- The Washington Times - Monday, November 12, 2018

UNIONDALE, New York — Thousands packed Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum here Monday for a soulful, music-filled rally honoring American veterans with thumping gospel songs and peace prayers and donations to help military personnel transition from war deployments to productive lives at home.

The event, featuring Grammy-award winning performers and speeches by Christian leaders from across the nation, including Bishop Noel Jones of the 20,000-member City of Refuge Church in Los Angeles, saw some $50,000 donated to four leading veterans organizations.

From the moment the festivities kicked off with a full military color guard and a patriotic rendition of “God Bless America” by Sgt. Elizabeth Quinones, expressions of respect for U.S. veterans were plentiful in the 14,500-seat coliseum — a venue otherwise known as home of the New York Islanders hockey team.

The near-capacity crowd on Monday gathered to take part in collective prayers of peace — the event’s official title was “Peace Starts With Me” — while taking in the bustling gospel rhythms of such groups as Bishop Hezekiah Walker and the 5,000 Voice Choir.

Bishop Walker, a two-time Grammy winner and founder of the Love Fellowship Tabernacle in his nearby native Brooklyn, brought the crowd to its feet when he took to the stage with his signature tightly-coifed beard to lead the choir, whose members took up no less than five full sections at the coliseum.

With a pumping rendition of “Every Praise” — an original of the Love Fellowship Tabernacle choir that’s become an anthem of youthful American gospel music in recent years — the bishop did not disappoint.

“Hallelujah to our God” goes one chorus, and, many in attendance joined in.

The coliseum similarly roared and rejoiced during performances from five-time Grammy winner Yolanda Adams, renowned songwriter Israel Houghton and the Christian rock group Citizen Way.

Speeches from several high-profile pastors also drew cheers from the grandstands, although the proceedings were billed not only a Christian gathering, but as a celebration to include people from a wide variety of religious, national, and racial backgrounds.

The event was initiated and headlined by a speech from Hak Ja Han Moon, widow of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and the leader of the Unification movement that grew from the Unification Church the Rev. Moon founded in 1954.

Mrs. Moon has led the movement since a few years before the 2012 death of the Rev. Moon, whose ministry grew from a tiny, embattled church in his native South Korea to a global spiritual movement and an affiliated commercial empire comprising real estate, manufacturing and agricultural operations, as well as media properties including The Washington Times.

Mrs. Moon presented a message of peace through belief in Jesus Christ on Monday, telling the crowd that “as we begin a new history, a new era, we need to find a new opportunity to truly practice Christ’s teachings.”

Describing America as a “nation blessed by God,” Mrs. Moon called on the audience to pursue “humanity’s cherished wish,” which she identified as a “world of peace.”

Others offered similar messages of peace. Bishop Jones, from Los Angeles, got thousands in the crowd to cheer collectively, with him, that, “peace begins with me, love begins with me, victory begins with me and because of us we will have a world full of peace.”

Archbishop George Augustus Stallings Jr., founder of the Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation in the District and of the American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC) also spoke. So did T.L. Barret, senior pastor of Life Center Church of God in Christ in Chicago, and others including but not limited to Bishop Don Meares, senior pastor of Evangel Cathedral in Upper Marlborough, Maryland.

The ACLC was also co-sponsor of Monday’s event, as was the Family Federation For World Peace and Unification, an organization aligned with Rev. Moon’s Unification movement and focused, according to an event program, on promoting “a world of peace and unity among all peoples, races, and religions.”

A press release for the event said its primary goal was to “honor of the men and women of every creed and color who sacrificed and gave so much for the sake of this nation and to the cause of freedom around the world.”

Four veterans organizations were given donations of $13,000 each at the event, according to the release. It identified them as Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW); Black Veterans For Social Justice, which assists military personnel in making a smooth transition from active duty to civilian life; Headstrong, which offers free mental health services for post-9/11 military veterans; and Union Cyber, a national nonprofit network for veterans that prepares men and women for careers in cybersecurity.

Some in the crowd said they were inspired and overjoyed that a faith-based rally was aligned with the cause of helping American veterans. Others, such as 70-year-old Ron Johnson, a Vietnam veteran who served in military intelligence as a young man, were simply uplifted by the music and the messages of peace and unity.

“Will history look back on this event as the first light of the dawn of the golden age of peace and prosperity, where co-existence, co-prosperity and common cause are the order of the day?” Mr. Johnson asked during a conversation with a reporter from The Washington Times.

“I hope so,” he said.

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