Loving Your Enemy in the Face of Terror – Twenty-One Leaders of the World’s Religions Meet
Sun Myung Moon
October 21, 2001
Unofficial Notes by Nadine Andre
New York City, Hilton Hotel
On October 19-21, Assembly 2001, “Global Violence: Crisis and Hope” was convened in New York City nearly six weeks after the world was struck by the worst terror attack in modern history. Sponsored by the Inter-religious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) and the World Association of NGOs (WANGO), five hundred international leaders and VIP’s from the political, diplomatic, religious, media, academic and NGO communities throughout the world attended, anxious to understand and make sense out of the senseless violence that occurred on September 11th. More important, they hoped to create solutions.
On Sunday afternoon, the third day of Assembly 2001, the Founder of IIFWP, Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, met over lunch with twenty-one prominent religious leaders who were attending the conference. Among these leaders were two chief rabbis from Israel, an archbishop, a priest, a Franciscan, three Muslim Imams from Pakistan, a Buddhist monk and a Hindu leader. The participants represented Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Native American religions. The roster of those present read like a Who’s Who in the world of religion. Each leader represented large numbers of people. The leaders included those who were mainstream and those who were controversial. Nevertheless all had one thing in common, they were deeply concerned about the current world crisis and how religion was being used to foster enmity and division.
The lunch meeting began with an opening prayer by Archbishop Stallings of the African American Catholic Congregation in Washington D.C., also known as the Imani Temple. During his invocation he called upon the name of God, Yahweh, Allah and the Great Spirit to bless the lunch and the meeting that was to follow. The moderator of the program, Mr. Neil Salonen, President of the University of Bridgeport remarked that they had to prepare kosher meals, vegetarian meals and other meals to accommodate everyone. The meals could not even be cooked in the same kitchen. Dr. Giri, a Hindu professor jokingly said they were attaining world peace through ‘food integration.’ What was striking about the initial moments of the luncheon was the diversity of the religious leaders sitting together, eating, laughing and chatting. Mrs. Moon, the wife of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, turned to her left and asked Minister Farakhan, how his children were doing and how he was feeling? Minister Farakhan had given a powerful speech the day before at the conference. His speech received mixed reviews, stirring feelings of controversy as he so often does. This afternoon however, in unity he was attending the luncheon with his son. He had also successfully battled cancer over the past few years and had said the previous afternoon that it made him a better man. Rev. Moon then implored everyone to eat well and enjoy their meal, which indeed they all were doing.
Food For the Soul
Approximately fifteen minutes into the meal, Rev. Moon began speaking with the help of his long-time translator, Mr. Peter Kim. Rev. Moon said, “When we mature and get older, in our 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, we eventually go to the spirit world. He laughed and said, “Hopefully we will all be in the same place. We will meet our prophets and sages. My life will end with myself and so will all of yours. The most important thing therefore is life, love and lineage. Lineage is the most important because it is where life and love meet, it is the parent relationship linked with the blood relationship. In the world of religion we always want to know who has the direct lineage of the founders of our religion. It is always very important for us to know the lineage of our religion. In spirit world, how do we know that we will meet with the founders of our religion? We might not even be able to relate with them.”
Not knowing where Rev. Moon was going with this point, the religious leaders listened intensely. Some of them seemed unclear as to what he was saying. Rev. Moon then asked his audience, “In the eyes of God, do you think there are any enemies?” Nobody responded. Rev. Moon continued, “Who is your enemy? By having feelings of resentment, anger and hatred, we cannot go to God. We do not want to create enemies.”
The audience was silent and introspective. Most religions teach about loving your enemy, forgiveness or some variation therein but after the attacks on Sept. 11th there was much hatred spewed about in the name of religion. Rev. Moon then shared about his life. “Persecution has been like oxygen for me throughout my life, but I knew from a young age that if I felt resentment I would not come close to God. Ironically, as we sit here in the Hilton Hotel, in this great country of America, it is important to tell you that this is the country which gave me the most persecution. I was incarcerated and accused by many including the IRS.” Rev. Moon then gestured towards Archbishop Stallings and said, “Maybe even Bishop Stallings opposed me at one time, but now he is here sitting with me!”
Rev. Moon, paused and looked at each leader. “In the midst of my greatest persecution by the American government I never thought to destroy New York, Washington or the Capital.” Everyone knew he was referring to the recent attacks on America, which the terrorists called the ‘holy jihad’ and ‘war against the infidels.’ “I repented, he continued, and prayed about how I can bring America back on course. I invested everything, my knowledge, money, resources from all over the world and my prayers. I wrote the first check to begin the Washington Times newspaper while I was sitting in court. Because I know that Christianity has inherited the history of Judaism, and America is a Christian nation, I wanted to protect the nation for the sake of Christ. That was my heart. Suppose all American people have that heart. They would have no enemies. Six times I was incarcerated but God always protected me. People say I am a businessman with hundreds of millions and billions of dollars. I don’t care about money. I spend for the sake of the world. My motto has always been to live for the sake of others.”
“There are those who say that Rev. Moon is rich. He has his own land and money stashed away. He even has hundreds of bodyguards but eventually the American government confessed that Rev. Moon never took any money home. In the 1980’s, the time of the worst persecution, I was indicted in America but was in Korea. Most men would not have returned to face the charges. If I stayed in Korea I would have been safe but I immediately returned and prayed for this country, facing their accusations.
“At the end of the trial there were those who wanted to deport me. But to everyone’s surprise the judge said, ‘No, that is not fair.’ That is the way God works. Japan, Germany, France even now refuse Rev. Moon a visa. The reason is because I have sent many missionaries to those countries. I told the missionaries to make sure you plant the seeds of true love. They said Rev. Moon is a liar, the missionaries are fake, but after 20 years of service and giving honest and true love, they like those missionaries. People even seek out after them for advice and help.
“Minister Farakhan has received persecution. Other religious leaders receive persecution at different times, because of their faith. Do you think God feels good when there is persecution from those who believe differently? It is the job of religious leaders to come closer to the Almighty God. In the spirit world, we will feel embarrassed by anyone we have resentment against. No matter how much opposition you receive, if you are a true believer all your oppressors will one day repent. Where do you think Rev. Moon lives now? I live in America where I have received the most persecution about my teachings. However, people have come to respect me here in this country, they seek my guidance, because I never held any grudges against any American.
“Each individual life has God given value. In this country many people now love me because they have found that Rev. Moon came to America to teach how to live for the sake of others. America and American people now know that during the last 30 years I have been working tirelessly for this country. Many have considered me their enemy but I have never changed my heart towards them. God’s method is only one, keep giving love. God keeps pouring out love, even giving love towards Satan. God even embraces Satan as his/her family member.
“Love your enemy. What is the destination of that love? Suppose God has his children, and Satan has his children. God’s way is to have his children marry Satan’s children. If you offer that level of heart then that is the starting point for the Kingdom of God. The end of the road of hatred is death. The culminating point of life is love. The final victor will be like God. Who can embrace the entire world? Then, even Satan will repent!
“I have absolute faith in God. Even on my deathbed, I know God will protect and save me. God is using me to build a world of peace, like his son, messenger, errand boy. I am God’s errand boy.”
The thought of Rev. Moon being God’s errand boy lightened the mood and everybody laughed. It was obvious that the religious leaders were being challenged. For all of us, the thought of truly loving our enemy, even one who has killed our family can be daunting.
Rev. Moon sat back and quietly said, “Every minute and wherever I go I am thinking about where I can plant a seed of true love? What can be more precious? The reason I tell you this is because those sitting here represent the world’s major religions.”
Father Moon as Rev. Moon referred to himself then asked the audience, “Are you willing to work together? Who is willing to go beyond the boundaries of their own religion to shepherd America, Russia, China, even North Korea. Kim Jong Il, the leader of North Korea knows the value of what we’re doing. I was almost put to death in North Korea in the early days of my ministry but I never hated them or wanted to harm them. Now they welcome me every time.
“If I leave America who will take my place. China has 1.2 billion people; the U.S. has 260 million. America is small compared to China. The Chinese tell me to come to China; they will help. They know I have the power to convert even the worst criminals. Why then do I stay in America? Because God planted many seeds here. This is God’s country. I will leave after the harvest time. That is why I am here. In China and Russia we will keep repeating the process, all over the world, we will plant the seeds of true love.
“When I went to Russia I prayed and planted seeds in Siberia so Russia could become a country of God’s children. I planted seeds of true love in Russia and Communist China. In many textbooks they wrote about this and people in China even have a portrait of me. How can we tear down the boundaries of religion? We get stuck by the boundaries of our own religion. God cannot find anyone without boundaries. Boundaries stunt our heart. How can we practice true love as God’s children with boundaries?
“Through these international conferences, Rev. Moon gives guidelines, guidance from God. Father Moon has the heart to go to hell in order to open the gates, to liberate those to go to God. I have that type of heart. I have met all the founders of your religions in the spirit world.” Some of those in the audience became puzzled. What did he mean by that? Did he actually meet them in the spirit?
“You will wait and see the way to save humanity. Never worry about your enemy. Plant the seeds of true love in their hearts and in their countries. Satan and the enemy world have been riddled with weeds for thousands of years. We have to pull out the weeds and plant the seeds of true love.”
Rev. Moon looked at the clock and said, “I interrupted your meal. I’m sorry. However I hear the voice of God who tells me that you can eat any time, so this is an important moment!” Everybody laughed and Rev. Moon turned to the Rabbi and said, “Rabbi there are many millions of Jews in the world. There has been a lot of conflict, religious wars and racial wars. There should be no enemy concept. Everyone will lose as long as we have the concept of enemy.”
Rev. Moon then turned to the Muslim Imams from Pakistan. “Friends of Allah, there is a lot of anger and animosity. God never remembers any opposition or hostility to him, only forgiveness. If we all want to be children of God we should be forgiving. We should create God’s family, God’s nation and God’s world. I warn you about this. No enemy concept, only true love, everywhere we go . . . harvest!”
Father Moon turned to the group, “We do not need religious wars and denominationalism. Without denominationalism we must go to God. Rev. Moon then spoke directly to Minister Farakhan. He said, “You’re a good man, a man of God, a powerful speaker. But you must stop being so angry, you’re too angry, it’s no good!” Everyone was quiet. Minister Farakhan, not being one to back down responded by saying, “Look at how you are speaking to us. You are passionate, not angry. That is how I speak. I am passionate too!” Rev. Moon smiled, looked at him and said, “Yes, but you must love the white people and have no resentment, stop putting things down, that is the only way.” Rev. Moon then turned to the group, “If you don’t believe what I am saying, go to spirit world, you will see I am telling the truth.”
The energy in the room was intense. Here were the world’s religious leaders being told by Father Moon to go beyond the boundaries and denominations of their own religions to love their enemies. With so much terror in the world, the crisis within Islam against the radical factions, the violence in the Middle East and the abuses of human rights in Asia and throughout the world, it was as if he understood their troubled and heavy hearts. “This may seem harsh, he said, but God wants me to teach you this. Please go back to your quiet room and pray about it. If I am telling the truth you will know. If you believe I am lying then you can destroy me. If you have trouble praying, then practice the principle of living for the sake of others. Practice and you will see.”
Father Moon then made a proposal to the group. He said, “My followers resemble my life and my heart. If I send them to you will you accept them by marrying them with your young people? It happens like that. We will regret that we didn’t educate our young children against boundaries and walls. The tunnel is now blocked. We have to open the gates. If we all walk parallel we will have no conflict. If our minds and bodies are united in true love there will be no obstacles. There are 12 major religions in the world. I propose an International Marriage Blessing early next year. Will you join me? I ask you all to bring 12,000 young people, future leaders together. That will total 144,000. Even the Bush family will be mobilized, Bush Sr. and Bush 43rd. The world will look upon us. There will be great spiritual power beyond your belief. It will guarantee that the boundaries will be broken. That my friends, is the secret of God and the marriage blessing. People have thought that the marriage blessings I conduct take advantage of innocent victims. But look at Mr. Neil Salonen sitting here. He used to be a hippy! Now he is President of the University of Bridgeport. Look at Archbishop Stallings sitting here. He received the marriage blessing and used to oppose me. Now he is the champion of marriage. All religious leaders should push for this. At the United Nations last year during Assembly 2000, I declared to the world to bring national and cultural boundaries down. We are now building peace embassies to model this principle and be an example for others throughout the world.”
The waiters began clearing the dishes from the table. It was time to conclude the meeting. Once again Father Moon apologized for interrupting their lunch. He personally greeted and hugged each leader. The leaders then began to hug each other, representatives from all the world’s great religions. The atmosphere in the room was charged. Rev. Moon, himself a controversial figure and some would say a visionary, said a lot of things to challenge the religious leaders, each of whom represented legions of their own adherents. How could they expect their followers to overcome their resentment when they themselves could not? There was a feeling of respect and admiration for Rev. Moon, for having the courage to bring them together, to speak frankly and honestly, treating them like brothers and sisters. He told them that God had told him to invite them together after the world had been spun into turmoil. This is the time he said that they must lead. The conference itself had reflected many viewpoints and positions; however there was an overall sense that tolerance and understanding were to be the order of the day and that the historical resentment in people’s hearts must be healed.
Religious Leaders Respond
Nobody wanted to leave the room at the conclusion of the luncheon. Everyone wanted to talk. Rabbi Brodman, Chief Rabbi of Savion, Israel said he was surprised and impressed by the scope, organization and contents of the conference, including Rev. Moon’s lunchtime talk. He said that he heard about the conference three days before it was to begin and knew he had to come. He met friends, God fearing people of different colors and religions He said that one government dignitary from Africa came over to him and asked if he could take his picture because his daughter had never seen a Jewish Rabbi. The Rabbi had a full white beard, was wearing a black hat and a decorated black and gold robe. Indeed he was surprised, but gladly complied. He said, “Being unknown is being unloved.”
There were those that said Father Moon spoke the truth. There were those that weren’t convinced. Another Rabbi said, “Surely we have to love our enemy but love even Satan. What about Hitler and Osama Bin Laden!” In speaking about the International Marriage, the Rabbi’s wife said, “Regarding marriage, theoretically men and women are contradictions by their very natures. To bring harmony and unity in diversity is good, but I have a hard time with the concept of mixed marriages. Mixed marriages take people out of the fold.”
A Roman Catholic Archbishop said, “It’s true, we are all created in the image of the Almighty God. The Jews are waiting for the Messiah and the Christians are waiting for the Second Coming.” He smiled and said jokingly, “It’s all right with me, whoever comes first!” Father Nithiya Sagayam, from the Franciscan Capuchin Order of India said that it is true, we must pray for our enemies. “Rev. Moon in speaking about sacrifice has created a thinking point about a certain morality.” As for the International Marriage proposal he said, “As long as the partners are willing, it’s okay; different polarities have been lacking in Christianity.”
I must admit it was difficult to be an impartial observer during Rev. Moon’s lunchtime meeting with the 21 religious leaders. As a New Yorker who knew two people who perished during the World Trade Center attack, I was moved. I was moved to see chief rabbis from Israel speaking with Muslim Imams from Pakistan. I was moved by the sincerity of the Hindu leaders and the Buddhist monks desperate for peace. I was moved by the potential of this inter-religious dialogue that was oddly juxtaposed with a world outside at war.
A week after Assembly 2001 had ended, I ran into a colleague who had been at an event in Harlem, New York where Minister Farrakhan gave a speech. She was not aware of the lunchtime meeting that I had attended and told me that she was surprised when Minster Farrakhan said something to the effect, “I know that I have been too angry, I have to work on this.” When I heard her report, I knew that the words Rev. Moon spoke to Minister Farrakhan that afternoon had resonated. I was then convinced that something very special took place at the luncheon that day.