Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity
1-1-2, Shoto, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0046 Japan Phone: 03-3467-3181 / Fax: 03-3468-6054
Stop Religious Kidnapping and Forced Conversion in Japan
August 17, 2009
Mr. Toru Goto, who is visiting the United States at this time, was forcibly abducted and confined against his will for 12 years and five months from September 11, 1995 to February 11 in 2008 in an attempt to break his faith as a member of the Unification Church. During this entire time, he was kept indoors, isolated, and pressured to renounce his religion. By the end of his confinement, was severely undernourished and had to be hospitalized for 50 days to recover. Inexplicably, nearly a year after his case was referred to police, prosecutors have filed no charges against the perpetrators of this crime.
Mr. Goto is by no means alone in his plight. More than 4,000 members of the Unification Church of Japan have been illegally confined by their families and "deprogrammers" since 1966 in an attempt to make them leave the religion which they, as adults, freely chose to join. Those who escaped their captors report that every case involved the use of force, prison-like conditions, deprival of the right to communicate with the outside world, and an intense effort to pressure the believer to change his or her faith. Part of the required "rehabilitation" process involved taking actions against one’s former co-religionists, such as publicly denouncing the church, providing names of other members, participating in the "deprogramming" of other captives, and engaging in lawsuits against their former religious associates.
Several members were illegally confined in mental hospitals, until this was ruled illegal. Most were held in specially designed confinement places which made escape difficult or impossible. Many nevertheless escaped, often at great personal risk. One, while trying to escape from a sixth-floor apartment where he was confined, suffered severe loss of memory when he fell. One woman was repeatedly raped by her "deprogrammers." Another became so demoralized and desperate that she committed suicide. 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 taken child, while raising her other baby by herself.
These are but a few of hundreds of tragic stories. Other believers, with no other choice, pretended to renounce their faith and were finally able to escape their captors after security was relaxed. Many victims, including both those who returned to the church and those who did not, as well as their family, suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other long-term damage as a result of their ordeal. Yet, despite many cases being referred to the police, not a single case has been prosecuted to this date. While religious kidnapping and forced conversion through "deprogramming" are a thing of the past in the US and Europe, abduction of believers still occur frequently in Japan today. Many members, in fear of being kidnapped by their own family members, hide their faith. There are those who emigrated to their spouse’s country such as Korea and the United States, and don’t return in fear of religious kidnapping in Japan. We therefore appeal to the leaders of the United States and the international human rights community to support the campaign for justice for Toru Goto and hundreds of other victims in Japan. A clear signal must be sent to those who perpetrate these crimes that their behavior will not be tolerated, so that there will be no more tragedies of a second and third "Mr. Goto".