PIME’s Fr Lembo: Tokyo is under shock, with questions about Abe’s assassination
by Giorgio Bernardelli

For the Italian missionary, “this is a first for Japan”, yet surprised “to see so many young people in front of maxi-screens to follow the news.” If the gunman acted on his own, it “would raise questions about a society” that “creates people with personalities that can explode.”

Tokyo (AsiaNews) – The Japanese capital in shock after the murder of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was gunned down yesterday during a rally in Nara prefecture.

“The country is under shock, and the news is still very fragmentary. When it happened this morning, I was at the Kawasaki station. Everyone is in shock following the news,” said Fr Andrea Lembo.

Nara “is a small province,” explained the PIME missionary who heads the Shinzeikaikan Catholic Cultural Centre. “Abe was campaigning for the local Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidate.”

In two days, “elections will be held,” he noted, “and Japanese society is a much discussed topic. So is the  high number of women candidates running for opposition parties, unlike the model embodied by the LDP, but it [Abe’s speech] was just a local event.”

So far, little is known about Tetsuya Yamagami, the killer, and his motive. He used an improvised weapon in the attack

“The news is confusing. All the ministers out on the campaign trail rushed back to Tokyo, perhaps fearing the action of an organised group. But it could also be the action of a single individual.

“Certainly, this is a first for Japan. Incidents have occurred in the past like attacks in the subway, but never a political murder with a gunman shooting in public. This came as a shock in a country where weapon possession is very rare.”

Even if it turns out that Yamagami was driven by personal animosity against former Prime Minister Abe, as early reports suggest, it would still be quite disquieting. This “would raise questions about a society that excludes, crushes the weakest, and creates people with personalities that can explode.”

Shinzo Abe was a towering figure in Japan. “His political career left a very strong mark; he stressed pride in Japan, its beauty and its international role. His strength was such that he managed to sap the opposition, embodied by Yukio Hatoyama.

“Like other big democracies, Japan is a country where the turnout has fallen to historic lows. Yet what struck me the most today was to see so many young people in front of maxi-screens to follow the news. They tend to stay away from politics.”

Now “It will be interesting to see if all this has any repercussions on Sunday's elections, provided they are not postponed.”

Before the death of the former leader was announced, Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo spoke about the attack, offering his prayers for the targeted politician.

“Violence kills freedom. Violence kills justice. The differences of political opinion have to be solved through dialogue and voting in freedom,” the archbishop  told the Crux online newspaper.

“No one has the right to use violence to silence opposition. Only dialogue provides a real solution to realize justice and peace.”