On April 18, 2010, over 150 members of the Unification Church and supporters of religious freedom marched in Kurashiki City in Okayama Prefecture, near Japan’s west coast, to publicly accuse a local Japanese minister of complicity in the kidnapping and unlawful confinement of members of the Unification Church in often failed attempts to force them to abandon their faith.
According to the Unification Church Website in Japan, Pastor Masaharu Takayama, the head of the Kurashiki Grace Christian Church, attempted without success to break the faith of a Unification Church member last year. The faith-breaking victim was a young lady from Tottori Prefecture who was kidnapped in the Kurashiki area but who was rescued and returned to the Unification Church.
According to Unification Church sources, some Japanese Christian ministers use forced conversion as a means of adding to the faltering numbers of their congregations. In addition, the honorariums they receive from misguided and distressed parents are a lucrative source of side income.
“Christian ministers usually receive a payment from the parents of victims when they are asked to de-convert the victims,” according to Shunsuke Uotani, an official of the Universal Peace Federation in Japan. “The payment is estimated to be from 2 million yen to 3 million (between $20,000 and $30,000), which is a high payment relative to the normal income of a minister,” he tells familyfed.org by email.
Such instances of religious persecutions are continuing in Japan despite the country’s constitution and laws which guarantee religious freedom. Authorities tend to look the other way citing such kidnappings and abuse as family matters. But what could be a greater crime against personal choice and body integrity than the forced kidnappings and abuse being carried out in the distorted name of family matters?
(Douglas Burton contributed most of the content of this story.)