In a Providence appearance supported by some of the state's top
politicians, the Unification Church leader champions family values.
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PROVIDENCE - The man America came to know as
the messianic leader of the "Moonies" swept into Rhode Island
yesterday with a plea for racial and interfaith harmony.
Rev. Sun Myung
Moon addressed a
racially mixed crowd of about 440 people in a ballroom at the
The controversial religious leader, now
81, is leading a "We Will Stand" tour 50 states in 51 days in which
he asks people to put aside religious, racial and social differences
and stand up for the creation of a loving community under God.
He champions "family values," calling the nuclear family the
salvation of America and insisting that people refrain from having
sex outside marriage.
Moon, who began his
ministry in 1945, brought his controversial Unification Church from
Korea to the United States in the 1960s. While his creed is
Christian in most respects, Moon has cast himself as
the "New Messiah," sent by God to continue the work of Jesus.
Backed by a zealous army of recruiters, Moon was accused of
using brainwashing techniques to keep his followers obedient. He
raised eyebrows by conducting mass marriages, sometimes thousands at
At one point he ran afoul of the U.S. government,
was convicted of tax evasion and served 13 months in prison.
While he no longer commands the attention and the crowds he
once did, Moon's persistence in
the face of harsh criticism has won him friends in black churches.
Five years ago, he reconstituted his movement as the Family
Federation for World Peace and Unification.
Christian Leadership Conference, a largely black organization,
denounced the government's treatment of Moon as religious
persecution, and he has cultivated ties to the black clergy ever
since. The Rev. Al Sharpton, a national black political leader from
New York City who is a Baptist minister, renewed his marriage vows
in 1997 in a Unification Church ceremony.
Some leaders of
black congregations spoke up for Moon's crusade
yesterday, including the Rev. Rufus Oscar Kuma, of Living Hope
Assembly of God in Pawtucket. Mr. Kuma sought to reassure his fellow
clergy, saying that Moon is not trying to
convert people to his church but is only trying to unite various
religious faiths in one community.
The Rev. Michael Jenkins,
president of Moon's church, told the
audience, "Years ago you may have heard that Rev. Moon was not very
popular. Times have changed." He likened Moon to Jesus and Martin
Luther King Jr., as a prophet reviled by many in his own time but
carrying a message of eternal validity.
Moon's current message
is sufficiently mainstream to draw declarations of support from U.S.
Sen. Lincoln Chafee, Governor Almond and Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr.
Chafee and Cianci hailed Moon as a unifier of
people. And Almond and Cianci both proclaimed yesterday as "We Will
Stand Day" in Rhode Island.
In an extemporaneous speech that
was alternately self-effacing and self-aggrandizing, Moon referred to his
"People used to say, don't go to see
Rev. Moon and look in his
eyes, you'll be brainwashed," he said.
Although some of his
words were recognizable in English, he spoke through an interpreter.
Moon urged his audience
to follow his example and preach the truth with courage, no matter
how much persecution they encounter.
* * *
FOR UNITY: The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, at left, visited
Providence yesterday as part of his 50-state North American speaking
tour to promote his Family Federation for World Peace and
JOURNAL PHOTO / CONNIE GROSCH
KEYWORDS: RELIGION; RELIGIOUS;