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JAPAN: Moon’s Church claiming persecution at the UN over Abe’s killing

Unification Church before the UN claiming persecution over Abe’s killing

In the eye of the storm since the murder of the former prime minister, the Church founded by Rev Moon filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee, saying that a “national tragedy” has been turned “into a bizarre narrative that makes the alleged assassin into a victim”. The Church also reported that its members have been the victims of attacks. Meanwhile, the affair remains a hot political topic in the country.

AsiaNews (06.10.2022) – https://bit.ly/3SNiiUr – The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, better known as the Unification Church founded by South Korean Rev Sun Myung Moon, has filed a formal complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Committee claiming that it is the victim of “a campaign of intolerance, discrimination and persecution” in Japan.

 

The religious group has been in the eye of the storm since last July following the death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was shot to death by a man harbouring resentment towards the Church over huge donations his mother made to it.

 

The complaint, filed by the Paris-based Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience (CAP-LC), calls for the UN Human Rights Committee to address “the ongoing suffering” of members of the Unification Church in Japan during its 136th session scheduled for 10 October-4 November 2022.

 

The 22-page complaint alleges that the rights of its members in Japan “were seriously, systematically and blatantly violated” after the 8 July murder by a man who hated the Unification Church.

 

The accusations also apply to some Japanese lawyers and media for “twist[ing] this national tragedy into a bizarre narrative that makes the alleged assassin into a victim of the Unification Church and blames the Church for the assassination.”

 

As a result, “Church members have suffered hundreds of personal attacks, assaults, death threats, acts of vandalism, and other forms of public abuse.”

 

The complaint slams public efforts to “name and shame” Japanese politicians who have participated in events linked to the Unification Church.

 

It appeals to Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – to which Japan is a signatory – to protect both the right of citizens to participate in the democratic process and the freedom of elected representatives to “consult and cooperate with leaders and members of the religions of their choice”.

 

In Japan, the Unification Church remains a hot political issue. On Monday, speaking before the upper house of parliament, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he is ready to listen to the “harsh voices” of people who criticise the ties between many members of his party and the religious group.

 

Responding to calls for the Church’s dissolution, he noted that the issue “needs to be decided carefully in terms of freedom of religion”.

 

For his part, Hideyuki Teshigawara, one of the leaders of the Unification Church, held a press conference on 22 September at the Church’s Tokyo headquarters to respond to criticism over what happened to the family of Abe’s murderer.

 

On that occasion, he explained that the Church would “take into consideration the financial situation of followers and ensure that donations are not excessive” while respecting the “free will” of its members.

 

Photo: Asianews

Further reading about FORB in Japan on HRWF website





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JAPAN: Abe’s assassination: an anti-cult hate crime?, Bitter Winter says

Abe’s assassination: an anti-cult hate crime?

Media hysteria against the Unification Church, not the Unification Church itself, may have excited the weak mind of the killer.

By Massimo Introvigne

Bitter Winter (15.07.2022) – https://bit.ly/3OaPSAI – Now the dust is settling, and we may start understanding why Yamagami Tetsuya assassinated the former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. Although not everything is clear, we are told that Yamagami had a grudge against the Unification Church, or rather what became its largest branch after the death of Reverend Moon Sun Myung in 2012, the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) led by the Reverend’s widow. Yamagami was never a member of the Unification Church or the FFWPU but his mother was. Reportedly, she made significant donations to the religious movement, which the son saw as the cause of the ruin of their family.

Yamagami test-fired his weapon by shooting at a building that had been once used as a FFWPU church before assassinating Abe. Reportedly, he told the police that he wanted to assassinate a FFWPU leader—possibly Ms. Moon herself—but since this was technically difficult he killed Abe instead. He accused Abe of having promoted the FFWPU. Abe, in fact, sent video remarks to two events of the Universal Peace Foundation (UPF), which is legally independent from FFWPU although it has the same founders and maintains a close connection with the religious movement.

Abe was just one among dozens of world leaders who sent videos to UPF events, participated in its rallies, or officially received its leaders. As a study of the UPF published in Bitter Winter documented, these leaders include Donald Trump, former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon (not a relative of Reverend Moon), Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, and former Prime Minister of Portugal and President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso. Pope Francis received in a private meeting the UPF President on July 1, 2019, and the meeting was duly indexed in the official Press Bulletin of the Holy See. At the United Nations, where thousands of NGOs have special consultative status, UPF is a member of the elite club of leading groups that have achieved general consultative status.

Although in public neither the FFWPU nor the police have commented on when the killer’s mother donated to Ms. Moon’s movement, a reliable source told Bitter Winter that significant donations stopped several years ago. Yet, her son decided to act now. Why?

Diagnosing psychiatric problems post factum is never recommended, but those who claim that Yamagami was not operating with a full deck may not be wrong. Not all the children of mothers who donated to the FFWPU protested by assassinating UPF events participants.

There are two categories, however, that may help us understanding what happened. First, “hate crimes” are defined as those committed against individual victims as a manifestation of the perpetrators’ hate against a whole category. Hate crimes were an important part of my portfolio when I served in 2011 as the Representative of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) for combating racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance, and I presided several meetings on the subject. Yamagami’s resentment was not individually against Abe but against a category, the (real or imaginary) supporters of the FFWPU. In this sense, it was a typical hate crime.

The second category is the anti-cult violence. In 2018, I was asked to guest-edit a special issue of the prestigious “Journal of Religion and Violence” on the subject of new religious movements (called “cults” by their opponents and popular media) and violence. In my introduction, I explained that the relation is twofold. New religious movements, just as groups within mainline religions such as pedophile Catholic priests or terrorists who use or misuse the name of Islam, may certainly be guilty of violence. They may also be victims of violence, as I illustrated through several cases which had targeted inter alia the Unification Church.

In Japan, specific incidents where the leader and several members of a new religious movement, Aum Shinrikyo, committed horrific acts of violence, including the deadly sarin gas attack against the Tokyo subway in 1995, created a climate even more hostile to “cults” in the media than in other countries. While this is in some way understandable, media should always consider that generalizing and stereotyping is a sure recipe to create hate crimes.

A simple look at how the Japanese media discussed the Unification Church and the FFWPU, not only after Abe’s assassination but also before, shows that their coverage was predominantly hostile and sometimes verged on the insult. They offered a tribune to apostate ex members and greedy lawyers who tried to persuade relatives of those who had donated to the Unification Church to sue asking to recover the money. It is of course possible that donations, as it happens in many religious organizations (including some part of the mainline), were solicited in a pushy manner. However, the greedy lawyers did win some cases but lost others, and stereotyping the Unification movement as a “cult” went well beyond the technicalities of these cases (and ignored pushy donation techniques within mainline religions).

Of course, I am not suggesting that media anti-cult coverage of the Unification Church in Japan (which continues after Abe’s assassination and influences the media of other countries) produced the crime. After all, millions did read the same articles and did not kill anybody. If I learned something in dealing at an institutional level with hate speech, is that it does not persuade stable minds to commit crimes. For this reason, it may be easily regarded as inoffensive. A wrong conclusion, because weak minds also exist, and the effect of hate speech on them may be devastating.

While some media instill in their readers the idea that the Unification Church may be somewhat responsible for what happened, in fact what may have influenced the unstable mind of Yamagami may have been precisely the media anti-cult campaigns, and the hate speech directed for years at the Unification Church.

Photo: Shinzo Abe’s video message to the Universal Peace Federation’s 2021 “Think Tank 2022 Rally of Hope.” Source: Universal Peace Federation.

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Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.

 





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JAPAN carries out first death row executions in three murder cases since 2019

Japan carries out first death row executions since 2019

Euronews (21.12.2021) – https://bit.ly/32eF3vC – Japan executed three death row inmates on Tuesday, applying the death penalty for the first time since December 2019.

“Three death row inmates were executed today,” a justice ministry official has confirmed.

They were a 65-year-old man convicted of the hammer and knife murders of seven family members and neighbours in 2004, and two men aged 54 and 44 convicted of a double murder in 2003, she said.

Japan executed three convicts in 2019 and 15 in 2018, including 13 members of the Aum sect, which was involved in a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo underground in 1995.

Public support for capital punishment in Japan remains strong despite criticism from abroad, particularly from human rights organisations.

“Whether or not to retain the death penalty is a crucial issue that concerns the foundations of Japan’s criminal justice system,” Deputy Secretary-General of Government Seiji Kihara commented at a press briefing on Tuesday.

“As atrocious crimes continue to be committed, the death penalty must be imposed on those who have perpetrated acts of such gravity and atrocity that it is unavoidable,” he added.

There are currently more than 100 death row inmates in Japan, and long years usually pass between sentencing and execution by hanging, but inmates are usually notified only hours before their execution.

In early November, two death row inmates filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government, claiming that the practice is illegal and causes psychological damage.

Their lawyer told AFP that executions were usually announced to the condemned prisoners only one or two hours beforehand, preventing them from seeing their lawyer or lodging an appeal.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Supreme Court overturned a decision in December 2020 blocking a request for a retrial of Iwao Hakamada, an 85-year-old man now considered the world’s oldest death row inmate.

Hakamada spent more than four decades on death row after he was sentenced to death in 1968 for the quadruple murder of his boss and three of his boss’s family members.

The Japanese man confessed to the crime after weeks of interrogation in custody before recanting. Since then, he has maintained his innocence, but his conviction was upheld in 1980.

Japan’s capital punishment is carried out by hanging with the inmate handcuffed and blindfolded standing over a trap door opened by a mechanism triggered by one of three buttons in an adjoining room. The buttons must be pressed simultaneously by three guards who do not know which one is active.

Photo credits: AP Photo/Koji Sasahara





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JAPAN: Immigration law would allow Japan to eject refugee status applicants

by Jun Kaneko (Japanese original)

 

The Mainichi (16.03.2021) – https://bit.ly/31cQSxT – The controversial draft revision to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act is set for deliberation in the current Diet session. One point of contention is the government-submitted draft’s proposal to overhaul current rules not to repatriate foreign nationals while their refugee status applications are being evaluated, and to cap the number of times a person can apply for refugee status.

 

The rule is based on international law, which stipulates that refugees at risk of persecution in their countries must not be repatriated. But the Immigration Services Agency of Japan believes that because people can file for refugee status as many times as they like, there are individuals who continue to reapply for refugee status to avoid repatriation, and that this trend is a contributing factor in prolonged stays at detention facilities. Therefore, as an exception to the rule, the draft revision would make it possible to forcibly repatriate people who apply for the same status three times or more.

 

Other countries where exceptions are applied include the U.K., where it is enforced “when an application is submitted without any basis,” and in France, which uses it “when a reapplication is made for the purpose of obstructing deportation.”

 

Even so, obtaining refugee status in Japan is extremely hard compared to in other countries around the world. In 2019, 10,375 people applied for refugee status in Japan, and just 44 people were granted it. The rate of recognition for refugee applicants in Japan is 0.4%, while it is 26% in Germany and 19% in France. It is also true that people are at times granted refugee status after numerous applications.

 

According to nonprofit organization Japan Association for Refugees (JAR), of the 212 people recognized as refugees between 2010 and 2018, 19 had applied for the status multiple times. There was even a case in which an applicant filed a lawsuit and won refugee certification while their third application for asylum was being screened.

 

Should the draft revisions pass the Diet, and the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act is applied to affected foreign nationals, there is a possibility they could be sent back to their home countries and subjected to persecution while still waiting for refugee status applications to be screened.

 

“The Japanese government should be certifying all refugees as such, but Japan’s refugee protection policy is far from meeting international standards,” Eri Ishikawa, chair of JAR’s board, says. “It’s problematic to add an exception clause to the immigration and refugee law without improving upon that point.”

 

The difficulty of obtaining refugee status in Japan is down to its definition of refugees. The international convention on the status of refugees defines refugees as people at risk of persecution in their home countries due to issues relating to race, religion, nationality and political views. Japan, however, certifies people who have been leaders of anti-government demonstrations, or who have been singled out and targeted by a foreign government as refugees. It is much harder to prove the latter.

 

In recent years, oppressed minorities — such as conflict refugees forced from their home country due to the civil war in Syria, the Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar, and Kurds — are on the rise. While individuals may not have not been singled out for attacks, their lives would be at risk if they were to be repatriated, so in the U.S. and Europe, it is not uncommon for them to be accepted as refugees.

 

Wataru Takahashi, a member of a group of Tokyo-based attorneys involved in detention and repatriation issues says, “Changing a system superficially will not broaden the number of foreign nationals the country accepts. The main reason Japan is closed off to refugees remains intact. Japan should improve its own refugee certification rules, and their quality.”

 

Photo credits: Mainichi.jp





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JAPAN: Supreme Court to review case about donations to the Unification Church

An ex-member sued to get her donations back, saying she was “psychologically manipulated,” and won. The Church is appealing, claiming religious discrimination.

By Willy Fautré

Bitter Winter (26.01.2021) –https://bit.ly/2KUZ15S -The Unification Church (UC, aka Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, FFWPU), founded by Rev. Moon Sun Myung, and three of its members are appealing to Japan’s Supreme Court a previous judgment in favor of a former UC member, concerning her claim for financial compensation of alleged damages related to donations she made for spiritual services.

The plaintiff is Toshie Y., a Japanese citizen born in 1955 and a former member of the Unification Church. Her husband died in 1998, and her son passed away in 2011. She was deeply affected by this double loss.

Additionally, to the Unification Church, there are three individual defendants in the case:

– Mrs. Namiko Katagiri, a UC believer, made a family tree for free in 2011 for the plaintiff, which is an important element in the UC belief system, which assumes the influence of ancestors in the spiritual world.

– Mr. Yoshihiro Kawachi taught the plaintiff some doctrines of the Church.

– Mrs. Hiroko Matsuhuji was presented as a lecturer of the plaintiff in the previous judgment, which she denies, as she was only taking care of her within the Church.

Donations and requests for reimbursement

In April 2013, the plaintiff went to a UC education center named “Caris,” and paid 180,000 yen in membership fees.

The plaintiff also donated 400,000 yen (100,000 yen are roughly 800 euro) for a memorial service for ancestors, 2,800,000 yen for a Blessing Ceremony for herself and her late husband, and 240,000 yen for ceremonies for her late son and late brother. She travelled several times to Korea in order to join the ceremonies.

In October of 2013, the plaintiff donated a further 1,400,000 yen, and received two books of sermons, as memorial gifts, delivered by the founder of the UC: “Holy Scripture of Heaven” and “Scripture of Peace.”

In November 2014, Mr. Kawachi recommended the plaintiff donate 1,400,000 yen for the construction of a UC Training Center in the United States. He also said that those who donate would receive a copy of the “Scripture of True Parents” as a memorial gift. The plaintiff initially donated 630,000 yen, and then planned to make a monthly donation of 30,000 yen, for a total amount of 570,000 yen.

In November 2015, the plaintiff pressed the church to return the donation of 630,000 yen. Later, she asked for the 1,400,000 yen to be returned, saying that she did not need the books “Holy Scripture of Heaven” and “Scripture of Peace” anymore.

In December 2015, after some discussions, Mr. Kawachi accepted to reimburse 2,030,000 yen, on the condition that the plaintiff would sign an agreement saying that she would not claim any further reimbursement.

After these negotiations, the plaintiff stopped attending the church. Later, she found criticisms against the UC on internet and believed that she had been deceived by the UC.

On 30 June 2016, the lawyer of the plaintiff sent a letter to the UC claiming for damages on other previous donations, but the UC rejected the demand quoting the settlement. On 11 April 2017, the plaintiff’s lawyer filed a complaint against the UC and four other UC members for their involvement in the case, and asked for financial compensation of 5,238,290 yen, which included 4,262,082 yen for the loss of the donations, 500,000 yen for the lawyer’s fee and 476,208 yen for psychological damage (Case No.: Tokyo District Court H29 (wa) 12048).

Court procedures

On 28 February 2020, the Tokyo District Court issued a judgment in favor of the plaintiff. On the one hand, it stated that the defendants repeatedly instilled fear in the mind of the plaintiff to manipulate her and extort donations for the Church. On the other hand, it ignored evidence proving her genuine faith and free will when she engaged in religious activities including donations.

It concluded that the activities of the individual defendants were illegal because they deviated from a socially appropriate scope. Such a statement by the Court is a derogatory assessment of the legitimate beliefs of a religious community and an encroachment on its autonomy. It also found that the settlement was invalid because Mr. Kawachi did not include other previous donations in the agreement. In doing so, they were not covered by the settlement.

The defendants appealed to the Tokyo High Court (Case No.: Tokyo High Court R2, ne, 1541). On 3 December 2020, the Tokyo High Court confirmed the decision of the District Court.

Conclusion

The lawyers of the defendants consider that the Tokyo High Court imposed a value judgment on the beliefs of the Unification Church. They deem that attitude as illegal because it encroaches on the autonomy of the Church and opens the door for censorship.

The lawyers contend that it is legal for the Church to teach doctrines to those who show some interest in its theology and agree to participate in the information sessions of its lecturers. Additionally, they stress the plaintiff at that time never manifested the will to leave the Church or to stop attending the lectures, which she could have done if she had stopped believing in the teachings.

The lawyers also object to the accusation of manipulation with fear. According to the doctrine of the Unification Church, the spirits of the ancestors can have a negative effect on their descendants. Similarly, preaching about hell in the Catholic Church has never been considered a manipulation of mind to abusively extort money from believers. They argue that the Unification Church should not be treated differently.

Photo: A rally commemorating the foundation of the Unification Church in Japan. Source: Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.


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