Japanese Unification Church Member Missing

Written by Mary Soon Ae Henkin
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 19:33

On April 27 “T.I.” (whose name is protected for privacy) was apparently abducted against his will. He had three cell phones, an unusually high number for a college student, even in technology-rich Japan. One was for everyday use, one was a back-up phone, and one’s specific purpose was its GPS locator. T.I. knew about cases involving parents kidnapping their adult child to reverse their decision to join the Unification Church. He was prepared for this possibility.

A senior in the College of Science and Engineering at Kanazawa University, 21-year-old T.I. is an adult under Japanese law, which guarantees his right to religious freedom, including the right to adopt a religion which is different from one’s family of origin. T.I. joined the Unification Church’s Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP) in April, 2011. He then moved into a CARP dormitory that summer.

T.I. informed his family about his affiliation with CARP in June, 2012. His mother reportedly became distraught and asked him to leave the dormitory as soon as possible. His father also opposed to his choice of religion, but did not pressure him about it. While T.I. continued living in the CARP dormitory, he maintained regular communication with his family and informed them that he had received a solid job offer from a non-church company to employ him after his graduation.

Unification Church member Mr. S. lives in the same neighborhood as T.I.’s family. When T.I. visited home last New Year’s Day, he asked Mr. S. for help in case T.I.’s parents were to kidnap him.

The plan proved necessary when T.I. visited home on April 27th to celebrate his younger brother’s acceptance to a university. Around 2 p.m. Mr. S. received an email from the GPS locator-equipped cell phone. “The buzzer was pushed! Please contact,” was all it read—a pre-arranged signal for trouble.

The GPS locator showed that the email was sent from T.I.’s parents’ house. However, a CARP staff member’s immediate phone call to the house went unanswered. Mr. S. visited the house that evening to find it empty.

Families and ‘’deprogrammers’’ abducting adults because of their religious belief is a common occurrence in Japan. Forced de-conversion in Japan was highlighted as a "thematic-issue" in the April U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Annual Report. Police tend to stay out of the cases, believing them to be a family matter. A current civil court case involving Mr. Toru Goto, who was allegedly held against his will by his family for 12 years in a small apartment, is being closely watched by the international human rights community. Prosecutors refused to press criminal charges in the case despite Mr. Goto’s appeals that his civil rights and personal liberty had been violated