Jul 13, 2009

Symposium on Human Rights in Sendai

A symposium on Human Rights organised by the Social Action Committee of Japanese Bishops' Conference was held in Sendai on last Saturday, 11 July. The function was the second in 3 consecutive series of the symposium in each of 3 ecclesial provinces, Tokyo, Osaka and Nagasaki. The first one was held in Fukuoka for Nagasaki province on 14 March and the last one will be held in Nagoya for Osaka province on 28 November in Nanzan Church. So the Sendai symposium was for the Tokyo province and attended by more than 200 people who even traveled from neighbouring Iwate, Fukushima and Yamagata prefectures. Iwate and Fukushima are in the Sendai diocese and Yamagata is in my diocese.

Japanese bishops issued a statement last year to commemorate 60 th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which had been adopted on December 10th, 1948. The present symposium was planned to promote the idea of the Declaration among Catholics in Japan since bishops believed that the idea of the Declaration has something common with Gospel message. (Click here for the Bishops' message in pdf file)

For each symposium, 3 bishops from the committee are to give 30 minutes presentation. As for the last Saturday's function, it was Bishop Tani of Saitama, Bishop Hiraga of Sendai and myself to give talks. Bishop Tani who is in charge of the commission for migrants, refugees and itinerant people talked about protecting human rights of migrant workers in Japan. Bishop Hiraga who is in charge of the committee on Buraku discrimination talked about the fight against discrimination in Japan especially on the topic of the past government policy on the severe isolation of patients of Hansen's disease (leprosy) and discrimination against them. I talked about the Poverty and Development since I had been working for Caritas Japan since 1995 and this is the topic I can confidently talk in relation to the Human Rights issue. Bishop Matsuura of Osaka was the MC and the chairman of the committee, Archbishop Takami was also present. (photo above: Far left is Bishop Tani. Archbishop Takami is standing and far right is Bishop Matsuura)

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