5. Confinement Tests Parental Bond

by Yoko Omori

I was guided by God to the Unification Church and began studying its teachings when I was 20. At 24, I decided to dedicate myself full time to the work of the church. When I was 25, I took part in the 6,500-Couple International Marriage Blessing Ceremony on October 30, 1988. About a year and a half later, in May 1990, I was abducted and placed in captivity.

A woman who had been my friend in the church but later left happened to be from the same prefecture that I was. After leaving the church, she apparently visited my mother at her place of work and told her, "The Unification Church is a terrible place. I would like to help you rescue Yoko from there." She then introduced my mother to a minister who was working against our church.

For the next two years, my parents were educated by that minister in preparation for my abduction and confinement.

In May 1990, my father contacted me and asked that I come home to visit the grave of my grandmother. He said if I would do this, he would acknowledge my faith and let me take whatever path in life I might choose. My grandmother had passed away two years earlier, during the year I decided to devote myself full time to the church. She had taken good care of me while she was alive, so I wanted to visit her grave and offer a prayer. I had some concern that my family might try to force me to renounce my faith by keeping me in confinement, but I decided to visit my parents' home on a two-day itinerary.

The first day ended without incident. Then around six o'clock in the morning of the second day, I heard my father take a phone call from a relative. I grew suspicious when he started speaking into the telephone in a whisper as if discussing something very serious. Later that day, after we visited my grandmother's grave, I was expecting to return to my parents' home. Instead, my father drove the car in a different direction to the home of his older sister.

Many of my relatives were waiting for us at my aunt's home. My father said, "From now, we are going to have a discussion. We will continue this discussion until each side has fully understood the other. Until this is resolved, you may not leave." My confinement had begun. I remember clearly how in that moment the pupils in my father's eyes were dilated so they appeared similar to fish eyes.

It was then that I felt certain satan was behind my father's actions. What I feared most about being confined was not the ministers or my parents. It was my own heart. I felt my commitment to life in the Unification Church was about to be tested.

Life in confinement was difficult for me from the first day. I was forced to fight with no means to defend myself. It was a difficult struggle that I had to fight on the opponents' home turf. I had no way to defeat the opposing ministers other than to receive God's wisdom.

It must have been after I had been held for around five or seven days. Rev. Katsuhiko Nakamura of the Saga Karatsu Saints Church and Rev. Katsuhiro Honda of the Kibougaoka Church in Kumamoto came to visit. The moment I saw them, I threw two books at them in anger.

"We thought you were going to listen to what we have to say," they said. "You promised to listen."

"I made no such promise," I shouted back. "This discussion is between me and my parents. It has nothing to do with you."

Rev. Nakamura became angry and told my parents, "Your daughter has no intention of listening. You should call on us only after you have restored the trust relationship between parents and child, and she is willing to listen to whatever she is told. When that happens, we will come and educate her." And then they left.

Following this incident, it was felt that I might be more likely to open up if I were taken to the place where I had spent my childhood. This was the home of my maternal grandparents, who managed a Buddhist temple. So the temple became my place of confinement.

There were two rooms behind the main hall of the temple, and one of these was prepared to serve as my quarters. The room, which had a very low ceiling, was equipped with a portable toilet, futon, and a pillow. It had been made so that I could eat my meals and wash myself without ever leaving the room. During my confinement in the temple, I was often visited by Rev. Shuji Fuda, a minister from Kagoshima affiliated with the United Church of Christ in Japan.

The windows in my room had two layers, one was the traditional Japanese shoji (rice paper) and the other was glass. The shoji kept me from being able to see outside, and the glass window was nailed shut so I could not open it. A fusuma sliding door separating my room from the next room had been nailed shut and could not be opened. The main door to my room was locked from the outside.

Prior to this experience, I would sometimes wonder how some people who had been in the Unification Church for four or five years could be persuaded to leave after around just 40 days. It seemed to me these people were betraying God too easily. Now that I was in this position, though, I felt I could understand the situation of those people for the first time.

For about a month, I was never allowed to leave the room with a low ceiling. I lost all my spiritual strength and I became confused.

I was not allowed to have a Bible or the Holy Songs book, the hymnal of the Unification Church. When I tried to pray, someone would come in and kick me, or they would make loud noises outside the room so as to stop me. I felt I needed to pray so as not to become spiritually confused.

I was reminded then of Unification Church members who worked as missionaries in Africa and other difficult areas around the world. They had no one to consult when they faced difficulties in their faith. Communication with the home country was often difficult, so news about the most recent developments in the church often did not reach them. In such circumstances, prayer offered the only way for them to remain connected to God. It gave me strength to think of how these brothers and sisters in far away mission fields were fighting.

One other thought that helped was to remember an article I had read in Shin Tenchi (New Heaven and Earth), an in-house magazine of the Japan Unification Church. In that article Rev. Yo Han Lee, a senior church member, discussed the faith of Abraham and Sarah and pointed out that they failed to consult God at an important time in their course. Sarah had the Egyptian woman Hagar go to Abraham without first consulting God. The offspring of Hagar was Ishmael, and because Ishmael was born without God's involvement, God eventually told Abraham to do as Sarah wished and send Hagar and Ishmael away.

I remembered this point in that article, and I felt that the only way I could get through this experience was to keep praying to God and maintain my connection with Him. I would pray by pulling the futon over my head and pretending to sleep. I prayed 40 minutes every morning, 21 minutes every afternoon and 12 minutes every evening. I prayed at least that much every day. I prayed more than I had every prayed in my life of faith up to that point.

Lead by revelations and dreams

As I continued to pray this way, strange things began to happen. It must have been about 21 days after I began my regular prayer schedule. I began having many dreams, and receiving revelations. Three in particular I still remember vividly.

I am ashamed to say this now, but I had begun to feel that if I were to become spiritually confused to the point where I would betray God and True Parents, it would be better for me to die. I had made some preparations to actually take my own life in such a situation. I had a razor blade with me, and I managed to take some powerful pain medication from my mother's purse. I had these with me all the time I was praying.

"God," I prayed, "if it ever comes to the point where I am about to betray you, I will take this medicine and cut my wrists."

That is when I received my first revelation.

"Why would you die? You must stay alive and live out your faith. Rev. Moon did not die, because he was the Messiah. When he was in [the North Korean prison camp] Heungnam, he made sure that he kept himself alive. You should leave this place alive and live out your faith."

I felt very sorry that I had thought to take my own life. I wondered how I could have had such thoughts, and I was able to stop thinking that way.

A second revelation I received was this: "Forcing you to renounce your faith is not satan's only motive. He wants to destroy as many blessed families as possible."

A third revelation was this: "I want you to fulfill my desire. My desire is for there to be as many lineages of God on the earth as possible."

When I heard this, I realized I could not die, at least not until I had given birth to a child who would inherit God's lineage.

Other strange things also happened. The head priest of the temple where I was being held captive came to me one day, and handed me two movies on video. "I brought you these, because you must be bored," he said.

The videos were "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and "The Great Escape" starring Steve McQueen. Watching these movies gave me a lot of strength. It was as if they contained messages from God for me.

The prisoners of war escaped from a prison camp that was supposed to be impenetrable. This gave me confidence that I could escape from my confinement as well. In "The Last Crusade," good and evil fought over the Holy Grail of Jesus Christ. It gave me courage to watch good defeat evil in the end. I felt that the path I had chosen must be correct.

Later, after my escape, I wondered why the priest decided to give me those particular movies. I thought perhaps he wanted to let me go. Much later, after I had reconciled with my parents, I took my children on a visit to Kumamoto. I asked the priest then what his intentions had been.

Strangely, he denied everything. "I never gave you such videos," he said. "You must be mistaken."

I felt then that this was not something that he had done by the will of any human being. He couldn't remember, because he had not been acting on his own will. I had been right in thinking that the movies had been messages from God.

I also started having strange dreams during my captivity. Once I was told in a dream, "A section of the fusuma will open. Escape into the next room and jump out the window there."

This was in May. I immediately jumped out of bed and went to the fusuma door, but it was still nailed shut with large nails and I couldn't open it at all. I couldn't understand why spirit world would tell me the door would open.

I decided I would escape my 40th day in the room, even if I had to break one of the windows. The 40th day would be some time in June, but in the early morning of May 31 I received another revelation.

"You need to escape today. If you don't do it before June begins, all the prayer conditions that you set until now will become useless and you will have to begin again from the beginning. Also, June is a month when many bad things happen. It is a month when you become weak spiritually. So must make your escape today."

I got up and checked the fusuma door, and to my surprise I found the nails were gone. The moment I saw this, I realized God wanted me to make my escape on that day.

I later learned why the nails had been removed. Seeing that my attitude was not improving, my parents had decided to have Rev. Hisoka Murakami come and "educate" me in the next room. They had removed the nails as a part of their preparations for this process. Apparently, they thought I would not notice that the nails were gone.

So I was able to escape before Rev. Murakami arrived. Spirit world had given me the exact timing for my escape.

I was deeply offended to learn that my parents had paid a large sum of money to the opposing ministers to have me confined. In my case, I was able to deal with these feelings in the course of doing my work for God's will. I was given a number of different responsibilities, but the most valuable experience was to teach God's word to people who were first being introduced to the Unification Church.

"I want to be able to love those who are most closely related to me by blood," I felt, "but if I cannot do that now I will begin by loving those who are farthest from me."

I only worked in this area for a about a year, but I was able to connect to Heaven most of the people I worked with.

One day, I needed to meet someone who was being introduced to our church and have a very important discussion. On the same day, my husband was scheduled to meet my parents and ask for their approval for our marriage. He wanted me to go with him to see my parents, but I decided against this, because I felt the eternal life of the prospective convert I was meeting was more important.

Looking back, it seems this was the final trial that I had to overcome. A moment after I finished speaking with the person, I received a telephone call from my husband telling me my parents had agreed to give us their permission.

At the time, church staff responsible for dealing with issues involving opposing ministers were telling Unification Church members that if we were ever abducted and held captive we should do anything necessary to free ourselves. If our captors placed a photograph of Rev. and Mrs. Moon, our True Parents, on the floor and told us to step on it as proof that we had left the church, then we should not feel guilty about stepping on that photograph in order to escape our captivity.

This guidance was given prior to my confinement, but I had seen that some brothers and sisters who had stepped on a photograph of True Parents in order to escape later experienced strong feelings of guilt. They had done this in order to escape, and it did not reflect their true feelings toward True Parents. Still, I saw how they struggled with their guilt for having denied True Parents, even if only in external appearance.

I decided that, if I were ever in such a situation, I would escape without stepping on such a photograph. I think I was very fortunate to have been able to escape without having to compromise my faith. Had I stepped on such a photograph, I don't think my conscience would have forgiven me.

A risky escape

I was under constant guard in the room, except from 12 o'clock to 12:30 every day, when the person guarding me would go to lunch. The temple was surrounded by rice paddies, and there, too, almost everyone would be eating lunch between 12 and 12:30. So when my guard went to lunch, I changed into my clothes, went into next room and prepared my escape. The window had the same two-layered construction as the one in my room, so I tore the paper in the shoji and removed the glass window from its frame.

I stopped for a moment to pray.

"God, I am going to jump out here now and escape. If I fail in my escape, it may be very difficult for me to make a second attempt. If that happens, though I will feel very sorry to You, I may go ahead and take my own life. So, God, please give Your guidance."

I jumped out of the widow, and landed in a creek. I started running, soaking wet, as fast as I could.

My mother's older sister had been very concerned about the villagers finding out that someone was being held captive in the temple. It would create a scandal for the temple, and the news would spread far and wide. I knew that many of the homes near the temple belonged to believers. I decided that, instead of just running, the best thing to do would be to run into one of these homes and ask for help. I ran into a home, still in my bare feet.

I felt I needed to connect to my immediate supervisor in the church organization as quickly as possible and receive guidance on what to do next. So I asked to use the phone, and called the church.

"I just got out," I told him.

"Yoko," he said, "I feel as if it's been 6,000 years!"

I burst out in tears when I heard those words, and couldn't stop crying. He then suggested what I could do next.

"If the woman in the home where you are now seems like a good person, ask her to drive you to the hospital nearby. There, you can call a taxi to come pick you up and bring you to the church."

The woman was very kind to me. She gave me a pair of shoes to wear and some food, and drove me to the hospital. There, I called a taxi and went into the center of town.

Ties with Parents Restored

All this happened in 1990. In the months that followed, my parents came to understand they could not bend my will, and they eventually relented. Traditional engagement gifts were exchanged between my family and my husband's family in August 1992, and our wedding reception was held in November the same year. Then my name was inserted into my husband's family's family registry, making our marriage legally valid.

Japanese media continue today to attack our church. My parents have told me, "Our relatives may never accept your marriage, but we are parents and child. In the end, parents have to have faith in their child."

Four ministers visited me during my confinement to spend about eight hours a day trying to persuade me to leave the Unification Church. They included Rev. Nakajima of Yao Church and Rev. Fuda of Kagoshima Church. Because they were not making progress, Rev. Hisoka Murakami had been scheduled to take over, beginning in June. I escaped just prior to his coming.

After my escape, I read the edition of Family, an in-house monthly magazine of the Japan Unification Church, that had been published during my captivity. I discovered that all the points I had received through revelation during my month in captivity were covered in that magazine. Seeing this confirmed for me again that the words of True Parents are truly the word of God.

I hope to continue to do my best to live out my faith.

Japan Victims' Association against Religious Kidnapping & Forced Conversion