World Peace Pilgrimage

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Repentance and Forgiveness Ceremony at Yad Vashem

Report by Joy Pople

Our holy books give us examples of how to face death with faith and courage as individuals. But where in the holy books does it teach us how as families to face a horrible death? Father and Mother Moon are calling humankind back to the original ideal of one family. The course of restoring the human family has gone through the valley of the shadow of death and been marked with blood, sweat and tears.

At the historical museum in Jerusalem's Yad Vashem holocaust memorial, there is an account of a family of eight people standing on the edge of a trench partly filled with the bodies of the recently killed. Our tour guide asked for a volunteer to read the words:"An old woman with show-white hair held a year-old child in her arms and tickled him. The child laughed with pleasure. The husband and wife watched with tears in their eyes. The father held the hand of a boy about 10 years old and spoke to him gently; the child tried to hold back the tears. The father pointed toward heaven and stroked the child's head and appeared to explain something to him." Then the SS man gave the signal and shots rang out. (From an eyewitness of the murder of the Jews of Dubro in October 1942 by the German engineer Hermann Friedrich Graebe.) Forgetting her own fears, the grandmother focused on helping her grandchild find joy.

Contemplating accounts such as this, modern people have doubted the existence of God. But perhaps, like the elders in families such as this, God Himself has had a hard time finding his voice.

In the Yad Vashem complex is an outdoor amphitheater embracing a hexagonal platform, facing a backdrop of six massive hexagonal-sided concrete boulders framing a star of David in the open space overlooking the skyline of the city of David. Below the stage, in five languages, is the inscription: "Glory to the Jewish soldiers and partisans who fought against Nazi Germany." Gentle clouds framed the clear blue sky overhead as we picked up roses and filed toward the stage singing softly, "I need thee every hour." Spanish Jews who had immigrated to Jerusalem sat on the sidelines, chatting with relatives who had come from Spain on the World Peace Pilgrimage, unsure what to make of such a ceremony.

"In the museum we experienced pain and horror," announced pilgrimage director Dr. Antonio Betancourt."We want to comfort the dead and the survivors. We want to share the heart of God who shed tears. We repent for Christianity who persecuted the Jews and created the climate of intolerance and hatred that led to the holocaust. We repent for the Muslims who did not show compassion. We let Jews suffer alone and abandoned them."

To prevent future holocausts, our vision is for Jews, Christians and Muslims to love each other and bring all cultures together as one family. People from the countries of Europe Western Eurasia, and North America came to comfort the holocaust victims and survivors.

"We ask the Jewish people to accept our heart-felt sorrow and repentance, Dr. Betancourt continued. "In our own hearts we contain the crimes committed against innocent people. We pledge to learn from our mistakes."

In silence we listened to solemn reading from the Holy Scriptures:

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions." - Psalm 51

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good." - Psalm 14

"Out of the depths I cry to thee, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice! Let thy ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications." - Psalm 130.

Professor Ian Hall of Oxford University in England chanted a haunting melody he composed to accompany the words of English poet John Donne: "Wilt thou forgive that sin that I have done, that it was done before?"

More than one thousand people from 41 countries cycled across the raised walkway encircling the amphitheater and offered flowers to symbolize our love and comfort to the Jewish people. We laid our long-stem roses in a growing pile, their heads piled upon each other and their stems laid out like a fan. Then we walked by a row of Jews from Israel, Europe and America and greeted them with tears and embraces.

Representing holocaust survivors, Mr. Hod Ben Zvi of the Israeli Family Federation for World Peace said, "I stand before you as a Jew, son of both parents who were holocaust survivors. Their parents died in the death camps. If people of faith had embraced each other 70 years ago, this horror could have been avoided. Let us liberate our ancestors, our descendants, and ourselves. We are grateful to our founders, Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon, for teaching us to forgive, love and unite."

The sun moved in its appointed course across the sky as people of all colors and faiths processed clock-wise around the amphitheater. Native American leaders sang a traditional song meaning, "God have mercy on me today as I walk mother earth."

The final inscription inside the Yad Vashem museum contains a quote by Yehuda L. Bailes: "Son of man, keep not silent, forget not deeds of tyranny, cry out at the disaster of a people. Recount it unto your children, and they unto theirs from generation unto generation that hordes swept in, ran wild and savage and there was no deliverance, valiance and revolt. How the mighty are fallen, the great in spirit and stout of heart, walking to their death with a halo of eternity."