The former Prime Minister was assassinated because false information was spread about him.
by Haruhisa Nakagawa*
*Note: We translate, with the authorization of the author, an article published on September 22 in the Christian web magazine SALTY by a well-known Japanese theologian, who is the Executive Secretary of the Tokyo Institute of Christian Theology and the President of Japan Christian Theological Institute. He is also a historical opponent of the Unification Church.
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The Japanese government is said to be submitting a request for the dissolution of the Unification Church as a religious corporation to the court as early as October. I have been observing this organization from a critical perspective for twenty-five years, and I have written several articles about it. However, what constantly strikes me in the midst of this is the gap between public perception and the actual situation. Initially, individuals like Yoshio Arita, Eight Suzuki, and Professor Kimiaki Nishida, who were close to [anti-Unification-Church] lawyer Masaki Kito, appeared on television and discussed this issue. To me, it seemed that only one of the groups fighting on the issue was presenting its own opinions, and I expected that positions from different angles would eventually emerge. However, it appears that there has not been any sign of a brake being applied, and the conversation has swiftly moved in one direction before anybody could stop it.
I could understand the intention of the National Network of Lawyers against Spiritual Sales (NNLSS) to influence public opinion and push the government to file a dissolution request. However, usually, there should be debates involving both sides and opposing views, with room for direction adjustments and corrections. In this case, the information circulating in the media seems to excessively emphasize one perspective only. To me, it appears as if the opinion of one group is dominating the entire discourse.
To borrow the words of theologian Hans Küng, who participated as an expert in the Second Vatican Council, “A half-truth is also a half-lie.” Especially in matters of religion, we must not allow public discussions to result in the same kind of sensationalism as scandals involving celebrities or politicians that stir up public opinion. We should be more careful. This issue, in particular, has escalated since the assassination of former Prime Minister Abe, and a significant amount of misinformation has accumulated. Therefore, the issue should be considered more in-depth than it currently happens.
False information and its sources led to the death of former Prime Minister Abe
There has been a narrative suggesting that former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had a “deep relation” with the Unification Church, which led an individual, who believed this was the case, to take extreme actions and ultimately resulted in the assassination of Abe.
In my opinion, the term “relation” itself is broad enough. It can include various types of relations such as “neighborly relationships,” “friendship,” “acquaintance,” and even “conflict,” “hostility,” and “a generic relationship with others.” Therefore, I deliberately wrote three articles with the strong title “Abe Had No Relation with the Unification Church.” Now, one year has passed since that tragic shooting incident, and I believe everyone can see that what I was writing was correct.
So, it is important to look at who was speaking the truth and who was spreading falsehoods in this issue and consider changing our sources of information. False information and unreliable sources led to irreversible consequences. The tragedy that has already occurred cannot be undone, but we can change false information and information sources. If we don’t even do that, it would indeed be a matter of acting “against humanity.”
1.The video message by former Prime Minister Abe sent to UPF (Universal Peace Federation)
There are individuals who have propagated the idea that former Prime Minister Abe had a deep involvement with Unification-Church-related organizations based on the fact that he sent a video message to a UPF gathering. However, it is important to note that UPF stands for “Universal Peace Federation,” an international NGO with consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
Prominent figures from around the world, including former President Trump and other leaders of major countries, have sent messages to UPF events. Figures like Vice President Pence and Secretary Pompeo of the U.S. Republican Party have even attended UPF events in South Korea. In this context, we must recognize that this was considered acceptable on a global scale. Thinking of the situation, we can say that Abe’s sending a video comparably indicates a relation that had nothing special. In other words, the attempt to sensationalize and present Abe’s video message as a special relationship with the Unification Church was an exaggeration and should be corrected.
2.The full text of the video message sent to UPF
When you look at the full text of the video message, it neither praises the Unification Church nor does it express a special veneration for its leader, President Hak Ja Han. Only a part of the polite expressions directed towards UPF— “in honoring Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon and all of you, I would like to express my profound thanks for your tireless efforts through UPF in resolving disputes in the world, especially in relation to the peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula.”—was isolated and became widely known. In fact, I have never seen a Japanese person who does not include polite words when giving greetings. It is perfectly normal to use polite expressions, and it is a mistake to claim that “Abe had a relationship with the Unification Church” based solely on this video message.
3.The claim that former Prime Minister Abe received 50 million yen as payment from UPF
Journalist Eight Suzuki has claimed that former Prime Minister Abe received 50 million yen as appearance fee from UPF, but there is no evidence whatsoever to support this claim. Despite mentioning “inside information,” no substantiation for the appearance fee has emerged. UPF has also denied this allegation. Nevertheless, false information continues to be disseminated by individuals influenced by Eight Suzuki’s statements, and this misinformation is still being believed by some.
4. Claims by Eight Suzuki regarding former Prime Minister Abe’s invitation of Chairman Tokuno from the Unification Church to the Prime Minister’s residence
Eight Suzuki, who claims to have inside information from the religious group, claimed that, “In early June 2016, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe invited Eiji Tokuno, the President of the Unification Church and the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, along with the wife of Chairman So Yon Chon, to the Prime Minister’s Residence.” However, the Prime Minister’s daily schedule is meticulously recorded. When examining the Prime Minister’s schedule for early June 2016, it appears highly unlikely that the meeting happened on any day except the 3rd and the 8th of June. Even if Tokuno was invited to the Prime Minister’s Residence on either of those days, the meeting would have lasted only twenty minutes. It would be difficult to imagine that a close and deep relationship could develop in just twenty minutes. Furthermore, Tokuno himself has stated that he was not invited to the Prime Minister’s Residence.
Amidst the proliferation of such rumors, former Prime Minister Abe met his tragic end. However, the erroneous information and its sources have remained unchanged and uncorrected, frequently causing a sensation whenever these rumors are associated with the Unification Church. In reality, there should be a stern call for “Enough!”
However, there does not seem to be any such consideration concerning the Unification Church issue, and it appears that the campaign against it is continuing as it is.
Of course, as someone who upholds orthodox Christian doctrine, I have been observing the Unification Church from a critical position. However, the current situation is drastically different from what I know, and it has left me astonished.
There have been situations in the past where the public outcry led the government to take action, and this is not something new. However, this time, it involves a “religious” issue. In the cases of the Recruit scandal and the Moritomo Gakuen issue, when time passed and the public forgot, the only thing that remained was the media frenzy when the lid was finally lifted. However, this time, it is not permitted. In terms of the gravity of the matter, this should be completely different from the past issues where the government was involved and influenced by the sensation caused by media. The level of significance is distinct between the government initiating the dissolution of a religious corporation and requesting the dissolution of a private organization. This is the first religious persecution in the post-war history, and it could also greatly undermine Japanese constitutionalism.