Mother Of Man Who Assassinated Japan's Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Donated $1 Million To Controversial Unification Church

Swarajya Staff

Jul 13, 2022, 06:21 PM | Updated 06:21 PM IST

Japan's former prime minister Shinzo Abe.
Japan's former prime minister Shinzo Abe.
  • The assassin believed that his mother went bankrupt due to the donations she was committing to the Unification Church.
  • Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated by a 41-year-old with grievances over his mother’s religious donations to the controversial Unification Church.

    The Unification Church's branch in Japan has confirmed that the assassin's mother was a member.

    Multiple media reports in Japan have stated that the Abe's assassin has linked his action to his mother's membership of the Unification Church. The assassin's mother became a member of the church in 1998, stopped attending from 2009 to 2017 and started participating again a few years back.

    She began to regularly attend the church's meeting six months back, according to the church's president, Tomihiro Tanaka. The assassin believed that his mother went bankrupt due to the donations she was committing to the Unification Church.

    Now, new information has emerged that reveals the assassin's mother donated close to around $1 million to the church by selling off houses, land and as a result bankrupting the family.

    According to a report from the newspaper Manichi, the assassin told investigators that his motive behind the shooting was that his mother was a follower of the Unification Church, and his family disintegrated due to bankruptcy caused by her huge donations to the religious group.

    "Tomihiro Tanaka, president of the Japanese branch of the religious group, countered that Yamagami's mother's donations were based on her own will, and explained that the group had "had donation trouble in the past, but we have been in thorough compliance since 2009. Now we do not force people to donate money"," reads the report.

    This claim of Tanaka has been challenged by lawyer Hiroshi Yamaguchi.

    He emphasised at a news conference on 12 July that the Unification Church "is still being pointed out by the judiciary for its illegal activities." Yamaguchi serves as a representative of a lawyers' group.

    According to the report, Yamaguchi cites a "February 2020 ruling by the Tokyo District Court in a lawsuit filed by a former follower demanding the return of donations she had made between 2012 and 2015, which ordered the religious group to refund approximately 4.7 million yen (about $34,200) on the grounds that "the demand for donations was made through an unfair method of stirring up anxiety and fear". The ruling was later finalised after the Supreme Court dismissed a final appeal"."

    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.

    Back then, a group of lawyers had sent a protest letter to Abe. In the letter, the lawyers argued that the video message would be an "endorsement", and said, "we urge you to think carefully about this for the sake of your own honour."

    It must be stressed that Abe was not a member of the church.

    But Tetsuya Yamagami, the assassin, developed a perception that Abe supported the church, due to that video message.

    The church has been making millions of dollars every year in Japan, selling products like rosaries, Buddha figurines and ginseng juice that purportedly lead wandering spirits to heaven, as per a report by the South China Morning Post.

    It is alleged that the church urges followers to make special donations for the dead, even if it means taking out loans. The church, however, continues to strongly deny such allegations.

    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.

    The church urges people to "transcend race and religion, rebuild the family as the vessel of true lasting love”.

    According to the Christian newspaper NoCut News quoted in the SCMP report, Abe's grandfather and former prime minister Nobusuke Kishi visited the church in 1970. At the same time, he started building ties with the International Federation for Victory Over Communism, a group created in 1968 at Moon's behest.

    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’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. The church's influence has been waning since 2012.

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