As A Peace-Loving Global Citizen: Episode 51
As A Peace-Loving Global Citizen: An Autobiography by Rev. Sun Myung Moon
Chapter 6: Love Will Bring Unification
"Allow Freedom of Religion in the Soviet Union", pg 180-184
“Allow Freedom of Religion in the Soviet Union”
There are a number of materialism-based theories that are popularly held but not verified. One is Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Another such theory comes from the writings of Karl Marx. The idea that spirit originates from matter is wrong down to its root. Human beings are created by God, and all beings are unified bodies having both material and spiritual aspects. In short, the core theory and philosophy underlying communism is wrong.
While studying in Japan, I worked together with communists for the independence of Korea. They were my good friends who were prepared to give their lives, if necessary, for the liberation of our homeland; but our way of thinking was fundamentally different. So, once independence was achieved, we had to go our separate ways.
I am opposed to the historical materialism of communism. I have carried out a movement for victory over communism throughout the world. I have advised successive U.S. presidents to protect the free world, standing up to the communist strategy of turning the world red. Communist countries that were unhappy with my actions attempted to remove me through acts of violence, but I do not hate them. Nor do I consider them my enemy. I oppose the philosophy and ideology of communism, but I have never hated its people. God wants all people, including communists, to be brought into His oneness.
In that sense, my visit to Moscow in April 1990 for a meeting with President Mikhail Gorbachev and my visit to Pyongyang the next year for a meeting with President Kim Il Sung were not simple journeys; they were taken at the risk of my life. It was my destiny to go on these journeys to convey Heaven’s will to these men. I said only half-jokingly at the time that Moscow, pronounced in English, sounds similar to “must go,” and so I had to go.
I had a long-held conviction regarding communism. I could foresee that signs pointing to the fall of communism would begin to appear after about sixty years from the Bolshevik Revolution, and that the Soviet edifice would fall in 1987, the seventieth anniversary of the revolution. So I was excited in 1984 when I heard that Dr. Morton Kaplan, a noted political scientist at the University of Chicago, was proposing to hold an international conference titled “The Fall of the Soviet Empire.” I asked him to pay me a visit in Danbury prison so that we could discuss the details. The first thing I said to him when we met was that I wanted him to declare “the end of Soviet communism” before August 15 of that year.
Dr. Kaplan responded, “Declare the end of Soviet communism so soon? How can I do such a risky thing?” and said he was not inclined to do this. In 1985, when the conference was to take place, the Soviet Union was increasing its worldwide influence, and there were no outward signs of its decline. But, it’s the final flame that burns the brightest.
So it was natural that Dr. Kaplan would be reluctant. If he made a declaration predicting such a specific event and it turned out to be false, his reputation as a scholar could be destroyed overnight.
“Reverend Moon,” he said, “I believe you when you say that Soviet communism will fall. But I don’t think it will happen just yet. So instead of declaring ‘the end of Soviet communism,’ how about if we say ‘the decline of Soviet communism’?”
I burned with anger when I saw that he was proposing to soften his original title to something other than “The Fall of the Soviet Empire.” It was a compromise I could not accept. I felt strongly that if a person has conviction, he should be brave and put all his energy into the fight, even if he feels afraid.
“Dr. Kaplan,” I said, “what do you mean? When I ask you to declare the end of communism, I have a reason. The day you declare the end of communism, that declaration itself will take energy away from it and help bring about its peaceful collapse. Why are you hesitating?”
In the end, Dr. Kaplan did indeed declare “the end of Soviet communism” at a conference of the Professors World Peace Academy (PWPA) held in Geneva under the title, “The Fall of the Soviet Empire: Prospects for Transition to a Post-Soviet World.” It was something that no one had dared consider up until that time.
Because Switzerland was a neutral country, Geneva was a major staging area for the Soviet Committee for State Security (KGB), and many KGB agents worked from there to carry out espionage and terror activities around the world. The Intercontinental Hotel, where the PWPA conference was held, faced the Soviet Embassy across the street, so I can well imagine how nervous Dr. Kaplan must have felt. A few years later, however, he became well known as the scholar who first predicted the end of Soviet communism.
In April 1990, I convened the World Media Conference in Moscow. Unexpectedly, the Soviet government gave me head-of-state-level protocol, beginning at the airport. We were transported to the center of Moscow in a police-escorted motorcade. The car that carried me traveled on the yellow section of the road, which was used only by the president and state guests. This happened before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Soviet government afforded this exceptional treatment to me, an anticommunist.
At the conference, I gave an address praising the move towards perestroika. I said this revolution must be bloodless and that it must be a revolution of the mind and spirit. The purpose of my visit was to attend the World Media Conference, but my mind was focused on meeting President Gorbachev.
At the time, President Gorbachev was popular within the Soviet Union, following the successes of his perestroika policies. Over the years, I have been able to meet with many U.S. presidents, but meeting President Gorbachev was much more difficult. I was concerned that even one meeting might be difficult to achieve. I had a message to give him, and it was important that I do this in person. He was reforming the Soviet Union, giving rise to the winds of freedom there, but as time passed, the swords of reform were being increasingly pointed at his back. If the situation were left unchecked, he would fall into great danger.
I explained, “If he does not meet me, he has no way to catch the wave of heavenly fortune, and if he cannot do that, he will not last long.”
Perhaps President Gorbachev heard this expression of my concern. The next day, he invited me to the Kremlin. I rode in a limousine provided by the Soviet government and entered deep into the Kremlin. On entering the presidential office, my wife and I took our seats, and Cabinet ministers of the Soviet Union took seats next to us. President Gorbachev smiled a big smile and gave us an energetic explanation of the successes of his perestroika policies. Then he showed me into an anteroom, where we met one on one. I used this opportunity to give him the following message:
“Mr. President, you have already achieved much success through perestroika, but that alone will not be sufficient for reform. You need immediately to allow freedom of religion in the Soviet Union. If you try to reform only the material world, without the involvement of God, perestroika will be doomed to fail. Communism is about to end. The only way to save this nation is to allow the freedom of religion. The time is now for you to act with the courage that you have shown in reforming the Soviet Union and become a president who works to bring about world peace.”
President Gorbachev’s face hardened at the mention of religious freedom, as though he had not been expecting this. As one would expect from the man who had allowed the reunification of Germany a few months earlier, however, he quickly relaxed his expression and soberly accepted my words to him. I continued, saying, “South Korea and the Soviet Union should now open diplomatic relations. In that context, please invite South Korean President Roh Tae Woo to visit.” I also explained a list of reasons why it would be good for the two countries to have diplomatic relations.
After I had finished all I wanted to say, President Gorbachev made a promise to me with a tone of certitude that I had not heard him express prior to that point.
“I am confident,” he said, “that relations between South Korea and the Soviet Union will develop smoothly. I, too, believe that political stability and the relaxation of tensions on the Korean peninsula are necessary. Opening diplomatic relations with South Korea is only a matter of time; there are no obstacles. As you suggested, I will meet President Roh Tae Woo.”
As I was about to leave President Gorbachev that day, I took off my watch and put it on his wrist. He seemed a little bewildered that I would treat him as I might an old friend. So I told him firmly, “Each time your reforms face difficulty, please look at this watch and remember your promise to me. If you do that, Heaven will surely open a path for you.”
As he promised me, President Gorbachev met President Roh in San Francisco in June that year for a bilateral summit. Then, on September 30, 1990, South Korea and the Soviet Union signed a historic agreement to open diplomatic relations for the first time in eighty-six years.
Of course, politics is the job of politicians, and diplomacy is the job of diplomats. Sometimes, though, when a door has been closed for a long time, a religious person who has no self-serving interests at stake can be more effective.
Four years later, President and Mrs. Gorbachev visited Seoul, and my wife and I hosted them at our residence in Hannam-Dong. He had already been removed from power by a coup d’état. Following the coup by anti-reformist forces opposed to perestroika, he had resigned his position as general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party and dissolved the party. As a communist, he had eliminated the Communist Party.
The former president and first lady used chopsticks to eat the bulgogi (a deliciously seasoned grilled beef) and jabchae (made from noodles and vegetables) we had carefully prepared. When he was served sujeonggwa (a sweet, refreshing, cold persimmon drink) as dessert, Mr. Gorbachev repeated several times, “Korea has excellent traditional foods.” He and the first lady appeared relaxed and quite different from the tense days when he was in office. Mrs. Gorbachev, who had previously been a thoroughgoing Marxist-Leninist lecturing at Moscow State University, wore a necklace with a crucifix.
“Mr. President, you did a great thing,” I told him. “You gave up your post as general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, but now you have become the president of peace. Because of your wisdom and courage, we now have the possibility to bring world peace. You did the most important, eternal, and beautiful thing for the world. You are a hero of peace who did God’s work. The name that will be remembered and honored forever in the history of Russia will not be ‘Marx,’ ‘Lenin,’ or ‘Stalin.’ It will be ‘Mikhail Gorbachev.’ ”
I gave such high praise to Mr. Gorbachev for his decision to bring about the breakup of the Soviet Union, the mother country of communism, without shedding blood.
In response, Mr. Gorbachev said, “Reverend Moon, I have been greatly comforted by your words. Hearing your words gives me energy. I will devote the remainder of my life to projects that are for the sake of world peace.” And he firmly took my hand in his.