Women Clergy Protest Japan’s Human Rights Violations
Philadelphia, October 29, 2010
The depth and weight of history is felt at Independence Hall. This is the place where George Washington was chosen to command the Revolutionary Army and is the place that the Declaration of Independence was signed. It is the place where the Constitutional Convention was held over which Benjamin Franklin presided. It is the place that a nation proclaimed that all men are equal and are endowed by God with inalienable rights which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Liberty is so central at this historic place. Just across the green is the Liberty Bell which symbolizes what America fought for – God given rights. The Constitution established in its first Amendment that religious liberty was the most essential right and that all other rights are strengthened when religious freedom is secured.
On Friday, October 29th in front of the Independence Hall, 120 Women Clergy of all denominations of the American Clergy Leadership Conference Women in Ministry gathered to take a stand against the abductions and human rights violations in Japan. Representing all 50 states, the women faith leaders visited and prayed together for Religious Freedom at this hallowed place. 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 cried out for the freedom of others have been violently abducted, beaten and held prison under mental and physical abuse to break their faith. Why are they held. Because, they are being persecuted for their faith. The Women in Ministry decried the ongoing abduction and faith breaking of members of the Unification Church in Japan and demanded the release of the victims.
Three courageous women stood up and spoke on behalf of the 120. Rev. Fannie Smith of WFWP and ACLC WIM served for years with Operation Push in Chicago was appalled that this was not being stopped. She said, “Our sisters and brothers in Japan are being abducted from their homes, when we go back we will pledge that as Women In Ministry from all 50 states we will go to our Congressmen and Senators and we vow that we will get them to stop this injustice and free our brothers and sisters.”
Rev. Fannie Smith (WFWP and WIM), Rev. Tanya Edwards and Rev. Reiko Jenkins demand that Japan Stop the Abductions and Free the Victims
Rev. Tanya Edwards National Co Coordinator of Women in Ministry is a direct descendant of William Penn the founder of Pennsylvania and the origin of its name. She said to those gathered, “We stand at the birthplace of the Constitution and religious freedom. We are grateful because of the religious freedom that was established here, we have a place where we can worship God and serve according to our faith. We ask the leaders of Japan, if you are any kind of a leader you will let the people know about these victims and release them. We say it is time to LET THEM GO NOW.”
Rev. Reiko Jenkins, National Co Coordinator and counterpart to Rev. Tanya Edwards said, “I am from Japan and I am an American citizen. I am grateful to be in America to be able to practice my faith. The ACLC Women in Ministry will fight for this religious freedom in Japan. We will never give up until our people are free.”
At the Women In Ministry National Convention the night before Mr. Luke Higuchi and Mrs. Kumiko Francis , both victims of this violent attack on faith shared their testimony bringing the women faith leaders to tears. Mr. Higuchi who heads SAFE now shared, “I was physically thrown in a van. I was committed to a mental institution with no medical exam. I was treated like a dog. I was in solitary for months. I cannot express how terrible it was in words.” Mr. Higuchi was able to escape this torment by convincing the doctors that he was sane and they released him. Mrs. Francis, spoke through her tears, “I was abducted for my faith. (she sobbed). It was so shocking to be held against my will. It is frightening.“ I escaped, but still I am afraid to go home. Her husband is a U.S. Citizen and they have 5 children who cannot go to Japan to see their loved ones because of fear.
Rev. Jenkins, Chairman of ACLC said, “ACLC is totally committed to stop this violation of human rights. The State Department has investigated and confirmed that there is a lack of government action on the local level. Many Congressmen and Senators are now showing deep concern that an important ally such as Japan is not upholding the fundamentals of religious freedom and human rights. Mr. Dan Fefferman, President of the International Coalition for Religious Freedom briefed the Women In Ministry in preparation for the rally. He said, “There are currently several victims held right at this time. Ms. Fujita who was held against her faith and broken, tragically committed suicide in captivity – because no one would help from the police or her family. She lost all hope. Mr. Fefferman traced the human rights and religious persecution in Japan all the way back to an early Christian woman who suffered death and even family betrayal in Rome for their “new” faith. He also highlighted the egregious mistreatment of Mr. Toru Goto who was abused and held captive for 12 years and 5 months. Prosecutors have refused to prosecute when he pressed charges against the known criminals hired by his family."
ACLC Clergy and the women leaders of Women in Ministry have joined together with ACLC Presiding Prelate Rev. In Jin Moon in many visits to congressmen and senators on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. The Women’s Federation leaders and the Ambassadors of Peace of UPF have also joined in. Dr. Luonne Rouse a New York pastor and Civil Rights leader supported the Philadelphia rally. He has already organized protests for ACLC at the Japanese Consulate in New York and is calling for a march to the embassy in Washington. He is saying let clergy before the Japanese Consulate in New York saying “We Shall Overcome.” Just as the women concluded their rally and began to march – good news came from Japan - one of the victims escaped to freedom !! One pastor said, “If we as women cry out about injustice, the walls of hate and oppression will come tumbling down.”