Overall Impression of Peace Tour IV
Being asked to photograph this historic and unique tour was very exciting to me, even though it would not be easy on my family for me to be away for two months. I had, in 1982, joined the first Youth Seminar World Tour with 150 college students from many nations who toured nine religious countries in six weeks. But, having no family then and no responsibility on the family level, I found it very exciting. With this tour, I am grateful to my wife, Meeyung, and our three children, Julie, Leilani and Douglas, two of whom have birthdays while I am away, because they understand completely the importance of this tour and are united in that it is important for me to be here.
The ministers who began this tour are experiencing more than just a chance to visit many countries. In Japan, they understood the love and nurturing of a mother’s heart when they were cared for and supported in every way. In Korea, they saw more of the masculine side and realized deeply about True Parents’ heart and the reality of the tensions between North Korea (which doesn’t believe in God) and South Korea (which does).
On the final day in Korea, Dr. Yang approached me and said that I might be giving speeches in Europe, as well as doing photography. I felt very inspired because recording this historic event is a great honor and blessing, but to be able to give the words of our True Parents is the greatest blessing of all because I am now able to partake in making history with these great men and women of God.
In Europe, the ministers were able to experience a variety of peoples, cultures and religious views by traveling day by day to each country. Throughout Europe, they realized for the first time that it is not easy to live in this area of many nations and that the spirit of religious faith is ebbing away.
In England, they experienced the heart of a people who had dominated a major part of history in the last 400 years. In Holland, I personally was able to return to my ancestral homeland, to the very small town in Friesland itself, and speak there, giving True Parents’ message.
Everyone may have heard of the minister who had gone to Sweden who couldn’t make it to his event due to a snowstorm and then, through desperation, read the message from Heaven on the train platform.
Then, going to Croatia, I was able to see how much growth there is in terms of Ambassadors for Peace, especially after the country was being suffocated by Communism. Many high-level people attended the event because they have hope for their nation now.
Going to Hamburg, Germany, a nation finally united after the Cold War, I was able to see how difficult it is to live there because of very high taxes (70%). I learned that Germany is still divided on the religious level, with Lutherans in the north and Catholics in the south.
We continued on to Paris, where Catholicism is supposed to be the religion of the country. But very few attend church and the government frowns on religion, even suggesting that the European Community disavow God. Yet, to have a very large event in Paris where many religious people gathered truly gave hope to the country.
And then we continued that religious hope by visiting Fatima, Portugal, where three children were given messages by the Virgin Mary in 1917. I was able to speak at an event where there were three generations, grandparents, parents and children in attendance and I emphasized the importance of lineage in the family, where the past, present and the future are connected.
The final stop on the European tour was Milan, Italy. The same minister who poured out his heart in the Sweden snowstorm gave even more here. By the end of his talk, the minister (Andre Jackson) had the people standing and cheering. My overall impression for Europe is that the ministers, especially the American Clergy Leadership Conference, should have conferences with other leaders of faith here in Europe.
After Europe, I joined team number five and traveled to West Africa. Our team of ministers had many different experiences here. One was that we saw the vast difference between the few in power and the vast numbers in poverty. In each of the four countries we visited (Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, which had just completed long, bloody civil wars, Guinea and Mali), poverty still dominates one’s eyes and heart. The ministers found it to be very difficult to understand why food, money, education and basic services to relieve poverty have not been filtering down to the mass populations that desperately need them. In one country, the president believes that all of the country’s resources belong to his people and won’t let any other nation have them. The problem is that the economy can never grow without trade from one nation to another. The people of that nation are still very poor because the vast resources stay buried in the ground.
But the ministers were able to have hope here as well, for the people have deep religious faith in Christianity and Islam. In both Mali and Sierra Leone, more than 3,000 Muslims gathered to receive God’s message, and they felt hope in their families and nation, especially in taking of the Holy Wine Ceremony. In fact, the vice-president of Sierra Leone attended and seemed to understand Reverend Moon’s message very well. The ten imams who attended that event eagerly wanted to become Ambassadors for Peace, feeling Heaven’s call for peace and unity. The Christian spirit is very much alive here and so uplifting.
Our ministers left Africa with a sense of deep concern for the people of Africa but had high hopes that the religious leaders and the Ambassadors for Peace of Africa can turn the tide of poverty and inspire the politicians to take the right steps to improve the lives of their people and finally bring peace and love to the continent of Africa.
Traveling eastward again, I made my final stop on the tour to the Philippines. Having traveled here many times during my tour of duty in the US Navy, I felt like I was coming home. After visiting the historic 1942 battleground of Corregidor Island, at the mouth of Manila Bay, we were guests at the Presidential Palace and hosted by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. We felt very honored to attend these events, for we wanted to really share the hope that we have in Rev Moon’s words and accomplishments to the people of the Philippines.
On Sunday, we all visited different churches and their services. One church had as many children as there were adults. It was very inspiring to see three generations joining together in song and fellowship. Families coming together in faith give great hope for the future of this nation.
Afterward, we met with seven imams who wanted to hear more about the Ambassadors for Peace and how to create unity with Christianity in the Philippines. Lastly, Rev. Hideo Oyamada and I visited the Apostolic Catholic Church, whose members dress in white robes instead of the traditional black. Their leader is an Ambassador for Peace and a great supporter in our great work for peace. Rev. Oyamada gave a great testimonial, and I read the words of Rev. Moon. The members felt very inspired, especially after receiving the Holy Wine and Blessing as married couples. They felt they were living the words of Rev. Moon.
The next day, Dr. Chang Shik Yang and Archbishop George Stallings were the main speakers for a large event in Quezon City. Dr. Yang gave a message of great depth, and Archbishop Stallings poured out his heart in reaching the hearts of the guests, many of whom were of the Apostolic Catholic Church I had attended.
In conclusion, one deep impression I have is how much the ministers are changing on this tour. Many had supported us in the past, especially going to the Middle East Pilgrimages and the many interreligious activities in their hometowns. But I am recognizing that these historic people will make an even more valuable contribution in the future because they have a worldwide viewpoint that very few others have. By understanding the many different situations, the ministers are truly universal ambassadors for peace. Everywhere they go, whether they are talking to heads of state, religious leaders, speakers of parliaments, mayors, or just those whom they meet on planes and trains, they are testifying sincerely and with deep love for Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon. The hope that True Parents have for religious leaders is now blossoming on the worldwide level.