Church calls march partnership a step to multiracial movement

Washington Post/October 15, 2000
By Serge F. Kovaleski and Hamil R. Harris

Leaders of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church say their partnership with Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam has produced a "joint pulpit," a multiracial, family-oriented movement whose national debut will be prominently staged tomorrow on the Mall.

Since midsummer, the Unification Church has gone to great lengths to field volunteers and raise money for the Nation of Islam march, tapping resources across the country and abroad in an effort to consolidate a coalition with Farrakhan. The stakes are high for the Unification Church, which for years has been losing followers and is increasingly isolated.

"The Million Family March is going to merge into the million family movement of many denominations coming together to strengthen and rebuild families," the Rev. Michael Jenkins said in an interview yesterday. Jenkins is president in the United States of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, the umbrella group formed by Moon's church.

"We would see this as a joint pulpit. We must become one pulpit, we must create one voice, as one spirit," Jenkins said.

"The denominational walls are coming down. The lines are being blurred," he said. "We are seeing a greater Christian-Muslim-and-Jewish concurrence of dialogue and understanding. We as a coalition believe that marriage should be based on God, and we feel we can help end divorce."

The family federation's Washington headquarters, at 16th Street and Columbia Road NW, has been humming. Organizers work with maps and computers to coordinate bus routes, while volunteers walk the streets distributing fliers for the event.

There are signs that the church is pressing for a large turnout and tapping followers to pay for the event. A three-week trip to Seoul that about 1,000 women in the church in the United States had planned to take for a "prayer and renewal" retreat was postponed so the participants could assist in preparations for the march. And thousands of families and organizations affiliated with the church have received requests for monetary donations, including one solicitation that was widely distributed asking for contributions of at least $300 a person.

Tomorrow's march also is being viewed as something of a milestone in the often tense relations between blacks and Koreans, who dominate the hierarchy of Moon's Unification Church. In the interview, Jenkins described the march as the third event in a succession that includes the Civil War and the civil rights struggles of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He framed Monday's gathering as a historic opportunity to raise awareness and make amends for racial injustices.

"I feel that we must repent and atone for a history that was beyond insensitive to black men and women," said Jenkins, who is white. He added: "This country was not founded correctly. America did not practice the truth . . . that all men are created equally."

The Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy has been a key liaison between the family federation and the Nation of Islam in recent months. The former D.C. delegate to Congress and veteran civil rights leader has cultivated a relationship with the Unification Church for years.

During the 45-minute interview, Jenkins praised Farrakhan and said his laudatory statements reflect the sentiments of Moon himself.

"The honorable Minister Farrakhan is so courageous because he has focused on black humanity," Jenkins said. "You do not know how much [he] is embracing all denominations, and that is why our bond is so strong, because it is based on moral principle and faith in God and no divorce and [no] adultery." Though the Unification Church places great importance on the march, Moon apparently will not attend. "We really believe this is God's rally," Jenkins said, "and the honorable Reverend Moon believes that [Farrakhan] was anointed to lead this march." He said Moon feels that "God's magnificent power will be shown through" Farrakhan.

In interviews conducted with Unification Church volunteers and members over the last several days, few expressed concerns over the church's relationship with Farrakhan, who has been criticized for remarks considered anti-Semitic and anti-white.

"Farrakhan has reversed himself a lot in that he has opened his hands to reach out more to Jews and whites," said the Rev. Jean Kasongo, a volunteer from Atlanta who has been affiliated with the Unification Church for 23 years. "This is a reaffirmation of the world as one family. If Farrakhan was not as inclusive as he is now, I would have a problem with him. But I feel this is two men of God answering the same call from God."

Mosook Park, 20, a volunteer from Mount Kisco, N.Y., who also was working at the church's Washington headquarters yesterday, said: "In this case, the issue is if you believe in family, come and celebrate. My family taught me how to love, and I love them a lot. For me, the focus is family, and it does not matter who is leading the march."

At an interfaith prayer breakfast yesterday at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel in Northwest Washington, representatives of various denominations celebrated their common focus in the march. Nation of Islam ministers, who usually rely on the Koran, quoted verses from the Bible, while followers of Moon shouted the Muslim greeting "Asalaam alakeem."

"We gather to pray to the one God, the father of us all, and that God will be glorified this Monday," Fauntroy told the meeting of more than 300 people.

"We have been guided by God to stand together," said Minister Benjamin Muhammad, national director of the Million Family March. "We have to be careful that we give God the credit and give God the praise."

Moon's followers believe that Jesus ordained the Korean founder of the Unification Church to be the Messiah, while members of the Nation of Islam believe that Jesus was an earthly prophet and not the son of God.

Area ministers not affiliated with either the Unification Church or the Nation of Islam had various explanations for their support of the march.

"Now is the time for us to stand together no matter what our denominations because we are all children of God," boomed the Rev. H. Beecher Hicks, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in the Shaw section of Northwest Washington, just before a church choir sang "This Is My Father's World." The Rev. Donald Robinson, director of the mayor's Office of Religious Affairs, said that despite the theological differences that exist in the District, there are common areas of interest in quality-of-life issues: "We all want safe schools. We all want our children to be healthy. So we celebrate the commonality of family."

The Rev. William Bennett, pastor of First Baptist Church of Deanwood, in Northeast, said during the closing prayer: "Lord, we thank you that can get Christians together with Muslims, with Unificationists, with Confucists. We thank you that we can get everybody together."

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