The Globe and Mail (Canada), Feb. 7, 2003
WINONA, ONT. — The purchase of a boarded-up, graffiti-covered shell of a high school by members of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church is turning this small community near Hamilton into a hotbed of rumours and innuendo.
Rev. Stoyan Tadin, head of the project to convert the school into a college for South Korean students to learn English, said yesterday that “people are walking around neighbourhoods expressing negative sentiments . . . almost hate-mongering. This is very difficult to understand.
“I can’t imagine what would make me go around knocking on people’s doors and saying, ‘Hey, the niggers are coming to town.’ “
The Unification Church wants the property rezoned for private-school use and for dormitories to house the students. It will be called the World Education College.
But many in Winona and members of two Korean churches in Hamilton and Toronto attended a meeting Wednesday to express their opposition.
The plan is to bring students from the Sun Moon University in Korea to Winona for English lessons as part of their university curriculum. The college also hopes to recruit students from the Middle East and Latin America.
Ben DesRoches, a Winona resident and former councillor, said yesterday that the infrastructure of the town is not designed to accommodate this type of school.
“There’s no entertainment around. There’s no place for them [students] to go.”
He said opposition is not aimed at the church as much as at Mr. Moon, the man who founded the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity in 1954.
“You get all kinds of things on the Internet,” he said, citing the multiple marriages the church arranges. “There is a lot of concern about that because a lot of teenagers live in this community.”
David Mitchell, a city councillor who represents Winona, agreed the infrastructure of the town will not accommodate the students.
“We have two convenience stories, a pizza shop and a Tim Hortons.”
He said the church purchased the property from Ontario Reality Corp. last fall and the news became public when the church applied for rezoning.
Mr. Mitchell said he has received more than 60 telephone calls from concerned residents. But he hesitated when asked whether the residents had expressed concern about the Unification Church arriving in Winona.
“I’m not going there. I don’t believe there’s a place for religion in politics. I will stay on the zoning principles only.”
Renovation work at the school has begun and David Steward, dean of student affairs, says students will begin attending classes March 3. For members of the Korean churches, he said, “it’s a religious issue, not a zoning issue.”
He said there was no issue until Mr. Moon’s name appeared. “Residents are concerned that there’s a hidden agenda and that we are not here just to teach English but also to convert all the local people to be members of the Unification Church. The reality is that the majority of teachers and students are not members of the church.”
Hamilton City Council will meet next Wednesday to make a decision. But no matter which way it votes, the probability of the issue going to the Ontario Municipal Board is strong.
Mr. DesRoches said Winona residents won’t accept council voting in favour of the new college.