Tanzania: "Peace and family" gathering organised by South Korean body raises controversy

Dar es Salaam Commissioner Paul Makonda addresses the public during the Family Federation for World Peace conference held at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam yesterday. PHOTO | ERICKY BONIPHACE

Dar es Salaam. More than 40,000 people flocked the National Stadium yesterday for a ‘peace and family’ conference organised yesterday by a popular South Korean religious movement, amid claims the participants were promised capital for start-ups, which they never received.

Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda graced the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) event on behalf of President John Magufuli.

The FFWPU was founded in the 1950s by self-styled messiah Sun Myung Moon, whose Unification Church became famous for marrying thousands of people in a single ceremony.

He claimed to have millions of members across the world, but was accused of brainwashing and profiteering.

In Dar es Salaam yesterday, the organisers said the event attracted over 43,000 people. Entrance fee was Sh3,000 per participant.

However, many of those who attended claimed that they had been lured to the event after promises that they would be given capital for start-ups by “their sponsor”.

But a senior official of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, Stylos Simba, refuted claims they promised to give money to the attendees.

“We organised the seminar to provide education on how people can survive in their marriages…we didn’t promise to give money to anyone,” said Mr Simba.

Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda also dismissed the claims saying this should be a lesson to Tanzanians.

“You can’t expect someone to give you Sh100,000, when you give him Sh3,000; this should act as a wake-up call to my fellow citizens,” said Mr Makonda, who spoke from his offices.

One of the participants, who wished not to be named, claimed he and his colleagues were forced to pay Sh1.2 million to hire a mini-bus from Arusha.

Another attendee, Mr Jaffari Mtimbuka said he felt cheated because he didn’t get what he was promised for taking part in the event.

“What we found here is contrary to what we were promised when we paid the attendance fee…I feel cheated,” said Mr Mtimbuka.

Another attendee Mr Edson Mbwambo said at first he didn’t want to pay the attendance fee but due to family pressure he ended up doing so.

He complained that they were promised to be paid only to be provided with education on how to survive in marriages.

Towards the end of last year, the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification sparked a storm in Zimbabwe where it held a similar event, and at least 40,000 couples from over 200 countries were billed to dededicate their marriages at a huge ceremony led by Dr Hak Ja Han Moon, widow of the founder of the movement.

Local churches under the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) discouraged the christian community against attending the highly publicised Peace and Family Festival saying they do not identify with the teachings of the movement.

The movement has been accused of cult-like practices -- allegations its leaders have previously dismissed as a result of being “misunderstood and even persecution”. We’re not exclusive to this misunderstanding or treatment.”

Myyung Moon, the founder, died aged 92 years in 2012.