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Japan’s Kishida Orders Unification Church Investigation | Religious News


The Prime Minister’s order comes amid anger over the ruling LDP’s ties to the religious sect, which is accused of donating large sums of money from its followers.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida ordered an investigation into the Unification Church on Monday amid public outcry over the South Korean religious sect’s ties to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, the church was affiliated with heavy supervision since assassination of former prime minister Shinzo Abe on July 8th.

Abe’s assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami, said he killed Japan’s longest-serving prime minister for supporting the Unification Church. The 41-year-old attacker blamed the church for his family’s financial ruin: his mother, a committed believer, went bankrupt after donating about 100 million yen ($672,000) to the sect .

The revelations prompted many relatives of church members to voice accusations that they had badly coerced donations, and media attention about the group’s links to the conservative LDP. A subsequent internal party survey found that nearly half of the LDP’s 379 national legislators had church ties, ranging from attending events organized by the group to receiving electoral support from the church. volunteers.

Kishida announced the investigation in parliament on Monday with allegations weighing on his support. Public support for his cabinet plummeted to 35% in a Kyodo news agency poll – the lowest level since he took office last year.

The prime minister told lawmakers he called for an investigation because of the “large number” of victims of the church. “The government has taken seriously the fact that there are a large number of victims as well as poverty and broken families, and they are not getting adequate relief,” he said.

The investigation is being carried out by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

Education Minister Keiko Nagaoka said she would start the investigation “immediately”.

The Unification Church, which has about 100,000 active followers in Japan, has denied any wrongdoing. Campaigners filed a complaint with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in September, claiming the church had fallen victim to “a campaign of intolerance, discrimination and ill-treatment” in Japan. .

The lawsuit says Japanese media and lawyers have “twisted” the tragedy of Abe’s murder “into a bizarre narrative that made the alleged assassin fall victim to the Unification Church and blame the church for the assassination.”

It added that church members have since suffered attacks, assaults and death threats.

With Monday’s investigation, Japan’s Kyodo news agency said the Unification Church faces losing its status as a religious corporation, stripped of its tax benefits even though it is still allowed to operate. in this country.

Kyodo said Kishida had previously been cautious about ordering an investigation into the church’s activities, in part due to concerns about violating constitutional provisions on religious freedom.

Meanwhile, public broadcaster NHK said Kishida’s decision to open an investigation was the first time the government had exercised its “right to question” under the country’s Religious Corporations Act.

The provision allows culture ministries and provincial governments to question executives of religious corporations suspected of breaking the law.

To date, only two religious groups in Japan have been ordered to be disbanded by a court.

One is the Aum Shinrikyo sect that carried out a deadly sarin gas attack on Tokyo’s subway system in 1995. The other is the Myokakuji temple group, where priests are accused of defrauding followers with way of saying that they are possessed by evil spirits and accusing them. exorcism.

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