350 quit being 'Moonies'

Kyodo News Service/December 10, 2001

Nagoya -- A Japanese cleric was awarded Monday for his longtime efforts in making about 350 followers of the cult group known as the Unification Church withdraw their membership, award organizers said.

Makoto Sugimoto, 53, a cleric of Nishio church in Aichi Prefecture of the United Church of Christ in Japan, a Protestant Christian union, was given a human rights award by the Nagoya Bar Association.

The association recognized his role in getting about 350 Unification Church members, often referred to as ''Moonies,'' to quit the group over a 14-year period, association officials said.

''I accept this award on behalf of all the others who are doing the same work as me,'' said Sugimoto.

Sugimoto became involved in helping families of members of the Unification Church, established by Sun Myung Moon, after September 1987 when he started receiving silent phone calls at his home and church and other kinds of threats while planning a lecture on the manipulative sales practices of religious cults, according to the officials.

His ordeal was made public by the media and consequently attracted many callers nationwide seeking help in dealing with such problems, the officials said.

The award, established in 1989, recognizes the achievements of those who contribute to activities related to the protection of human rights.

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