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Harsh Reality of 4300 Forcibly Deprogrammed

Toru Goto

Kishida administration pushing for many more to be forcibly deprogrammed

6th of six parts of large Monthly Seiron report – More on part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.

Seiron Dec. 2023 p.53 on being forcibly deprogrammed
Facsimile from page 53 of Monthly Seiron Dec. 2023.

Seiron (正論), a Japanese monthly opinion magazine, carried in its December 2023 issue a large report on the vicious persecution of the Family Federation (formerly the Unification Church) in Japan.

Two parts of the report by Makiko Takita, well known journalist and editor-in-chief of the magazine, contain an interview with Toru Goto, victim of horrible abuse during more than a decade of forcible detention.

Bitter Winter exposing forcible detentionBitter Winter published this part of the report of Seiron on 24th January 2024, as the sixth of six parts of the English version of the original Japanese large report. Read the whole Bitter Winter article. More on article 1, article 2, article 3, article 4, article 5.

In this article, headlined “The Unification Church Case in Japan: The Harsh Reality of Deprogramming, Part II”, journalist and editor Makiko Takita continues her interview with Toru Goto, recounting his ordeal of being forcibly abducted from the Unification Church. Goto describes being neglected by his family during a hunger strike until he was on the brink of death. Despite pleading for a normal diet after his strike, he was subjected to further food deprivation, leading to extreme physical deterioration.

Goto describes what he went through,

“My family completely ignored me. I did not fix a term to end the third hunger strike, but my consciousness began to fade, and my breathing became increasingly labored. My mother was concerned and said to me, ‘It’s time to end it,’ but the confinement did not end. If I continued like this, I might die. Feeling that my life was in danger, I finally gave up after 30 days.

But it did not end there. In the past two hunger strikes, food was served at the end of the fasting. This time, however, I was cut off. It was unexpected. My family said, ‘What is wrong with you that you fasted on your own and asked us to serve your food? Are you stupid?’ ‘Continue until you die!’ My heart was completely broken.”

Toru Goto explains how he was treated,

“Finally, food was served. However, the food sanctions in the name of a recovery diet continued. The only food I ate each day was some watery porridge and a sport drink. This continued for another seventy days. My body was emaciated, and I was on the verge of starvation.”

Eventually, after enduring years of confinement and emotional abuse, he was abruptly expelled from the place where he was forcibly detained, leaving him physically injured and emotionally shattered.

Toru Goto released 10th Feb. 2008
The end of Toru Goto’s forcible detention 10th Feb. 2008. Photo: Japanese Victims’ Association against Religious Kidnapping and Forced Conversion

He recalls the day he was finally set free on 10th February 2008,

“My brother and his wife, my mother, and my sister all came in and sat down in front of me. The first thing my brother said to me with a stern expression on his face was, ‘Do you have any intention to admit the faults of the Unification Church?’ Everyone was silent. ‘No,’ I said. As if to confirm, my brother said, ‘Are you sure about that?’ and I said ‘Yes.’ Then my brother stared at me, his words getting stronger and more vehement shouting, ‘Then get out of here right now!’

I was so stunned by this sudden turn of events that for a moment I could not understand what my brother was saying. My brother suddenly grabbed me with a terrible look on his face. My brother-in-law, sister, and mother joined in, grabbing me by the torso, arms, and legs, lifting me, carrying me toward the front door, and forcibly pushing me outside.”

Goto’s story sheds light on the widespread practice of forcibly deprogramming church members, with an estimated 4,300 individuals subjected to such treatment. Many of those individuals were coerced into renouncing their beliefs and becoming plaintiffs in legal cases against the church.

Toru Goto details the immensity of the faith-breaking business of abducting and forcibly detaining members of the Unification Church,

“The number of Unification Church believers abducted and imprisoned by the deprogrammers and their families is estimated to be 4,300. Of these, some 3,000 were forced to apostatize.

Many of those who have been forced to apostatize, as well as their brothers, sisters, and brothers and sisters-in-law, often harbor hatred toward the church and are driven to the next stage of forced apostasy or conversion by being directed to the lawyers of the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales (National Federation of Bar Associations) and become plaintiffs in court cases. More than half of the plaintiffs in the 22 civil lawsuits (increased to 32 at the time of the request) listed in the request for the dissolution order are former believers who were forced to apostatize.”

Toru Goto
Toru Goto in 2008, barely able to move after being held in forcible detention by deprogrammers for more than 12 years. Photo: Kazuhiro Yonemoto / Japanese Victims’ Association against Religious Kidnapping and Forced Conversion

However, Goto expresses frustration at the lack of media coverage on the experiences of those who were forced to go through dreadful faith-breaking sessions and the complicity of certain individuals, including his own family members, in perpetuating these abuses.

Despite legal victories against deprogrammers and a decline in lawsuits against the church in recent years, Goto criticizes the ongoing efforts by the Cultural Affairs Agency and the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales to pursue a dissolution order against the Unification Church. He highlights the lack of transparency and fairness in these proceedings, which seem to be driven by political motives rather than genuine concerns for religious freedom.

The article concludes by urging readers to question the motives behind the dissolution order and to consider the broader implications for religious freedom in Japan. It raises concerns about the silence of other religious organizations and political leaders in the face of these attacks on freedom of belief, emphasizing the importance of defending this fundamental human right against authoritarian encroachments.

Editor of Monthly Seiron, Makiko Takita, points out, that the magazine has disclosed details that newspapers and TV stations are aware of, but don’t publish. She calls the whole process strange that led to the Kishida administration requesting the Tokyo District Court to issue an order to dissolve the Family Federation (formerly the Unification Church).

In her concluding remarks, she says,

To our horror, no objections have been raised by other religious organizations or religious people. The same is true in the political world. We wonder whether Soka Gakkai, the original parent body of the New Komeito Party, should not think that the dissolution order may create future risks for them too. Does all this mean that other religions are relieved because the government is targeting the Unification Church?”

Makiko Takita calls the steps taken by the Japanese authorities a violation of religious freedom,

“I feel a sense of crisis when I see that the whole of Japan is silent on a process trampling freedom of belief and freedom of religion without following the proper procedures and with a political agenda. What leaders of dictatorial regimes fear is people’s inner feelings. That is why they focus their efforts on shattering freedom of religion or belief. Have we lost sight of the preciousness of freedom of belief?”

“Harsh Reality of 4300 Forcibly Deprogrammed” – text: Knut Holdhus

Featured image above: Toru Goto went through 12 years and 5 months of forcible detention. Illustration:  Japanese Victims’ Association against Religious Kidnapping and Forced Conversion

Read Toru Goto’s own account of his ordeals: Heroic Battle Against Evil Japanese Practise

and Gross Human Rights Violations in Japan

More on part 1part 2part 3part 4, part 5 of the Seiron article.

More on forcibly deprogrammed: Japan: 4300 Abductions and Forcible Detentions

Even more on forcibly deprogrammed: Parents Pay for Activism of Pastors and Lawyers

Still more on forcibly deprogrammed: Forcibly Medicated to Break His Faith

Yet more on forcibly deprogrammed: Japan Criticized for Glaring Rights Violations

And still more on forcibly deprogrammed: Police Turns Blind Eye to Forcible Detention

And even more on forcibly deprogrammed: Lawyers and Deprogrammers Hand in Hand

And yet even more on forcibly deprogrammed: In the Clutches of Abusive Deprogrammers

And still more on forcibly deprogrammed: Father Tricked by Deprogrammers to Kidnap Son


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