07/31/2015, 00.00
JAPAN
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Bishop of Niigata hopes to see Japan build peace through development, not weapons

by Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi
The prelate, who chairs Caritas Asia, reflects on the meaning of peace before the ten days during which the Japanese Church commemorates the carnage of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Whilst civil society groups oppose the abolition of Article 9, the prime minister speaks of urgent requests from the international community. The history of the country and its involvement with developing nations are its real contributions to human dignity and harmony in the world.

Niigata (AsiaNews) - Summer, especially in month of August, is the time to contemplate and act for peace in Japan. In 1945, on 6 August, Hiroshima was hit by the very first atomic bomb which was followed by Nagasaki on 9 August. Then on 15 August, Japan accepted unconditional surrender to allied forces which was the end of the WWII. So the Catholic Church in Japan decided in 1981 after the Hiroshima Peace appeal by Pope John Paul II, to designate this 10-day period, starting from 6 to 15 August, as a special 10 days to pray for peace.

This year, as we commemorate 70th anniversary of the end of the WWII, all the Japanese Catholic Bishops together with all Japanese Anglican Bishops gather together at Hiroshima on 5 August to pray together for peace at the Catholic Cathedral of Hiroshima in the evening.

Each diocese organizes their own Peace activities based on respective conditions. Niigata diocese usually organizes these activities on the last Sunday of July. This year it was on 26 July at the Niigata Cathedral.

As for this year's program, we invited Mr. and Ms. Katagiri, non-Christian couple from Niigata, who have been supporting education of indigenous kids in Eastern India. They have decided to establish a local  NGO in Niigata to cooperate with Indian local NGO to support education of kids and establish a boarding school for street kids. What surprised us is that they have started this activities after retirement from their jobs. It was inspiring to hear their experience and, also, future plan.

After the talk, I said Mass for Peace in the Cathedral. Unfortunately, it was terribly hot on the Sunday and not so many people could come to join us. However, there were more than 30 people to pray together for peace in the Cathedral.

Present Japanese government led by Mr. Shinzo Abe of the Liberal Democratic Party, LDP, has been trying to put through new bills to change national security policies. It has passed lower house of the Parliament and from yesterday debate has started in the upper house. Despite strong opposition from general public which one could see from number of people demonstrating around the Parliament these days calling the prime minister to withdraw the bill, Mr. Abe is determined to pass the bill as the LDP has majority of seats in both houses.

Of course, we do recognize sovereign right of the country to defend itself from any military advancement from out side the country. However, based on the historical experience of Japanese military aggression before the WWII, present Japanese Constitution prohibits the government to exercise military power outside Japan. In the article 9 of the Constitution you may read as follows.

Article 9.Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

However, government has made several reinterpretation of the article which allowed Japan to establish the Self Defense Force (SDF) as minimum force for the self defense. However, according to the government explanation, because of change of security situation surrounding Japan and also expectations of the International community for more military contribution by Japan, this interpretation had to be changed.

It was already last year, the present cabinet changed the interpretation of the article 9 and decided to allow SDF to join other countries,such as the US army, to exercise the right of collective self defense though with limitations. Of course, for many other countries, such military exercise is not something foreign. However it is Japan which followed for 70 years the pacifistic constitution which does not presuppose Japanese military forces to exercise its military power on foreign territory. 

Japanese Catholic Bishops are against this move by the government and our thoughts are reflected in the message of Japanese Catholic Bishops on 70th anniversary of the end of the WWII.

Mr.Abe stresses the point that Japan has to take the policy of "Proactive Contribution to Peace" in order to respond expectations from other countries as economic giant. So he stresses that the change of the policy and new bills reflecting this change of the security policy which are under debate in the parliament at this moment  are necessary to proactively contribute to world peace.

Well, it may be so. However, as I contemplate the meaning of peace, I do believe what Japan could contribute to the world peace is not military capability but its long established activities of contribution to the world development, especially in the so-called developing countries. And I do believe contribution to the development which will bring the full respect and realization of human dignity would be appreciated and respected by the international society. 

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