Unification Church opposes ‘abusive’ media coverage after Abe assassination

The Unification Church on Wednesday spoke out against what it called “biased journalism” following the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, claiming that “abusive” reports over the past month included “hate speech” and “encourages religious discrimination.” “

The reports, mainly from left-leaning news media, amount to “religious persecution” and have the potential to spark violence against believers, according to Rev. Tomihiro Tanaka, head of the Japanese branch of the church, officially known as the World Federation of Peaceful Families and Unification (FFWPU).

“Our churches in Japan have been receiving death threats and threatening phone calls, abusive language from voice trucks and obstruction of assemblies, and some members of the media harassing rank-and-file members,” Pastor Tanaka told a news conference in Tokyo.

It’s a sobering development, as the FFWPU cooperated with investigators in the aftermath of Abe’s assassination, which brought attention to the delicate intersection between religion and politics in Japan. A psychological evaluation of Abe’s gunman Tetsuya Yamagami will continue until at least late November, authorities said, and an investigation into the July 8 killing is still ongoing.

The 41-year-old suspect reportedly claimed to have targeted Abe over his anger over his ties to the conservative FFWPU, sparking a heated debate in Japan.

Church representatives said the unfair reporting had led to a “strange situation” where criticism of the FFWPU was more intense in Japan than that of the alleged assassin, although the investigation was still ongoing.

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“The details of the suspect’s motive have not been officially released,” Pastor Tanaka said on Wednesday, adding, “We are fully cooperating with the request of the investigation headquarters.”

Despite questions about the mental health of the shooting suspect, media reports said Mr. Yamagami carried out the assassination because he was angry with his mother for a large donation to the Unification Church.

Japanese media have reportedly published a letter written by Sanshin just days before the assassination, in which he claimed the donations had bankrupted his family.

While it is unclear why the suspect directed his hostility towards Mr. Abe rather than directly at the FFWPU, some news reports suggest he is targeting Mr. Abe as an act of revenge against the church, as he believes the former prime minister is the church’s most talked about one of the people. The famous Japanese sympathizer and his previous attempts to identify and target church members have failed.

Abe is widely seen as a nationalist and conservative who has pushed Japan to restore traditional customs. He is not a member of the FFWPU and is known to have active ties with many other faith-based organisations, possibly to win support from conservatives in Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

The former prime minister provided a pre-recorded video message for the FFWPU’s “Rally of Hope” event last September, hosted by the Church-related organization Universal Peace Federation.

Organizers said the event aimed to bring together international celebrities to promote freedom, world peace and conservative family values, while also drawing attention to efforts aimed at achieving nonviolent reunification of North and South Korea.

“The need for greater solidarity among countries with liberal and democratic values, such as Japan, the United States, Taiwan and South Korea, is more urgent than ever,” Abe told the rally.

“If we are to achieve unity among nations that share freedom and democracy, maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and achieve the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula, we will need passionate leaders. These rallies of hope will give us a lot of strength, ‘ he said in a pre-recorded speech. “I have confidence in that.”

The message resonated with conservatives around the world amid growing international concern over increasingly aggressive military and economic moves by China and its ruling Communist Party.

political controversy

But Abe’s shocking assassination — in a country where violent attacks are extremely rare — has sparked new scrutiny of interactions between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the Unification Church, which has long opposed religious oppression by the Communist government.

Left-wing political activists in Japan, including several members of the fringes of the Japanese Communist Party, have called for an investigation into “collusion” between the FFWPU and Japanese lawmakers.

Church representatives claim there is no such evidence. But the spiraling campaign of media and political pressure has extended to current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who faces pressure from left-wing lawmakers to clarify the link between the government and the Unification Church’s activities in Japan.

Mr Kishida announced a major cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, partly due to a drop in the government’s polls, but also due to what Tokyo political insiders say is an effort to reassign or downgrade those who have interacted with the FFWPU in the past. Mr Kishida said he had only appointed cabinet ministers who had agreed to review their relationship with the Unification Church.

“Religious freedom should be ensured,” he said. “But politicians need to be careful when building a relationship with a group that is considered problematic.”

But some LDP members are critical of the approach. “Frankly, I really don’t know what the problem is,” Tatsuo Fukuda, a prominent figure in the party’s younger generation, told reporters in late July.

Conservative, anti-communist politicians like Mr. Abe and other LDP leaders would naturally find a common cause in a church that preaches similar values, Pastor Tanaka told a news conference in Tokyo. He denied any “political interference” by the Unification Church and called Mr Kishida’s remarks “regrettable”.

“To build a better country, we work with politicians who have clear views on communism,” Mr Tanaka said. “We are conducting this campaign not only in Japan, but as part of our global anti-communist network.”

The FFWPU document is proud of the group’s decades-long legacy in Japan, which once included a respectful relationship with Mr. Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, who served as prime minister from 1957 to 1960, and was instrumental in his ties to the U.S. over communism. Fears of spreading in Japan are known for staying consistent. Japan.

The Unification Church was founded in 1954 by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a Cold War fighter who grew up under the oppression of communist North Korea and a staunch supporter of religious freedom. Pastor Moon Jae-in’s widow, Hak Ja Han Moon, led the FFWPU in the years following his death in 2012. Together, the two worked to promote world peace and the unification of the Korean peninsula.

Founded in a small church in South Korea by Pastor Moon Jae-in, after decades of development, it has grown into a global spiritual movement and an affiliated business empire consisting of hundreds of businesses in more than six countries, Including hospitals, universities and newspapers, including The Washington Times.

The Unification Church opened its first branch in Japan in 1959 and has grown to around 300,000 members in Japan today.

During Japan’s rise as a global economic power in the 1980s, membership grew as well as financial support from followers.

Pastor Tanaka acknowledged Wednesday that the church faces lawsuits related to its giving policy, but said the 2009 reforms instituted compliance measures designed to “ensure that large donations are not made in proportion to personal assets.”

“Looking back 13 years ago, 2009 was an important turning point for FFWPU. The economic activities of some of our members were prosecuted as criminal cases, and some of our local facilities and other properties were raided by police as a result of these investigations,” he said. “The then FFWPU president took moral responsibility for these incidents and resigned.”

“Unfortunately, in some cases, people have asked for the return of donations they once made after their faith declined,” said Pastor Tanaka. “We have responded appropriately to these requests on a case-by-case basis.”

The pastor said that there are currently five lawsuits in progress, far fewer than “the 78 that went to trial in 1998 alone.”

In a previous press conference, Pastor Tanaka said that Mr. Yamagami’s mother joined the Unification Church in the late 1990s.

The uncle of the shooting suspect said the mother donated about $1 million to the church, according to reports. Church representatives claim to have struck a deal with the Yamagami family in 2009 to repay her about $360,000 in donations over the years, The New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, Japanese media quoted the mother as telling police after Abe’s assassination that she was “sorry that my son caused this terrible incident”.

Mr. Yamagami is not a member of FFWPU. In letters he wrote before the assassination, Mr. Yamagami claimed to have determined that a direct attack on the church was not worthwhile, according to reports.

Investigators are trying to figure out the suspect’s true motive for targeting Abe, whom Mr. Yamagami has reportedly called “not my enemy” and “just one of the Unification Church’s most powerful sympathizers.”

During this period, church representatives said they were cautious about the continued pushback of the Japanese media storm.

“Many media outlets portrayed the FFWPU as a criminal syndicate, fueling anxiety, fear and prejudice among viewers,” Pastor Tanaka said Wednesday.

“We strongly condemn the fake news and abusive language spread by the relentless media, which is hate speech, encourages religious discrimination, undermines individual rights and, if at all, violates people’s religious freedom,” he said.

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