Former Unification Church: Ex-member seeks to help others born into the group

Japan's education and culture ministry has asked the Tokyo District Court to issue an order to dissolve the religious group formerly known as the Unification Church. NHK spoke with one former member, whose parents are still involved with the group, about why he knew it was time to cut ties.

A photo of Morusuko's birth

Morusuko (a pseudonym) was born into a Unification Church family. His parents were married in one of the group's mass weddings.

"The second generation of followers trust their parents," he says. "They believe their parents' religion is right, and that's why they were born."

Morusuko speaks to NHK.

He says his family has struggled financially, living barely above the poverty line, because of all the donations they made to the religious group.

"We were really poor," he recalls. "That's one of the ways children of the group members suffered. My parents even had to borrow 5,000 yen from fellow members to pay for food. We barely had income and when we did, we donated."

Morusuko wasn't able to go to university, because they couldn't afford the tuition. But he found work and was able to pay for his younger sister to go. Like his parents, he got married in a mass wedding to a partner chosen for him by the founder of the group. He did not question it at that time.

A young Morusuko, center, with his family

Culture 'ingrained in us'

"Many may wonder why people don't quit being members of the Unification Church," he says. "Why can't they just live on their own? But I've been attending every Sunday since I was little. This routine of going to church, praying, offering thanks, and giving donations is ingrained in us."

After having his own children, he gradually became skeptical about the religion.


He says he decided to sever ties with the group on the day that former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo was shot.

Morusuko identified with Yamagami Tetsuya, the man indicted for the killing, who also had a mother in the group.

After the shooting, Morusuko felt a responsibility to speak out about his experience. He started a support group for children of followers and those who have left other religions.

A poster from Morusuko's support group says "You have the right to choose."

"We need to tell those children that they have rights, even if they were born into their religion," he says. "They need to know they have religious freedom and can live as they want. I hope society does not abandon them."

Morusuko, now in his 30s, is still close to his mother and father. He says he can sever ties with the group but cannot abandon his parents. He feels pain when he sees the way they still live, and says they have only around 700 dollars to their name.

Still, that only strengthens his resolve to help second-generation followers free themselves from the lives they were born into.

Watch video 4:07