Controversial international religious Cult the Moonies are targeting Irlsh students in a bid to attract an audience to attend a conference planned to go ahead in Dublin on Friday next.
Members of the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon, the official name of the Moonies, have written to third-level colleges inviting people to come along to the seminar they have organised to be held in the Grand Hotel in Malahide.
The invitation sent out by a body named the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP), a well known umbrella group formed by the cult, offers free accommodation to those willing to attend and states that the day-long event will involve discussions on the theme of building a culture of peace.
The Sunday Tribune has confirmed that invitations have been sent to a number of third level colleges including the Dublin Institute of Technology in Mountjoy Square and the Irish School of Ecumenics in Milltown Park in Dublin.
It is understood that many more colleges have been sent the invitation and that some may have also been sent to secondary schools. Sister Vera McGee, a chaplain in Mountjoy Square, said she had received one and she explained that it was not immediately clear from the invitation that the conference, which the letter claims will be attended by political, religious, scholars and youth leaders, was organised by a group linked to the Moonies. Only towards the end does it state that the basic goals to be discussed have been expressed in the words of the IIFWP's founder the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
The man who started the Moonies,: 80-year-old Rev Sun Myung, is believed by the church's members to be the second Messiah and, as a result, they grant him broad power over their lives, even letting him pick their spouses in the by-now famous mass marriages organised by the Unification Church.
The religious group, which finds the name 'Moonies' derogatory, has been accused in the past of brainwashing members, a claim it has always refuted, and Moon himself has been attacked for living extravagantly while his followers have little.
He first came to prominence in the 1970s and since then his Unification Church has built strong political alliances, most notably with former US president George Bush and possible president to be George W Bush.
Former taoiseach (PM) Albert Reynolds once spoke at a Moonies conference for a substantial fee. Moon has also started to finance media, academic and political institutions.
The Moon family owns the Washington Times and the UPI press agency, and also have a number of television interests. In total, there are thought to be over 1,200 Unification-controlled enterprises, in the Far East, the Americas, Russia, Europe and some in the UK.
When contacted last week, organisers claimed the conference on Friday had been cancelled. However, a spokeswoman for the Grand Hotel in Malahide, where it is to be held, said it had not been. She said the hotel was not aware that the IIFWP was an umbrella group founded by the Moonies.