Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday (Oct 18) ordered a probe into the activities of the controversial Unification Church, in a move seen as a desperate damage control attempt as the popularity of his government plunged to its lowest level since he took assumest last year.
Unification Church, a cult-like religious group, has been in the eye of a storm after the assassination of former prime minister Abe Shinzo. Yamagami Tatsuya, Abe's assassin, claimed that he murdered the former prime minister because of his links to the Unification Church. Yamagami's mother had joined the Church and became bankrupt by donating to the Church.
Startling revelations about the modus operandi of the cult Christian church in encouraging its members to make financially catastrophic donations and the hitherto unknown scale of links it had with key members of Kishida's ruling Liberal Democratic Party have fuelled a massive wave of anger in Japan.
The Church was founded in South Korea in 1954 by Sun-myung Moon. Moon was a strident anti-communist and a self-declared messiah. The Church started evangelisation in Japan when missionary Choi Sang-ik smuggled himself into Japan in 1959. Moon used anti-communism as a glue to build up close ties with the then-authoritarian rulers of South Korea and Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party politicians.
The Church urges people to "transcend race and religion, rebuild the family as the vessel of true lasting love". The Church's affiliates include newspapers in South Korea, Japan and the United States, including the conservative Washington Times, which Moon founded in 1982.
Moon died in 2012, and a severe family feud started between Moon's wife Han Hak-ja and her sons.
Abe sent a video message in September last year to an international event held by church affiliates and expressed support for its global peace movement. Former US president Donald Trump too, sent a similar message.
State Funeral For Abe Stoked Further Anger
The decision by the Kishida government to hold a state funeral has attracted widespread criticism — both over the cost involved and the claims by some that they are effectively being forced to mourn a leader whose policies they opposed. The original cost of the state funeral was put at a modest 250 million yen (€1.74 million), but that soon ballooned to 1.65 billion yen.
While Kishida maintained that the state funeral was a sign of Japan's intent to "defend democracy", many Japanese perceived it as an attempt to stifle criticism of Abe's legacy.
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