Govt. hotline on ex-Unification Church gets more than 1,000 calls

A Japanese government hotline for people who have problems linked to a religious group formerly known as the Unification Church has fielded more than 1,000 calls in five days.

The Justice Ministry and other relevant ministries and agencies agreed to set up the hotline from September 5 to 30, to offer relief to those who have been victimized by the group's practices, such as so-called spiritual sales.

Justice Minister Hanashi Yasuhiro told reporters on Tuesday that 1,002 people had called during the first five days.

Hanashi said most of the callers had money problems. Some said they are living in poverty, while others sought advice on what to do about a relative who is a follower.

The hotline was initially jammed with calls, but Hanashi said it has become more accessible now that they have increased staff numbers.

He said the government will first consider how victims can be helped through existing legislation, and will create an environment in which people in trouble can easily seek advice.