Anguish of Children of Unification Church Faithful Brought to Light, but Continues

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The Yomiuri Shimbun
A man in Aichi Prefecture still agonizes even though his mother purportedly left the Unification Church. “It seems her heart has not yet left the faith,” he says.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

7:00 JST, July 9, 2023

In the aftermath of the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe one year ago on Saturday, attention was focused on the Unification Church, officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, and the suffering endured by children of followers of the faith.

The alleged assailant of Abe was one of these “second-generation followers,” whose lives were left in tatters by the excessive donations made by their parents and the abuse they suffered in the name of religion.

They finally have had their voices heard, and are receiving expanded support from the public. But for many, the anguish is far from over.

“It’s really difficult to completely break from the church,” said a man in his 30s living in Aichi Prefecture.

After the Abe shooting, he convinced his mother, who is in her 60s, to leave the Unification Church. Or so he thought. He suspects that she still maintains ties with the organization.

His mother had joined the church before he was born. She purchased expensive vases from the church, leading to frequent arguments with her husband. When the man was in elementary school, she went alone to South Korea, where the general headquarters of the Unification Church is located, to take part in a ceremony.

She would purloin his New Year’s gift money, and took out high-interest loans from consumer finance companies to make donations totaling over ¥15 million.

After Abe’s death, it came to light that defendant Tetsuya Yamagami, 42, held a grudge against the Unification Church, stating that his mother had bankrupted the family by contributing over ¥100 million to it. Yamagami said he targeted Abe because of his alleged links to the church.

“It’s the same as us,” the Aichi man thought when he heard Yamagami’s words.

The man and his younger brother confronted their mother and pushed her to leave the organization, saying, “It’s not so far-fetched that we end up [like Yamagami].” The mother resisted, saying, “The church is not bad,” but eventually gave in and submitted an official notice of quitting the church.

The man insisted that she request that the church return the funds she had paid, but she only got back ¥50,000. Believing it was far from enough, he pressed her to sue for a larger amount, but she refused.

A look at the call log on his mother’s mobile phone revealed contacts with an individual linked to the Unification Church. He brought up the news of people suffering because of excessive donations to the church and urged her to cut all contact, but said she ignored him.

Recently, she has been deleting her call history and hiding her phone, and he cannot confirm whether she has severed ties or not. “I have no idea how to fix this problem,” he says.

A letter with no reply

The Yomiuri Shimbun
“We can’t go back to the life we had before she got involved with the cult,” says a woman in the Kanto region struggling with her relationship with her mother.
In the Kanto region, a woman in her 50s had long struggled with whether to get her mother to leave the Unification Church. The answer still eludes her.

In 1973, her older brother, who was 5 at the time, was killed in an accident. Devastated by the loss, her mother turned to the Unification Church, and made donations over the years totaling at least ¥20 million.

Initially, the woman, her father and younger sister exhorted her mother to leave the organization, but she steadfastly refused. The father and sister eventually gave up, but the woman persisted.

The conflict led to a rift between the woman and her family, and she hasn’t seen them for about five years. Her father passed away three years ago, but she was only informed after the funeral. The woman became increasingly isolated, and finally gave up on convincing her mother.

After Abe was shot, the woman considered trying again, but the fear of rejection remained and time had passed. “Even so, I want her to be aware of the problems of the church,” she thought as she had a change of heart.

In late June, with the one-year anniversary of the shooting approaching, she sent her mother a letter for the first time.

“No matter how much time passes, my impression of the Unification Church will not change. Is there any salvation in a religion that pushes people to such extremes?”

There has been no reply.

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