This letter is in response to the article "Sectarians on the Offensive" by Maria Bondarenko, taken from the Nezavisimaia gazeta and posted on your web site on Feb. 18th.
I am a Unification Church missionary in Rostov and advisor for the activities of the student association CARP. I would like to respond to the accusations made against us concerning the story of the "abandoned mother" and her "missing son." I was directly involved with this case, so I think I am well informed enough to talk about it. In fact, more so than Miss Bondarenko, who simply copied her article verbatim (not one original word added) from an article entitled "Missionaries feed the poor and destroy Rostov families," by Maria Trubnikova, which appeared in the Oct. 31st issue of Domashnaya gazeta, a local Rostov paper. This other Maria is no more informed than Miss Bondarenko as she seems to have spoken to no one directly involved with this case (not the mother, nor her son, nor any CARP member). I believe her only source was a local city administrator who has a vendetta against any "non-traditional" religious organization in town and their affiliated activities.
So, here is the real story (but I will keep his name "Boris" to spare his family some embarrassment):
This 23-year-old young man (not 18) became involved with CARP activities as a full-time volunteer more than one year ago (not a few months). During that time, he participated in activities in several different cities around Russia and according to him, was consistently in contact with his mother by phone or telegram or letter. For a period of about six months, he was away from home and we did not hear one complaint from his mother. Eventually, she ran into some trouble with debt by borrowing money to have a phone installed, so Boris came home to bail her out. Everything was fine until that point or so it seemed. Then, while Boris was there in Rostov, living in a different apartment than his mother but calling her nearly every night and seeing her every other day, his mother began to complain. She wanted him to stay at home and do nothing and go nowhere else. No amount of talking or reasoning from anyone could persuade her differently. Eventually, she would come to his flat at 5:00 AM to persecute him and even follow him to wherever he worked. What set her off like this, no one knows for sure.
Eventually, Boris asked to work in a different city (6 hours away) so that he could work and live in peace. As well, in the past, when he was further away from home his mother herself seemed to be more at peace. So, we said OK and found him some position in activities elsewhere. Needless to say, it did not work. This "abandoned" mother's complaint about her "missing son" spread out to the police, city administration, prosecutor's office and local press.
Yet, her son was not "missing" nor was she ever "abandoned." During this time, although he was living in a different city, Boris visited his home almost every weekend! And if he could not come home, he would call—every week! Nonetheless, his mother persisted that he was "gone," "dead" or "taken off to jail" and she did not know where to find him! What was the real problem? Well, sadly but surely, his mother is emotionally unbalanced. And yes, even the police took her to the mental health clinic (where she refused to be examined), after more than one department had wasted its time investigating a "missing person" who was not missing at all. (Yes, the police DID investigate. I met them more than once and in fact, she came with them!)
The rest of the problem, as Boris explained to us, is an old one that began long before he met us. It is a not-so-untypical story of a mother who thinks she knows what is best for her son and an adult son who has different ideas. Unfortunately, his mother never responded well to not getting her way. If Boris would not follow her orders, she resorted to force--verbal, emotional, physical and now even legal and political. (By the way, the prosecutor's office also DID investigate and delivered to the mother an official letter stating that hers is a personal family problem, and not the business of CARP, Unification Church nor the government.) Boris' tearful stories of life at home were not very endearing.
I understand that his mother's own life story must also contain a great deal of suffering, otherwise she would not be like this. That is why from our side, we have no ill will towards her and despite Miss Bondarenko's comments, we NEVER treated his mother with disrespect—very much the opposite in fact. Often we tried to comfort her and counsel her, but she had no desire to listen. Unfortunately, our small group here is not so well equipped to help those with "psychological problems" as Miss Bondarenko seems to think. The most I could do was counsel Boris himself to go beyond his fears and resentments and try to love, have patience and sympathize with his mother. Of course, such deep issues are not solved easily nor quickly and I can only give advice. (By the way, in terms of "helping" his mother, this was also one of the things that strangely enough she DID NOT want him to do and resented--even violently--his attempts to do so.) The reality is that we do not have any "miraculous power" to instantly "save" troubled souls. Neither do we have the "power" to "keep them from their families," nor for that matter, to "send them home."
The conclusion of this came already 3 months ago, after the article appeared in Domashnaya gazeta. Boris did not want anyone else to suffer because of his personal family problems, so he decided to leave CARP. He hoped that this would leave his mother without a "scapegoat" and put her in a position to deal with the real issue--their personal relationship. It has not happened yet. Infrequently, he calls to us and tells us how he is doing. He is living in another city and working to support himself and his mother. (No, he is still not staying at home and knowing the history, I find it difficult to blame him.) Nonetheless, he calls his mother once a week and visits every so often.
It is not the kind of conclusion that anyone wanted to see, but a better one could not be found at the time. Still, we are open to helping his mother and him however we are able and always pray for a brighter future for them both.
Thank you for your attention to this issue.
Patrick Francis Nolan
Regional Director HSA-UWC (Unification Church)
South Russia region
PS: This is still only the first part--I intend to send another letter responding to the prejudicial sentiments expressed in the article and to explain the activities of CARP.