Unification Church controls people by causing anxiety: lawyer for victims in Japan

Lawyer Masaki Gouro from the Sapporo Bar (Mainichi)

SAPPORO – The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, better known by its former name the Unification Church, is once again in the spotlight for its deceptive tactics after it was revealed that the family of the man accused of murdering former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had gone bankrupt due to a series of huge donations to the religious group.

Masaki Gouro, 79, a lawyer member of the Sapporo Bar Association who has been committed for more than 30 years to providing relief measures to victims of the Unification Church, held an online conference until August 24 and explained the group’s problematic tactics, based on interviews with former followers.

The Unification Church employs a method of subjecting people to a terrifying experience of a simulated hell through the group’s videos and films in order to trick them into believing that superstitions are real. Victims are tricked into thinking that their deceased loved ones are suffering in hell and are tricked into making donations believed to be needed as part of prayers for the spirits of the deceased. Thinking it’s a small price to pay if it means the case can be solved, victims end up giving money over and over until they go bankrupt. Even if they are condemned by their family or friends, the victims think that if those around them may not understand it now, they will understand it later once they enter the spirit world in their life after the death. dead. Gouro has worked with former followers like these for many years.

Gouro’s efforts to provide relief to victims began in 1987 after handling a case involving the Unification Church. After that, he fought the religious group in court in lawsuits on behalf of around 80 plaintiffs who were victimized. From experience, he knows very well the tactics of the group and the psychological state of the victims. He said: “Although there are small changes in the tactics, the essence of the method has not changed for 30 years, in that it indoctrinates people that the teachings of the Church of Unification are the truth.”

According to Gouro’s interviews with former followers who joined the Unification Church between the 1980s and 2010s, the group tells followers that if they cannot introduce three new members, they “will not be not saved”. They are driven to run around desperately to gain members and conduct recruiting activities while in close contact with senior group officials.

Factors such as whether the person has savings of 1 million yen (approximately $7,300) or more, is obedient, and is religious apparently become important when selecting potential members. “The goal is to get them to donate, so that people who don’t have money are not approached. However, even if they have small savings, young people and others who are convenient to use as labor are welcome to join,” the attorney said. Also, people who have a strong tendency to question things are avoided because they are unsettling to deal with. Gouro explained, “The group also tends to stay away from people who don’t believe in the existence of spiritual realms after death, as well as in divination and the power of things that cannot be seen. ”

Gouro mentioned the case of the mother of Tetsuya Yamagami, the suspect in the shooting attack on former Prime Minister Abe, who was referred to prosecutors on suspicion of murder. The attorney pointed out that “the Unification Church also views the death of a loved one as an important consideration for membership recruitment.” The death of a loved one leaves a deep emotional wound, seemingly creating an opportunity for them to attach themselves to a religion. During the recruitment process, victims are told, “Your life is 80% luck and 20% effort,” and they are apparently tricked into believing this by making the connection to the death of a loved one. , which cannot be controlled by effort. Gouro commented, “The group attacks with the clever method of explaining that fortune has absolute influence and making the victims react and think ‘Maybe it’s true.'”

Unification Church members also apparently tell people they recruit that “the cause of unhappiness is related to ancestral karma”. Victims are tricked into thinking that when evil ancestors act as evil spirits, it leads to accidents, injuries, and illnesses. They are told, “You will be unlucky in the family and you will have a lot of worries about children and divorce, which will lead to an unlucky life.” The group members will then appeal to the victim’s sense of duty and responsibility by saying, “You are the main person who has to change the fortunes of this family.”

Gouro said the group is knowledgeable on how to spark people’s imaginations without using threatening words and control their decision-making by inducing anxiety. He said: “Anxiety is the most powerful emotion for controlling decision-making. When someone is shaken, he becomes unable to act rationally. The lawyer cautioned, “It is necessary to build a barrier by knowing your weaknesses and fears that you cannot help but react to.

(Japanese original by Yutaka Yamada, Hokkaido News Department)

James V. Hayes