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