The Words of the Fefferman Family

Toru Goto Leads US Campaign for Religious Freedom in Japan

Dan Fefferman
December 2009

Mr. Fefferman is the president of the International Coalition for Religious Freedom.

Mr. Tom Goto was the victim of a brutal 12-year confinement in Tokyo, intended to break his faith in the teachings of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. He made two trips to the US this summer to create public awareness of his case and the plight of thousands of Japanese Unificationists who have faced similar persecution. In the wake of his visits, the campaign against religious kidnapping in Japan has begun to achieve real traction in the US and internationally.

Up-to-date, more than 4,000 Unificationists in Japan have faced kidnapping and forced conversion attempts by professional faith- breakers or Christian ministers hired by their relatives. Although about 30 percent eventually found their way back to the church, but many were forced to renounce their faith under duress, kept confined for long periods of time and sometimes physically abused.

One result of Mr. Goto's trips to the United States is the US State Department's inclusion of religious kidnapping as a "restriction of religious freedom" in its 2009 International Religious Freedom Report published October 19, 2009. In addition to meeting with State Department officials, Mr. Goto also met with human rights organizations, Christian leaders, and both current and former U.S. congressmen. He also spoke to hundreds of students, women, activists, and clergymen during an intense schedule of talks.

Following his preliminary trip in August, Mr. Goto's September 19 - 25, 2009 tour began with a presentation to the national meeting of the Women's Federation for World Peace and Unification at the Manhattan Center. This meeting featured a keynote speech by Reverend In Jin Moon, which emphasized the issue of religious freedom in Japan. The story of Mr. Goto then received a standing ovation for his courage and perseverance during his twelve-year ordeal. Educator Heather Thalheimer, concluded the morning session with a round table discussion on the issue.

Mr. Goto then recollected his own kidnapping, beginning a Young Adult Ministry event dubbed, "Saturday Night Lights'; for students, co-sponsored by the Maryland Family Church and the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles at the University of Maryland's College Park campus. His team then traveled to Bridgeport Connecticut, where Mr. Goto spoke to a full house in the student center following a special dinner hosted by University of Bridgeport president Neil Salonen. University of Bridgeport Psychology professor Kurt Frey responded to Mr. Goto's speech with a refutation of the "brainwashing" theory, which has been used to justify religious kidnapping.

In Chicago Mr. Goto addressed a prayer breakfast of the American Clergy Leadership Conference. "I love Jesus," he told a crowd of 300 ministers at the Covenant Baptist Church, as he described his ordeal and his eventual return to freedom. "I would like to ask for your help in creating the environment where Christian ministers, lawyers, and deprogrammers currently involved in religious kidnapping and forced conversion will not be able to continue their activities."

ACLC chair Reverend Michael Jenkins mobilized the attendees to sign an ACLC statement in support of Mr. Goto's case. "We are shocked that, in such a modern democratic society as Japan, this egregious violation has not been fully prosecuted based on existing laws," the letter declares. "We call upon the Japanese government, media, and all appropriate law enforcement authorities to demonstrate Japan's rightful position as a global leader by bringing this case and the lawbreakers to justice."

Mr. Goto and his team then traveled to Washington DC, where they met with former US Congressman Walter Fauntroy and the leadership staff of the Summit Council for World Peace: Dr. Antonio Betancourt and Mr. Bill Selig. The next day, Congressman Fauntroy escorted Mr. Goto's delegation to key meetings on Capitol Hill and other Washington DC offices.

Since returning to Japan, Mr. Goto has been busy mobilizing a victims' association there. A victims' association has also been formed in Korea, comprised largely of Japanese women married to Korean men. Many of these women are currently unable to visit Japan for fear of being kidnapped again.

"I was kidnapped twice," Hiroko Tomizawa, a mother of three, told a gathering of victims in Seoul. "I was so shocked that second time, I could not breathe normally, I was panting. I couldn't physically resist, my body wouldn't move:'

Numerous victims report similar experiences of a second confinement and betrayal after their relatives had pretended reconciliation with them and promised not to do such a thing again.

Mr. Goto explained that he had begun to visit his family regularly after having escaped from an earlier illegal imprisonment. "One day, eight years after my first confinement, I was again kidnapped and forcibly confined," he stated. "I was 31 years old. The second confinement lasted 12 years and S months. When I regained my freedom I was already 44 years old. During this confinement, I was subjected to all kinds of verbal and mental abuse:'

Victims in the U.S. are also beginning to form informal groups, and plans are in the works to establish national associations, both of Japanese victims and U.S. citizens, in order to raise awareness of the issue and also to promote healing of such conditions as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which often affects victims for many years. Mr. Goto is expected to return to the US before the end of the year.

A number of grass roots efforts have sprung up to protest continued religious kidnapping in Japan, where at least five Unification Church members are currently known to be confined after going missing from their normal places of residence. Internet groups are abuzz concerning Mr. Goto's case, and an online petition has also appeared. "Mr. Goto, a Unification Church member is just the tip of the iceberg," the petition states. "Under the apparently democratic surface in Japan, more and more cases of brutal kidnapping, false imprisonment, torture, rape, starvation and psychological terror come to light. With my name and my voice, I urge the Japanese authorities that human rights are respected in Japan and the free choice of religion is guaranteed:' The petition can be accessed at 

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