A 30-year-old Japanese bank employee is believed to be the latest victim of kidnapping and forced confinement, according to reports from Japanese Unification Church officials. She is among five active Japanese church members believed to be held against their will by opponents of their faith since August of 2009.
Ms. Yoshiko Majima, a member of the Musashino Youth Branch of West Tokyo, went home to visit her parents in the Tochigi Prefecture on Feb. 7, 2010 and did not return to her job in Tokyo. She reportedly loved singing in the church choir and wanted to invite her parents to her church in order to show her performance. It is believed that she first reported her church membership to her parents in 2008.
Ms. Majima has been working in Tokyo for a major credit card company, called JCB. In 2009, she reportedly fasted for seven days as a preparation for the marriage blessing ceremony of the Unification Church. Ms. Majima had joined the Unification Church in 2004 and participated in church programs as a trainee from 2004 to 2006 and has served as a faithful church member since then.
On February 7th she told friends she planned to visit her parents’ home and return on the same day. However, she called a trusted friend in the church about 7 p.m. and said, “Although I was planning to go back to the church today, I cannot go back today. I think I cannot go back for a while.” She did not respond to questions from her friend during the call.
After that call, her cell phone service reportedly was stopped. Visitors to her parents’ residence report that it appears to be vacant. According to Japanese Unification Church officials, they do not release photos of persons believed to be confined against their will, since the kidnappers have been known to force their victims to renounce their church membership and to file lawsuits against the Unification Church for reporting the kidnapping and confinement, on the grounds of false statement and invasion of privacy.
Since 1969 more than 4,300 members of the Unification Church have been kidnapped and confined by misguided relatives and opponents of the church. Some of the victims have been beaten, sexually assaulted or tortured while in captivity.
On Feb. 19, 2010 the Forum for Religious Freedom, a religious-freedom nonprofit, posted an appeal to the international community on the newsletter of the Brussels-based Human Rights Without Frontiers [http://www.hrwf.net%5D, with the following opening statement: “On behalf of The Japanese Victims’ Association Against Religious Kidnapping and Forced Conversion we appeal to the international community to influence the government of Japan to take action urgently to halt the impunity related to the long-term and persistent use of kidnapping, forced confinement and even torture of its citizens. These cases involve denial of multiple rights, including and especially freedom of religion during which time members of religious communities are being coerced to change their beliefs while confined against their will.”
On January 12, 2010 the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, a human rights monitoring group in Washington, D.C. issued a statement calling upon the government of Japan “to bring to a halt the long-term and persistent use of kidnapping and forced confinement of its citizens to deny and change their religious beliefs.”
Contributed by Douglas Burton