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Why a church has become a headache for Japan's PM

Reuters Videos
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1 個月前

STORY: Since the killing of Japan’s Shinzo Abe, a church has become a source of public anger.

The Unification Church is famous for its mass weddings and has been labelled by critics as a cult.

[Iasmin Lumibao, 23-year-old Bride From Macau]

"I believe that the values and our movement are important. And I think our future generation should inherit that."

For Prime Minister Fumio Kishida – it's become a political headache.

Here's why.

Abe's suspected killer bore a grudge against the church.

He alleged it bankrupted his mother, and blamed Abe for promoting it, according to his own social media posts and news reports.

Prime Minister Kishida has declared he has no ties to the church, but his approval ratings took a nosedive to their lowest level since he took office after some of his cabinet members disclosed connections.

His party - the LDP - has announced it will cut off ties with the church, and attempted to ease voter concerns with a cabinet reshuffle.

[Fumio Kishida / Japanese Prime Minister]

"I would like to address some issues related to the Unification Church. First of all, I would like to say that, I have no connection with this church as far as I know."

The church meanwhile says it’s been vilified and that members have faced death threats since Abe’s shooting.

The Unification Church was founded in South Korea in the 50s by Sun Myung Moon, an anti-communist and self-declared messiah.

Former followers say recruitment tactics include knocking on doors, targeting members' relatives, and approaching people outside train stations.

The church is said to have built ties with politicians to attract followers and gain legitimacy.

According to a spokesperson, Japan has been its biggest source of income for decades.

The church and the LDP do supposedly share some views, such as opposing same-sex marriage and supporting revision of Japan's pacifist constitution.

Abe's murder suspect said on social media that the church persuaded his mother to part with around 100 million yen - the equivalent of $736,000.

After the incident, the church said it had returned around $400,000 to the mother.

It denied coercing her and declined to comment on the total sum.

The church has also said Abe was neither a member nor an adviser.

The local head of the church called Kishida’s instruction to cut ties “very unfortunate.”

[Tomihiro Tanaka, President / Unification Church's Japan Branch]

"As to whether we have an influence over politicians in Japan or not, I think this is something that should be objectively judged by others. But it is true that we have had strong connection to politics through affiliated organizations."

Support for Kishida's cabinet has fallen to the lowest since he took office in October at 46%, according to public broadcaster NHK, with many poll respondents saying they wanted an explanation about ties to the church.

Kishida says new cabinet members and new ruling party officials must "thoroughly review" ties with the church.

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