November 10, 2005

By Tom Burkindine
The Kaselehlie Press

Traditional leaders from Pohnpei recently visited Hiroshima, Japan to attend a six-day seminar concerning "Responsible Leadership and Good Governance" sponsored by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP). The organization has sponsored similar trips for traditional leaders in recent months, sparking concerns among some.

The seminar from October 24-30 and Chiefs from Nett, U, and Kitti attended as well as other traditional leaders from Pohnpei. Iso Nahnken of Nett asked the leaders to gather together for presentations, discussions and reflection on the general theme of "Responsible Leadership and Good Governance" and covering the topic of "Re-evaluation: Awareness, Human Rights and Traditional Leadership Responsibility on Maintaining human Sustainable Development Needs," according to Michael Treacy, Director of IIFWP in the FSM. Presenters from IIFWP covered a range of topics including "Character Education", "Foundations for World Peace: The Significance of God, Human Responsibility and Spiritual Reality", "The Root Causes of Human Conflict" and "The Significance of Marriage, Family and the World Peace Blessing". Other areas covered included "HIV/AIDS Prevention", "The Family as the School of Love", and a study of "The Core Values for Leadership".

As a Peace Ambassador, Iso Nahnken addressed the subject of "The History of Our Culture in FSM and How to Sustain Tradition in a Changing World." He also chaired a panel discussion on "The Importance of Good Traditional Leadership for the Micronesian People". The involvement of the IIFWP with the FSM and other Pacific nations has caused some in the FSM to question their intentions because of their involvement with the Unification Church founded by Sun Myung Moon. Moon and his church founded the IIFWP in 1999 after years of public relations battles within the US, Europe, and Asia.

The many projects of IIFWP were explained during the seminar, including the character education-based High School of the Pacific in Kona, Hawaii, where 15 students from FSM are currently attending under scholarship (the Principal of the school also happens to be from FSM). Other important projects developed by Moon were also mentioned. These include "The Middle East Peace Initiative", "The Renewal of the United Nations", "The Bering Strait Tunnel Project" and various soccer and sporting events to promote peace between nations.

Re-dedication to family and the values supporting peace were discussed and the leaders resolved to put in place the spiritual ideals of good leadership in order to realize the material blessings for the Nation. The main points of good spiritual leadership were to place God as the top priority; to set a high personal example; to live for the sake of others; to strengthen family life; and to educate and train young people in purity, virtue, and public service.

The Traditional Leaders, as a group, representing the people of Micronesia and a group of Japanese representatives participated in an apology and reconciliation ceremony for past events, especially those that took place during the time of the Japanese occupation of Pohnpei. Tears were shed and new friendships made between the two nations as couples greeted, embraced and exchanged gifts, according to Treacy.

During the seminar the Nahnmwarki of Nett took the opportunity to visit a clinic for some specialist advice and treatment and the Nahnmwarki of Kitti was taken to hospital with a high fever, which resulted in a diagnosis of appendicitis. He was operated on in the hospital, received the highest care possible and remained in Japan until well enough to travel home. On tour, participants visited the Rantokaku Art Museum and the Kure Maritime Museum, where a scaled replica of the famous Yamato Battleship was on display. Then lunch was served in a traditional Japanese restaurant and a Sushi cutting demonstration was included in the tour.

The Unification Church has been criticized since Moon brought his teachings to the United States, most notably for brainwashing members and holding mass weddings. The US media coined the term "moonies" to describe the church's members in the early 1970s, a nickname the church considers an insult and part of an organized smear campaign.

Detractors also point to Moon's numerous legal problems, including charges of tax fraud, overly aggressive recruiting, and improper fundraising techniques. Many of the investigations into Moon did not produce criminal charges. However, in 1982, Moon was sentenced to 18 months in a minimum-security prison for tax evasion. He was released after 13 months for good behavior. Moon is currently banned from entering major continental European countries and Japan.

By the 1990s, the Unification Church had improved its public image and gained favor with the US government due to Moon's outspoken position against Communism, a position many attribute to time he spent in a Communist death camp early in his life.

While enjoying favor and influence in the US, a decision was upheld in the Japanese Supreme Court in 1997 that stated Moon had defrauded thousands of elderly out of their life savings. Moon is regarded by many as a billionaire businessman who uses his fortune to influence governments and media organizations, most notably The Washington Post and United Press International. The Unification Church, which hails Moon as the messiah, says its aim is to build a better world by incorporating religious, cultural, and traditional aspects of life into an agenda they say will promote world peace.