Two Guadalupe missionaries talk about their experience. Many Japanese are interested in the Bible, but society keeps them from converting. They live with Christian values. The path to baptism and the discovery of Jesus can take years. "Perhaps we do not dance at Mass like the Africans and do not sing like the Europeans, but our hearts dance with the word of God."
Tokyo (AsiaNews) – "There are more Christians at heart than people who receive the baptism in Japan,” this according to two Guadalupe missionaries in Japan where the mission requires patience and "walking among people".
For Fr Ignacio Martinez, head of the Department of Social Affairs of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, "The Gospel is not a teaching but a way of life. We must do it in the middle of society, the real society. Our faith is not experienced in Heaven; we must start from here ".
Fr Antonio Camacho, responsible for five parishes in Kyoto, agrees. "Evangelisation is not doing 'many things' but being with people, walking with them, bringing them light. It is not like in Europe or America; it is different, also because of Japan’s history, tradition and culture. If we want to evangelise in Japan, we must know and understand its people. These will be the tools to spread the Gospel in Japan. It is a long journey, which takes many years."
"Other priests before me,” Fr Camacho goes on to day, “have spread the Gospel, without knowing if they would succeed in touching the hearts of people. I baptise them now. It can take twenty or thirty years; only God knows. We need to be with people, not as teachers but as part of the community. For me, three things are needed in Japan. The first is patience, the second is patience, and the third is patience."
“One of my joys as a missionary,” adds Fr Martinez, “is to follow the path of someone who wants to be a Christian. They have a long journey ahead of them to find Christ, to find out what the Church is, the Christian faith. Not only as a theological teaching but as an experience of encounter with Christ. To become Christians, they must change their way of living, thinking and observing society.”
In a country where Christians – Catholics and Protestants – are about 1 per cent of the population, it is not easy to convert because there is a clash with the view of the family and society. However, "it is beautiful to observe them reading the Gospel for the first time and hear them say: 'For so many years, I have sought this very thing'."
In Japan, according to both priests, the Bible is a bestseller. But there is a difference between "reading" and "living" the Gospel. For this reason, all the churches open Bible study groups to those who want to know more about the life of Jesus and the Christian faith.
"There are many people in Japan who open their hearts to God. People who are Christian in their way of life, in the way they help others. Very good people who have Christian values even if they are not Christian," says Fr Martinez.
"The Church is open to everyone. That is our mission: not to baptise but to spread the Gospel. Our work here is to be a symbol of God's love. To be consistent with our faith. People will not become Christian because of the missionaries but because they have met God’s love."
For Fr Camacho, the mission in Japan is important. The intensity of the faith of Japanese Christians is exemplified by these words: "Perhaps we do not dance at Mass like the Africans and do not sing like the Europeans, but our hearts dance with the word of God."
"Here in Japan, people are very silent, but their hearts are full of joy", notes Fr Camacho. "I would like young priests to come here to Japan. I know that the Japanese language is difficult, but if they come here, [they will see] that this is the heart of the Japanese people."