Bridgeport — The Rev. Sun Myung Moon addressed a packed house at the University of Bridgeport's student center Wednesday, calling for a tunnel to be built across the Bering Strait.
"Carrying out this project will bind the world together as one village," Moon said toward the end of the 45-minute speech. "The United States and Russia can become as one."
The speech was delivered in Korean and translated into English. More than 350 seated guests in the student center's social hall — and as many as 100 standing in the back or spilling into nearby rooms — listened to the translation via headphones.
Moon, making the third stop on a 12-city tour of the United States — possibly the last for the aging church leader — also called for a new universal peace federation to bind countries in a way the United Nations can't.
"The U.N. has yet to discover the way to fulfill its founding purpose," said Moon, criticizing its member nations for putting the interests of their own countries above that of world peace.
The audience included a number of top university administrators, local and visiting clergy, and at least 70 families from a local Unification Church that holds services in Dana Hall on campus.
Brandon Luke, 20, an elder with the Mormon Church, sat with other Mormon missionaries. He said he came to hear what Moon had to say. He said hadn't heard much about Moon or the Unification Church before he came to Bridgeport.
At a press conference before the program, Iman Abdul Rahim Ali of the Islamic Community Center in Bridgeport said he supported what Moon had to say.
"Nothing I can dispute that they've said," Ali said, adding he wouldn't be there if he didn't think Moon had credibility.
Archbishop George Augustus Stallings, a Washington, D.C., cleric and national chairman of Moon's American Clergy Leadership Conference, compared Moon with Martin Luther King Jr., whom he said became iconic after death.
"[Moon] speaks with the authority of God," he said, adding he doesn't mind that Moon is controversial or misunderstood. "I've never met anyone like him."
Moon's church is considered by many to be a cult because of its recruitment tactics.
Billed as a "Now is God's Time" rally and banquet, Moon reportedly rented the space at UB for $1,100. It is not the first time he has been on campus.
During his speech, Moon called the Bering Strait a place "where Satan has historically divided east and west, north and south."
He said what would be a 51-mile "World Peace King Bridge Tunnel" would cost $200 billion dollars. Jenkins said the structure would be funded by numerous nations. He called it necessary to bring a balance in power in terms of oil and to get nations to cooperate.
Before Moon spoke, the audience saw a short promotional video featuring Moon's accomplishments, including a mention of UB.
Michael Jenkins, the American president of the Family Federation for World Peace, better known as the Unification Church, was also at the program. He praised UB as one of the most international universities in the world. He called the money pumped into the university from the church "philanthropic work."
In 1992, through the Professors World Peace Academy, the Unification Church supplied funds to keep UB open. In exchange, it has the right to name 60 percent of the Board of Trustees. The current president, Neil Salonen, is a church member and a church trustee.
"We are not afraid to bring people from all across the spectrum. & We are proud of our relationships," he told the crowd.
University officials say the event was not publicized to students. But some students learned of the event during a student House of Representatives meeting. Some attended out of curiosity. Linda Conner Lambeck, who covers regional education issues, can be reached at 330-6218.