5.Civil Group Founded to Abolish Deprogramming

More than 4000 kidnapped for conversion
Illegal Violations of Freedom of Faith

Many people who have been abducted and held in confinementfor coercive conversion have and still suffer from post-traumatic stressdisorder (PTSD) which is caused by an extremely fearful experience.

Toru Goto speaking his of confinement experiences at the Association meeting. Paneled are his photos right after his release.
People who suffered from PTSD after being released from confinement gathered this February and established a civil group called"Association to Abolish Deprogramming." (Dr. Hirohisa Koide named leader.) This was a movement for the victims to build awareness insociety to "stop kidnapping for coercive conversion once and for all." Mr.Toru Goto, who was introduced in the first article, was named vice-leader.

Amongst the victims of abduction and confinement, many are believers of some form of Christianity.The reason for this is many ministers lend a hand in abduction and confinement which is triggered by thecontroversy of religious heresy. Especially towards followers of the Unification Church, since the end of the1960's, people associated with the Evangelical Church would bring Unification Church members to theirchurch and begin to coerce them to give up their faith.

Realizing their efforts were without much result, they eventually use more restrictions in theirattempts. They would take them to public institutions, then to apartment buildings, and their methods indeprogramming or coercive conversion from a faith they can't accept, would escalate to abduction andconfinement. Moreover, in the late 80's, ministers of the United Church of Christ in Japan (UCC-J) wouldsystematically intervene, and the number of abduction victims would increase to a nation-wide scale.

According to the Unification Church, kidnapping victims since 1966 to the present day count morethan 4,000. "Those people who escaped confinement by pretending to be converted, have difficulty trustingpeople or going back to ordinary life; there were even cases of suicide attempts. I have seen many formermembers suffering from severe mental damage," as well says Tomohisa Ota, Public Relations Chief of theUnification Church Japan, "Even those that have returned to the Unification Church, many suffer fromnightmares, and the rate of PTSD is quite high."

Not all victims kept their silence. Some of the Unification Church members have sued these ministers and even their own parents to court on charges of abduction and confinement. In some cases,ministers were ordered to compensate for damages and losses. Some ministers, reflecting on their deprogramming efforts and gave up such method. In actuality, since the height of these abduction andconfinement cases, which peaked around 300 cases per year 10 years ago, currently the number of cases hasdecreased to around 10 per year.

Also, it is stated as such in The Annual Report on International Religious Freedom that is presented every year in the US Congress by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor."Members of the Unification Church and Jehovah's Witnesses continued to allege that police do not act inresponse to allegations of forced deprogramming of church members. They claim that police do not enforcethe laws against kidnapping when the victim is held by family members and that Unification Churchmembers are subjected to prolonged detention by family members and deprogrammers, whom the police donot charge." (2004) US government has shown its concerns that the freedom of religion is restricted in Japanand that issue of deprogramming is being ignored and has asked Japan for improvement.

On April 20, 2000, Hitoshi Hinokida, a Diet member (at the time) of the Liberal Democratic Party,stood up during the Lower House Administrative Committee on Settlement of Accounts, and posed aquestion about religious freedom and the violation of human rights by bringing the example of deprogramming. In response to that, the then Setsuo Tanaka, Chief Director of the National PoliceDepartment answered, "In Regards to the cases of abduction and confinement, violence and abuse, even ifit's the actual parents or family members, without exception, we will deal with them equally and strictlyunder the law." Towards the media, the Public Relations office of the NPD answered, "Even at the presentmoment, there is no change whatsoever as we remain true (to the answer given at the Diet hearings)." Indoing so, they were making it clear that even today, there is no change towards the opinion given by theChief Director at that time.

Issues with faith are fundamentally rooted in one's way of life. In spite of that, there are those that take people's religious freedom away by confining people in a certain place and forcibly assert their beliefswhile criticizing the victim's new found faith, and this is something that should never be permitted. One ofthe members of the Association to Abolish Deprogramming said, "The purpose of this movement is to, ofcourse, eradicate such abduction and confinement, but beyond that, we would like to let society knowthrough our efforts, the importance of protecting the freedom of religion."

(Sekai Nippo June 27, 2009)

Japan Victims' Association against Religious Kidnapping & Forced Conversion