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Ian Buruma

Japan Needs to Look at Links Between Church and State

After Shinzo Abe’s assassination, the complicated ties between religion and politics across East Asia deserve greater scrutiny.

Abe’s grandfather also supported the Unification Church. 

Abe’s grandfather also supported the Unification Church. 

Photographer: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg

When a politician is assassinated, there is usually a political reason. That wasn’t true in the recent killing of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. His assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami, was angry about Abe’s support of the Unification Church, a quasi-Christian cult started in South Korea in 1954 by Reverend Sun Myung Moon, a self-appointed messiah, and thus best-known as the “Moonies.” The killer’s mother had gone bankrupt donating more than 100 million yen (roughly $750,000) to the church.

Abe approved of the Unification Church because of its strong anti-Communist credentials and delivered speeches for them. In this, he was following the example of his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, another staunch anti-Communist, arrested by the Americans in 1945 as a war criminal before becoming a conservative pro-American prime minister in 1957.