Albion Monitor /News

Unification Church Continues Latin America Push

by Ufran Garcia and Thelma Mejia

report on Moon's church in Latin America
(IPS) SAN JOSE -- The increased presence in Central America of the Korean Unification Church headed by Sun Myung Moon is disturbing religious and civic groups, who are critical of the sect's human rights record.

San Jose governor Jorge Vargas, replying to complaints from the Roman Catholic Church in Costa Rica, said he could take no action against the Koreans "so long as there is no disturbance of the peace." Vargas also pointed out that Moon's newly arrived missionary force had complied with all immigration requirements specified for legal entry.

Moon hopes to supervise the marriage of 3.6 million people in November
Honduran authorities say they are investigating the activities of the Unification Church, but added that the national constitution guarantees freedom of religion, thus making it impossible to expel members of the sect.

The fixed grin and friendly manner of the so-called "Moonies" from Korea and Japan have helped the Unification Church attract followers from the streets of San Jose and Tegucigalpa. Seon-mi, one of the 150 missionaries sent by Moon to Costa Rica, told IPS: "We are working for the good of families, and hope to bring many families together by November."

She appeared unfazed by an attack on her activities by San Jose's archbishop, Roman Arrieta, and said "happy couples" were being recruited all over Latin America.

Members of the Family Federation for World Peace are trying to recruit couples who will participate in a massive, collective Unification Church wedding on November 29. During the event, Moon hopes to supervise the marriage of 3.6 million people.

In 1992, he officiated at a mass marriage of 30,000 couples in Seoul's Olympic Stadium. Three years later, via satellite hook-up, Moon presided over the weddings of 360,000 people located all over the world.

The Unification Church publishes a newspaper, Tiempos del Mundo (World Times), in Buenos Aires and local versions of the paper hit newsstands in Costa Rica and Nicaragua last month with distribution also planned for Honduras.

Moon's sect has considerable financial banking in Uruguay and Argentina. It owns Montevideo's only five-star hotel, along with a newspaper and a printing press. The Koreans have been in Costa Rica since 1975 and sponsor regular congresses and seminars which are attended by distinguished luminaries and conservative political leaders.

But humanitarian groups have denounced the "Moonies" in even stronger terms than mainstream religions and alleged that the Unification Church had been guilty of human rights violations for at least a decade.

The Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR) issued a statement in Honduras noting that Korean Colonel Bo Hi Pak, a Moon devotee, came to Tegucigalpa in the 1980s to promote an anti-Communist movement called "International Cause." The movement became allied with the late Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, the former chief of the Honduras Armed Forces and the most powerful man in the country in the early 1980s.

Unification Church enticing young people to join them with promises of trips to Argentina, Uruguay, Japan, and South Korea
Human rights groups hold him responsible for the "disappearance" of 184 people for political reasons. According to CDHR, Bo Hi Pak gave Alvarez Martinez $50,000 for the Progress Alliance, an organization he used in his fight against communism.

CDHR accused the Alliance of coordinating the systematic violation of human rights. The Alliance involved businessmen, union leaders, peasant leaders and mass media executives.

The Progress Alliance disappeared when Alvarez Martinez fell from power in 1984. According to CDHR, the Unification Church has recently begun courting political, civilian, and media figures again.

However since these efforts have enjoyed little success, the Unification Church has concentrated recent work on enticing young people to join them, with promises of trips to Argentina, Uruguay, Japan, and South Korea.

Carmen Arguedas, a Costa Rican housewife who was recently approached by young Moon devotees on a San Jose street, declares, "I'm a Catholic and they're not going to convince me easily."

But she added that if she were offered a trip, she just might take it.

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Albion Monitor July 10, 1997 (

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