Women have played a pivotal role in promoting peace. Two recent examples are Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon and Madam Yu Mei-Jung.

by Peter Zoehrer

*A paper presented at the conference “Remembering Shimu’s Fight: Conscience and the Tai Ji Men Case,” Pasadena, California, April 5, 2024.

An article already published in Bitter Winter on April 19th, 2024.

Madam Yu Mei-Jung (left) and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon (right).
Madam Yu Mei-Jung (left) and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon (right).

In the noble pursuit of peacebuilding, prevailing narratives often prioritize top-down, militaristic strategies predominantly orchestrated by men. Yet, beneath this dominant discourse, a profound and often disregarded force for sustainable peace emerges: the indispensable role of women.

Agents of change

Throughout history, women have played pivotal roles in fostering peace. They challenge societal norms that perpetuate conflict, advocate for nonviolent conflict resolution, and catalyze peacebuilding efforts.

Their influence spans diverse contexts, from the pioneering work of Bertha von Suttner from Austria, the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, to contemporary figures like Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan, whose global advocacy for girls’ education in the face of Taliban oppression has resonated globally. Additionally, figures like Yu Gwan-sun, who mobilized thousands of Koreans against Japanese occupation in 1919, and Wangari Maathai, whose environmental activism in Kenya highlighted the link between environmental degradation, poverty, and conflict, demonstrate the multifaceted ways women drive peacebuilding.

Yu Gwan-sun (1902–1920). Credits.
Yu Gwan-sun (1902–1920). Credits.

However, beyond their national impact, there exists a notable phenomenon that distinguishes certain women peacemakers: their ability to effect change on a global scale while standing as equals alongside their influential husbands, founders of global movements.

Two such remarkable women are Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon from Korea and the late Madam Yu Mei-Jung from Taiwan.

Dr. Moon and Madam Yu

Both were spouses of charismatic leaders of spiritual movements. Both endured severe difficulties due to persecution by state and non-state actors, yet they supported their husbands without uttering a word of complaint, even during the most challenging times. Each demonstrated remarkable leadership qualities and spearheaded numerous peace projects on an international scale. Another notable aspect is that both husbands treated their wives as equal partners. This husband-wife unity may indeed be the secret power behind enabling global leadership in peacebuilding.

As co-leader of the Unification Movement and the International President of the Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP), Dr. Moon is a prominent figure advocating for peacebuilding initiatives.

Following the passing of her husband, the late Reverend Sun Myung Moon (1920–2012), Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon assumed leadership of the Family Federation for World Peace, formerly known as the Unification Church, which boasts faith communities in over 150 countries worldwide. Notably, during the inauguration of the Women’s Federation for World Peace in 1992, her husband acknowledged the dawn of the era of women and affirmed her equal authority alongside him.

Over the past decade, Dr. Moon has shouldered the responsibility of leading a global and multifaceted movement, demonstrating remarkable leadership skills. In 2022, following the assassination of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Kishida government and public opinion wrongly implicated the Unification Church in the tragedy. This false accusation has led to severe persecution of the Unification movement, which boasts hundreds of thousands of members in Japan, with the government threatening its dissolution. Despite these challenges, Dr. Moon, affectionately known as the Mother of Peace, continues to provide solace to members and remains steadfast in her efforts to promote peace and reconciliation worldwide.

Her philosophy of peace is succinctly captured in the following quote: “History is calling for reconciliation, compassion, love, service, and sacrifice. Today’s problems cannot be solved by the logic of power… Our present problems can only be solved by the logic of love.”

Madam Yu Mei-Jung, the late wife of Dr. Hong Tao-Tze, Grand Master of Tai Ji Men, left behind a legacy of visionary leadership and unwavering commitment to peacebuilding, serving as Chairperson of the Advisory Committee of the UN-accredited NGO Federation of World Peace and Love (FOWPAL).

Dr. Hong and Madam Yu visiting the Presidential Palace in Senegal.
Dr. Hong and Madam Yu visiting the Presidential Palace in Senegal.

Despite facing severe persecution of the Tai Ji Men movement since December 19, 1996, when the case began and authorities raided their premises, detaining her husband, herself, and several followers, Madam Yu remained resolute and refrained from voicing any complaints. Dr. and Mrs. Hong, along with several disciples, endured physical and mental torture, confiscation of their properties, and a damaging media campaign that affected the entire movement. Subsequently, in 2007, Dr. Hong and Tai Ji Men were vindicated of all charges. Madam Yu’s unwavering loyalty was exemplified by her statement, “Wherever Shifu (Grandmaster Hong) goes, I will also go!”

Mrs. Hong demonstrated unchanging loyalty and commitment to her husband and their shared mission of promoting peace and harmony. She tirelessly contributed to the establishment of Tai Ji Men academies internationally alongside Dr. Hong, creating sanctuaries for tens of thousands of families. Her efforts extended beyond borders as she traveled to over 100 countries, continuously advocating for human rights, and promoting the transformative power of women in shaping a more peaceful world.