Deprogramming victims in Japan and their friends in the United States finally got mainstream media attention on January 2, 2012 as a crowd of ministers and human rights activists welcomed the “Faith, Freedom and Family Tour” to Dallas. Seijin Tranberg of Atlanta and Joshua Wildman from San Francisco parked their bikes at City Hall Plaza during their 2,300 mile bike ride across the United States to raise awareness of religious persecution of minority groups in general and Unificationists in particular. The event was covered by Fox, NBC and three other local TV stations and attended by reporters from daily newspapers in Dallas and Fort Worth.
Against a backdrop of Japanese women wearing brightly-colored Japanese kimonos, TV talk-show Host Ester Davis read a proclamation of welcome from Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and served as MC for the rally.
“We’re here at Dallas City Hall on a great day,” said Davis. “Happy New Year! We’re talking about freedom riders that are cycling through the great city of Dallas. We are here to talk about the freedom riders that are traveling across the United States of America to bring awareness to discrimination against minorities around the world. Both of the young college students will be cycling 2,300 miles across America to bring awareness to the treatment of minorities in Japan. The goal of the tour is to raise awareness of the fact that since 1966, over 4,000 [Unificationists] have been abducted in Japan. We have famous speakers here from the city of Dallas and 12 congressional members are endorsing their trip, including our own congresswoman here in Texas. So we want to welcome them to Dallas and God speed them across the nation.”
Apostle Dr. Linda Holliday, recognized by the International Federation for World Peace as an Ambassador for World Peace and a member of the American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC), opened the program with a prayer:
“Good morning! Praise the Lord, praise the Lord for this joyous occasion, that we have two young men who have a passion for God’s suffering people, Amen? Hallelujah. Please bow your heads with me. Father we glorify you on this beautiful day, January 2nd of 2012, Father we feel your sunshine upon our faces this morning, Father we thank you for Josh, Lord, and John [Seijin’s American name], that you have placed in their hearts a mission for your people. God we thank you that they are true ambassadors for peace, not only in their community but for the nation and for the world. We lift them up in their travels, God, as they travel from city to city, state to state, coast to coast, God we thank you that you are with them and are guiding them, God we ask that every provision be made for their travel and their vision and God we lift the suffering situation of your leaders and preachers and believers. God we ask that there be no more persecution because of our religious beliefs. Father, we stand together today as one body, as a body of believers of religious freedom, so Father we thank you for your purpose and your glory on this day, and we leave your blessing to travel with them, as we send our spirit with Josh and John, God bless them as they traverse across the USA, Amen.”
Rev. Mark Hernandez, the district director of the Unification Church in Texas said:
“We’re in front of the City Hall in Dallas because two young men took up a cause, a cause of religious freedom, to end the persecution of religious minorities and religious groups that receive persecution. Seijin and Josh, whose mothers are Japanese and fathers are American, want to highlight the religious persecution of Unificationists, as they are members of the Unification Church. You’ll hear more from this rally that not one legal case has been brought to prosecution in Japan, despite the fact that more than 4,000 Unificaitonists have been abducted over the last 30 years in Japan, simply because of their religious beliefs. We’re not taking about teenagers, but we’re talking about people in their twenties and thirties – married people – whose wives and husbands wonder what happened to them. We’re here to highlight that Japan has a constitution that guarantees religious freedom, yet that the government is not enforcing its constitution on an equal basis. So these young men are taking on a ‘Tour de Cause’ to bring awareness to the fact that Unificationists suffer in Japan, as do Jehovah’s witnesses, members of the Latter Day Saints, and other groups there. I’m so grateful for everyone here, and in the spirit of the rights movement, we’d like to invite the Lovin’ Life choir to sing ‘We Shall Overcome.’”
Ms. Juanita Wallace, president of the Dallas branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) told the crowd:
“It’s a wonderful day here in the city of Dallas, and we bring you greetings from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. And when we say the word ‘colored,’ we’re talking about browns, blacks, whites and any other color that you are. Our mission is to ensure justice for all. When one person is without justice, all of us are without justice. And we want to make sure the young people, African-American descendants, African-Americans and women particularly, have the rights that our forefathers have granted us and God himself has granted us. So we say to you this morning, greetings from the NAACP and thank you for standing up – it’s important that we stand up for our rights. If we don’t stand up, nobody else will. So if you’re violated, speak up, stand up!”
Dedicated to Reconciling Enemies
Bishop Harold Edwards, leader of the Church of the Living God in Dallas gave the keynote address in which he said the following:
“We are delighted this morning to be here with you today on this celebration of these young men who are riding across America in order to bring attention to persecution across the world. I’m really excited to learn that John and Joshua’s mothers are Japanese and fathers are American. 70 years ago, that would not have happened. You remember in 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. We can see today a reflection of the peace that has come between these two countries, and certainly through the union of these young men.
“The late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote in the Birmingham jail that ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ If I may paraphrase that expression, I declare to you today that religious persecution anywhere is a threat to religion everywhere. The Unification church in America, founded by Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, has undergone some years of observation and sometimes misunderstanding in this country, but has gone without obstruction for citizens around America because we believe that the government should not organize a religion or prevent individuals from practicing a religion of their choice. We call that democracy. Every week some young man or some young woman is abducted from the streets of Japan and is forced to undergo weeks and sometimes months of physical and psychological torture until they recant their belief in their faith. Japan claims to be a democratic nation and if this is to be so, then Japan must begin to enforce its own laws, which promise freedom for all its citizens regardless of their religious convictions and beliefs. We have become allies with Japan, but America needs allies who truly share our convictions of freedom of religion for all the people around the world.
“I’ve come here today to celebrate these young men who understand this philosophy of their freedom and are riding across America to bring attention to this undue, maltreatment of people in Japan who have by choice elected to worship with the Unification Church. We applaud their bicycle ride through this community of faith, of family, of freedom. We salute John and Joshua and we pray God’s blessing upon them as they continue to travel in order to uplift and show forth that there is persecution going on, and that that is a practice that must cease, not only in Japan, but everywhere around the world. We understand, having read from our holy book the Bible, that Jesus prayed in John 17, ‘Lord make them one and we can only be one when people everywhere can practice their faith in their God, wherever they are.’ May God bless you John, may God bless you Joshua, and may God speed you across American to uplift this tragic plight in Japan.”
Fred Jones, a Christian activist for at-risk youth and Founder and CEO of “Jones 2000 and Beyond,” told the rally:
“I began to think about the ‘Power of One,’ a movie I saw once. In this case we have the power of two that are combined to be one. So therefore, I felt inspired to come out here because they’re going to make their presence known across the country. Finally, we must never forget that even in our presence we have men and women who are incarcerated because of their beliefs. Religious persecution still occurs in this country, and as a black man having grown up in America, I remember it very well. There are still buried in our prisons, black men, white men, men of all distinctions and colors and creeds who are incarcerated because they chose to believe something. And if you choose to believe something, the Bible always reminds us that we will be persecuted for that. So I want to say thank you, and congratulations, safe journey and God speed.”
Testimony of Taeko White
The gathering heard from Mrs. Taeko White from Houston, who survived abduction and deprogramming in 1981. She told the rally:
“In 1981, my parents hired a Christian minister and his team in Tokyo to break my faith. This man locked me up in the dark, cold basement of his church and threatened me that he would inject me with the truth. I told him to his face that there was no truth in him at all and no love. I was locked up with two other young people who said they had lost their faith in our church. But they were so sad and miserable, and they were his prisoners, too. I was never more scared in my life. Even today, whenever I think back on that time, I get goose bumps. After it was clear that my parents were not going to pay the minister many thousands of dollars he wanted as a fee, he let me go, and I returned to the Unification Church.
“I never regretted that decision. My life has seen its share of ups and downs, but Heavenly Father has seen me through the night. God has blessed me with two beautiful children who are proud members of Generation Peace, the generation that is showing America the way to a better future. Seijin Tranberg and Joshua Wildman, and my son, Jeffrey White, and many kids in Dallas today have a lot in common. They have moms from Japan and dads from the United States. These three boys had grandparents who were enemies in 1941. When I married Jeffrey’s father in 1982, both he and felt that we were standing on a bridge of peace built by Father and Mother Moon. Seijin, Joshua and Jeffrey are special young men. They are vessels of God’s love, and they know it. That’s why they are making this cross-country journey across the heart of America.
“I feel the deep heart of America today, and even more when I look at the beautiful people in this gathering, I feel the deep heart of Texas. The Freedom Riders have come to the right place to make their statement which is being heard today in Washington and Tokyo. Thank you Seijin, thank you Joshua, for loving Japan as much as I do, and for reaching out to the people of my adopted state of Texas to spread the word: friendship between nations is too small goal. Our goal is one family under God.”
Mr. Jeffrey White, 24, read a tribute to his mother at the rally:
“I want to take this opportunity to honor my mom for her faith and courage in 1981. Needless to say, I was not even a spark in my mom’s eye in 1981. Neither was my sister Ashley. My mom’s eyes were on God. From what she tells me, that’s all she could think about when she was going through the deprogramming. It’s tragic but a fact that every month in Japan a young member about my age gets abducted and held against their will until they recant their faith. This must end. With the help of our U.S. Congress and the help of people of conscience in Japan, this will end. I just want to take the time to honor my mother’s faith and courage and everyone who’s ever been abducted and abused by other people for their faith and thank them all for being strong and getting through these tough times.”
Seijin Tranberg’s Speech
Seijin Tranberg gave the rally a speech similar to the one he gave at the Georgia State Capitol at the kickoff of the tour on Dec. 15, 2011. Tranberg told the gathering:
“Everyone please give yourself a hand. Thank you so much for your support. About 30 years ago, hundreds of American citizens were abducted and harassed for weeks or months in an effort to break their faith. Most of these folks resisted this cruelty, returned to the Unification Church, got married, and raised fantastic children. The people who were paid to abduct Unification Church members stopped doing it about 20 years ago after several of them were arrested and went to jail. But in Japan the abductions and faith-breaking still goes on. No one has been prosecuted. The Japanese media has refused to report this cruel phenomenon to the public.
“Thank goodness we have a free press in the United States, and thank goodness that Americans are proud to be the home of faith, family and freedom. I see all of these virtues embodied in my mom and dad. To be honest, I owe my parents for so many blessings that have come my way, especially for setting an example of hard work and for giving me an example of faith and a sense of vision.
“The church culture greatly has benefitted me. But thousands of my fellow believers in Japan are not so lucky as I am to be able to practice their faith freely. This is not to knock the great people of Japan, either. I love the culture and history of my mother’s home country. I love both America and Japan. Religious freedom is guaranteed both by the U.S. Constitution and by the Japanese Constitution. The difference is, in Japan the law is not enforced to give all citizens due process.
“I am making this ride so that I can tell a story that hasn’t been told. I want to give a voice to the saints of every persecuted religious community in the world, and there are many, I’m sure you know – Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals, and new religious movements. But especially I want to honor the suffering saints in Japan who have suffered for more than 40 years almost in silence. They are victims of unfounded fear, media misrepresentation, and the greed of lawyers.
“I know Japan can and will do better in the future. This rally is just an encouragement to say, ‘Hey, Japan, we love you so much. You are an incredible example of a modern, democratic nation that has been able to build itself up and you are a close ally of the United States. We just want to say to you that we want to help you become a nation that can ensure and enforce the freedom of all faiths.’ Japan needs to do better. The Japanese government can do better, and they owe it to all their citizens to live up to their own ideals of fair treatment for all, religious freedom for all. My mother is good. She comes from a people who are good – so good, in fact, that they should be better.”
[editorial note: As of Jan. 9, 2012, Seijin Tranberg and Joshua Wildman were riding through snow and ice on the I -20 corridor near Odessa, Texas. According to Rev. Mark Hernandez the wind-chill factor brought the temperature down to the upper 20s. Ms. Renee Martinez, a resident of Big Spring, Texas, and like them a second-generation Unificationist, is trailing the bikers in her vehicle.]
Contributed by Douglas Burton and Ariana Moon