Friday, July 15, 2011

Bedazzled by the Moon

The Thodupuzha-born Augustine Zacharias is a follower of the Unification Church. Today, he lives in Tokyo, with a Japanese wife, selected by the church's founder Rev. Moon, and has two children

Photo: Augustine Zacharias with his Japanese wife and sons

By Shevlin Sebastian

One day, in 1984, Augustine Zacharias came across an article in the Readers' Digest called, 'A journey through the mind of a cult'. It focused on the Unification Church founded by the Korean-born Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The story detailed the brainwashing that took place, as well as the financial scams of Rev. Moon.

Zacharias, who grew up in Thodupuzha, became curious and began reading the Divine Principles written by Rev. Moon. It seemed to have the answers to the many queries he had. One question which tormented Zacharias was why good people suffered in life.

Rev Moon said, “Suffering occurs because of the actions done by a human being. Sometimes when we think we are doing is the correct action may not be 100 per cent right. For example: killing a man is bad. But if there is a war, and if a soldier kills an enemy, it is considered as a good act. Everyone should have a clear understanding of what is right and wrong.”

Zacharias, born a Catholic, had been disappointed by Christianity. “It does not have the answers especially when you read the Old Testament,” he says. “Why did Cain kill Abel? Why did Noah curse his second son? Why did Tamara have a baby from her father-in-law? There are no clear explanations. In Divine Principles, there are logical answers to all the questions.”

In 1988, Zacharias became a volunteer in the Delhi office of the Unification church. Some years later, he sent his photo to Rev. Moon, who selected a bride for him. She turned out to be a Japanese woman, by the name of Michiko Nozawa. On August 25, 1992, there was a mass marriage of 30,000 couples in the Olympic Stadium at Seoul. “All the pairs were chosen by Rev. Moon,” says Zacharias. Soon, they began their married life in Delhi.

And Zacharias admits the marriage was not easy. “We come from different cultures,” he says. “We have a different mind-set and I had to work hard to make it work.” Interestingly, quite a few couples who took part in the mass marriage broke up within a few years.

Meanwhile, on November 29, 1996, his first child, a son, was born. He was named Bharat. The second son, born two years later, was called Kenta. In 1998, they went to Tokyo and settled down there. Zacharias started a business, selling Indian handicrafts and silks. Later, he set up an Indian restaurant, and, finally, he began exporting excavators and other machineries to India and other countries.

During this time, Zacharias continued to be a volunteer for the Unification church. “I would work on holidays and weekends, and whenever there were any public events,” he says. There are a million adherents in Japan. Worldwide, there are 43 million followers.
Most of the disciples are from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia and America. ““People come and go, sometimes, they return,” says Zacharias. “My children are members. Bharat is a student leader in the church.”

Unfortunately, Zacharia’s actions have caused repercussions at home. “I was ex-communicated from the Catholic church,” says Zacharias, while on a recent visit to Kochi. “The priest said my wife should become a Catholic. I told him I could not force her, since she is a Buddhist. Then he said I could not stay in the church.”

Meanwhile, his mother was deeply upset. She begged him to return to the Catholic church insisting that he belonged to a cult, but he refused. His four brothers and a sister and their families have constantly faced the ire of society. But for Zacharias, there was no turning back.

“Rev. Moon is the saviour of mankind,” he says. “I believe he is the second coming of Christ. If I don't follow him, I will be making a big mistake. During Jesus's life, people never regarded him as a saviour. So is the case with Moon. I don't want to make the same error. So, even though I face difficulties in my family and society, I will always remain faithful to Rev. Moon.”

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