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Japan mixes faith and politics

Creator: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

In Japan, the Unification Church (UC) is a spiritual company recognized formally because the Household Federation for World Peace and Unification and for its distinctive interpretation of Christian theology and practices broadly criticised for being just like these of a cult.

A person walks past the sign of Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, more commonly known as the Unification Church, at its Tokyo headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, 29 August 2022 (Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon via Reuters Connect).

Its founder and long-time chief, South Korean Solar Myung Moon, actually suits the archetype of a cult chief. He was narcissistic as a self-professed messiah but additionally charismatic and convincing in his quest to brainwash members from whom he demanded unquestioning loyalty with the intention to purchase cash and energy as head of each a spiritual and enterprise organisation. Such ‘organisational totalitarianism’ has typically been harnessed for political ends, significantly as the youngsters of believers had been taught that ‘directions from above are absolute’.

Within the Nineteen Fifties and 60s, the fundamental connection was ideological. The UC was constructed on anti-communist beliefs, significantly the political organisation arrange by Moon in 1968 referred to as the ‘Worldwide Federation for Victory over Communism’. These beliefs underpinned the shut connection established between Moon and Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, who facilitated the importation of the UC into Japan, in addition to its offshoot political organisation.

Kishi facilitated the shut historic ties between the Liberal Democratic Social gathering (LDP) and the UC, perpetuated the connection by means of his son and Abe’s father, Shintaro Abe, and established the faction that Abe inherited. As soon as in Japan, the UC sought legitimacy and affect by means of political connections and constructing networks with nationwide and native politicians. These connections introduced authorized safety in addition to social and monetary advantages and coverage affect regardless of UC’s document of financially destroying households by means of ‘thoughts management’ and different ‘cult-like’ points.

Abe shared the ardent anti-communist beliefs espoused by his grandfather and the UC, cultivating shut ties between himself and UC-affiliated organisations. In September 2021, he addressed a digital discussion board, held below the aegis of the Moon-organised ‘Common Peace Federation’ department, one of many ‘friendship organisations’ of the UC. Abe referred to as for ‘solidarity between international locations sharing freedom and democracy’, demonstrating shared ideological ideas with the group.

It was Abe’s video attendance at this occasion that satisfied his killer, Tetsuya Yamagami, that Abe was related to the UC and nurtured Yamagami’s hostility in the direction of him.

Shared political ideology was additionally backed up by shared conservative values with coverage implications. These embody opposition to same-sex marriage, gender equality and variety, in addition to assist for ‘conventional household values’ and ‘paternalistic household programs’, which each the UC and conservative politicians, together with Abe, the ‘chief flag-waver of conservatism’, sought to promote and defend. The UC’s strongest connections have been with the LDP’s most conservative right-wingers.

The second and foremost attraction underpinning the connection between Japanese politicians and the UC was sensible — every day assist work by UC members as secretaries for parliamentarians — and electoral assist corresponding to votes, cash, voter lists and marketing campaign staff. The UC was significantly invaluable as a result of it may supply ‘group assist’, particularly ‘bloc votes’ for specific politicians, due to its persuasive powers over its members.

Certainly, UC votes had been so safe that they may even be allotted to specific candidates in an organised vogue with the intention to maximise the variety of politicians elected from a sure celebration — principally the LDP, nearly half of whom had hyperlinks with the group. The UC would inform members at gatherings or by means of on-line messengers to vote for sure candidates.

Monetary assist for election candidates was additionally secured by UC members’ shopping for tickets to politicians’ fund-raising events and thru donations from UC-affiliated organisations, though the quantities that particular person politicians admitted they acquired weren’t large. Nonetheless, UC members and their pals had been significantly helpful as ‘volunteers’ on the marketing campaign path, a boon for particular person candidates as the price of hiring the required variety of election staff could be very costly.

Abe himself is believed to have funnelled UC followers’ votes to his former govt secretary, Yoshiyuki Inoue, as a UC ‘supporting member’ within the July 2022 Higher Home election. These group votes nearly doubled the variety of votes that Inoue acquired within the 2019 election from 88,000 to 165,000. Abe reportedly ‘managed the allocation of the Unification Church’s votes and volunteer work’ among the many LDP’s candidates in election campaigns whereas his brother, former Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi, admitted to receiving numerous sorts of help from particular person UC volunteers throughout election campaigns. The Abe faction additionally had the highest variety of members (37) with connections to the UC.

Profiting from the robust familial, ideological and historic connections, each Abe brothers continued to domesticate ties with the UC primarily for electoral causes. Abe inspired this by actively showing at UC-sponsored occasions and by addressing numerous fora organised by the group. The Kishi/Abe faction, as a non-mainstream conservative faction, was extra depending on UC votes than different LDP factions, such because the Tanaka and Ohira (now Kishida) factions, which gained robust assist from the development and transport industries and enterprise leaders.

Not surprisingly, the Abe faction has been confirmed as having the largest variety of members with UC hyperlinks and the highest variety of state ministers and parliamentary vice-ministers with connections to the group in Kishida’s just lately reshuffled cupboard. Abe exemplified the best way during which politicians may harness members’ loyalty and devotion to the church and the dictates of its leaders for political functions. In return, the group gained credibility, political entry and the flexibility to ‘showcase’ its affect over specific politicians to its benefit by means of their speeches and interviews for group media retailers.

So whereas the connections between politicians and the group have been revealed as commonplace, these with the Abe–Kishi household had been ‘particular’. Abe was the key determine who related the celebration to the church. The political utility of such teams was extra broadly underpinned by their means to draw the ‘unorganised’ — the social and financial ‘have-nots’ who weren’t grouped by means of financial organisations or robust employment connections.

Hyperlinks to such organisations thus supplied a mechanism for politicians to succeed in voters who weren’t members of established curiosity teams however who might be helpful for these candidates who would possibly want further assist if organised curiosity group assist was inadequate for victory.

Aurelia George Mulgan is Professor on the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, the College of New South Wales, Canberra.



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