PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 4, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- One hundred twenty women clergy of the American Clergy Leadership Conference joined human rights activists from the Women's Federation for World Peace and victims of Japanese religious abductions in front of Independence Hall on Friday, Oct. 29. Stoked by recent evidence of continued inaction by Japanese police to stop forced de-conversions of minority religious believers, these leaders held a press briefing to proclaim their discontent with the Japanese government.
The Rev. Tanya Edwards, co-coordinator of Women in Ministry of Philadelphia; the Rev. Fannie Smith, former associate and coordinator with Operation PUSH and Women's Federation; Minister Reiko Jenkins, coordinator of ACLC Women in Ministry; and the Rev. Carol Keainaiana of Hawaii, co-pastor of the Mouna Ziona (Mt. Zion) Congregational Church, were joined by 120 women clergy from all 50 states.
Edwards, a direct descendant of William Penn, said to those gathered, "We stand at the birthplace of the Constitution and religious freedom and are grateful for what was established here. We have a place where we can worship God and serve according to our faith. We ask the leaders of Japan to acknowledge these victims and release them. It is time to let them go."
The depth and weight of history was felt at Independence Hall – the place where a nation proclaimed that all men are equal and endowed by God with inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All were reminded of the First Amendment, which established religious liberty as the most essential right and strengthens all other rights when secured.
Smith pledged, "As Women in Ministry from all 50 states we will go to our Congressmen and Senators and request their assistance to stop the injustice and free our brothers and sisters."
Representing all 50 states, the women faith leaders visited and prayed together for religious freedom. Joined by representatives of the Women's Federation for World Peace, they cried out from Hawaii to Texas, to New York, to Chicago, to Atlanta. They decried the ongoing abduction and faith-breaking of Unification Church members in Japan and demanded the release of the victims.
The night before the press conference, the Women in Ministry held their National Convention. Mr. Luke Higuchi and Mrs. Kumiko Francis, both victims of abductions, shared their testimonies. Higuchi stated, "I was physically thrown in a van and committed to a mental institution without a medical exam. I was treated like a dog. I was in solitary for months. I cannot express how terrible it was in words." Higuchi was able to escape this torment by convincing his doctors that he was mentally stable and pretending to renounce his religion. Francis spoke through tears, "I was abducted for my faith. It was so shocking to be held against my will. I escaped, but I am still afraid to go home." Francis and her husband, a U.S. Citizen, have 5 children but will not visit loved ones in Japan for fear of repeat abduction.
In mid-October, many of the same human rights leaders and Christian pastors met with press outside Japan's New York consulate to condemn the Japanese government for not taking action to stop the abduction and faith breaking of religious minorities. After nearly a month, there has been no response from Shinichi Nishimiya, Japan's ambassador and consul general, following a formal request to meet and discuss a course of action to end religious persecution in Japan.
More than 4,300 members of the Unification Church are estimated to have been subjected to human rights violations during the past 40 years. Each year in Japan, between 10 and 20 Unification Church members are abducted and forced to undergo de-conversions.
In the U.S., American citizens are being asked to sign a petition encouraging Congress to hold hearings on human rights violations in Japan. The hearings would be held by the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights, co-chaired by Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.).
Freedom of religion, thought and conscience is the most basic human right. Forced conversion is the antithesis of religious freedom. Shockingly, this criminal and immoral act is happening today – not only where one might expect it, in Darfur, China and Egypt, but also in the advanced democratic nation of Japan. For more information please visit www.stopjapanabductions.org.
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About the ICRF:
The International Coalition for Religious Freedom is a nonprofit, non-sectarian, educational organization dedicated to defending the religious freedom of all, regardless of creed, gender or ethnic origin.
SOURCE International Coalition for Religious Freedom