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Japan Censured at Religious Freedom Event

IRF Summit luncheon panel 31st Jan. 2024

Japan censured by religious freedom champions at Washington summit

Sekai Nippo points out media bias
Logo of the Sekai Nippo

Tokyo, 2nd February 2024 – Published as an article in the Japanese newspaper Sekai Nippo. Republished with permission. Translated from Japanese. Original article

Former U.S. officials ‘cannot accept’ Japanese government’s former Unification Church dissolution request:

International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, U.S.

by Yosuke Yamazaki

On 31st January, the second day of the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit aimed at promoting religious freedom worldwide, held in the capital Washington DC, saw harsh criticism from former U.S. government officials and scholars regarding the Japanese government’s issuance of a request to dissolve the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (formerly known as the Unification Church) in October of last year.

Katrina Lantos Swett
Katrina Lantos Swett at the special luncheon 31st Jan. 2024 at the IRF Summit. Photo: Screenshot from live transmission.

Katrina Lantos Swett, co-chair of the summit and chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) 2012-2013 and 2014-2015, pointed out during a panel discussion at the luncheon that the Japanese government’s response to the Unification Church had reached an “unacceptable level.” She stated, “There is a saying, ‘If you’re a friend, don’t let your friend drive drunk.’ Japan is in a situation where it is indeed trying to drive while intoxicated,” indicating the necessity for the United States to advise Japan.

Furthermore, she also appealed that “targeting specific faith communities or imposing collective punishment is not acceptable.”

Jan Figel
Jan Figel at the special luncheon 31st Jan. 2024 at the IRF Summit. Photo: Screenshot from live transmission.

Jan Figel, former European Union Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, noted that the movement led by the Japanese Communist Party and leftist lawyers to dissolve the Unification Church has a “half-century history” and has now reached “a very dangerous stage.” He warned, “Freedom of religion is the litmus test for all human rights. If this is not respected, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and association will undoubtedly be restricted, suppressed, and violated.”

More from Jan Figel’s speech.

The luncheon was co-sponsored by The Washington Times Foundation and the Universal Peace Federation (UPF). In addition to the panel discussion, Suzan Johnson Cook, who served as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom in the Obama administration, Massimo Introvigne, representative of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), and Cole Durham, Honorary Professor at Brigham Young University Law School, shared their opinions. Subsequently, a declaration in support of religious freedom in Japan was signed.

Japan censured by Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich delivering message 31st Jan. 2024. Photo: Screenshot from live transmission.

Furthermore, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich sent a video message, stating, “What we discovered was that the dissolution effort was really started by the Japanese Communist Party, which as early as 1978 began attacking the Unification Church because the Church’s God-affirming message was directly contrary to the atheistic beliefs of the Japanese Communist Party ” He further asserted, “We have to make sure that the Japanese government understands that this is a key test of the future of Japan, a key test of the future of religious liberty.”

Read the speech of Newt Gingrich

Mike Johnson
Mike Johnson at the IRF Summit 31st Jan. 2024. Photo: Yosuke Yamazaki.

At the summit on the same day, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson also delivered a speech, condemning China for “forcibly placing Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong practitioners in labor camps and having their organs harvested by the Chinese Communist Party” He also mentioned, “In the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, there is genocide (mass killings) being carried out against Islamic minority groups through forced sterilizations, forcible detentions, and re-education.” He emphasized, “The United States has both the opportunity and the obligation to prevent mass atrocities and punish those who commit them.”

Text: Yosuke Yamazaki

Featured image above: On January 31st, a panel discussion was held at the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit in Washington DC, U.S.A., discussing the Japanese government’s request for the dissolution of the former Unification Church. From left to right: Suzan Johnson Cook, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom; Massimo Introvigne, director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR); Jan Figel, former European Union (EU) Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief; Cole Durham, Honorary Professor at Brigham Young University Law School; and Katrina Lantos Swett, co-chair of the summit Photo: Yosuke Yamazaki.

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