OSAKA — A petition calling for freedom of belief for children whose parents have joined the Federation of Families for World Peace and Unification — better known as the Unification Church — is underway online.
The petition aims to draw attention to the problem of children who suffer because of the spiritual beliefs of their parents.
Family members of people such as those who have repeatedly made large donations to the Unification Church have begun to speak out following the shooting death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The suspect in this case said he was angry with the religious group.
The hashtag promoting freedom of religion for “shukyo nisei”, i.e. the children of those who have joined a religious group, was started by one such person active on social media under the pseudonym of Miyuki Takahashi .
Takahashi’s parents are followers of the Unification Church and married in a mass wedding in which the group associates strangers. Takahashi learned the group’s doctrines at an early age and grew up in poverty because his parents kept donating. Takahashi was once forced to break up with someone he was dating due to the church’s ban on freely chosen romantic relationships. Takahashi was even forced to fast as punishment.
Takahashi has apparently heard of cases in which parents have become so engrossed in their faith that they neglect their children. In the petition, Takahashi calls for laws prohibiting parents from forcing their children to participate in religious activities and recognizing violation of religious freedom as a form of abuse.
The petition – which can be viewed at https://change.org/shukyo2sei – had garnered over 37,000 signatures as of July 30. While emphasizing that Abe’s murder is “absolutely unforgivable,” Takahashi said, “I don’t want children to suffer anymore because of the beliefs of their parents. I want society to recognize that this is too much. (for children of followers) to solve on their own, and to improve the situation.
The Unification Church told the Mainichi Shimbun: “We are aware that there are second-generation members who are complaining, and we are working hard to establish a consultation system by assigning people in charge of the matter. to all our churches. past excesses, such as the so-called “divination fraud”, we do not forget to provide care, and we will continue to strive not to inflict emotional scars.”
(Japanese original by Yuki Noguchi, Osaka City News Department)