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By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Dec. 5) — Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the controversial head of the Unification Church, received a friendly but low-key welcome from the Marshall Islands government when he touched down in this western Pacific nation on Saturday as part of swing through the Pacific on a 100-nation world tour.

Reacting to criticism of Moon by many Christian church pastors in the Marshall Islands, government officials were quick to emphasize that Moon’s one-day visit was not a government-sponsored event, but rather a stop as part of a tour promoting world peace that Moon started in September and is completing later this month.

"I will receive and welcome Rev. Moon in the normal Marshallese tradition of welcoming visitors," said Witten Philippo, minister in assistance to the Marshall Islands President Kessai Note.

Acknowledging that Moon is a controversial figure, particularly in the religious world, Philippo said that "he’s a world figure, whether people like him or not." He will be welcomed as "a common courtesy to his status" as a world-recognized individual, Philippo said.

The Marshall Islands government welcome contrasts with Vanuatu, where government officials have said no use of the government’s airport VIP lounge or other government venues will be allowed during Moon’s visit Monday next week.

According to Philippo, Moon said he wished to visit the Marshall Islands as part of a Pacific tour that is including stops in Palau, Vanuatu, Australia and other islands.

"He’s stopping here based on his visit here a few years ago," Philippo added. At that time, Moon spent several days in Majuro, going fishing with Marshall Islands President Kessai Note and discussing funding for various educational projects with the President Note that ultimately led to the Moon organization establishing the High School of the Pacific on the Big Island of Hawaii.

A special ceremony sponsored by a local Moon organization in honor of Moon’s visit to Majuro was held Saturday evening at the Nitijela, the local legislature.

Government officials and community leaders were invited by the local branch of the International and Interreligious Federation for World Peace, a Moon-sponsored organization, to attend the event in honor of Moon’s visit.

Moon’s visit also heralded the official launch of the Universal Peace Federation of the Marshall Islands — another global Moon organization that was established in September in Washington, D.C.

December 5, 2005

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