Freedom of religion, thought and conscience is the most basic human right. If one is not free to choose one’s own beliefs, then one is not free at all. It is for this reason that the United Nations recognized in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, alone or in community with others, and, in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. Forced conversion is the act or attempt to change a person’s faith, belief or religious affiliation under duress by subjecting a person to involuntary confinement and threatening physical, psychological, social, or financial deprivation or harm. Forced conversion is the antithesis of religious freedom.
Shockingly, this criminal and immoral act is happening today not only where one might expect it in Darfur (against Christians and African religionists), Communist China (against Falun Gong practitioners), or Egypt (against Coptic Christians), but also in the advanced democratic nation of Japan. Over the past 45 years, an estimated 4,300 followers of the Unification Church (UC) have been subjected to this or similar criminal practices. Scores of Jehovah’s Witnesses have also been victimized.
More than 1,300 members of the UC have returned to their religious communities recounting tales of kidnapping, forced confinement, beatings, food deprivation, harassment, rape and other heinous and humiliating acts in an attempt to convince or force them to renounce their faith.
Japanese police have refused to investigate cases in which adult UC members have been kidnapped, on the grounds that it is a “family matter.” Japanese prosecutors have declined to press charges for similar reasons. Japanese courts and authorities have failed to provide redress in numerous cases.
Shamefully, clergy members of various churches in Japan have condoned, advised, aided and abetted the kidnappers, and have often participated in attempts at forced conversion.
Many UC members were even confined in mental hospitals until this was ruled illegal.
Ministers and other faith-breakers often charge large fees for their illegal services.
Mr. Toru Goto, (please see photo above) head of the Japanese Victim's Association against Religious Kidnapping and Forced Conversion, was held for 12 years and 5 months from September 11, 1995 to February 11, 2008. He was detained in a prison-like room and subjected to daily pressure to renounce his faith with invective and assaults. At the end of Mr. Goto’s confinement, he was severely malnourished and had to be hospitalized for 50 days to recover.
One UC member, trying to escape from a sixth-floor apartment where he was confined, suffered severe loss of memory when he fell.
At least one woman was repeatedly raped by her "deprogrammers."
Another woman was so demoralized and desperate that she committed suicide.
Widespread cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have been reported among victims who returned to the Church and those who renounced their faith.
Many marriages were broken as a result of victims being required to renounce their church-sanctioned marriages. A husband and a one-year-old daughter were kidnapped and coercively converted out of the church, leaving the pregnant wife and a child being born into a broken home. She is still waiting for a chance to meet her abducted child, while raising her other child by herself.
Religious Freedom and Japanese Law
“Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all.”
- Article 20, Japanese constitution
“Anyone who would arrest or confine other individuals unlawfully shall be subject to imprisonment…”
- Article 220, Japanese Penal Code
“A person who, by intimidating another through a threat to another's life, body, freedom, reputation or property or by use of assault … or hinders the other from exercising his or her rights, shall be punished by imprisonment… “
- Article 223, Japanese Penal Code
Produced by the International Coalition for Religious Freedom
For more information, visit our web site at www.religiousfreedom.com