2. The History of Forced Renunciations by Abduction and Confinement
Various Christian ministers have worked to oppose the Unification Church over the past 43 years. The history of their efforts can be divided into four distinct periods.
The first period began in 1966, when Rev. Satoshi Moriyama labeled the Unification Church "heretical" from his perspective as an evangelical Christian, and began using abduction and confinement as tactics to force individual Unification Church members to renounce their faith. On July 7, 1967, the evening edition of Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese daily newspaper, published an article titled, Unification Movement Brings Tears to Parents. The article fanned the anxiety of parents with adult children in the Unification Church, and some sought out Moriyama for advice. This led to an increase in forced renunciation attempts. In March 1976, Rev. Moriyama held a four-day seminar at the Hachioji University Seminar House in Tokyo titled "Seminar on Counter Measures against the Unification Association" to instruct other Christian ministers on his method of confining Unification Church members and convincing them to renounce their faith.
During the second period, from 1976 to 1987, many Christian ministers, primarily from evangelical churches, joined Moriyama's efforts, leading to a sharp rise in forced renunciation attempts. These ministers included Rev. Takeo Funada, Rev. Mamoru Takazawa, Rev. Shinya Waga and Rev. Hisoka Murakami.
The activities of the Japan Communist Party during this period also must be noted. JCP pursued an objective to turn Japan into a communist state, but in April 1978 the party suffered a setback when it lost a strategically important election for the office of governor of Kyoto prefecture. JCP's own analysis showed that the International Federation for Victory Over Communism, an organization affiliated with the Unification Church, played a significant role in this defeat. Following this, then-JCP Chairman Kenji Miyamoto issued what amounted to a declaration of war against IFVOC. He wrote in the JCP party newspaper Akahata (Red Flag) as follows:
The fight against IFVOC is of great importance. We must make this an all-out fight ... coordinating our efforts in every field, including mass struggle, ideology, the Diet (parliament), and the court system. ... To stand in the forefront of the effort to eradicate IFVOC is to carry on a holy war that well be recorded in history. (Akahata, June 8, 1978)
As if to respond to this call, a group of university professors, journalists, lawyers and Diet members met on November 3 of that year, and formed the "Association of Concerned Citizens against the Principle Movement." The new organization's title referred to Divine Principle, the basic text of Unificationist theology. The association became the basis for Rev. Sadao Asami and Rev. Keiko Kawasaki of the United Church of Christ in Japan, the country's largest Protestant denomination, to launch their efforts to oppose the Unification Church.
From 1978 to 1986 there were many cases of individual Unification Church members being committed involuntarily to psychiatric hospitals with ties to the Japan Communist Party. These stopped after February 1986, when a member who had been victimized this way won a civil court decision. Incidents of attempted forced renunciation involving conspiracies between Christian ministers and parents continued to increase, however, aided by police who refused to treat the forced abduction and confinement of Unification Church members as against the law.
The third period was from 1987 to 1997. In 1987 leftist forces became alarmed by government moves to pass an anti-espionage bill. The Unification Church and IFVOC supported the government's effort, so the left launched an effort to suppress the Unification Church through a campaign against "spiritual sales" as a part of its effort to block passage of the anti-espionage bill. An article published in the February 14, 1987, edition of Asahi Shimbun sparked the beginning of this campaign, which caused anxiety among many parents whose adult children were Unification Church members. Some parents sought out the Christian ministers working against the church for advice, and this was followed by an increase in attempts to force renunciations of faith through abduction and confinement.
In March 1988 The United Church of Christ in Japan formally adopted the "Unification Church problem" as one of its mission tasks, according to an article in the denomination's official newspaper The Christ Weekly dated April 9, 1988. This decision, spearheaded by Rev. Shigeo Kuwabara, had the effect of involving the denomination as a whole in the movement to oppose the Unification Church. Attempts to force Unification Church members to renounce their faith through abduction and confinement sharply increased in the following months. For a while, more than 300 such attempts were being made annually. It was during this period that former Olympic rhythmic gymnast Hiroko Yamazaki went missing a short while after participating in an International Cross-Cultural Marriage Blessing Ceremony.
Also during this period, a number of legal suits were brought against the church by former members in conjunction with lawyers and ministers whose aim was to destroy the church. Some of these suits sought to annul marriages arranged in connection with International Cross-cultural Marriage Blessing Ceremonies. Other suits demanded, "Give me back my youth."
The fourth period began in 1997 and continues into the present. Because so few people in Japan are willing to stand up against the violence of forced renunciations, a number of terrible incidents have occurred. These include the storming of the Unification Church of Tottori in 1997 and a number of incidents where members were abducted off the street. Also, a terrible tragedy occurred when a woman Unification Church member committed suicide while being confined by people trying to force her to renounce her faith.
Hiroko Tomizawa, who was abducted during the storming of the Tottori church and confined for a year and three months, and Rie Imari, who was abducted off the street, brought civil suits against the ministers involved in their respective cases. Following this, the number of attempted forced renunciations gradually declined.
The Christian minister involved in Mrs. Tomizawa's case admitted in court that she had been confined involuntarily, and the court ruled in her favor. The minister involved in Mrs. Imari's case refused to make such an admission, and the court ruled against her. The Supreme Court of Japan later took the unusual step, however, of formally advising the relatives of Mrs. Imari to settle the case out of court, and a settlement was reached. This did not, however, put an end to incidents of abduction and confinement.
On February 10, 2008, Unification Church member Toru Goto successfully escaped from captivity after being imprisoned for 12 years and five months. He has filed criminal complaints against those involved.
Japan Victims' Association against Religious Kidnapping & Forced Conversion