Mitsuko Antal shares her story in tears.
Clergy, civil-rights leaders, and victims of religious-freedom violations joined with concerned citizens
throughout the United States on November 16, 2010 to protest the Japanese
government's failure to protect the human rights of minority religious
Demonstrations included a
200-person protest outside the Japanese consulate in New York City and smaller
demonstrations in nine other cities to draw attention to activists' request to
meet with Japanese officials in an atmosphere of good faith.
In four of the ten cities in which these demonstrations were
held, senior consular officials respectfully received delegations and promised
to communicate their concerns to their superiors in Japan. Most consulates,
however, refused to allow the delegations entry, even though Japanese citizens
Former victim Miyano speaks at rally in Boston.
The demonstrations we called in
reaction to the outright refusal of the Consul General in New York City to meet
with a delegation of civil rights and religious leaders to discuss the issue of
faith-breaking in Japan on October 20. The leaders hoped to discuss with
Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya their concerns that "thousands of Unification
Church members have been abducted and held against their will in Japan in an
attempt to break their faith. However, the Japanese government continues to
turn a blind eye to this crime, treating it as a mere 'family matter.'"
Media interest ranged from "11-Alive" TV in Atlanta, to the Seattle Times, Radio KEX in Portland, Korean TV in New York City, the Korea Herald newspaper, campus TV in Los Angeles, and the Japanese
An article written by Segye Times, titled “‘Condemning of Human Rights Violations of Japanese Unification Church Members': Protests Held Simultaneously in 11 Cities of the United States”, was posted on Yahoo in Korea on November 18, 2010.
The article’s main photo was captioned: “Religious leaders, human rights organization representatives, Japanese Unification Church kidnapping victims and their families, a total of over 200 people, held a protest in front of the Japanese Consulate General in Manhattan, NY on the 16th, urging the eradication of human rights violation crimes toward Japanese Unification Church kidnapping and confinement victims. (Photo provided by the Kidnapping and Confinement Victims Association)”
Dozens of pictures of the events can be seen here:http://www.flickr.com/photos/stopjapanabductions/sets/
- New York City. An estimated 200
participants rallied. Speakers included: Rev. Luonne Rouse, United
Methodist Church of Long Island; Bishop Jesse Edwards, ACLC; Rev. Michael
Jenkins, ACLC; Rev. Joshua Cotter, Unification Church; Luke Higuchi, SAFE
President; Angelika Selle, WFWP President; Archbishop George A. Stallings,
ACLC; victims Mitsuko Antal and Michiko Presky, and others. The rally
featured passionate speeches by civil rights leaders, compelling
testimonies of victims, and a rousing commitment as the crowd joined in
singing "We Shall Overcome."
- Atlanta. Led
by Unification Church District Director Tom Cutts, this demonstration featured
speeches by Georgia State Senator Donzella James, Pastor Mark Abernathy of the
Connect Point Christian Center and Dr. Gloria W. Wright, Day Spring
International Ministries. The local NBC-affiliate television station WXIA—"11
Alive" interviewed speakers and took video footage of the event. Although the
delegation was not allowed inside, the consulate's attorney respectfully received
our letter and information.
- Boston. District director Richard Buessing led the event, which featured
speeches by former State Senator Bill Owens, Rev. Cecil Cozier, and former
abduction victim Miyano Takahashi. Deputy
Consul Hisashi Takatomi received the delegation respectfully inside the
consulate. He took their information and listened carefully to our
speakers, including the testimony of Ms. Takahashi.
Chicago. The delegation gathered in front
of the consulate on Chicago's famous Michigan Avenue. Speakers included
Pastor T.L. Barrett of the Life Center Church of God In Christ, Rev.
Fannie Smith, who has worked closely with Rev. Jesse Jackson for many
years, and Rev. Bruce Sutchar of the Unification Church. Ms. Etsuko Ito
and Rev. Kinihiro Sagisaka spoke as former victims of abduction in Japan,
and Mrs. Akemi Matsuda represented the Japanese community, speaking with
deep emotion and tears. The consulate had tight security, and the
delegation was prevented from hand-delivering the letter, being told to
mail it instead.
Rev. Bruce Sutchar in Chicago
- Houston.Speakers included: Dr. Karen Holly,
President and Founder of Grace International Seminary, Pastor Mark Soto,
and former abduction victim Yumi Kang. Although security was tight, Deputy
Consul General Takahiko Watabe received Ms. Kang and another
Japanese sisters courteously. He listened to her testimony and
received the delegation's letter and materials. He stated that he would
report on their visit to the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, as well as to
the incoming Consul General.
- Los Angeles. This event yielded
some promising media results. A TV media team came from the University of
Southern California to tape the event. KABC Radio and the Korea Herald both interviewed
UPF-USA president Jim Gavin. Although the Consul General normally has a
cooperative relationship with the Unification Church community in Los Angeles, the
delegation was barred entry and had to send their appeal by registered
mail. However, they are hopeful of getting through to him through other
- Miami. Speakers included Pastor Fernande Gelin of the Return of
Christ Church, Reverend Tom Cutts, Rev. Gary Chidester, and Mr. Tom Byrne.
Delegates were not allowed entry into the consultate but delivered their
letter and materials to the consulate's security person.
Pastor Stewart Minnieweather of the American Clergy Leadership Conference Chaplain Claudia Al-Amin, Muslim chaplain to Oregon's correctional services
(prisons). A reporter from News Radio station KEX covered the event. Security was tight. The delegation was barred
entry but hopes to deliver their materials to the Consul General later.
Victims and supporters demonstrate in Portland.
- San Francisco. After speeches and readings outside
the consulate, Bishop Jackson of the Carriage Hills Community Church,
Attorney Masako Ando, and Unification Church Youth Pastor Kenritsu
Yamamoto, led the delegation into the consulate. There, they eventually
met directly with Consul General Tetsuya Iwata. He listened carefully to
their plea and the reading of the delegation's official letter. He stated
that he had already been made aware of this situation and promised to do
what he can.
Seattle. Rev. Larry Krishnek of the Unification
Church gave opening remarks and introduced the first speaker, Mrs. Ellen
Abellera, former executive director of the Governor's Commission on Asian
Pacific American Affairs. She was followed by ACLC Pastor Richard Rivers.
The final speaker, Japanese Unification Church member, Noriko Fisher, who
delivered a moving message representing the Japanese victims. Three Seattle
police officers and two building security escorted the delegation into the
consulate, where they were surprised to learn that Consul General Ota was
waiting for them. He respectfully received their materials, and said that he would read the letter and forward it
to Tokyo. Interest in the issue was expressed by a reporter from Hokubei-hochi ("North American
Journal"). Also, a Seattle Times reporter, Janet Tu, called Rev. Krishnek and Mr. Abellera to interview them on
Victims and supporters demonstrate in Seattle.
Contributed by Dan Fefferman, International Coalition for Religious Freedom