The events were in Columbia, bursting with expectancy for the football game of the local Tigers against Florida, although most expected Florida to win. As it is true for other large American universities, Mizzou has everything, and that includes a Department of Religious studies under the expert leadership of Signe Cohen, and even a Vietnam Institute, whose guiding light is Joe Hobbs. It is because of Vietnamese Studies that CESNUR was invited to the series of events entitled “New Asian Religions in a Globalized World” between November 1 and 3, 2017, including private meetings, presentations to faculty and students, and a public lecture. The specialists of Vietnam invited Cao Dai, a 5-million strong Vietnamese new religion, and Cao Dai in turn invited Daesoon Jinrihoe, a Korean new religion of comparable size, and CESNUR, which had the role of placing the two new Asian religions in a larger context. The Asian groups offered beautiful presentations by Cao Dai’s Reverend Tran Canh and Daesoon Jinrihoe’s Lee Gyung-Won and Jay Cha. Director Lee Tae-Yeol was also there for Daesoon Jinrihoe, together with Kim Dong-Wan, while Cao Dai brought Nguyen Tan Khoa from the New Orleans temple. Rosita Šorytė, a specialist of humanitarian aid and refugee issues, also participated, together with a strong and competent group of Missouri professors and emeriti.
Cao Dai, Daesoon Jinrihoe, and CESNUR were introduced to different audiences. In the public lecture, I tried to answer the question why Cao Dai and Daesoon Jinrihoe have both been phenomenally successful. My PowerPoint is now available on this Web site, but in short I believe Cao Dai was able to integrate not only local traditions and missionary Christianity (countless new religions did the same) but to add a third ingredient, Western Esotericism, which was brought to Vietnam by the French colonial elite. Daesoon Jinrihoe, with its core doctrine of “resolving grievances through mutual beneficence,” offered reconciliation to a country badly in need of it, Korea, plagued by anomie and a record suicide rate, political contentiousness and corruption, and the North-South tensions.