The Archbishop of Tokyo writes to AsiaNews about the urgent issues in Japan today as it awaits the visit of Pope Francis. The no to atomic weapons from Nagasaki and Hiroshima, but also a message for the dignity of life for disabled, immigrants and hopeless people. In the country, with fewer and fewer children and more and more elderly, there are over 20 thousand suicides a year.
Tokyo (AsiaNews) – As the Holy Father is visiting Nagasaki and Hiroshima, much attention has been given to his message for peace and the abolishment of nuclear weapons.
Of course, sending out these messages from the actual cities hit by atomic bombs would have deep impact over people all over the world and also general public in Japan. The government is also waiting for someone like Holy Father with strong moral voice to take clear positions against nuclear weapons.
However, the actual theme of His Holiness' visit to Japan has been set as "Protect all life" and that aspect should not be forgotten.
Today, the "Gospel of life" is truly needed in Japanese society where human life is not respected, human beings are valued by how much they can contribute to the society. Disabled people are marginalized, and sometimes even the right to life for disabled people are not protected.
In July 2016, a young man attacked the Social Welfare Facility in Sagamihara, Yokohama, and killed 19 handicapped people. He claimed that those disabled people had nothing to contribute the society and, therefore, should be terminated. Quite number of people expressed their approval of this opinion online.
Since 1998 till today, more than 20,000, some estimate more than 30,000, have committed suicide in Japan. In this modern and advanced country full of material goods, people feel so cornered they take their own lives.
So many people have lost their hope for future, feeling isolated as if no one cares for them. Beautiful traditions such as community support have become tales of the past.
Isolation, poverty, no respect for human life and inability to find hope are killing people in modern Japan.
Because of society’s trend for less children and more aged seniors, migrant workers are increasing. Many of them have difficulties to integrated into Japanese society and are isolated. Some of them experience maltreatment by their employer. Again many are losing hope for future.
You might have been informed through news media recently, a Nigerian national died of starvation after several days of hunger strike over his prolonged detention at one of the detention centers in Nagasaki.
I do not want to make haste judgment over the reasons of detention of expatriates by Japanese Immigration Authority but, as a matter of fact, several complaints against the maltreatment by immigration officials in detention centers have reached news media in Japan.
Refugees are not welcomed either by government or general public. The Japanese government is famous for their reluctance to grant refugee status to those who have reached Japan for safety. There were only 42 people granted refugee status in 2018 in Japan out of 10,493 applications
For such country, the Holy Father is bringing a message of love and hope to help us realize we are all loved by our Creator so that we may find hope for our future again. He is visiting us with message of respect for human lives so that all are included in the society and all human lives received due respect and due care.
So I sincerely hope that attention of the public should be given not only to Holy Father's peace message but also for his message of respect for human lives.
The Catholic Church in Japan is ready to follow the good example of evangelization given to us by our Pastor. I will be delighted to welcome him to Tokyo.
+ Isao Kikuchi, SVD
Archbishop of Tokyo