The Unification Church or Unification Movement was founded by Korean religious leader Sun Myung Moon in 1954 and was known as The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. In 1994 he officially changed the name of the church to the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.
It is estimated there may be as many as 2 million members worldwide.
In the English speaking world adherents are often referred to as Moonies but adherents consider this an insulting term as they prefer to be called Unificationists.
Church beliefs are summarized in the textbook Divine Principle and include belief in a universal God; in striving toward the creation of a literal Kingdom of Heaven on earth; in the universal salvation of all people, good and evil, living and dead; and that a man born in Korea in the early 20th century received from Jesus the mission to be realized as the second coming of Christ.
Members of the church believe this Messiah is Sun Myung Moon.
Unification Church members believe that Jesus appeared to Mun Yong-myong (his birth name) when Moon was 16, and asked him to accomplish the work left unfinished after his crucifixion. After a period of prayer and consideration, Moon accepted the mission, later changing his name to Mun Son-myong (Sun Myung Moon).
Moon relocated to the United States in 1971 and has been controversial ever since.
Irving Louis Horowitz compared the attraction of Unification teachings to American young people at this time to the hippie and radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s, saying:
"[Moon] has a belief system that admits of no boundaries or limits, an all-embracing truth. His writings exhibit a holistic concern for the person, society, nature, and all things embraced by the human vision. In this sense the concept underwriting the Unification church is apt, for its primary drive and appeal is unity, urging a paradigm of essence in an overly complicated world of existence.
It is a ready-made doctrine for impatient young people and all those for whom the pursuit of the complex has become a tiresome and fruitless venture."
In 1982 Moon was convicted of tax fraud and conspiracy in United States federal court and was sentenced 18 months in federal prison.
In April 2008, Sun Myung Moon, then 88 years old, appointed his youngest son, Hyung Jin Moon, to be the new leader of the church and the worldwide Unification Movement.
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