On July 8, 2022, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated by a shooter. Following this tragedy, Mr. Abe’s achievements during his life have been honored in Japan, as well as throughout the world, and many messages of condolence have been received from world leaders and heads of state. We offer our deepest condolences on the passing of the former Prime Minister.
We also take this tragedy very seriously after hearing reports that the suspect, who is believed to be the shooter, acted on a grudge against FFWPU. We would like to express our deepest regret for all the concern this incident has caused to our society.
Details of the motive for the suspect’s crime have yet to be officially announced by the investigation headquarters, and currently we are fully cooperating with the requests of the investigation headquarters.
As it has been announced that former Prime Minister Abe’s state funeral will be held on September 27, FFWPU will observe a time of mourning during the weeks leading up to this day, with all its members praying for Mr. Abe’s peaceful transition while spending this time in prayer and devotion to bring about a world of peace, free from violence, through God’s true love.
Immediately after former Prime Minister Abe was shot and killed by the shooter, we have received numerous reports from FFWPU members who have suffered harm by the latest news report that excessively highlight FFWPU based on unverified information that the suspect’s motive for the crime was due to the donations made by his mother.
Our churches in Japan have been subject to death threats and threatening phone calls, abusive language blasting out of sound trucks, and obstruction of assemblies, with some members of the media harassing ordinary members by going to their homes in the morning and night for interviews, which has resulted in the members’ children refusing to go to school because of the bullying they face at school or during extracurricular activities, members being forced to resign from their company because of their faith, and even some being forced to sign divorce papers at home.
As a person responsible for this religious corporation, I have spent this time wrestling with the idea of whether it was the right choice to remain silent in honor of this time of mourning. However, I have decided to hold a press conference today as there have been a number of terrible misrepresentations made in some of the recent reports that can no longer be ignored.
Looking back 13 years ago, 2009 was a major turning point for FFWPU. The economic activities of some of our members were prosecuted as criminal cases, and some of our local facilities and other properties were raided by the police in relation to these investigations. The president of FFWPU at that time took moral responsibility for the occurrence of these incidents and resigned.
Since then, we have provided basic guidelines on how sales activities should be conducted at company’s managed by members and have made concerted efforts to this day to ensure that no large donations are made in proportion to a person’s assets.
Meanwhile, the number of civil lawsuits against FFWPU have steadily decreased but have not completely ceased as of yet. Unfortunately, there are cases in which people have requested the return of a donation they once made after experiencing a decline in their faith. We have responded appropriately to these requests on a case-by-case basis.
We are aware that a lawyers’ association has announced certain statistics where they conclusively declared that all cases involving FFWPU for which they were “consulted” were cases involving “damages” but the details they submit are grossly inaccurate and unfair.
Let me draw your attention to this diagram.There were 78 legal disuputes in 1998 alone, but there are only 5 ongoing litigation cases in 2022. In addition, the number of notice letters has also decreased to one-tenth in the past decade. We will, of course, address each case with utmost care and attention.
We hope that each press organization takes the steps to verify whether the alleged number of cases involving “damages” as announced by the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales are in fact correct. We believe that is the duty of any socially responsible press organization.
Furthermore, some media outlets continue to report that the so-called “spiritual sales” that was labeled more than 30 years ago is even now being conducted. However, FFWPU has never engaged in any such “spiritual sales” in the past or even now, and since 2009, FFWPU has made every effort to ensure compliance among its members to ensure that they do not engage in any conduct that may be considered socially or legally problematic.
As has already been reported, in 2018, during the Abe administration, the revision of the Consumer Contract Act incorporated the phrase ‘spiritual sales’, and any transaction that is found to constitute spiritual sales can be revoked at any time. However, with the aforementioned strict enforcement of the compliance, none of our members have engaged in anything close to “spiritual sales” and there have been no reports of any damages.
Since 2014, FFWPU has agreed to be contacted by the Consumer Center if any consultation is made in relation to FFWPU, but since that year on record, we have not had a single case of contact from the Consumer Center for any consultation that it received.
Media coverage of the name change to FFWPU is based on distorted speculation and malicious intentions. The media has reported as if our corporation’s name was changed as a means to “conceal one’s identity” saying that “the name of the corporation was changed to hide its bad image”.
In this regard, we have already communicated our views to Japanese media officials, but unfortunately the media outlets have only redacted certain parts of their report and have not property reported on the factual background and FFWPU’s intentions that led to the name change.
Since founding the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC) in 1954, Rev. Sun Myung Moon had hoped that the day would come when he would be able to take down the HSA-UWC sign and had talked about doing so since that time.
Rev. Moon had unceasingly invested in interreligious activities in the hopes of bringing about the harmonious unification of all religions and for this purpose, launched this religion by using the Chinese character meaning “cooperation” in the name of this corporation rather than the character meaning “church.”
Then, with the ushering of such era in 1997, Rev. Moon expressed his desire to globally use the name “Family Federation for World Peace and Unification” and announced his message to all the churches worldwide. In response, the Unification Churches worldwide all at this time changed the name of their organizations.
Since then, we consulted with the relevant ministries and agencies in Japan regarding our intention to change the name of this corporation, and in 2015, we applied for certification for the alteration of the articles of incorporation in relation to the name change in accordance with the formal procedures, and on August 26, 2015, with the receipt of the official certification, the name of this religious corporation was officially changed to FFWPU.
There has been one-sided speculative reporting as if there was political pressure or intervention in relation to the certification of FFWPU’s articles of incorporation for this name change, but this is not true.
Indeed, at first, when we approached the then Agency for Cultural Affairs (hereinafter referred to as “the competent authority”) for consultation on the name change, the competent authority showed reluctance to the name change and advised us not to apply for certification for the alteration of the articles of incorporation.
However, as the “freedom of religion” guaranteed under the Japanese constitution allows a religious corporation to use whatever name it chooses, absent any extraordinary reason, such as the matter to be changed would go against the law, the competent authority has the legal obligation to certify an application for certification for the alteration of the articles of incorporation in relation to changing the name of a religious corporation once the formal requirements and procedures stipulated by law are satisfied.
Therefore, in the case FFWPU submits an application for certification for the alteration of the articles of incorporation that satisfies the formal requirements, the competent authority is obliged to certify it, and would have no choice but to certify that application.
However, as we determined that it would be best to avoid raising a dispute with the competent authority, we did not pursue an application at that time.
After that, we repeatedly consulted with the competent authority about changing the corporation’s name, but the response of the competent authority did not change. As such, In 2015, we concluded that “litigation would be unavoidable as long as the competent authority refuses the application for certification for the alteration of the articles of incorporation,” and indicated our intent to that effect to the competent authority by sending the attached Written Opinion (summary) prepared by our attorneys.
As a result, the application for certification for the alteration of the articles of incorporation in relation to the change of the corporation’s name was accepted and certified. The above summarizes the facts in this case which shows that the certification was duly processed purely as a legal issue and did not involve any form of political intervention or corruption.
At the preliminary consultation stage, we informed the relevant ministries and agencies that even if the corporation’s name is changed, we would state the name “Family Federation for World Peace and Unification” alongside the phrase “formerly known as the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity”, being the name of the so-called former Unification Church, for one year to make the change widely known to society, which has been in fact implemented in such a way.
Therefore, to criticize that we had changed the name of the corporation to conceal its identity, in other words, “to avoid public criticism” as stated by some of the media outlets, is nothing more than groundless speculation based on prejudice.
There was a case in the past where some members did not disclose the name of the church in advance at certain training facilities operated independently by such members. As we were advised that such practices would constitute covert missionary work, we have endeavored to improve such practices since 2009 by providing guidance to disclose the name of the church at the onset. Members of the Federation are now strongly aware of these guidelines when engaging in activities.
The effects of labeling activities as being covert missionary work has even spread to many of our affiliated organizations, with all of these affiliated organizations being unreasonably portrayed as being a front organization for missionary work of the former Unification Church and even now being made a target of criticism.
All of these affiliated organizations engage in activities under a clear mission and vision that are distinct from the religious activities of FFWPU, and each of these affiliated organizations engages in independent activities to build peace on a global scale with leaders from Japan and abroad who share the same goals as those of the respective organizations.
By observing the past activities and current achievements of these organizations, any person with a conscience would naturally reach the conclusion that the purpose of these organizations is not in gaining members or acquiring funds for one particular religious organization.
There is an escalation of high-handed media coverage that conclusively portray volunteer activities conducted in the spirit of service by FFWPU members as activities to gain members, or labeling any donations made to public organizations as suspicious donations. This indeed constitutes a hate speech and is a violation of human rights.
FFWPU members live their lives as citizens of Japan by working in society, paying taxes, obeying the law, and fulfilling their social responsibilities as a member of society and as a unique human being.
We strongly condemn the fake news and abusive language disseminated by a heartless media, which as hate speech, encourages religious discrimination, undermines the rights of individuals and, if anything, violates people’s freedom of religion.
Criticism has also extended to the marriages of young men and women. By saying that a person is “forced to marry someone he/she doesn’t like”, the scope of criticism has been expanded to issues involving second-generations of religions. Such criticism is also vastly different from reality.
After Rev. Moon passed away, young men and women who wish to marry are introduced to each other through their parents or colleagues and, after a certain amount of dating, participate in the marriage blessing ceremony upon mutual consent. No man or woman is ever forced against his or her will to participate in the marriage blessing ceremony.
In the past, a person was introduced to his or her enteral partner by the esteemed Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his wife, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon. Even then, participants of the marriage blessing ceremony had desired on their own volition to receive such an introduction to their partner. Now, the way in which people meet their partner in the marriage blessing has greatly changed. Please visit FFWPU’s official homepage for more information.
Although media outlets only introduce the stories of former members and report on the negative statements made by such former members, I must ask why no effort is made by the same media outlets to listen to the positive statements made by active members who strive to improve themselves through a life of faith.
To begin with, the divorce rate of couples who attended FFWPU’s marriage blessing ceremony and registered their marriage is, although unfortunately not zero, less than 2% and many of these couples are currently enjoying a happy and wholesome life. You can see that this is overwhelmingly lower compared to the 35% divorce rate in Japan today.
FFWPU members were once victimized by illegal human rights violations such as abductions, confinement and forced religious de-conversion. Members who led a life of faith were forcibly abducted and confined against their will. The total number of such cases has exceeded 4,300 since 1966, in one case a person was imprisoned for 12 years and five months before escaping, while others have committed suicide in confinement. In addition, many victims have developed PTSD and are still suffering from its effects in their daily lives.
This issue was already addressed in 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and a recommendation has been made to the Japanese government. The issue has also been mentioned many times in the International Report on Religious Freedom drawn up by the U.S. State Department which summarizes the status of religious freedom worldwide in each country.
Come this August 12, the “Summit 2022 & Leadership Conference” will be held in Seoul, Korea. The Conference will focus on religious freedom and universal human rights and discuss the serious harm caused by the abduction and confinement of FFWPU members.
We are seriously concerned that the recent biased news coverage, which represents an abnormal form of religious persecution today, will trigger hateful sentiments and cause physical harm to FFWPU members or may lead to additional harm caused by violent acts.
A number of media outlets are fueling anxiety, fear and prejudice in the audience by portraying FFWPU as being a criminal group saying that it is “the same as Aum Shinrikyo” or “the same as organized crime.” However, needless to say, there are no facts or incidents in which FFWPU has committed or encouraged murder or violence.
As we have already asked the media on several occasions, we would like to reiterate our request for accurate, fair and objective treatment in the media’s reporting, and for the media to refrain from reporting anything that is contrary to the facts or based on speculation.