The suspected gunman, Tetsuya Yamagami, told police his mother was financially ruined after being pressured to donate large sums of money to a religious group, according to Japanese news reports.
Tomihiro Tanaka, who heads the church’s Japanese branch, told a press conference on Monday that Yamagami’s mother joined the organization in 1998, then left for a while and returned home this year. . A church official said he had no information about the mother’s donations to the organization and had no record of Yamagami himself having ever belonged to the church. Police have yet to name the religious organization.
On Tuesday, Japanese media reported that bullet holes were found on the facade of the Unification Church building in Nara. The suspect told investigators he tested his gun there before shooting Abe, according to Japanese television broadcaster Fuji News Network.
The Unification Church controls dozens of ministries in Japan, including one in Nara, a few hundred yards from where Abe was shot on Friday.
Abe, like many other world leaders, had appeared at Unification Church-related events as a paid speaker, most recently in September on a show that also featured former President Donald Trump, who spoke via video link.
In his remarks at the “Rally of Hope,” hosted by Moon’s widow, Hak Ja Han Moon, known in unification circles as the “real mother,” Trump called her a “great person. and praised “his incredible work on in the name of peace around the world. He added thanks to the two Moons: “The inspiration they have caused for the entire planet is incredible.” Sun Myung Moon died in 2012, and since then his wife and children have fought for control of his businesses and other organizations.
On the same program Trump spoke on, Abe expressed to Hak Ja Han Moon “my deepest thanks for your tireless efforts to resolve disputes in the world, especially with regard to the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula”.
Sun Myung Moon, who called himself a messiah, preached that Jesus asked him to continue his work on Earth.
Throughout its history, the Moon Church and its affiliates have paid top dollar to attract world political leaders, celebrities and prominent clergy from other faiths to speak at conferences, of a long-running campaign to gain credibility by associating unification organizations with famous and respected personalities. .
“They’ll pay for whoever gives them legitimacy,” Larry Zilliox, a longtime researcher specializing in Moon’s business and political initiatives in the United States and around the world, said Saturday. “Big names attract small names, people who can help them with their local projects.”
In the mid-1990s, for example, former presidents George HW Bush and Gerald Ford, as well as comedian Bill Cosby and former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, spoke at Moon-sponsored conferences in Japan and Washington. . Bush spoke out just months after a Japanese court awarded more than $150 million in damages to thousands of Japanese people who sued the Unification Church and a Moon-owned company, Happy World , after being forced to give millions of dollars to guarantee their deceased loved ones. ‘ happiness in the afterlife.
(After the Washington Post reported on his appearance, Bush decided to donate his speaking fees, which at the time usually amounted to around $80,000, to charity.)
For more than six decades, the Unification Church and its various offshoots have relied on Japan as a profit center that has helped subsidize their operations around the world, including in the United States, according to several studies by the church by academics and government investigators.
Even though some of Moon’s most famous initiatives, such as the Washington Times newspaper and media companies in many other countries, lost money, the church could rely on its Japanese branch to produce a significant revenue stream. based primarily on what she called “spiritual sales”. ”
Church members in Japan would “scan obituaries and knock on people’s doors and tell them that ‘your deceased loved one has contacted us and they want you to go to your bank and send money to the Unification Church so that your loved one can be lifted up into the spirit world,” Steve Hassan, a former Unification Church member turned mental health counselor and author of books on destructive cults, said on Saturday. .
Despite the church’s roots in Korea, it is Japan that has traditionally provided up to 70% of the church’s wealth, according to historians who have studied the church. A former high-ranking Japanese church member once told the Post that Moon’s organizations brought $800 million from Japan to the United States between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s.
‘Moon sent bags of money, big bags, stacks and stacks of hundreds, from Korea and Japan to midtown Manhattan,’ one of the church’s main properties in New York, a source said. former Unification executive Ron Paquette to the Post in 1997. “Whenever we asked where the money came from, the answer was that it just came from ‘Father,'” the term members of the church used to refer to Moon.
In Japan, it was common for many years to see unificationists selling ginseng products and religious items such as miniature stone pagodas made by Moon-owned companies in Korea. The church members’ hard-selling tactics, along with their claims that their products hold spiritual powers, have led to class action lawsuits in Japan, with hundreds of plaintiffs winning settlements.
Akihiko Kurokawa, the leader of a small political party in Japan, the NHK party, said on a TV show last month that the Unification Church was “an anti-Japanese cult” and blamed the big Abe’s father, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, for the first move to Japan in 1958. Moon launched his first newspaper in Japan in 1975 and brought his iconic mass weddings to the country soon after.
In Moon’s theology, his native Korea is the “Adam” country, the homeland of a superior race destined to rule the world, and Japan is the “Eve” country, subordinate to Korea, Hassan said. The Unification Church taught that Eve had sex with Satan, leading mankind to fall from grace, with Moon now assigned to lead mankind to salvation.
Moon’s widow now controls the Unification Church’s official successor, the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. A rival group started by Moon’s son, Hyung Jin, also known as Sean, has also expanded its operations in Japan. Based in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary Church, better known as the Rod of Iron Ministries, preaches that AR-15 assault weapons are an important part of religious ceremonies designed “to defend ourselves against an aggressive satanic world”.
Hyung Jin’s brother, Kook Jin (Justin), known in religious circles as “True Son”, owns an arms manufacturing company, Kahr Arms, in Greeley, Pennsylvania, and was sent to Japan by his father in 2010 to push back the efforts. to strip the church of its legal status there.
“It was a very difficult time,” Kook Jin said in a speech that year, “because the police were investigating our church quite thoroughly. In fact, nearly 10,000 law enforcement officers laws investigated our church, they were arresting our church members and they were looting our churches – not just one or two places, but many, many.
In his speech, Kook Jin denied that the church was pressuring Japanese people to make large donations to save the spirits of their deceased loved ones. He said he had interviewed many major church donors in Japan: “I asked them, ‘What makes you give so much money?’ And you will see that in so many cases our brothers and sisters will tell you that their ancestors came to them and told them to do this.
Julia Mio Inuma in Tokyo contributed to this report.
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