Street poet weaponizing words to cure the ills of religious education

The fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by the son of a Unification Church follower has drawn attention to the issue of Japanese parents forcing their children to adhere to religious denominations through psychological or even physical violence.

In some cases, these so-called “second generation” followers of what many describe as religious cults say they are forced not only to blindly follow their parents’ religious beliefs from an early age, but also to endure financial hardship or restrictions on their freedoms. .

The issue tends to be glossed over by Japanese society as a private matter, and the children find themselves in dire situations where it is virtually impossible to say what they are thinking due to the breakdown of their parental relationships.

But iidabii, a rapper and slam poet who is the son of a follower of Jehovah’s Witnesses, bravely recounted his painful childhood experiences through spoken word performances and songs that detail the abuse he suffered. suffered by his fervently evangelical Christian mother.

Iidabii interprets the word in a poetic slam. (Provided by iidabii)

Since around 2018, he has taken the issue center stage in homes of living and other places where young people congregate, performing “poetry readings” in which he speaks in a way he says can reach people who were scarred as he was growing up. victim of his mother’s religious fervor in Saitama prefecture, near Tokyo.

In his spoken word play, also sung as a song, titled ‘Witness of Abuse’, iidabii, 31, tells those who believe they have no choice but to see the world as it appears to them. is presented through the narrow view of religion that they have an option to lead a new life if they take a stand.

Iidabii interprets the word in a poetic slam. (Provided by iidabii)(Kyodo)

In Japan, there is freedom of religion

You can live your faith

Or you can live another way

no one can force you

you have the right to say what you want

act as you want

You have the right to live

Abe’s accused killer Tetsuya Yamagami, who is being held while his mental state is assessed before being charged, told investigators he resented the Unification Church because his mother donated large sums of money to the organization, leading to its bankruptcy and the ruin of the family.

As a motive for Abe’s alleged murder, Yamagami, 42, said he targeted the former prime minister because of his ties to the church, now officially known as the Family Peace Federation and global unification.

The suspect’s troubled upbringing was exposed in the media, and iidabii says he was shocked by the appalling details.

Although it was difficult for him to draw a direct comparison to Yamagami’s experience since their mothers were indoctrinated into different faiths, iidabii says he could still imagine the pain of a situation in which a parent was gripped by a theology of exploitation.

“I think that part was the same as mine,” he said. Memories of his own childhood come flooding back.

Iidabii was born the youngest of four siblings to a mother who was already a devout follower of Jehovah’s Witnesses. His earliest memories are of his mother taking him to religious meetings – gatherings that were held three times a week. From the age of 5, he went door to door on his own, distributing religious literature.

Iidabii is pictured in Saitama, near Tokyo, in July 2022. (Kyodo)

Whenever he fell asleep during a meeting or challenged accepted religious doctrine, his mother would say, “You are doing a wrong thing against God. These admonitions were invariably followed by whippings.

“These (beatings) really hurt,” iidabii said with a grimace, recalling his mother’s punishments which continued unabated until he began to quietly obey her commands around the time. where he entered the third year of primary school.

In “Witness of Abuse,” he details a speech impediment he developed as a result of his treatment, rapping, “I lost words…that was the start of the stuttering problem that continues. still in my adult life.”

Because the teachings of the faith forbid blood transfusions – even in the case of life-threatening medical situations – iidabii says he had to explain this to his elementary school teacher and have “No blood transfusions” printed on the back of his label. .

He couldn’t participate in mock games at sports festivals, pep contests, or even sing the school anthem. At home, he was forbidden to watch cartoons or play video games.

But in middle school, he was stunned by the difference between him and his classmates. Although they openly talked about their dreams of becoming teachers or doctors, his mother made it clear that he should engage in missionary work and take up a part-time job after graduating from high school.

While the cult discouraged college enrollment at the time, iidabii was convinced he had no alternative despite an overwhelming desire to be “normal.” There came a time when he suppressed his true feelings – or more correctly, shook them off – and devoted himself ever more fervently to his religious pursuits.

He noticed at some point that he even forgot how to laugh. But iidabii came to a crossroads in his third year of middle school one day when he confessed to his mother that he wanted to “play music in a band”. His feelings of repression erupted when his mother berated him for “the absurdity of the music”.

When he flatly told her he no longer wished to practice the religious faith, Iidabii said, amid tears she said he was “possessed by demons” and “an evil child.” They argued and fought. From that day on, he stopped attending meetings. “We weren’t a family from the start,” he raps.

Thereafter, he would speak only the bare minimum with his mother. When she found out he was dating girls during his sophomore year of high school, iidabii was excommunicated from the religion – a disciplinary measure called “exclusion” in retaliation for violating the doctrine of the faith.

To avoid contact with his mother, he left the house early in the morning and did not return until late at night. After graduating from high school, he started living alone in a town a bit far from his parents’ house. Since “associations with ‘shunned individuals’ are not permitted”, as his mother puts it, he hardly ever sees her to this day.

In Part 2 of this series, iidabii begins to emerge from his teenage misery and finds the courage to write and perform poetry detailing the torment he has experienced to help others stand up to abuse on behalf of of religion.

Related coverage:

Japanese government launches counseling service for Unification Church woes

Husband Who Helped Wife Quit Unification Church Now Supports Others

FOCUS: Unification Church’s ties to lawmakers emerge as major political issue

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