Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Church crusade calls on all faiths

By HEIDI ZEMACH - Mirror Writer

The Unification Church in Kodiak, which now calls itself the "Family Federation for World Peace" has asked local clergy and congregations of all demoninations to look beyond their religious differences and support a new national crusade, led by leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

Moon, the 81-year old spiritual leader of the Unification Church, is halfway through a 50-state, 50-day national speaking tour that will conclude in Anchorage, April 12 at the Hotel Captain Cook. The tour, called "We will Stand," began Feb. 25 in New York City. It is an out-growth of the "Million Family March" led by Chicago Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan last March and is cosponsored by the Unification Church.

The American Clergy Leadership Conference, including 70 Christian ministers from across the United States, are joining Moon in what is being billed as an interfaith, interracial crusade to rebuild the family, restore the community and the nation.

Some of the church faithful believe it may be the aging church leader's swan song in the United States.

The local Unification Church invited 20 Kodiak church leaders and supporters to a luncheon Monday to discuss the crusade, and how to support it locally. They also were invited to attend the event in Anchorage.

The dozen that attended the luncheon, including Borough Mayor Gabrielle LeDoux and a variety of leaders and congregants of local Lutheran, Protestant, Salvation Army, Catholic, Christian Science, Mormon, and Baptist Churches.

"We are praying for the success of this every day. Some people are even fasting for this," said Eugene Harnett, an Anchorage Federation for World Peace representative and organizer of the Alaska event. Black ministers, in particular, are backing the crusade, he said, because they most keenly understand the need for the country to return to the family, and the importance of overlooking racial and national differences, he said.

Moon's tour will not include Kodiak, Harnett said, which Moon considers his home away from home, especially in the summertime when he comes here to fish.

Jesse Vizcocho, a Kodiak City councilman and Filiipino-American leader in the community, joined in the entertainment with songs and his guitar.

A father of four, Vizcocho said he realizes that the common thread in all religious teachings is the importance of family as the basic unit of society and the church. "By rebuilding the family we can also rebuild the society," he said. Vizcocho is active in the Filipino Bible Church.

Val Miller, a local Christian Scientist, said she was inspired by a short video and the ideas discussed at the luncheon. The video, shown during the lunch, detailed Moon's life and mission.

Miller said she had wondered for many years why people are so judgmental about religious differences and said it was "beautiful" to see people coming together. "But it has to start in our own community," she said.

Tim White, the protestant chaplain at the U.S. Coast Guard Base said he didn't really understand what the proposed gathering really would do, or how changes could occur - especially when it's so difficult to get just two different Christian church congregations together to hold a meeting, he said.

Many of the Christian leaders already on tour are facing criticism in the media, and from within their own churches. They are having to defend publicly their involvement in the crusade, Harnett said.

Kodiak's Unification Church pastor Neal Drucker, who was born and raised a Jew, and raised his children in Israel, said bringing various groups together is the principal challenge.

Members of his organization received mixed reactions from those they invited to the Kodiak luncheon, Drucker said. While some people welcomed the invitation, it made others uncomfortable. Still others were against it, he said. "The challenge is up to us," Drucker added.

Approximately 20 families in Kodiak belong to the local Unification Church.

The church owns a local processing plant, International Seafoods of Alaska, and U.S. Marine Corp., that operates three fishing vessels locally and an at-sea factory processor.