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Cutting of Ties Is How Christians Were Treated

Fumi-e

Pointed out by Tokyo Paper: The Kishida administration’s cutting of ties with minority faith evokes painful memories of horrible persecution of Christians

Sekai Nippo on LDP pressuring council
Logo of the Sekai Nippo

Tokyo, 2nd July 2024 – Published as the second article in a series in the Japanese newspaper Sekai Nippo. Republished with permission. Translated from Japanese. Original article

Series: Freedom of Religion Under Threat – The Kishida Administration’s Reckless Actions

Violating Freedom through ‘Cutting of Ties’

by the Religious Freedom Investigative Team of the editorial department of Sekai Nippo

See the first article, third article, fourth article, fifth article, sixth article, seventh article, eighth article, ninth article, tenth article

On 31st August 2022, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who had returned to official duties after being infected with the new coronavirus, held a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office and declared, in his capacity as President of the Liberal Democratic Party, a severance of ties with the Family Federation.

Motegi executed order of cutting of ties
Toshimitsu Motegi in May 2023. Photo: U.S. Department of State / Wikimedia Commons. Public domain image. Cropped

The Prime Minister announced that he had instructed Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi to ensure that party members ‘sincerely reflect on the past and sever ties with the organization, making this the party’s fundamental policy.’

At that time, did Prime Minister Kishida truly understand the serious implications of a political party that champions freedom and democracy declaring that it would sever ties with a specific religious organization? In democratic Japan, politicians are free to have a relationship to religious organizations. The exception is when the organization is an anti-social force, in which case having contact itself is problematic. However, in the case of the Family Federation, Kishida’s declaration of cutting of ties was based on the vague reasoning that it is a “socially problematic organization”.

The National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales (Zenkoku Benren) and the Communist Party (JCP) have long asserted that the Family Federation is an anti-social organization and that for a member of the Diet to have a relationship with it gives the organization “legitimacy” and serves as “advertising”. Prime Minister Kishida has completely aligned himself with this view.

Yasuhiro Nakasone
Yasuhiro Nakasone (1918-2019), Japanese Prime Minister 1982-1987. Photo: 首相官邸ホームページ / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 4.0 Int

In 1987, on 10th July, during a session in the Japanese National Diet, a Communist Party senator asked Prime Minister at the time Yasuhiro Nakasone (中曽根康弘) about the Federation for Victory over Communism (勝共連合), an organization associated with the Family Federation (then known as “Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christiany” = the Unification Church), which was causing controversy due to the “spiritual sales” issue. The senator inquired, “As Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, will you clearly state that you will sever ties with the Federation for Victory Over Communism?” Nakasone responded as follows,

“Regarding what the Liberal Democratic Party says about severing ties with certain organizations, I consider it a serious violation of freedom of thought and action. […] I think this is a manifestation of the Communist Party’s dictatorial policy.”

Nakasone understood that declaring, as the party’s president, the severance of ties with a particular organization would be a serious violation of the “freedom of thought and action” of the organization and individual Liberal Democratic Party members.

In accordance with Prime Minister Kishida’s instructions, Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi (茂木敏充) sent an eight-item questionnaire titled “Regarding Relationships with the Former Unification Church and Related Organizations” to all 379 affiliated Diet members [in both houses] and requested their response. The content included actions that are not problematic for politicians, such as “attending meetings hosted by the Former Unification Church” and “receiving volunteer support during elections”.

The Liberal Democratic Party has started to scrutinize even actions like “sending congratulatory telegrams or messages to meetings”, akin to the religious persecution of Christians during the era of religious inquisitions.

On 8th September 2022, the Liberal Democratic Party announced the results of its investigation and declared a policy to thoroughly incorporate into its governance code the severance of ties with the religious organization. This method is exactly the same as the “self-criticism” and “obedience to party discipline” demanded by the mainstream faction of the Communist Party when forcing the non-mainstream factions to submit during a policy shift.

As a national political party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has been backed by members and supporters from a wide variety of religious and ideological backgrounds. The diversity of those backgrounds has been one of the sources of the party’s vigour. Indiscriminately excluding a single religious organization is tantamount to a suicidal act for a party that advocates freedom and democracy.

See the first article, third article, fourth article, fifth article, sixth article, seventh article, eighth article, ninth article, tenth article

Featured image above: This print shows Fumi-e (踏み絵: fumi “stepping-on” + e “picture”); step on a picture with the likeness of e.g. the Cross of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. This method was used to discover practicing Christians (Kirishitan) of the Catholic Church and sympathizers, which was banned by the Tokugawa Shogunate at that time. Originally, the method of discovery itself was called efumi (絵踏), but the method itself is often called fumi-e.

People who protested or were reluctant to step upon pictures of the Virgin Mary or Christ were identified as Christian. They were taken to Nagasaki and ordered to renounce their religion, if they refused they were tortured. If they kept refusing then they were executed including by burning at the stake. The systematic persecution began in 1614 and carried out by regional governments. By the mid 17th century, the Shogunate demanded the expulsion of all European missionaries and the execution of all converts. The prosecution lasted for over 2 centuries. (Wikimedia Commons) Photo: Unknown author. Public domain image. Cropped

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Also related to cutting of ties with minority faith: Scholar Condemns Violation of Minority Rights

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