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Date: Tue, 21 Apr 98 21:30:55 CDT
From: Tom Burghardt <tburghardt@igc.apc.org>
Subject: (en) Rev. Moon Develops Brazilian Town into Center ...
Article: 32940
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.24436.19980422181611@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>



Rev. Moon develops Brazilian town into center of Latin American Operations

By Michael Astor, Associated Press, Miami Herald, Tuesday 21 April 1998

JARDIM, Brazil -- A short strip of shops and bars on Brazil's midwestern plains, Jardim seems more like the middle of nowhere than the center of Latin American operations for the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

But it is here, on the edge of the vast Pantanal swamplands, that Moon's followers are planning the 74,000-acre New Hope Ranch, including a school, a university and a research center. It is the kernel of an ambitious plan to develop education, agribusiness and tourism in 33 cities and towns within a 125-mile radius.

Showing a visitor a map of the planned ranch, Kim Yoon-sang, Moon's No. 1 man in Brazil, says there will be no religious proselytizing in the school or university, and everyone will be welcome. Moon's sole interest in developing the region is to do good works, he said.

Rev. Moon says it's a big project for world peace, to end hunger and develop the Third World, said Kim, who joined Moon in Korea 39 years ago.

It's also a new start in South America's biggest country for Moon, the 77-year-old founder of the Unification Church, which combines strains of Christianity with elements of Buddhism and Confucianism. Two decades ago, Brazilians stoned Moon temples in major cities amid a wave of anti-Moon hysteria.

Moon discovered the region around Jardim on a fishing trip in December 1994. Since then, he has spent $20 million to buy and develop three sites in the sparsely populated state of Mato Grosso do Sul, which borders Bolivia and Paraguay.

The influx of capital and foreigners has caused a stir in Jardim, a poor ranching town of about 21,000 residents. About 200 people are currently living on the ranch, half of them local workers and about 40 Moon followers from abroad.

When Moon comes to visit -- he was here in October and again in March -- he stays in a modest wooden house, dwarfed by the school buildings, the meeting house and the 3,000-seat dining hall.

That may seem unusual for the head of a multibillion-dollar international business empire, which includes the Washington Times newspaper and Bridgeport University in Connecticut. But Cesar Zadusky, the ranch's Brazilian project manager, said it fits Moon's philosophy of benefiting others before he helps himself.

While people seem a bit leery of the group's religious teachings, they are more than happy to have the business.

What Moon is doing is absolutely right. He's bringing money into the region, said Edir Fiqueiredo, who runs a small hotel in Jardim. Some people are suspicious of his motives, but I don't worry about that. The religious issue is separate for me.

Maria Rita Ribeiro has heard Moon will send school buses to Jardim to take local children to the ranch's school. If he does that I might send my daughter, but I won't join the sect, she said.

The school isn't the only way Moon is reaching out to the community. He also is pushing a plan to turn the region into a more efficient agricultural producer.

Kim, who holds a doctorate in agronomy, said the idea is for each town to cultivate a single type of fruit to make processing and exporting easier.

To win over local farmers, Kim sits down with them under the trees to discuss farm prices and international markets. And he shows them the modern agricultural technology on Moon's ranch and makes it available to them.

In another gesture, Moon offered ambulances to 32 local mayors last year, and 29 accepted. The three who turned down the offer were under pressure from local Roman Catholic priests who distrust Moon's intentions.

Sensitive to the suspicion, Moon is soft-peddling his religion. His organization, called the Association of the Holy Ghost when it arrived in Brazil in 1975, recently changed its name to the Association of Families for Unification and World Peace.

To get the word out, Moon plans to open a newspaper in Brazil. He already owns dailies in Argentina and Uruguay.

The church still exists in internal terms, but it's not necessary to have the dogma to be part of the Federation of Families, Zadusky said.

What is less clear is whether the shift reflects a policy change or an effort to avoid a repeat of past persecution.

In 1981, when Zadusky was president of the Moon sect in Brazil, Unification temples were attacked following news reports raising allegations that the church was brainwashing and entrapping minors.

Anti-Moon feelings have not entirely vanished.

He's not going to get many converts here, said Murilo Bonifacio Kuhnan, who works at a beverage distributor in Jardim. He's against God. He says God failed in his mission, and people here won't buy that. People here like God.

Moon missionaries come to town occasionally to hand out pamphlets, and others can be seen proselytizing at the bus station in Campo Grande, the state capital 125 miles away.

But Zadusky said that there are only a few missionaries and that they have met with little acceptance, because Moon's philosophy requires a certain level of education largely lacking here.

That doesn't seem to daunt him.

The best way to remedy these prejudices is through good works, he said.