Antonio Benantcourt, Summit Council for World Peace
delivered at the
International Coalition for Religious Freedom Conference on
"Religious Freedom in Latin America and the New Millennium"
October 10-12, 1998, Sheraton Mofarrej Hotel, Sao Paolo, Brazil
This is the first time I have been asked to speak on behalf of my church regarding the violations of religious rights around the world. I would like to begin my presentation by going back to 1975 and relating a horribly frightening experience.
A young missionary who had recently converted to the Unification Church was standing in front of Madison Square Garden giving out pamphlets inviting people to an event. Suddenly he was attacked by a large woman. The missionary could easily have subdued her if he had wanted to fight back, but he refrained. Then, the woman was joined by two men. Together, the three of them attacked the missionary, threw him to the ground and started to kick him while they screamed, "Moonie! Moonie! Moonie!"
The young man lay on the ground being kicked. His pamphlets were strewn all over the street. Yet the most horrible thing for this person was not being attacked. Previously, he had been attacked and mugged in one of those bad experiences people sometimes have in New York City. The most horrible experience in this instance was that when he looked for pity, for compassion, for empathy, for support, among the people who were around, he found none. The eyes that he found were eyes of accusation. He deserved to be kicked because he was a "Moonie."
I am that person.
The process of religious persecution carries a very interesting goal, especially when it is done in a systematic way as it has been done in the United States, Europe, Japan, and to some extent in Latin America, Africa, and other countries. The end is to create a ghetto as was done with the Jews in Europe. Religious persecutors demonize their victims and ghettoize them so that when actual civil rights are violated—such as when they suffer physical aggression as I did—there is no sympathy. Eventually, the victims can even go to the ovens or gas chambers with no support from anyone because they deserve it. They are less than human. I experienced that kind of dehumanization.
Rev. Moon has been discriminated against all over the world, and his followers have been discriminated against as well. Some have been killed. In the Dominican Republic, Martin Bauer was killed with the collaboration of the government in 1985. In addition, a Japanese missionary in that country was shot in the back. Fortunately, she survived. She crawled to the highway from the cane sugar plantation where she had been kidnapped and shot. Eventually, a good Samaritan took her to the hospital. She lost one eye and was crippled for life because of severe brain damage.
Bombings in France in 1995, 1975, and 1992 maimed some of our members. Others have been sentenced to as much six years imprisonment in the former Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. In 1978, some of our members in Ethiopia were executed. Some of you may remember the burning of 80 Unification churches here in Brazil in the 1980s. What caused all that? The ghettoization of a movement.
One of the most deplorable things that happened was the imprisonment of Rev. Moon on trumped-up charges of tax evasion. Basically, people in the United States government wanted to derail him and send him back to Korea. They tried to negotiate, "Either you go back to Korea or you can stay in the US and go to prison." That was the bargain. He said, "God sent me here to revive this nation. Catholics, Protestants, Jews need my message. They don’t have to convert to my religion. But they need to be impregnated with the message that God has given me." They couldn’t bear to hear this. He ended up in a prison in Danbury, Connecticut, for 13 months.
The inmates in Danbury testified about Reverend Moon. In their view he was a billionaire. Yet he took the most humble jobs in that prison. He cleaned the toilets. He scrubbed the pots and pans and mopped the kitchen floor. Things that no other prisoner wanted to do, he did. He got the endorsement of some of the prisoners, like Joe Coleman. Joe Coleman was condemned to 117 years in prison because he was a drug kingpin in Washington, DC. Prison officials transferred him from another prison to Danbury to break down Rev. Moon because they didn’t believe he was for real. Coleman was called to break down Reverend Moon. Instead, he ended up being converted. Afterwards, he told me, "I had never been loved. I was raised in the streets without a father and mother. That is why I was a criminal. This man showed me what true love is. Now I love God. Now I try to do my best for my fellow man." He now has a ministry program in Washington, DC
Currently, there are tremendous violations of our church’s religious rights. In Japan, more than 200 members are kidnapped every year. Some of them are exposed to a year of imprisonment in private houses during which time they are tormented by deprogrammers. Deprogramming is a process of breaking down the faith of someone and turning them against the religion they once professed. The Japanese government averts their eyes. They pretend this is not happening. Sometimes the government even supports the deprogrammers.
In Russia also there are tremendous violations. I don’t have the time to go over them all, but there is an ongoing case in which the judges and prosecutors have all joined against the church.
A major case in now going on in Germany. The German ban of Rev. and Mrs. Moon under the Schengen Treaty covered almost all of Europe. Thus, Rev. and Mrs. Moon have been banned, not only from entering Germany, but from eight other nations as well. The German government has published a tract against our church relying solely upon the words and views of anti-Moon groups. They made no effort to examine our actual religious teachings or sacred text. This booklet attacking our church cost $200,000 and was paid for by a government agency.
France has also declared Rev. Moon to be a person who violates the public order, together with other groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Austrian government does not allow the Unification Church to exist as a legal entity, so all property must be held by individuals. In Belgium, the Unification Church is one of 180 organizations listed by the Belgium Parliament Commission as a "dangerous sect."
In Venezuela, the leader of the Unification Church was arrested, the Unification Church has been dissolved, and the body of the church was completely destroyed. Fortunately, I have heard good news that apparently things are now under review and that the Minister of Justice has told our people that within a month their rights would be restored.
I could go on and on about... other countries where our church has been banned or outlawed. They have to worship underground. They cannot meet together. This happens not just in Islamic countries. It happens in countries that appear to be free and democratic. Fortunately, in the US, a country that is ruled by law, we have been able to win important cases and, at this moment, we are not experiencing any persecution that is government sanctioned. There are however, many countries such as Germany where the persecution is sanctioned by the government.
This body has a great responsibility. This is practically the only global organization that can protect the rights of all the religious minorities and eventually the rights of the larger religions because, if the little ones go, the largest also will go. We have to stick together and make ourselves be heard by all means. Thank you very much.
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