Aug 13, 2016

Ten days for Peace: Is peace really possible?

Catholic Church in Japan has been observing ten days for Peace from 6 August to 15 August since Pope John Paul II had visited Japan in 1981. Why it is from 6 to 15 August? It is because Hiroshima was bombed by the atomic bomb on 6 August, 1945 and the government accepted the unconditional surrender to allied forces on 15 August of the same year. And Nagasaki was also bombed by the atomic bomb on 9 August of the same year. Experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is enough for Japanese people to remember misery and atrocity of war and also the experience to accept unconditional surrender which was unavoidable at that time is also enough to remember hardships and great loss people had experienced during and after the WWII.

It is rightly correct to insist and assert that war has to be avoided or nuclear weapons should be abolished based on our negative experiences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And needles to say but the Japanese constitution in article 9 stipulates the government to outlaw war as a means to settle international disputes. But because we often contemplate about Peace based on our kind of victim mentality, our claim for peace has been just saying "No" to actual fighting and do not go deep into the real meaning of Peace. What is Peace? That has to be asked to all of us in Japan today.

In the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church in 489, it is said that "In biblical revelation, peace is much more than the simple absence of war; it represents the fullness of life"

Going back to the Pacem in Terris of the Pope John XXIII, he began the encyclical by saying, "Peace on Earth, which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after, can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order."

So what we have to strive for is to find out the divinely established order. Maybe we may say that we have to try to find out the world which God desires for.

That reminds us that if we seek for Peace to be established today, then just calling for "No War" is not enough but, rather, we have to tackle with wide range of issues which prevents the divine order to be realized. Any kind of human misery existing in today's world is preventing realization of the divine order. Any kind of injustice existing in today's world is preventing it. Any restriction of freedom is preventing it. Any kind of alienation or exclusion is preventing it. Any environmental degradation is preventing it. So many issues to be tackled to establish real peace.

Because of recent growing tension between our neighboring countries, such as over territorial disputes or by actual missile tests, we do hear some voices calling more tough measures should be taken by the Japanese government. And that voices are getting stronger. It seems that some voices are calling immediate solution over these situations.

Then we should remember what was written in the Pope Francis' "Evangelii Gaudium" in 222 & 223. "Time is greater than space."

"This principle enables us to work slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results. It helps us patiently to endure difficult and adverse situations, or inevitable changes in our plans. It invites us to accept the tension between fullness and limitation, and to give a priority to time."

What was said by the Mayor of Nagasaki, Mr. Taue on 9 August during the Peace memorial Service is really telling us something to be considered. Though he was talking about abolish of nuclear weapons, what he said was the general principle of establishing Peace.

"The history of nuclear weapons is also the history of distrust.
In the midst of this distrust between nations, countries with nuclear weapons have developed evermore destructive weapons with increasingly distant target ranges. There are still over 15,000 nuclear warheads in existence, and there is the ever-present danger that they may be used in war, by accident, or as an act of terrorism.

One way of stemming this flow and turning the cycle of distrust into a cycle of trust is to continue with persistent efforts to create trust. In line with the peaceful ethos of the Constitution of Japan, we have endeavored to spread trust throughout the world by contributing to global society through efforts such as humanitarian aid. In order that we never again descend into war, Japan must continue to follow this path as a peaceful

Though I do not deny the right of self defense by Japan, what we have to pursue today is not to enhance our military capability to establish adequate deterrent forces against any possible military advance but to foster the cycle of trust among nations. For that, much more diplomatic efforts are needed. I really expect our diplomats to work harder and tactically to try to involve more countries into the cycle of trust. Also for us, Catholics in Japan, to try to work much more to disseminate the idea of true peace, the Peace of God so that this country to be a champion of the integral human development in today's world to realize the divine order.


Jul 28, 2016

On the Sagamihara murder case

As I had returned back from PNG in the evening on 26 July, I got to know the mass murder of 19 disabled people in Sagamihara that morning. 26 more people were injured. I was deeply shocked to hear the case and, more over, I was absolutely stunned to know that the suspect was justifying his action against disabled people as something to "save" them as "mercy killing".

First and most, I offer my sincere condolence to the family of victims and pray for eternal rest of those 19 people whose lives were violently taken away. And I pray that merciful God may extend his hand to those injured and to those terrified and give them consolation and quick recovery.

Probably there is no need to repeat the same points again and again but let me say it again. Based on our Christian faith, it is not for us to measure the weight of human life. It is only God, God who created our human life and gave it to us, who has right to do so.

Who is allowed to continue to live. Who is worth to survive. Such judgments are not for us to make. If we do so, are we not too arrogant before the God who created the human life? Moreover, God created us as his own image, therefore, all human lives has its own importance and value as the image of God. That is what we call the Human Dignity.

Already many people have made their comments against the discriminatory judgement and violent action by the suspect over people in weak position in the society. When we talk about the people in weak position in the society, it should be inclusive concept of all kinds of weakness and not only of physically disabled people. It includes those people discriminated as different or foreign, facing economical difficulties, facing health problems, facing obstacle of social systems, facing cultural barriers and more. In a sense, all of us are facing or holding some kind of difficulties in the society and  that means we all have potential to be a person in weak position in the society in one way or other.

That is why we have to help each other. That is why we have to support each other. If we don't, then we, human being, may not be able to survive.

I hope through facing the reality of this sad and terrible incidents in Sagamihara, we all in Japan would have yet another chance to think about the meaning of our lives and value of the human life. Then, I hope and pray, we would keep in our heart the value of mutual support to create one human family.

Jul 4, 2016

Bangladesh. I want to cry for the people in the country.

Though there have been so many incidents of terrorist attacks such as suicide bombing or attacks over innocent people happening all over the world, and though my heart is full of pain when ever I hear such incidents, this cruel and merciless attack over innocent people at a restaurant in Dhaka made me feel terribly sad.

First and most, among 20 hostages who was killed by terrorists were 7 Japanese. Because of involvement of these 7 Japanese among the victims, we, people in Japan, are suddenly forced to realize that Japan is not isolated from rest of the world. In this globalized world, no country can be isolated from world affairs but has to be involved and to make active and positive contribution. I am not talking about military involvement of Japan as such as some people are suggesting. But Japan has to realize that we have to be involved in peace making process of this complex world as responsible member of this one common house.

According to the Asahi Shinbun, a Japanese news paper, one of the victims, Mr.Hiroshi Tanaka, 80, was a Catholic and a team member of teachers of catechism in one of parishes in Tokyo. What a pity to loose such dedicated Catholic.

What makes me feel so sad is that these 7 Japanese victims were all working for the development projects in Bangladesh. They are people full of compassion for people in need. They are people full of courage to go out ones comfort zone to face challenges in completely different culture. They are people who find happiness in lending their hands to others in difficulties. They are people who could think globally and act beyond national boundaries.  They are people who could be mindful to take care of our common house, the earth. What a pity to lose these wonderful fighters for true development and alleviation of poverty from this world.

Contrary to these people, those who conducted this terrible attack over innocent victims could not go beyond their limited world. They were living in their own world which was completely isolated from rest of others.

Of course, it is not acceptable to use name of God or any religion as excuse to take other people's life. True religious all agree that God is for life and not for death, is for peace and not for violence, is for protection of dignity of human person and not for destroying them.

In this globalized world, we are not able to sustain our lives without helping each other. We are not able to maintain our common house without putting our wisdom together. We cannot concentrate only on our domestic agenda and ignore other people's need. We cannot retreat into our own world surrounded by our selfish barrier to only to think about ourselves. We got to work together for betterment of all.

The victims were people who could break this barrier and go far beyond it. But the terrorists were not. Between the victims and terrorists, there are huge distance of difference in how they lived, between the life to take care of others in need and the life to ignore others to realize one's own agenda.

I want really cry for victims of terrorists attacks, not only for these 7 Japanese victims but also for all other innocent souls of such incidents all over the world. But I want cry much more for people in Bangladesh who lost at least seven good brothers and sisters from Japan who compassionately thought of betterment of lives of people of the country.  

May 9, 2016

Caritas Solidarity Conference in Nepal

It was on 25 April, 2015 when Nepal was hit by magnitude 7.8 earthquake which took over 8,000 people's life and injured over 20,000.

Immediately after the disaster, Caritas Nepal together with Caritas Internationalis started relief activities under complex political situation and geographical hardships. One of the member organisation of Caritas confederation, Caritas Australia has been asked to accompany Caritas Nepal while others such as CAFOD from England/Wales, CRS from the US and many other Caritas member organisation have been involved in the operation. Caritas Japan is also contributing financially to the operation.

To commemorate the first anniversary of the disaster and evaluate Caritas response, a conference was organised by Caritas Nepal from 25 to 27 in Dulikhel, outskirt of the capital, Kathmandu.

More than 60 participants were welcomed by Bishop Paul Simick, Apostolic Vicar of Nepal, and Fr. Silas Bogati, the executive director of Caritas Nepal and vicar General of the Vicariate who has been working with Caritas for a long time.

Other participants included Cardinal Tagle, President of Caritas Internationalis, Archbishop Pennacchio, Apostolic Nuncio to India and Nepal, Bishop Stasiuk, Deputy Chair of Caritas Australia, Bishop Rawsthorne, former CAFOD chair and many more from Caritas member organisations.

Though Catholic Church is absolute minority in Nepal; with only seven thousand Catholics (by the way it is just the same as my diocese, Niigata), it seems that its charitable activities through Caritas Nepal has been highly appreciated by the national government. Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Mr. Aananda Pokharel was present at the beginning of this 3 day solidarity event to congratulate and show appreciation to the Caritas activities and to Catholic Church. It seems that Caritas Nepal and other Caritas member organisations working together with Caritas Nepal after the disaster are well appreciated by local authorities and created good relationship with them.

Based on our experience of disaster in Japan and also on my own encounter with so many victims of natural disaster in different
countries, it is obvious that it will take quite a long time for victims to recover normal life as before the disaster both in rich and developed countries and in poor and underdeveloped countries.

Materially speaking, people in rich countries such as Japan have advantage in receiving relief goods without much delay and in abundance. However it does not mean victims in rich countries have advantage in psychological compensation because, in many cases in rich countries, human relationship in local community has been lost in individualism or local community itself is not so much in function any more far before the disaster.

As one of the program for the 3-day event, we visited one of the hard hit area in Nepal. The village I visited was called Balthali with nearly 190 houses severely hit by earthquake. After one year of the disaster, people are still living in shelters unable to reconstruct their houses. Compare with those shelters in Japan, victims in Nepal are to live in really bad situation. However, people had not lost their hope for future. Though they have been facing terrible difficulties and delay of official assistance, they are confident to rebuild their life in due time. It is only from my guess
but these confidence for future in Nepal is coming from sense of security and mutual support by relationship within the local community. In any case I am really amazed by the resilience of the earthquake affected people in Nepal.

Registration of victims by government to receive necessary financial assistance to rebuild their houses are still going on after one year. Caritas with other NGOs are working with local authority to set up enrollment center to assist local people to prepare documents for registration and also to provide information on earthquake resistant building plan.

There are NGOs or other official agencies with full of skills to provide
immediate relief goods after the disaster. Though Caritas might be one of them, Caritas is characterized by its long term commitment to the people long after the disaster. It is because the Church is always there with people and our charitable activities are based on the very characteristics of being Church.

Apr 16, 2016

Yet another massive earthquake in Kumamoto

Kumamoto in Kyushu had been hit by massive earthquake on 14 April which took lives of 9 people. Then at 1:25 am today, Saturday, yet another massive earthquake of magnitude 7.3 hit the area. This time, damage caused by the quake affected much wider area than the 14th one.

According to the reports, as at this moment, 15 more people lost their lives and around 1,000 injuries.

As at yesterday, we thought the damage was contained in small area of Mashiki town but this morning quake caused damage in much wider area, including neighboring Ohita prefecture.

At 2 pm, Japan time, today, Saturday, Bishop Miyahara of Fukuoka called a meeting of relevant members of the diocese to discuss about the plan to be help of those affected in the area. Caritas Japan is waiting to hear from this meeting of Fukuoka diocese to decide what step should be taken next.

Apr 15, 2016

Massive earthquake in Kumamoto, Japan

Massive earthquake of magnitude 6.5 hit Kumamoto prefecture, Kyushu island, last night at 9:26 pm Japan time. According to the meteorological bureau, scale of an earthquake was measured as 7. Measured 7 earthquake does not happen so often even in Japan. It was only in 1995 in Kobe, 2004 in Niigata and 2011 in Tohoku. So it was quite strong earthquake. However, as its epicenter was inland, there were no fear of Tsunami.

Since then till this morning, there are more than 100 aftershocks including very small ones.  At this moment, according to news reports, 9 people lost their lives. May they rest in Peace. 

There are also number of reports of injuries and quite many houses are destroyed. Caritas Japan is continuing to gather information from the area at this moment. Kumamoto prefecture is under Fukuoka diocese and Caritas Japan will continue to communicate with the diocesan director of Caritas. As for Catholic Church facilities in Kumamoto, there are no serious reports of damages at this moment, though we do not have any information of members of Catholic community in Kumamoto. As far as what we see from TV reports this morning, most of damages are concentrated in one town, Mashiki.

Usually, for such emergencies, local government together with national government is ready to offer assistance to the victims without any delay. Self Defense Force, police and fire department in general are well trained and well eqquiped to take immediate action once such disaster happened in Japan. Local NGOs have their own role to play at this moment, however, other NGOs from out side the area would have much more role to play for rehabilitation phase of the disaster.

Mar 28, 2016

Happy Easter @ Niigata Cathedral

Happy Easter !

May the light of peace and forgiveness shine in the darkness and may the Risen Lord's hope and power bring new life to everyone.

During the Easter Vigil on 26 March in the Cathedral Church of Niigata Diocese, 4 people received baptism and 2 were received to the Catholic Church from other denomination. All these 6 also received sacrament of Confirmation.

At 7 pm, the Vigil Mass started at the main entrance area of the Cathedral with blessing of new fire and candle. The paschal candle was brought into the church by Fr.Ngaji, SVD, assistant pastor, who also sung Exsultet. After the several readings and Gloria with sounds of bell ringing, gospel was read by the pastor, Fr. Raul.

Then after the homily, 4 catechumens were called to the front for baptism. Three ladies, mother and two daughters, and a gentleman who is a school teacher, were baptized by myself. Then 2 candidates, a husband and wife, who had been baptized at a protestant community long time ago, recited the creed and received into the Catholic community. And I confirmed all these 6. Thank God we have now 6 new members in the Cathedral community which has been facing decreasing number of members because quite majority of them are over 80 years old today.

Next day, on Easter Sunday, the Cathedral was almost full. Well, that means there were around 160 participants in the Mass. Number of them attend Mass only once or twice, Easter and Christmas, a year. So what I can say is the 160 would be the reality of the size of this community despite, according to the official register, 700 supposed to be the number of the members of the Cathedral community.

While we were observing Holy Week this year, number of sad incidents happened around the world.  There were several bombing attacks in Brussels, execution of 2 inmates in Japan on Good Friday and bombing an a park in Pakistan on Easter Sunday which killed at least 67 people.

In the first reading of Easter Sunday, Acts of Apostles, Peter was giving his strong witness on Jesus Christ. We can imagine how they, disciples, felt after the killing of their Master. Fear, anger, hatred or regret. But Peter was talking about none of them. Rather he emphasized that those who believe in Jesus will receive forgiveness. Peter was changed to live new life as he met and believed in the Risen Lord. He was now more living in the old life of fear, hatred, anger or regret, but now he is living with forgiveness of the Lord, the face of Fathers's mercy.

What violence produces is fear and sadness which in turn produces anger and intent on revenge. Revenge just creates vicious circle of violence which, as history proves, has been destroying so many people's life and put so many innocent people in danger of life. That is not the world which God wants us to realize. And it is a terrible contradiction to capitalize name of God as excuse of using violence for any kind of solution of the problem as God is the one who created our life with so much love, love which forced God himself to die for us. Then how can God allow us to destroy life?

At the time of Easter, what we have to proclaim is forgiveness brought into us by Risen Lord who invites us to live in new life filled with mercy of God.