Japan: Unificationists Accuse Christian Pastors of Participation in Forced “Deprogramming”

From a press release:

A respected Buddhist priest in Japan has called for Japanese authorities to prosecute those responsible for kidnapping and imprisoning members of the Unification Church. In an official letter to a Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution assisting the state prosecutor dated March 14, Rev. Dohki Mihara, a Sotoshu Buddhist priest, wrote:  “Getting to know about Mr. Toru Goto’s case of religious kidnapping and confinement that lasted for 12 years and 5 months, a case which was clearly based on a purpose to break his faith in the Unification Church, I felt deep despair and grief to find out that Japan, although calling itself a cultured nation, has not acquired human decency, common sense in respect for human rights, or the basic attitude of democratic nation.”

Mr. Goto’s case was dismissed by Tokyo prosecutors with no indictments but will now be considered by a citizens’panel empowered to re-open the case.

..Rev. Mihara is the former president of the Religionists Forum, an ecumenical association of Buddhist, Christian, and Shinto religious leaders in Miyazaki Prefecture on the island of Kyushu. He was speaking to the fact that since 1969 more than 4,300 members of the Unification Church have been kidnapped and confined by misguided relatives and opponents of the church. As has been reported, some of the victims have been beaten, sexually assaulted or tortured while in captivity.

Goto’s story was included in the 2008 US State Department Report on International Religious Freedom:

According to representatives from the Unification Church, a member of their congregation was abducted by his family and held in captivity for more than 12 years in an attempt to “deprogram” him. Four months after his escape, police had not opened an investigation into the case.

…According to representatives of the Unification Church, approximately 10 to 20 practitioners were forcibly “deprogrammed” by concerned family members during the reporting period, and in most cases, the believers “quickly gave up their faith.”

According to a Unificationist website:

Toru and several other victims of kidnapping and psychological torture were quoted in a series of articles in Sekai Nippo during the last week of June 2009. Despite many cases in Japan having been reported to the police over the last decade or more, no cases have been prosecuted yet. …Toru was kidnapped and suffered faith-breaking efforts twice, first in 1987 and again in 1995, he told the newly formed Association to abolish Deprogramming in February. Alarmed by hateful accusations and claims against new religions, his parents had hired Mr. Shun Miyamura, a professional kidnapper who called himself a “deprogrammer.” In the first episode of kidnapping Toru pretended to recant his faith. …Soichiro Kobayashi, 37, says he was abducted and assaulted three times since he joined the church in 1992. …Dr. Hirohisa Koide, 46, a physician, told Sekai Nippo how he had been abducted and held in confinement for two years, also by Miyamura, beginning in June 1992. His book, Escaping the Kidnappers, was published in 1999 but was shunned by book distributors influenced by intolerant critics of the church.

Goto’s testimony can be seen here. It includes the following:

…my brother started working for the company that was managed by Shun Miyamura, the professional deprogrammer who de-converted him. Together, with Miyamura, my brother came to work vigorously to “deprogram” members. He eventually married a woman, who like him, was a former-member and had been de-converted through abduction and confinement.

…As I examined the room, all the windows were equipped with a special lock on the inside and were securely locked so they could not be opened… A few days later, Minister Matsunaga Toridechi of the Niitsu Evangelical Christian Church brought several former Unification Church members and they repeatedly criticized and denounced the UC movement.

A report here has the same details, alothough names have changed slightly: the deprogrammer is “Takashi Miyamura”, and the evangelical minister is “Yasutomo Matsunaga” of the Japanese Alliance Christian Council and the “Niizu Good News Christian Church”.

A further report has the testimony of Sayuri Hara:

In early June 1992, two former members of the Unification Church visited my parents and persuasively spoke to them for many hours saying, “Please cooperate in converting Sayuri.” My mother went to see Pastor Shikae Kurotori and was introduced to Pastor Kyoko Kawasaki of the Tanimura Church, in a Japanese Christian denomination. On June 24, 1992, I visited my home in Yamanashi. After eating out, we were about to go home, and I was seated in a back seat of a vehicle. My father drove the car… I was taken to the Yoshida Business Hotel, to room 307, and held hostage there… By overhearing my parents’ conversations, I learned that my parents contacted and received directions from Pastor Kyoko Kawasaki on numerous occasions during the day. In the hotel room, Pastor Kyoko Kawasaki pressed me to withdraw from the Unification Church for four days, for over 10 hours a day.

Members of the church have been holding protests to hightlight their complaint. In February, there was a march in Ogikubo in Tokyo. The location was significant:

The late Pastor Satoshi Moriyama, who came up with the idea of abduction, confinement and forced disavowal towards Unificationist members, was the Pastor of Ogikubo Eiko Church located in Ogikubo, Suginami Ward. Therefore, this area is where it all started, and Mr. Toru Goto was also confined in the Ogikubo area and Niigata for 12 years and 5 months from Sept.11, 1995 to Feb. 10, 2008. Mr. Shun Miyamura, one of the masterminds of Mr. Goto’s confinement case, manages a company in the vicinity of Ogikubo as well.

There was also a protest in April in Okayama; according to a report here:

On April 18, 2010, over 150 members of the Unification Church and supporters of religious freedom marched in Kurashiki City in Okayama Prefecture, near Japan’s west coast, to publicly accuse a local Japanese minister of complicity in the kidnapping and unlawful confinement of members of the Unification Church in often failed attempts to force them to abandon their faith.Unification Church Website in Japan, Pastor Masaharu Takayama, the head of the Kurashiki Grace Christian Church, attempted without success to break the faith of a Unification Church member last year.

…”Christian ministers usually receive a payment from the parents of victims when they are asked to de-convert the victims,” according to Shunsuke Uotani, an official of the Universal Peace Federation in Japan. The faith-breaking victim was a young lady from Tottori Prefecture…

Three days later, some female Japanese members held a press conference in Seoul. The New York Post has some pictures here; according to the commentary:

Japanese members of the Unification Church who are married to South Korean men take part in a news conference in Seoul April 21, 2010. The Unification Church members want the South Korean and Japanese governments to ensure they are safe to return to Japan as they fear their relatives might forcibly detain them and make them renounce their religion. The Korean characters on the yellow sash read,”Please free us from fears of detention and kidnapping”.

Some purported historical background is given here, although this is a partial account which conflates kidnapping with other aspects of Christian opposition to the movement (as well as Communist opposition); one would like to see some actual evidence, or at least an authoritative reference, to support the claim that Moriyama – a fierce critic of Rev Moon – supported kidnapping:

The first period began in 1966, when Rev. Satoshi Moriyama labeled the Unification Church “heretical” from his perspective as an evangelical Christian, and began using abduction and confinement as tactics to force individual Unification Church members to renounce their faith. On July 7, 1967, the evening edition of Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese daily newspaper, published an article titled, Unification Movement Brings Tears to Parents. The article fanned the anxiety of parents with adult children in the Unification Church, and some sought out Moriyama for advice. This led to an increase in forced renunciation attempts. In March 1976, Rev. Moriyama held a four-day seminar at the Hachioji University Seminar House in Tokyo titled “Seminar on Counter Measures against the Unification Association” to instruct other Christian ministers on his method of confining Unification Church members and convincing them to renounce their faith. 

During the second period, from 1976 to 1987, many Christian ministers, primarily from evangelical churches, joined Moriyama’s efforts, leading to a sharp rise in forced renunciation attempts. These ministers included Rev. Takeo Funada, Rev. Mamoru Takazawa, Rev. Shinya Waga and Rev. Hisoka Murakami. 

…Hiroko Tomizawa, who was abducted during the storming of the Tottori church [in 1997] and confined for a year and three months, and Rie Imari, who was abducted off the street, brought civil suits against the ministers involved in their respective cases. Following this, the number of attempted forced renunciations gradually declined. 

The Christian minister involved in Mrs. Tomizawa’s case admitted in court that she had been confined involuntarily, and the court ruled in her favor. The minister involved in Mrs. Imari’s case refused to make such an admission, and the court ruled against her.