The Words of the Perry Family
In 1981 our family in Brazil suffered severe attacks. In mid-September, several international leaders traveled to Brazil to hold a press conference and try to get the news media to portray a fairer image of our church. Paul Perry and Dr. Durst gave the following impressions of their visit. The final part of this article, by Fatima Cardoso da Silveira, the first sister to join in Brazil and the director of a major family outreach program, reports on home church and educational programs.
As we approached the entrance gate of the farm owned by our family in Brazil, I saw two guards standing by the gate, checking every car. Security was tight, but the atmosphere among members was generally joyful and festive, such as you might find in a celebration at Belvedere.
We were quickly introduced into the main lecture hall, where more than 200 brothers and sisters were sitting on the floor, listening to Cesar Zaduski, president of the Unification Church of Brazil. The spiritual atmosphere was simply electric, as the members felt a ray of sunshine after a long period of stormy persecution. The theme for the day was "Unity and Victory, a New Beginning for Brazil." Suggested by Dr. Durst, the celebration was to mark the victory of the Brazilian family after 40 days of persecution in many Brazilian states.
In August and early September, our church was the victim of vicious attacks by mobs all over the country. Our members had to abandon their centers, leaving almost everything behind to be plundered and destroyed. In at least one state, members found out later that the policemen were under orders not to help them.
The sudden surge of negativity was caused by a series of television specials which blasted our church with carefully and deceptively documented materials. For instance, a reporter would go to one of our centers and would pester church members until the members were forced to kick him out of the house. When that happened, someone would capture the scene on film, in order to show the 120 million Brazilians how "unfriendly" and "closed" we were. Another trick was to take a negative mother to the front of a center and have her cry and ask for help to "rescue" her daughter that was a "prisoner" inside the house -- and then show all that on television.
After the second such program, violence began to break out, spreading rapidly throughout the country. With almost all the centers either destroyed or damaged, our members in the city of Sao Paulo found a place to stay at two farms they own just outside the city. Others went home temporarily or stayed at the homes of home church members, who were happy to receive them.
When I met our family in Sao Paulo, I found them even stronger and more faithful than before. There was an electrifying esprit de corps, a strong sense of pride, and the feeling of assurance which comes from having one faith tested but not found lacking. The young Brazilian family has come of age and can now stand with pride among major national churches.
Waldir Cipriani, director of the church in Sao Paulo at the time of the violence, said that the hundreds of home church families in Sao Paulo became much more committed to our movement as a result of the attacks. Fatima Silveira observed that our members had grown and matured very much from that experience. Home church members were so happy to have our brothers and sisters living with them, she said, because for the first time they could feel that their homes were really a church.
A meeting we held in Rio de Janeiro with professors, military personnel and community leaders that had taken part in our recent seminars revealed that top-level people were coming closer to us as a result of the persecution. They can see now that we really mean business, that we can persevere under persecution, and that we have massive international resources to back up our activities. Some of course, have withdrawn from us, but in general our true friends have remained as strong as before.
As Mr. Kuboki said in his speech to Brazilian members, after a big indemnity condition, there is always a big blessing. Brazilians have done well during the indemnity; I am sure they will do equally well when the blessing comes.
The significance of home church activities really struck me while in Brazil. After the centers were burned, our brothers and sisters were sheltered by their home church members. When we called them together on a Sunday, they came, along with their home church members. When they witness to an individual, he goes back and tells his relatives, so the whole family often joins. During the press conference, we brought together 15 home church members of all ages, so the press could see what kind of people our members are.
Our foundation in Brazil has been built on witnessing. Nothing is more important to us. If people cannot come to a center for lectures, we give them lectures in their homes. Home church, then, has been our principal manner of witnessing since Father began emphasizing it. We give three-day and even seven-day workshops in people's homes. In this way, they can really feel involved and have an opportunity to serve other people. Also, whole families are joining our church. Brazilian society is very family oriented, so young people cannot leave home easily, but if the whole family joins, then the young people can become internal members with the blessing of their parents. The others of the family can be external members and fulfill the requirements of coming to the center twice a week, Sundays and one other day.
In 1978, members of the Brazilian family began AMASA (the translation of the International Relief Friendship Foundation), which combines two major thrusts: social service programs for the poor and contact with people in higher levels of society. When AMASA began, we did not see clearly a larger purpose for it, but our leader, Rev. Hyung Tae Kim, emphasized its importance, so we began it with pure faith. Rev. Kim always said that the Unification Church would grow very rapidly in Brazil and that activities such as AMASA were crucial. (Actually, our family in Brazil has done many things on pure faith. Not knowing English, we were ignorant of many things that were happening in our church in other countries. But now we can see much more clearly.)
The goal of AMASA programs, as we explain it, is for each human being to become progressively more conscious of his divine and transcendent character, becoming capable of assuming responsibility for his family, society, country and world. Through AMASA, our brothers and sisters tell people they are trying to help each person to fulfill his value centered on true love, for the family which cultivates love between parents and children, husband and wife, and brothers and sisters tends to progress. In contrast to the usual relief agencies, our objective is not only to help people with their material needs but primarily to all individuals in society to live by the three types of love: parental, conjugal and filial.
We are helping others to grow; we don't just give poor people food and clothes, but e really teach them and lift them up. The people we contacted through AMASA had such a close relationship with us and so much confidence in us that even during and after the extraordinary persecution, they have still been friendly to us. During the problems was the time when we witnessed the most. The authorities who did not know much about the church were interested in finding out about us, since we were being criticized so severely.
Since the beginning, we realized the necessity of helping the poor people, but that is a very difficult task, and we needed to devise a good system. So we visited other groups who were doing community work and we helped them. Every Saturday, for instance, we would take the AMASA bus and go to some association, social club, school, etc. , to sing or put on a performance. This kind of work brought people joy, and through these activities, people could see that we are not crazy, brainwashed fanatics. They could understand that we are very normal people.
We provide material aid for poor people, but we always try to motivate each family to make a collective effort to improve their conditions. We envision our future success to be based on a give and take between AMASA and families, and among families themselves.
AMASA has also given us a way to incorporate into our movement professional people who have attended three-and seven-day workshops but who cannot drop their commitments and become internal members. We now have four active groups of professionals who have studied Principle: one of psychologists, one of dentists, one of professors and another of engineers. One member, generally a professional in the same field, takes responsibility for each group. In addition, we have a women's group to involve society ladies who have leisure time and nothing worthwhile to do. They can witness and do high-level fundraising. Funds for our activities are raised through events such as bazaars, fashion shows and international friendship fairs.
In Sao Paulo, AMASA now has more than a hundred active members, and our families in other cities are organizing similar programs.
On Sunday mornings, we hold a service for our internal members and some AMASA or home church members. Our Sunday evening activities focus on home church members (which actually include people of all levels of society). Three times a week, we also have meetings with specific groups of members, such as adults, youth, educators, etc. Our work is now growing almost automatically, because of the good foundation that has been laid.
The time of persecution was a watershed for our movement in Brazil, and its effects will become apparent in time. Two challenges still face us: one is our legal obligation to compensate the owners of the buildings we were renting for the damages done by our attackers. This is a considerable financial burden. The other challenge, particularly in Sao Paulo, where we have the most members and where the attacks were the most violent, is to find an appropriate center. We had previously bought a place on the outskirts of Sao Paulo to use as a workshop center, and some members have been living there. Landlords are hesitant to rent to us in Sao Paulo, so we need to raise money to buy a headquarters building from which to coordinate our work.
I personally took the period of persecution as an ideal opportunity for witnessing, and wherever I went, I always carried with me a book with Father's picture prominently displayed on the cover. Many people recognized Father's photo because of the television and newspaper coverage; they would stop me and ask me about him and our movement, so I had a wonderful chance to witness to many people.