Japanese Unification Church followers sever ties with the group

October 10, 2022

TOKYO – A number of followers are cutting ties with the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, widely known as the Unification Church, amid the continuing problem of massive donations being made to the group.

October 8 marked three months since the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Statements made by the suspect in her murder, Tetsuya Yamagami, have drawn attention to the issue of large donations to the Unification Church.

The group held five press conferences to explain the situation, due to the anger of many Unification Church followers and a series of moves to leave the organization.

Suffering from “2nd generation followers”
“We will resolutely promote reform,” Hideyuki Teshigawara, general manager of the new headquarters in charge of promoting reform of the Unification Church, said at a press conference held at the group’s headquarters in the borough. from Shibuya, Tokyo on September 22.

The Unification Church came to public attention after it was discovered that Yamagami’s 70-year-old mother, 42, had donated more than 100 million yen to the group and went bankrupt. Yamagami was arrested for killing Abe and is currently being held for psychiatric testing.

After it was reported that Yamagami had expressed his resentment towards the Unification Church, former followers of the group and “second generation followers” who had experienced difficulties due to the faith of their parents have also begun to express themselves.

The group held the press conference to say it planned to review excessive donations from its supporters. However, Teshigawara maintained the band’s conventional stance during the press conference, saying “donations are made at the discretion of subscribers.”

At one point, he appeared frustrated when reporters repeatedly questioned his definition of “excessive” and the effectiveness of the planned review. Teshigawara’s remarks were far from a call for reform.

At its fifth press conference held on October 4, Teshigawara announced concrete proposals for reform, such as “keeping a record when subscribers donate more than three-tenths of their monthly income.” However, he rejected the idea of ​​capping the amount of donations, saying subscribers were free to contribute money.

114 consultations
Dozens of followers expressed their intention to leave the group after Abe’s shooting, and the group said it had responded to 114 refund consultations as of September 22.

The group works to retain its followers. It broadcasts “Seisyun TV”, a regular series of videos online targeting second-generation subscribers. In the video released on August 7, a senior executive spoke about giving, saying, “Giving gives you joy.”

A second-generation follower said with a smile, “Donations are not something that makes us suffer, but something that brings you joy and pride and expresses our gratitude.

However, a man in his twenties in the Kansai region whose parents are both followers of the group said, “Many second-generation followers consider their own situation to be similar to that of the suspect. They will probably leave the group one after another. The man also distances himself from group activities.

During a series of press conferences, representatives of the group have repeatedly stated that subscribers “can donate at their discretion”. A woman in her 60s in the Kanto region lost her faith upon seeing this, angrily saying, “They asked me for money, and I even got into debt. Why was I doing this?

“It is true that some followers are angry. We want to implement reforms regularly to make sure they will feel free from anxiety,” a group official said in an interview with Yomiuri Shimbun.

Media criticism
The group has repeatedly criticized the media and filed a lawsuit in the Tokyo District Court on September 29, seeking damages from two key commercial TV operators and lawyers who participated in their programs. .

“Representatives of the group did not indicate at press conferences that they would face evil outright,” said Kimiaki Nishida, professor of social psychology at Rissho University.

Tomihiro Tanaka, president of the Japanese branch, said in July: “There’s a big distance between us blaming and killing Mr Abe, so it’s hard to understand.

Tanaka also said, “We have never held spiritual sales, neither in the past nor at present.”

Nishida said: “There are fears that the group is tightening its grip on its supporters to prevent the organization from weakening. Society as a whole needs to keep a close eye on whether it actually implements the reforms it demands and whether there are more casualties.

Jerry B. Hatch