The Universal Peace Federation (UPF) might not be known to most readers of The European Times but it enjoys the UN ECOSOC general consultative status reserved to “fairly large, established international NGOs with a broad geographical reach,” which have offered “substantive and sustained contributions” to the aims of the United Nations in “several fields.” It is in 2018 that the UPF was granted that status, a position that certainly is not allowed lightly and without a long and accurate observation and evaluation.
One year later, on 1 July 2019, UPF president Dr. Thomas G. Walsh met Pope Francis in a private audience (Ufficio Stampa della Santa Sede 2019).
Both at the United Nations and in the Vatican, the UPF, which is known to have been founded by late South Korean Reverend Moon and his wife, passed the highest level of screening tests.
Moreover, the UPF is active through a number of specialized organizations, each of which holds its own events:
•The International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP)
•The International Summit Council for Peace (ISCP)
•The International Association of First Ladies for Peace (IAFLP)
•The Interreligious Association for Peace and Development (IAPD)
•The International Media Association for Peace (IMAP)
•The International Association of Academicians for Peace (IAAP)
•The International Association for Peace and Economic Development (IAED)
On 12 September 2021, the UPF organized in South Korea an event called “Think Tank 2022 Rally of Hope.” A number of high-ranking political personalities participated as speakers online in this virtual conference which focused on the situation of world peace and the possibility of a peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula: Former US President Donald Trump, Former President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, Former President of Trinidad and Tobago, Former President of the Philippines, Former President of Serbia, Former Vice-President of India, Prime Minister of Cambodia,…
Media criticism quickly became international. It escalated to a campaign putting together two groups who are not exactly popular with most media, On the one hand, Trump and his followers, and on the other hand, “cults,” as the founders of the UPF were also the founders of the Unification Church, one of the main targets of anti-cult movements in North America and Europe.
In the UK, The Independent wrote that Trump had spoken at “an event linked to [a] controversial religious ‘cult’.” The word “cult” was also used in an article in The Huffington Post, which even gave voice to a political activist named Jim Stewartson, who insisted the UPF was connected with a “christofascist cult”—whatever this may mean. Other media outlets used the same language.
Kahina Sekkai wrote in the online edition of the French Paris Match under the title “Donald Trump Speaks at a Moon Cult Conference.” The Korean event was described as “a conference of the Unification Church, the official name of the Moon cult,”
The article, like the others, is a textbook example of stereotypes, which when it comes to “cults” are more frequent in France than elsewhere. Everything is there: the ghost of the “secte Moon,” the use of the derogatory word “Moonie” for the members of the Unification Movement (a word banned by The New York Times and other leading English-speaking media as offensive), the confusion between the Unification Church led by Mrs. Moon (now operating in many countries as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, FFWPU) and the Sanctuary Church in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, led by Hyung Jin (Sean) Moon.
What is the UPF?
On 5 February 2022, CESNUR and Human Rights Without Frontiers published a 20-page study and assessment of the UPF by six authors which can be read on the website of Bitter Winter.
Table of Contents of the Report
The report exposes two irreconcilable narratives about the UPF.
“One is that it is an NGO and think tank whose events are attended by prestigious leaders such as Ban Ki-moon and José Manuel Barroso, and which offers interesting position papers, lectures, and documents on international peace and development issues, including on the relations between North and South Korea. Like many other similar organizations, it has been promoted and is led by religionists who do not hide their religious motivations. However, it includes many who do not share their religious beliefs and is not used as a tool for proselytization. For purposes of converting others to Unificationist theology, the UPF would be a very ineffective tool. Those invited to the UPF activities are mostly political, religious and civil society leaders with well-established ideas and worldviews. They are as far away as possible from the ideal type of the ‘seeker’ looking for a new religion.
This narrative is shared by two organizations unlikely to be engaged in the promotion of ‘fronts’ for ‘cults’: the United Nations and the Vatican.
The second narrative, of which Paris Match offered an example, is that the UPF is not what it claims to be but is just a “front” for the “Moon cult” (secte Moon), which hides proselytizing and advertising aims under a façade of care for international issues and humanitarian aid.
This White Paper considers that the second narrative is both unfair and factually false. It is unfair because similar peace and cultural activities by mainline religions do not receive the same criticism. It is taken for granted that their activities on behalf of peace, dialogue, and social welfare are promoted in good faith, out of a sincere desire for a better world, rather than for self-promotion or proselytization purposes.
The theory that the UPF organizes its activities for proselytization purposes on behalf of the Unification Church is also factually false, as said before.”
In conclusion of the White Paper, “the UPF is an organization that has been founded by Reverend and Mrs. Moon and maintains members of the Unification Church among its leaders but is supported by the volunteer work of tens of thousands who in their majority are not Unificationists. Its purpose is not to convert others to the Unification Church, nor to support any partisan political perspective, but to promote high-level discussions about issues connected with world peace and support in different ways charitable and humanitarian initiatives.”