yAban was still struggling to understand the violence Shinzo Abe’s death When the man suspected of killing gave information to the police, it shocked the country’s political establishment.
Tetsuya Yamagami said he shot Abe because of the former prime minister Links to the Unification Church, also known as the Moonies, who blamed him for the bankruptcy of his family. Yamagami’s mother, an old member of the church, reportedly gave her 100 million yen [£618,000] In donations two decades ago, drowning their families in poverty.
Three weeks after Abe’s death, details emerged showing the church’s ties to politicians extending far beyond Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, angering voters and raising questions about its impact on the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s policies on gender equality and sexual diversity.
The daily revelations that ruling and opposition party lawmakers have tried to woo the Church — from attending events to recruiting its members to campaign — in exchange for mobilizing voters has rocked the incumbent Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, and his party just weeks after their election. comfortable victory in Senate elections.
An opinion poll published by Kyodo News on Sunday showed that support for the Kishida government fell by more than 12 percentage points to 51% in a matter of weeks. In addition, more than 53% of respondents said so He opposed plans to hold a state funeral for Abe next month.
In a letter to an anti-church blogger sent the day before the attack, Yamagami said the teens had been devastated by “overspending, family turmoil, and bankruptcy” on his mother’s part, adding that her loyalty to the Unification Church had “disfigured my whole life”.
The letter, reported by Japanese media, accused Abe of being one of the church’s most influential supporters. During interrogation, he also reportedly blamed Nobusuke Kishi, Abe’s grandfather and post-war prime minister, for promoting the church in Japan in the 1960s as a countermeasure against communism and trade unions.
The church, known for holding mass weddings in sports fields, was founded in South Korea In 1954 by Reverend Sun Myung Moon, a self-proclaimed Christ who preached new interpretations of the Bible and conservative values, including a strong anti-communist streak.
In a video message last year to the World Peace Federation, an affiliated group, Abe praised the group for its focus on family values. “We must be wary of so-called revolutionary social movements with parochial values,” he said.
However, there is no evidence that Abe was a member of the Church, which also had relationships with other influential conservatives, including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and Donald Trump.
She found a direct ally in Kishi, an alleged war criminal against whom no charges were brought, whose conservative and right-wing social policies mirrored those of Sun Myung Moon, whom he met near Mount Fuji in 1967 to discuss their anti-communist mission.
Those same shared values maintain the current relationship between the church, whose members are often referred to as Moniz, and the Liberal Democratic Party, according to Professor Mark Mullins, director of the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Auckland.
“Conservative LDP politicians share some values with the UC — their anti-communism and, more recently, family values, including opposition to same-sex marriage,” Mullins said.
While lawmakers from the Liberal Democratic Party frequently publicize their ties to him Shinto prefecture and other organizations, “it seems that they weren’t keen on having their affiliation with the Unification Church more widely known,” Mullins added.
“This may be related to the negative image of the church due to complaints and lawsuits by former members about deceptive and highly pressured fundraising and recruitment activities.”
Despite its Korean origins, the church has found fertile ground in Japan, where it is said to have hundreds of thousands of members.
The National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, a group of 300 lawyers representing people who claim they have suffered financial damage because of the church, accuses it of brainwashing believers into handing out huge sums of money.
The network has received 34,000 complaints of “lost” money totaling more than 120 billion yen (£742 million) since 1987 – a claim the church has vehemently denied.
Lawyers have repeatedly asked Abe and other LDP lawmakers to stop sending congratulatory messages or appearing at events organized by the church, which now calls itself the Federation for Peace and Unification Worldwide, and its affiliates. They protested when Abe sent a telegram for a Unification Church mass wedding in 2006.
“Members are pressured every day to make donations,” said Hiroshi Yamaguchi, one of the lawyers. “They tell you that karma is tied to money, and that donations are the only way to save yourself. So you think you have to do it.”
He added, “It is not a simple religious organization… It has repeatedly stressed the importance of its political and media activities, as well as its religious image.”
Toshimitsu Motegi, the LDP’s general secretary, denied the party had any institutional links with the church, but said individual politicians should be “more careful” about their ties to the organisation.
They include Defense Minister – and Abe’s younger brother – Nobu Keshi, who said church members campaigned for him in the elections. Satoshi Ninoyo, head of the National Public Safety Committee, admitted that he helped organize an event for a church-related group in 2018, while Education Minister Shinsuke Sumatsu acknowledged that church members paid to attend a fundraiser he hosted. Opposition politicians also acknowledged links with the church.
“Abe’s assassination shines a spotlight on the Unification Church,” said Koichi Nakano, a professor of politics at Sophia University in Tokyo. “The Church’s relationship with right-wing factions in the Liberal Democratic Party and its far-right policies could come under close scrutiny.”