Children of Unification Church followers began talking about how they endured a difficult and confusing childhood plagued by financial hardship and strict rules.
The religious organization is in the limelight after the shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the man suspected of killing him, Tetsuya Yamagami, harboring strong resentment against the religious group, as he believed the large donations from his mother had plunged his family into economic ruin.
Yamagami, who was arrested on suspicion of murder for the July 8 attack in Nara, believed Abe was close to the group, officially named the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.
A woman in Tokyo in her 30s shared her own personal experiences and feelings on her Twitter account because she thinks society should have a better understanding of what it was like to grow up in a family that zealously followed the organizational lessons.
She was born to parents who married in one of the Unification Church’s mass weddings and grew up in an apartment building where many other followers lived. Followers adored children like her who were born into the faith.
She got up at 5 a.m. every day to kneel and pray before a portrait of the group’s founder, Sun Myung Moon.
The woman remembers feeling superior to others when she was in elementary school because she lived a “special” life.
But soon after entering high school, she became confused when she realized that others didn’t share her belief system.
“I became unable to tell which side was right. What society said was right was completely different from the values taught by the Unification Church,” she said.
She came to feel uneasy about what her parents kept saying, “Satan is in the outside world.
The woman and her parents clashed violently when she started seeing a man with no religious affiliation.
Her mother was outraged that her daughter had been “tricked by Satan”, and even called her boyfriend’s house to protest.
The woman eventually married another man, who is also not a follower, although they never had an official ceremony. Her parents did not accept her decision and refused to meet her husband.
“It’s sad that my parents don’t approve of my marriage,” she said.
A relative of Yamagami and family members said his mother donated more than 100 million yen ($735,000) to the Unification Church.
Large donations to the organization like this would have been common practice.
The woman said her parents told her they had given enough money to buy a house.
When she learned of the atrocities allegedly committed by Yamagami, she felt she should not look away. The woman is determined to keep asking about the band on social media.
“I wish people had accurate knowledge to prevent discrimination and prejudice,” she said.
A Tokyo man in his thirties said the children of the organization’s followers were “poor by default”.
The man said his parents gave the organization an envelope bearing a cash ‘thank you’ donation whenever they attended a service or whenever an event was held, in addition to regularly giving a tenth of their income.
He too donated a tenth of his winnings.
He said his family had no savings. His parents, without asking him first, donated millions of yen given to him in financial aid by a vocational school he planned to attend.
After she started working, her parents kept asking her for money. He rarely keeps in touch with his parents now.
The man thinks that the violent act that Yamagami is accused of is totally unforgivable. Law enforcement is still investigating his motives for the attack.
But he said he could imagine what it would be like to have to live in economic hardship if he became impoverished because of these donations.
“I want to talk and help improve the situation,” he said.
Following the murder, a child of church worshipers launched an online signature collection campaign on July 9 calling for legislation to protect children’s rights, especially their religious freedom and the pursuit of happiness.
As of July 22, more than 34,000 people had backed the initiative, up from 100 in the last such effort two years ago.
“After the attack, many people became aware of the problems faced by children whose rights have been violated since they were born entangled in religion,” the petitioner said.
The individual plans to submit the collected signatures to the central government and politicians.
Kimiaki Nishida, a professor of social psychology at Rissho University who has researched the Unification Church, said it is easy to see why the second generation of followers seized this opportunity to raise their voices. his voice.
“First, their friends and experts should listen to what they have to say as equals because it is not easy to break their relationship with their parents,” he said.
Nishida also called on Japan to create an entity similar to the French anti-cult association, known as UNADFI, which has a national support network for victims, with subsidies from the French government.
UNADFI provides psychological care and assistance to families and people who have left a cult in their search for employment and their return to society.
An official from the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification admitted in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun that for about five years he became aware that second generation followers were trying to flee while criticizing him on social networks.
The official said he feared the number of such people jumped after the shooting.
“We understand second-generation subscribers are anxious,” the manager said. “They are the ones who will support the future of the Church. If things stay as they are, the survival of the church will be at stake. We must consider their feelings.