07/15/2014, 00.00
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Japanese Christians resolutely against changes to the constitution's pacifism

For r Marco Villa, a PIME missionary working in Japan, "the Abe government's decision to revise Article 9 has divided Japanese society and public. As the memory of World War II fades, so are old certainties. The belligerent position of China and North Korea is not helping." In a letter to the prime minister, Japan's Catholic bishops say his choice is wrong and "dangerous".

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - The proposed revision to Article 9 of Japan's constitution, which would effectively remove its pacifism provision and give Japan the means to develop assertive military forces, "is openly discussed in Japanese society and among ordinary Japanese," said Fr Marco Villa, a missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) in Japan.

"Opinions are divided," he noted, "including the main newspapers. Some agree with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; others oppose him. By contrast, in the Catholic Church and among ordinary Christians there is a greater consensus in defence of Article 9 and the peace it represents," Fr Villa explained.

As PIME Vice regional superior, he works with the marginalised and lonesome people from bedroom communities north of Tokyo. The decision by right wing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to amend the Constitution has sent shockwaves across Japanese society.

"The debate is ubiquitous. Article 9 has even been nominated for the Nobel Prize for peace. Japan's constitution is the result of the country's defeat in World War II, a conflict that ended nearly 70 years ago. Few people from that time are still alive, and their ranks are getting thinner every year. The history and shared memories about those events are waning, changing the perception of current affairs."

"It is impossible to ignore military tensions in East Asia, which seem to be getting worse," the missionary said. "On the one hand, we have China's aggressive and intrusive position; on the other, we have North Korea's unpredictable behaviour. The situation is ominous and the government's move to change Article 9 is a bit the outcome of this situation."

Earlier this month, the standing committee of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan sent Prime Minister Abe an open letter to "protest the cabinet's decision".

For the prelates, "It is totally unacceptable that your cabinet promises to cooperate with allied nations based on this unjust decision". Indeed, for bishops, the government's action lacks citizens' input.

Instead, "We, the Catholic Church, are convinced that it is false to think that national security can be ensured by military build-up and the use of force. [. . .] Peace is built solely on respect for the dignity of all. Peace can be built only by sincere reflection upon history and apology for past conduct followed by forgiveness."

"We must not abandon the hope to avoid war and armed conflict through dialogue and negotiation."

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