More victims can be expected if the cult of Unification Church is connived with to continue its criminal activities: Japanese lawyer
Published: Jul 19, 2022 11:10 PM
People read a special edition of a Japanese national newspaper distributed in the street on July 8, 2022 in Tokyo downtown, Japan, as Shinzo Abe, former prime minister of Japan, was shot on the morning the same day during a street meeting. Photo: VCG
People read a special edition of a Japanese national newspaper distributed in the street on July 8, 2022 in Tokyo downtown, Japan, as Shinzo Abe, former prime minister of Japan, was shot on the morning the same day during a street meeting. Photo: VCG

If the criminal activities of the Unification Church are ignored, it is no surprise that another person like Tetsuya Yamagami can appear and cause more suffering, a Japanese anti-cult lawyer commented on Tuesday on the assassination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

The assassination of the former Japanese prime minister has placed the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, known as the Unification Church, a religious group founded in South Korea and identified as a cult in China, under the public spotlight.

The assassination has set off a firestorm. Although it is unclear if such an extreme incident can happen again, what is certain is that the hatred against the Unification Church, which motivated the recent crime, will appear again, Japanese lawyer from the legal firm Link Law Office Kito and Partners, Katsuomi Abe, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Abe is also a member of the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales in Japan, a lawyers' association which focuses on cases of religion-related scams and cult activities such as spiritual sales and fundraising. The association, with 300 members or so, was established in May of 1987.

The suspect Tetsuya Yamagami had a grudge against the church for his mother's financial hurdles after she donated more than 100 million yen ($720,000) to the church over 20 years ago which crippled the family's finances. He finally decided to assassinate the former Japanese prime minister who had an alleged association with the church.

The so-called spiritual sales take advantage of people's religious beliefs and anxiety to sell seals, rosary beads and pagodas at high prices by stirring up people's minds with common hoaxes. For example, they say that the ghosts of their ancestors can haunt them and that their families can suffer from misfortune.

The Unification Church is the most representative spiritual sales group in Japan with 30 million yen (over $217,000) in sales of the so-called holy book to its worshippers. The lawyers' association was founded to help Japanese worshippers of the Unification Church resolve legal disputes.

According to Katsuomi Abe, it is very easy for second-generation worshippers like Tetsuya Yamagami, that is to say, the children of the worshippers of the Unification Church, to cause social problems.

The parents indulged in religious activities, neglected their children and even donated tremendous sums of money which put families into poverty. Besides, when parents imposed the extreme values of the Unification Church on their children, it is more likely that they induced a psychological trauma of resentment and rebellion in the children.

According to Abe, it is very difficult to count the specific number of members of this group who usually keep a low profile but it is certain that the number is huge.

In the announcement released by the National Network of Lawyers on the assassination, the lawyers' association said that neither the administration nor the politicians of the party in power have taken any action against the activities of the Unification Church that have destroyed families over the past 30 years.

This shows there is something wrong with more than one part of Japan and that a combination of multiple factors, including administrative institutions, national consciousness and the media, have contributed to the fact that there has been no progress on the issue for more than 30 years, Abe told the Global Times.

According to Abe, the National Network of Lawyers has long been fighting against the Unification Church and the problems of spiritual sales and fundraising still exist, the related lawsuits continue and new victims keep springing up. Besides, some institutions with little knowledge about the Unification Church still cooperate with it and with its related groups.

"We have been advocating that politicians should distance themselves from the Unification Church and should not accept political contributions from the church or allow the church to get involved in their campaigns. Neither should the politicians voice for the activities organized by the church," Abe said, stressing that it is very important for Japanese politicians to cut all connections with the church in a bid to raise the public's vigilance against the Unification Church.

Abe also expressed his helplessness toward the issue since the lawyers' association can only solve some problems through legal methods whereas they are unable to deal with the problems outside the law.

He hopes this incident can serve as an opportunity to deepen the understanding of the Unification Church and on the issue of cult worshipping in the Japanese society to avoid the recurrence of such a tragedy.