The mother of the suspect involved in the fatal shooting of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly feels sorry for causing trouble for the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, also known as the Unification Church.
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, eventually leading to the ruin of his family. Before 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 had reportedly been making large donations to the church, of which she has been a member for over 20 years.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that my experience with it during that time continues to distort my whole life,” Yamagami wrote in a letter.
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According to Yamagami’s uncle, his nephew would call him for help when his mother left her children hungry and alone while attending church. He said the mother donated 100 million yen (approximately $1 million at the time) to the church. Having gone bankrupt in 2002, the woman continued donating to the church in smaller amounts, under the principle of “world peace and unification.”
On July 11, the church issued a press release stating 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 staying at his uncle’s house since the shooting, apologized for causing trouble for the religious group during a recent hearing at the Nara District Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Founded in South Korea by Rev. 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, which Abe’s grandfather Nobusuke Kishi formed.
The Japan branch eventually became the church’s biggest revenue source.
Over the years, the church has earned controversy for its involvement in business dealings and politics, with some critics accusing it of being a dangerous cult
As Yagami’s statements put the controversial church back into the limelight, Unification Church Japan representative Susumu Sato expressed concern that church members might become scapegoats for Abe’s death.
While he admitted that some members encouraged followers to donate excessively, he claimed that donors were mostly motivated by faith.