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Investigative Journalist on Big Donations

Marble vase

Investigative journalist interviews Japanese members about their big donations

Hanada February 2024
Caption of front page of Monthly Hanada February 2024.

In a series of four articles, Bitter Winter, the online magazine for human rights and religious freedom, has published an in-depth report originally written in Japanese by investigative journalist Masumi Fukuda and published by the magazine Monthly Hanada in its February 2024 issue. The report by Fukuda, who is also an award-winning author, is titled “Dissolve the Anti-Cult Lawyer Group, Not the Unification Church.” She is referring to a group of leftwing militant lawyers specializing in fabricating false “victims”.

Bitter Winter exposing forcible detentionOn 30th January 2024, Bitter Winter published the third of its four articles in English. It was headlined “Current Believers Tell Their Donation Stories”.

On part 1, part 2, part 4a of Masumi Fukuda’s report.

Masumi Fukuda, investigative journalist
Masumi Fukuda speaking in Tokyo 20th Jan. 2024. Photo: Screenshot

As mentioned in part 2, Fukuda interviewed four persons who had made significant donations to the Family Federation, formerly called the Unification Church. The donation practices of the movement were a central factor in the request for its dissolution. Among these followers, three were women and one was a man. Part 2 carries one of those interviews, part 3 the other three.

One of the individuals telling her story to investigative journalist Masumi Fukuda was Kazuko Asada (a pseudonym for a now 70-year-old woman), residing in Tokyo. She recounted her connection with the Family Federation. It began when a believer visited her home to sell a set of three seals, which led to an invitation to an exhibition where she purchased a marble vase for approximately one million yen. There was no coercion involved.

Asada’s husband’s family has a long and distinguished history spanning four hundred years. An ancestor, known for making substantial donations to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, emphasized the importance of collecting contributions from others and accumulating significant “virtue.”

Raised in a family where the value of faith was deeply ingrained, Asada joined the Family Federation (then called the Unification Church) in 1987, getting her husband, a business owner, to become a believer six months later. Together, they have donated over 100 million yen, viewing it as a means of accumulating virtue rather than mere monetary contributions.

Reflecting on her involvement, Asada expressed her astonishment upon seeing court documents related to a lawsuit concerning refund requests from disgruntled former believers. One incident involved Asada personally delivering a desired ornament to a member’s home, only for the story to be twisted by the plaintiff, alleging coercion and threats.

Despite such challenges, Asada maintains that donations are expressions of individual freedom, with the church merely informing members of upcoming projects without coercion or threats. However, she acknowledges the frustration of being faced with false accusations in legal battles, where the plaintiff’s claims often overshadow evidence presented by the church’s members.

Genri Koron
Front cover page of one version of Unification Principles in Japanese – 原理講論

Masumi Fukuda also interviewed Ryoko Shinoda (a pseudonym for a now 73-year-old woman) residing in Hiroshima City. Over the span of forty years, she donated an estimated 200 million yen to the Family Federation. Her journey with the federation began in 1983, marked by a period of personal turmoil where she sought answers in various religions but found none. It was her elder sister, a member of the Family Federation, who introduced Shinoda to the Unification Principles, sparking a newfound sense of hope within her.

Determined to delve deeper into the teachings, Shinoda started attending the church in Hiroshima City and discovered a profound belief in God‘s desire to better the world. Inspired by Reverend Moon‘s life and sacrifices for humanity’s salvation, she felt compelled to contribute to God‘s vision.

Despite initial discord with her husband, who doubted the teachings, he eventually became a believer after earnestly examining the Unification Principles. Together, they became active members, even amidst financial challenges. Their donations, totaling around 200 million yen, were fueled by their conviction in the principles of the Family Federation, rather than any form of coercion or manipulation.

Similarly, another member, a male staff member of the Family Federation, shared his journey of financial strain due to significant donations exceeding 50 million yen. Despite hardships, his wife’s unwavering enthusiasm for donations, coupled with their belief in contributing to Reverend Moon‘s mission, drove them to endure financial difficulties.

NNLASS lawyers
Central activist leftwing layers of National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales (NNLASS). From left: Masaki Kito, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Yasuo Kawai. Photo: Bitter Winter / screenshot

Both Shinoda and the male staff member emphasized their belief in supporting Reverend Moon‘s battle against what they perceived as evil authoritarian regimes, even if it meant facing criticism or misunderstanding from organizations like National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales (NNLASS), which they viewed as unfairly labeling their beliefs as “cults” and accusing them of being “brainwashed.”

They lamented the prejudice and attacks faced by religions that deviate from secular norms and highlighted the importance of protecting religious freedom as a fundamental human right. They criticized the leftwing network of lawyers (NNLASS) for their approach, which they likened to fascism, in ostracizing believers and undermining their faith-based convictions.

Featured image above: Marble vase, similar to some of those that members sold in Japan. Photo: Knut Holdhus.

On part 1, part 2, part 4a of Masumi Fukuda’s report.

“Investigative Journalist on Big Donations” – text: Knut Holdhus

More from investigative journalist: Illegalities of Activist Lawyers Exposed

Yet more from investigative journalist: Lawyers Manipulating, Coercing, Lying

Still more from investigative journalist: Journalists Point out Vicious Media Bias

Even more from investigative journalist: Militant Lawyers Dictate Government Policy

And still more from investigative journalist: Donations Issue: “God Does Indeed Need Money”

 

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