Mother of Peace: Episode 45

Mother of Peace: And God Shall Wipe Away All Tears from Their Eyes
A Memoir by Hak Ja Han Moon
Chapter 7: Today’s Growing Pains Bring Tomorrow’s Sunshine, pg 220-223

A university changing the world

November 3, 1989, is an unforgettable day for me. I had traveled with my family to attend the long-awaited accreditation ceremony at Sunghwa University in Cheonan, about an hour south of Seoul. During the ceremony, I received a call from Seoul. “Your mother is in critical condition. She will return to God’s bosom soon.”

As soon as the ceremony ended, I rushed back to Seoul to be with my family at my mother’s bedside. My mother Hong Soon-ae was gradually losing consciousness. Everyone was singing holy songs.

My mother had been extremely happy when the degree programs at Sunghwa University gained government accreditation, and she had remained conscious until the day of the accreditation ceremony. As I put my arms around her, she opened her eyes for a brief moment, stared at me quietly and then gently closed them. That was our last farewell in this life.

To honor my mother’s ascension, one distant relative who came to pay respects was a former president of Korea University, Dr. Hong Il-sik. Since the 1970s, he had wanted to create a Chinese-Korean dictionary, but no one in the government sector or at any university would provide the needed support. When my husband and I learned of his vision, we were inspired and offered support. It was only later, as the relationship between Korea and China developed, that Korea recognized the value of his work. I was pleased when, at a later date, Dr. Hong accepted my invitation to chair the Sunhak Peace Prize Committee.

* * *

Sunghwa University’s roots go back to 1972. We set its foundation when we opened the Unification Theological Seminary at the Guri Joongang Training Center in Gyeonggi-do. It was more than 20 years later, in 1994, that Sunghwa University went international, with a new name, Sun Moon University. Its motto, “Sun Moon is recreating heaven and earth,” reflects the university’s belief that, through God-centered education, people can impact the world.

My husband and I always supported the advancement of learning as an intrinsic good. There were times when we faced difficulties due to misconceptions that the Unification Church had objectives that would compromise the school’s academic integrity. But our goal simply was to provide the highest quality education possible. We frequently invited celebrated scholars in all fields to deliver lectures. Sometimes we would spend tens of thousands of dollars for just an hour of expert training for our students. Father Moon respected the professors, although he really disliked it if they neglected the personal teacher-student dynamic in their classes. He emphasized that a professor’s students, not his or her academic colleagues or the school’s administration, are the proper ones to evaluate a professor’s performance.

Sun Moon University has gradually built an outstanding student body that, in terms of nationality, is the most diverse of all Korean universities. Recently, it received the highest ratings in several evaluations, and has been awarded several government-sponsored research projects. It is a tradition-oriented institution of higher learning with significant influence.

Just as a tree with deep roots grows well, universities develop best when they stand on solid principles and academic research. Sun Moon University sets high standards for its professors, and the lights in their offices are often on deep into the night as they interact with fellow scholars around the world. It is not uncommon for online conferences to continue until dawn. 

Sun Moon University is an outward-looking institution with carefully designed and wide-ranging curricula. Its purpose is not for Korea alone; it is for the world. Our aim is to instill people with a global perspective, enabling them to meet the ever-evolving needs of businesses and society. I would like to develop Sun Moon University into the world’s foremost institution of higher education, so that young graduates can tell the world with confidence, “I graduated from Sun Moon University.” These young people will serve as global leaders.

Its theology department, in particular, will cultivate its students to become teachers who can in turn train leaders around the world. Studying God’s word is as important as graduating from a good university, finding a good job and supporting one’s family and community. We need to understand there is an eternal world in heaven. Diamonds sparkle wherever they are. The new generation are like diamonds that will shine brilliantly wherever they may go.

Today our movement has schools around the world, from kindergartens to graduate schools. One is the Unification Theological Seminary, established in 1975 with an interreligious faculty—Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Jewish and Confucian, as well as Unificationist. Under the leadership of Dr. David S. C. Kim and Dr. Young Oon Kim, its Barrytown campus served as the base for the New Ecumenical Research Association (New ERA), and gave rise to the Interdenominational Conferences for Clergy, the Youth Seminar on World Religions, and the Assembly of the World’s Religions. Today UTS is going strong at its mid-Manhattan campus.

The purpose of all these schools is to ensure that increasing numbers of talented young people who know God’s heart have access to education to support their commitment to creating a peaceful world. Parents should be passionate and work hard so that our blessed children can grow up pure and beautiful under God’s will. Our true hope is to raise our children not just as sons and daughters of our own families but as the proud sons and daughters of God.

A helicopter plants seeds of love

The movie, The Shawshank Redemption, made a deep impression on me. The main character is a man who is unjustly imprisoned, endures prison life for many years and finally escapes in search of freedom. Father Moon was unjustly imprisoned six times, and that similarity with the main character made this film move my heart. At the very end of the movie, the liberated prisoner writes in a letter: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Hope, love, friendship and beauty are unchanging, no matter how much time passes, and their value is eternal. Love awakens hope and courage in the most hopeless of circumstances. Today many people have lost their moral direction, and we lament the dominance of materialism. The only way to heal this pain is by living lives of true love for the sake of others, not thinking about oneself.

I open my eyes at daybreak and begin each day with prayer and meditation. I think very carefully about what I will do for whom, and then I act on that. Religious teachings and political and social reforms are important, but we cannot create a happy world through these alone. True love is giving a pair of socks with your whole heart to your neighbor who is shivering from the cold. Sometimes it is sacrificing completely for an utter stranger whom you may never see again. True love is giving and forgetting that you gave.

Today the Unification Church is recognized as a worldwide religion, but into the 1970s, we didn’t even have a decent church building. My husband and I used all the money that church members donated for the sake of society and the world. When missionaries went overseas, they left with just a suitcase. They had to find work on their own and use the money they made to run their own centers. They dedicated the donations that came in to establish schools and medical clinics, and to fund voluntary service. We have practiced this ethic of sacrificial service for the past 60 years.


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