The mother of the suspect involved in the fatal shooting of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is said to be sorry for causing trouble for the Federation of Families for World Peace and Unification, also known as the Church of ‘Unification.
Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, who was arrested immediately after he shot Abe from behind on July 8, 2022, expressed resentment against the religious group during investigations by the Nara Prefectural Police.
The suspect told investigators that his mother went bankrupt after making large donations to the religious group, which ultimately led to the ruin of his family.
Prior to the assassination, Yamagami even sent a letter to a blogger saying that the Unification Church had ruined his life, “destroying my family and driving it into bankruptcy”.
Yamagami’s mother is said to have made large donations to the church, of which she has been a member for more than 20 years.
“It is no exaggeration to say that my experience during this time continues to distort my entire life,” Yamagami wrote in a letter.
According to Yamagami’s uncle, his nephew would cry out to him for help when his mother left her children hungry and alone as they went to church. He said the mother donated 100 million yen (about $1 million at the time) to the church.
After going bankrupt in 2002, the the wife kept on giving to the church in smaller quantities, according to the principle of “world peace and unification”.
On July 11, the church issued a press release stating that donation amounts are determined by individual members.
In Yamagami’s letter, he accused Abe of supporting the church.
Following the revelation, Yamagami’s mother, who has been living with her uncle since the shooting, apologized for causing trouble for the religious group during a recent hearing at the Nara District Attorney’s Office.
Founded in South Korea by Reverend Sun Myung Moon in 1954, the Unification Church opened its first overseas branch in Japan about five years later. The church had developed close ties to the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party, formed by Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi.
The Japanese branch eventually became the church’s largest source of income.
Over the years the church has drawn controversy for its involvement in business dealings and politics, with some critics accusing it of being a dangerous sect.
As Yagami’s statements put the controversial church back in the spotlight, Unification Church of Japan representative Susumu Sato expressed concern that church members could be scapegoated for Abe’s death.
While he admitted that some members encouraged followers to donate excessively, he said donors were primarily driven by faith.
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