It seems like there is a new angle on this case daily.
A police investigation into the assassination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has found that the suspect’s mother is a member of the Unification Church. The head of the church has confirmed the connection.
According to a report by news agency Reuters, Tetsuya Yamagami believed Abe had promoted a religious group to which his mother made a “huge donation” and subsequently went bankrupt.
What is the Unification Church?
The Unification Church, byname of Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, was founded in South Korea by Sun Myung Moon in 1954 before its headquarters was moved to the United States in 1972.
According to Britannica, the church is known for its mass weddings and teaches a unique Christian theology. It has generated much controversy, and its members are commonly derided as “Moonies.”
The Unification Church identifies Moon as the Messiah who will implant God’s heart of love in his followers and complete Jesus’ works. Having married and raised the “ideal” family, Moon called on members of the church to follow his example and thereby participate in God’s plan for restoration.
Followers of the Unification Church believe that they can help establish God’s kingdom on Earth by accepting the blessing of their marriage in one of the mass wedding ceremonies for which the church has become well known.
The “Holy Marriage Blessing Ceremony” is a core ritual by which couples are “removed from the lineage of sinful humanity and engrafted into God’s sinless lineage.” At one such blessing ceremony in 2009 20,000 couples from around the world got married.
According to Reuters, the church’s affiliates include daily newspapers in South Korea, Japan and the United States. Moon ran a business empire and founded the conservative Washington Times newspaper.
Why has the church found itself in the middle of the Abe assassination case?
As per a report by The Guardian, Yamagami told investigators that he had initially intended to target the organisation’s leader, but that he had also intended to kill Abe, whom he claimed had promoted the church in Japan.
Yamagami claimed that his mother had made a “huge donation” to the church more than 20 years ago that had crippled the family’s finances.
Last year in September, Abe, who held conservative views, appeared at an event hosted by an organisation affiliated with the church and delivered a speech praising its work towards peace on the Korean peninsula, according to the church’s website.
The Guardian reported that Abe’s maternal grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, who served as prime minister from 1957 to 1960, was reportedly involved in setting up a political group linked to the Unification church, which shared his anti-communist views.
The Kyodo news agency, citing investigative sources, said Yamagami had developed a deep resentment towards Kishi that he directed towards Abe.
Tomihiro Tanaka, president of the Japanese branch of Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, said that Yamagami’s mother first joined the church around 1998 but stopped attending between 2009 and 2017.
She re-established communication with church members about two-three years ago and in the last half year or so has been attending church events about once a month, he said.
Tanaka said the church learned of the mother’s financial difficulties only after talking to those close to her. He said he did not know what caused those difficulties, Reuters reported.
He said neither Abe nor Yamagami were members of the church, adding that the group would cooperate with the police investigation if asked.