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Religious Freedom and the New Millennium PDF Print E-mail

Dong Moon Joo
The Washington Times Foundation

delivered at the
International Coalition for Religious Freedom Conference on 
"Religious Freedom and the New Millenium"
Washington DC, April 17-19, 1998

It is my great honor to welcome you to Washington, D.C. I am happy that we could share this spring weekend focused on such a serious and vital issue as Religious Freedom and the New Millennium.

As we look forward into the 21st century we can see the desire for religious freedom throughout history, which might be considered as God’s providential instrument for mankind to move closer to Him. America is a foremost example based on the protection of religious and political liberty afforded by its Constitution, which provided a good foundation for America to become one of the most powerful nations in the world. Since the Cold War ended, the world has been liberated from the dangerous conflict between superpowers. Motivated by an atheistic and materialistic ideology, the communist bloc openly oppressed the people and especially communities of faith. But, in reality, religious freedom has not substantially improved. Rather, in some areas the situation of religious liberty has become worse. The threat to religious freedom by the communist system has been replaced by other political regimes, other religious institutions, and a morally corrupt culture. All of which continue to challenge religious freedom. The Western nations are promoting political freedom but have lost their soul through self-centered individualism and materialism.

Due to the emergence of a dominant secular culture that does not acknowledge the importance of the pursuit of faith, hundreds of millions of people from dozens of faith traditions still suffer intense persecution, alienation, and confusion. Sadly, even in 1998, we found evidence of some of the worst transgressions in advanced democratic countries, often with the compliance or support of established faiths.

Just yesterday, I was horrified by news that a fellow member of the Unification Church had been kidnapped by a government agency in Venezuela. Many have experienced that, in principle, freedom is obtained when we find God. At the same time, without freedom, we cannot fulfill God’s ideal. The basis of political and social freedom is the freedom of thought, belief, and ideals. The right to worship together in religious communities of faith is paramount. As we have seen in history, if we lose freedom of religion, we lose God. Conversely, if we lose God, then we lose freedom of conscience.

Ladies and gentlemen, as one who works in the field of journalism management, my main concern used to be freedom of the press and freedom of speech. I was concerned about protecting the domain of communication between human beings. Religion, on the other hand, involves communication between human beings and God. How is it possible that freedom of speech between human beings is so accepted while the chain of communication between God and human beings is limited? The attempts of any government or established religion to restrain the sacred communication between any person and God is not only tragic, it is unjust.

History shows an irony in that all the world’s major religions encountered resistance initially because they promoted reform. Their prime motivating force stemmed from the conscience and humanity’s thirst for spiritual renewal. As these organizations aged, the spring of spiritual life that empowered their earlier years became dry. The vitality of a dynamic shoot gave way to an inflexible and protective culture, like the hardened trunk of a tree.

We have an old saying in Korea, where I come from: the frog laughs at his own tadpole. Although it was once a tadpole with a tail and unable to jump, the frog ridicules its young at its own peril. Moreover, we should trust the human conscience to guide us in pursuit of our spiritual fulfillment. History knows the transforming impact of men and women of conscience. More than four centuries ago, when Martin Luther raised the torch of freedom, he did not act based on any denominational doctrine, but he acted and spoke from the depths of his own conscience.

We must recognize a certain failure of the so-called mainstream religious organizations to meet the spiritual needs of modern society. The moral question and the tragic breakdown of the family throughout the world should not be ignored. If mainstream religious movements had truly fulfilled their missions, how could society have eroded this far? Truly, those that shoulder the burden to lead these institutions, which at one time reformed their cultures, should be the first to repent.

Humankind has pursued political, economic, cultural, and social freedom throughout history. Nevertheless, the final challenge is to secure the freedom to guide the way of the conscience to God. Clearly, the fulfillment of the democratic ideal is founded upon freedom of religion, thought, and conscience.

Nothing is as fundamental or as valuable for human life as pursuing the inclinations of the mind, the heart, and the conscience. In America, long before the Revolutionary War, the writing of the Declaration of Independence, and the adoption of the Constitution, pilgrims of faith escaping religious persecution sought the freedom of a New World to practice their faith. During the past decade, the Washington Times has fought to protect political freedom from the challenge of the communist threat. Now we continue to stand strong, never lowering the flag of freedom for spiritual values and conscience as these liberties face threats from secular and political powers.

In a unique manner, the Times serves as a shield for the force of freedom in this struggle. Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Washington Times, has maintained a profound commitment to freedom of conscience, which ultimately leads to faith in God. He is constantly promoting religious liberty as the essential route to world peace. Indeed, he has often taught that history’s goal of restoration is not only for one nation under God but also for one world under God. Consequently, all people throughout the world have the right to pursue their own relationship with God. By quoting John 3:16, we are reminded that through our faith in Christ, not in any denomination, we can find eternal life.

After having spent his entire ministry educating the world about the dangers of atheistic communism and the breakdown of the family, Rev. Moon encountered top leaders from the communist world. In a dramatic and human gesture, he met President Mikhail Gorbachev and the late Kim Il Sung in the latter stages of the Cold War. In both encounters Rev. Moon did not compromise his heartfelt concern to liberate the suffering of so many, and of God Himself, from the brutality of socialism. His heartfelt message to both leaders was the same. He witnessed to the living reality of God. He also stressed the fundamental need for freedom of religion in their state-controlled societies. This freedom, he urged, is the very key to a prosperous, free, and just future.

Ladies and gentlemen, the most essential current flowing through history has always been the moral force of religion. This is not simply an expression of human culture; it is a manifestation of God’s providence. Because this current is motivated by God, no social, political, or military force can withstand the progress of righteousness. In this light, I believe that God has called all of you together in this significant event. Through this conference I urge you to reconfirm the absolute importance of religious freedom.

This is not a simple one-time effort. With the adjournment of our conference, we are called to complete a universal reformation that was initiated four centuries ago. This will launch the new millennium based on a higher dimension of love and unity between our Creator and ourselves. Let us resolve to guide and appropriately influence any government or institution that blocks the sincere pursuit and expression of spiritual life. And let us be responsible for opening a 21st century in which religious freedom blossoms like spring throughout all nations in the world.