Nationwide protests for religious freedom held at Japanese consulates

A CALL TO STOP ABDUCTIONS — Members of Stop Japan Abductions demonstrated in front of the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco on Nov. 16. photo by Rev. Alain LeRoy

A small nationwide protest for religious freedom took place at various locations through the Consulates General of Japan by Stop Japan Abductions, a group formed by Dan Fefferman, president of the International Coalition for Religious Freedom (ICRF) and a prominent member of the Unification Church.

Twenty or so protesters appeared Nov. 16 at the various Consulate General offices throughout the United States. Protests lasted from 20 minutes to an hour, during which protestors expressed their hope to deliver a letter to the consul general of Japan to have forwarded to the Tokyo government.

Stop Japan Abductions asserts that about 20 members of the Unification Church are abducted in Japan every year, with more than 4,000 having been abducted since 1966. Their Website claims “forced conversion… is happening today not only where one might expect it in Darfur, China or Egypt but also in the advanced democratic nation of Japan.”

Protesters gathered for a little more than an hour in front of the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco. The 25 demonstrators were peaceful, and remained on the sidewalk with a large white banner calling for the Japanese government to take action on the abductions. Several protesters, including Rev. Alain LeRoy, met with representatives from the Consulate outside.

LeRoy, the local leader for the American Clergy Leadership Conference — founded by the Unification Church, which LeRoy said works with various religious denominations — asked the Japanese government to follow their own laws regarding kidnapping and the right to freedom of religion.

“We hope that [the consul] will discuss this matter with his embassy and that the Japanese government itself will start a serious investigation,” said LeRoy.

The protesters pointed to Toru Goto as the poster child of their demonstration. Goto spoke about his confinement, and the ICRF published his account on their Website. In the fall of 1995, Goto was kidnapped a second time by his family and placed under house arrest by his own family for more than 12 years. He reports that, by the time he escaped, doctors found him severely malnourished. His account describes how his family tried to convince him to leave his religious beliefs behind with the help of a professional “deprogrammer,” and having failed to succeed, how they threw him out into the streets emaciated.

A page on the ICRF’s website reports that Goto’s case, as of last year, was dismissed by prosecutors.

Protestor Michael Kellett explained that his presence at the demonstration was intended to bring to light the abductions in Japan to discourage future incidents.

“Back in the ’70s, I was abducted three times over here in the States,” said Kellett. “The more we confront it, the more the government will.”

Kellett cited the hypocrisy behind the critics of his religion that cited that members were brainwashed when members are kidnapped without regard for freedom of religion. He stood on the sidewalk in front of the other demonstrators and spoke his views loudly and clearly.

A San Francisco consul declined to comment on his office’s exchange with demonstrators; however, according to the Consulate General of Japan in Seattle, they will take the letter which was delivered to them to Tokyo.

The response to demonstrators from numerous consulates across the nation varied. Some consuls, such as those from San Francisco and Seattle, met with protestors, while others such as the consulates in New York and Miami declined to meet.

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