Statement Regarding Forced Conversion
and Religious Kidnapping in Japan
March 10, 2010
The International Coalition for Religious Freedom is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to defending the religious freedom of all, regardless of creed, gender or ethnic origin. The ICRF seeks to promote the vision of religious freedom found in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, alone or in community with others, and, in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
In this context we express our deep continuing concern regarding the long-term failure of the government of Japan to protect the rights of members of the Unification Church in that country. A reported 4,300 UC members have been victims of a systematic campaign of kidnapping, illegal confinement and forced conversion over the past three decades. Some 1300 of these have escaped and returned to their religious communities. The US State Department has reported on this issue regularly since the year 2000 in its annual International Religious Freedom Report. Yet Japan still refuses to enforce its laws against kidnapping and false imprisonment and routinely dismisses the persecution of UC members as a mere “family matter” despite the fact that the victims are adults with universally recognized human rights protecting them from illegal confinement and guaranteeing their right to adopt the religion of their choice. Police should be investigating cases where UC members are confined to determine their whereabouts and liberate them, but they refuse to do so. Numerous victims report that police even cooperated with their captors rather than helping the victims. Prosecutors, too, have failed to perform their duties, choosing not to indict the perpetrators in at least 16 documented cases over the past two decades. Not one person has been criminally indicted in any case involving the kidnapping and forced conversion of a UC member despite substantial evidence and the clear identification of the perpetrators.
One of the most egregious of these cases was that of Toru Goto, who was held for more than 12 years in and near Tokyo. Mr. Goto has testified about his experience directly to us, as well as to the US State Department and members of the US Congress. We find his testimony compelling and we are absolutely shocked that prosecutors, who dismissed his case in December 2009, refused to hold the perpetrators accountable. We call for his case to be re-opened immediately so that the criminals who held him prisoner and treated him so inhumanly for more than a decade can be brought to justice.
We also demand that Japanese police departments immediately begin cooperating with UC communities to locate and liberate those held captive at this time. At least five women are known to be missing as of this writing, not including those who, like Mr. Goto, were forced to write letters of resignation from the church but remained confined because they had not demonstrated to their captors’ satisfaction that they had truly recanted.
Japan is in many was an exemplary nation where human rights are concerned. But in this matter, its behavior clearly fails to live up to international standards. We therefore urge those in the human rights community--including international organizations, NGOs, national parliaments, diplomatic missions, faith leaders, and all people of conscience--to join the growing outcry and urge Japan to uphold the principle of religious freedom. To maintain its reputation in the community of nations, Japan must stop its willful negligence with regard to the human rights of members of the Unification Church.
Dan G. Fefferman
Dan Fefferman, President