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Religion, Cult, and Politics

On July 8, 2022, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (aged 67) was shot in Nara City, in the course of a speech he was making in support of the 26th ordinary elections to the House of Councilors. The assailant evidently was Tetsuya Yamagami, an individual who was aged 41 at the time of the incident, and who was a resident of the same city. He had earlier served three years in the Maritime Self-Defense Force. The handgun he used for the assault was of his own making and Abe was shot twice from behind, the second shot striking him and bringing about his death, the cause of which was asserted as being exsanguination. Apparently the second bullet damaged arteries near his left and right clavicles. This proved fatal and he was consequently declared dead at 5:03 p.m., the proximate cause of his demise being cardiopulmonary arrest.

Yamagami had the following comments to make with reference to the cause of his crime. His mother apparently had become involved in a religious group. She had donated a large amount of money (at least 100 million yen) to them, and this led to her bankruptcy as well as the collapse of their family. In this context he remarked, “Because of this, I was unable to pursue higher education.” Yamagami held a grudge against Abe, because he believed Abe was the individual immediately responsible for the spread that organization throughout the country. Initially he had sought to focus on the group’s top executives, but as contact was difficult he targeted Abe, whom he believed to be involved with them. Yamagami is also said to have watched a video message Abe had sent to an event held by the organization’s friendship group, and this apparently triggered a strong antipathy within him towards the former prime minister.

Family Federation for World Peace and Unification

This religious organization happens to be the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU; widely referred to as the Unification Church), and they were originally known as the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HAS-UWC). This Unification Church was founded by Sun Myung Moon (1920-2012) in Korea in 1954.

Yamagami’s mother joined the HAS-UWC in 1991, when he was an elementary school student. His father committed suicide when he was four years old, and his brother, who happened to be a year older, also took his own life around 2015. His mother had contributed a minimum of 100 million yen to the Unification Church, which included his father’s life insurance money, and this led to her utter impoverishment in 2002. It appears Yamagami himself had attempted to end his life, while he served in the Maritime Self-Defense Force.

The Unification Church is looked upon as a new Christian religion in Japan, but in the West it is viewed a cult and in China it is recognized as a pagan religion.

Since the 1980s the Unification Church has been engaged in “psychic sales,” marketing overpriced crucibles and other items. In 2009 it was investigated by the police, for violations of Specified Commercial Transactions Laws and other charges. According to the National Lawyers Network Against Psychic Business Law, the number of consultations received over a period of 34 years from the formation of the Network to the end of 2021 totaled 34,537, with the total damage amounting to approximately 123.7 billion yen.

The Church employs the technique of psychic sales and mind control, in order to engage in issues linked to the sale of expensive goods and payment of donations. These include among others joint weddings, drug-related money laundering and smuggling, and its proselytizing methods involve the use of compulsive techniques to urge people to make expensive offerings and purchase goods. The issue of the second-generation believers, specifically the children of Unification Church members, is also currently a social crisis.

The Relationship with Politics

Sun Myung Moon who happens to be an ally of Abe’s grandfather, namely former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, has collaborated with Japanese politicians since the 1950s. The Unification Church has maintained intimate ties with conservative politicians in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), through its International Victory Coalition Party affiliate and other organizations. In this context, it has concluded “policy agreements” with them. This intimate relationship with politicians has been exploited by the Church for its propaganda and public relations, and due to such an ongoing situation, the government has been reluctant to take action against the cult. The cult has been active not just in politics but also in the academic world, and it has been working to prevent the police and government from actively dealing with all those who have been victimized by these illegal psychic sales.

True Religion?

It is highly doubtful whether the Unification Church can be designated as a religion in the proper sense of the word. Although it is beyond the scope of this report to touch on theological issues, the fact that the church is not only infiltrating national politics through money but is also leading ordinary families to a state of collapse, is something that need to be addressed and reformed at the national level.