04/29/2015, 00.00
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Bishop of Niigata: May the peace of Christians be the peace of Japan, lured by arms

by Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi
In recent days a bitter controversy has mounted in the nations targeting the Catholic Church, accused by some of "interference" in politics. At the center is the message of the Bishops' Conference for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II: the bishops are asking the government to stop the reform that seeks to eliminate the concept of non-aggression from the Constitution. A comment of the bishop of Niigata.

Niigata (AsiaNews) - The Peace claimed by Japanese politicians "is different from the peace as understood by Christians. We do not want that the country to lose its pacifist vocation and we want to avoid future exploitation. This is why they criticize us". This is the sense of the message sent to AsiaNews by Msgr. Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi, Bishop of Niigata, after the campaign mounted by some sections of Japan's right wing against the Catholic Church.

At the center of the controversy is the Message for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II published in March 2015 by the Japanese Bishops' Conference. In the text, the bishops ask the government to stop the reform that seeks to eliminate the concept of non-aggression from the Constitution. The controversy came made the front pages of the national newspapers, which are not usually very attentive to Catholic issues: even the Asahi Shimbun, perhaps the most widely read newspaper in the country, had a detailed article published yesterday. Below is the full text of the comments signed by Bishop Kikuchi.

The message of Japanese Bishops is, in fact, a cry to the general public in Japan not to abandon our highly respected ideal for Peace which is prescribed in the post WWII constitution.  
It is a reality that Japan could maintain its peaceful existence without any involvement in actual fighting for 70 years because of existence of Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. And it is well known that establishing a Japanese made constitution has been the top priority in the political agenda of the Liberal Democratic Party which has been in power for many years, except for only a few years, after the war. They refer to the present constitution as something imposed by the occupation force.
For quite sometime, a considerable percentage of Japanese public began to feel that the Japan is not really matured country as the constitution prohibits exercise of military power so that in order to become a "normal country" Japan has to change its constitution to allow exercise of military force with other countries in solving international conflicts, though it should be contained in the notion of "self defense" and not  the aggressive military maneuver.
Now I believe that those who want to commit Japan into actual war would be very minimum among general public. I believe Mr. Abe might be thinking himself as a realistic politician who just wants to make Japan a "normal country" with "normal" military power and I do not think he wants to draw Japan into actual war as such.
However, unfortunately, he lacks imagination for future of the country, I think. He will not be in power for ages to come. One day, probably in 2 to 3 years time, he will step down and someone else would be in power. There is no guarantee that LDP will continue to be in power forever. Then the system has to have clear cut identity which does not allow any biased interpretation. Vague terminology which allows any interpretation should not be used.
For example, Mr. Abe's security policy is the "Proactive Contribution to Peace". He guarantees that this does not mean military advancement at all. May be true. But who knows in future? As we all know, present constitution has been interpreted in several times which favors government's policy at the time to allow the self defense force to grow stronger,  Now they can be deployed out side Japan, but only for peace keeping operation under UN. But because of clear cut ideal of no use of military force to solve international conflicts in the article 9 of the constitution, Japan was able not to be involved in the actual fighting. So article 9 was considered something as protecting wall of
peace by us and, probably, stumbling block by realists.
We just want Japanese public to remind ourselves that Japan should be an evangelist of peace in this world. We should not abandon this ideal.
At the same time, we also want to disseminate Church definition of Peace. We are not only talking about peace as "No War" as such but we are talking about "Peace in this world, which is required for the respect and development of human life, is not simply the absence of war or a balance of power between adversaries. It is “the tranquility of order”  (Saint Augustine), “the work of justice” (Isaiah 32:17) and the effect of charity. Earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ"
(Catechism compendium 481). Our peace message is quite in political language but what we are talking about is a bit different from what general public and politicians are talking about. We use same term "peace" but, I believe, definition of that term is quite different and that is not understood by general public yet. That is why we receive quite strong criticism from "realistic" mind political people.

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