Nagasaki Furumachi Church School Commended for Recycling Efforts

This marks the 15th year that Nagasaki Furumachi Church has been
recycling old paper as an activity of its church school, having begun in
July 1993. It is recognized as a continuing activity contributing to the
recycling of natural resources by the Nagasaki City Environment
Protection Bureau. The bureau has honored the church school with a
financial grant, all of which is donated to UNICEF through a local
broadcasting station. Old paper is accepted every day, not only from the
church members but also other local residents. Once every two months,
the old news papers, magazines, etc, that have been stored in the
church’s garage, are handed over to dealers in old paper. (Tr. RK)

–Fukui Hirofumi, pastor,
Nagasaki Furumachi Church, and
Ishimura Naoyoshi, church school director
Nagasaki Furumachi Church, Kyushu District
From Shinto no Tomo(Believers’ Friend)

Through God's Leading: Over 70 Exhibitions of Post-World War II Pictures

n January 1992 I visited a small church near Nashville, Tennessee with
a ten-member tour group as an activity of the Zenrinkan Christian Center
(now Ou Christian Center) where I was working at that time. There I met
Joe O’Donnell, who had come to Japan soon after the war as a cameraman
with the army, and I saw the pictures he had taken of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki.

These were all pictures no one in Japan had yet seen. They were some of
the pictures he had taken with his personal camera, aside from his
official job of photographing the destruction of cities in Japan.
Members of our group could not hold back their tears when they saw the
picture entitled “Young Man at a Crematory (Preparing to lay his little
brother on a funeral pyre).” O’Donnell had decided to display these
pictures two years before we met him. He continued displaying them until
he was called to heaven on Aug. 9, 2007, believing that this was his
mission from God. He readily agreed to our request to display them in
Japan, and we have been able to hold more than 70 exhibitions to date. I
presently the custodian for O’Donnell’s pictures and am hoping many
churches will exhibit them.

I sensed a deeper purpose at work in my opportunity to meet Joe
O’Donnell. Our tour to America was arranged by Richard and Martha
Lammers, former missionaries who had worked at our center until 1990.
Martha was part of a group that churches in America recruited to help
with the reconstruction of Japan, and her first assignment was to
Hiroshima Jogakuin (girls’ school). She says that there she felt
firsthand the horror of the atomic bomb. Martha has spoken out ever
since on the horror of atomic weapons and has translated into English
the story of the primary school girl, Sadako, who died from leukemia
caused by the atomic bomb, and sent the story, along with folded paper
cranes, to America. Many people in our center cooperated in collecting
folded paper cranes to send. Some churches our tour group visited had
taken part in the folded paper crane campaign. It was in this context
that we met Joe O’Donnell. I cannot think that this meeting was mere
chance: that this was a response from God to Martha and those in our
group who had helped with the folded paper cranes.

I am constantly reminded that God is at work and that I have been able
to participate in that work. (Tr. WE)

–Yamazaki Makoto,member
Shimonohashi Church, Ou District
From Shinto no Tomo(Believers’ Friend)

Reclaiming the Rights of the Ainu People*

by Miura Tadao, Ainu Peoples’ Resource Center Director
Pastor, Rumoi Miyazono Church, Hokkai District

In recent years there has been a lot of action all over the world around
the issue of indigenous peoples’ rights. On Sept. 13, 2007, the United
Nations General Assembly approved the “United Nations Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” In June 2008, the Japanese Diet passed a
resolution recognizing the Ainu people as indigenous people of Japan.
However, a detailed look at these documents reveals that there are still
many issues to be considered. The Japanese government voted in favor of
the UN Declaration. However, before actually voting, each country gave a
speech indicating its position with regard to the Declaration, and
Japan’s speech made clear that although it would vote in favor of the
Declaration, there was to be no consideration of any kind of autonomy
for indigenous people and that any land claims would have to be dealt
with in accordance with existing Japanese law.

After that, nothing happened in Japan until just before the G8 Summit
held in Hokkaido in July 2008, when members of the Japanese Diet
suddenly took action. On March 26 a multi-party “Diet Members’ Group to
Consider the Rights of Ainu People” was formed and encouraged Japan, as
host country of the Summit, to issue a statement recognizing the Ainu
people as indigenous people of Japan, as a sign to the world that Japan
is a mature, developed, industrial democracy since this was in Japan’s
national interest. On June 6, the resolution to establish the rights of
the Ainu people was passed in both the Upper House and Lower House at
lightning speed.

After passing the resolution, the Cabinet on July 1 approved the
establishment of a panel of experts to consider a new policy regarding
the Ainu people. The purpose of this panel was to allow a high level of
government to receive the opinion of experts so that a new overall
policy in relation to the Ainu people could be developed. Areas to be
considered by the panel included an investigation of the living
conditions of Ainu people and their experience of discrimination, an
evaluation of past policies regarding the Ainu people, and a
consideration of the policies of other countries towards indigenous
peoples in the light of the UN Declaration. The final goal was the
development of a new and appropriate policy concerning the Ainu people,
with specific suggestions for implementing it.

A fundamental problem with the panel of experts was that only one Ainu
person was included as a member and the time limit of one year was far
too short for the panel to do its work. So far the panel has met four
times and is beginning a discussion of concrete issues. The issues are
numerous. And yet, in response to questions about the June resolution in
the Japanese Diet, the Japanese government has indicated repeatedly that
because there is no clear definition of “indigenous people” in the
resolution that recognized the Ainu people as “indigenous people,” it is
not clear whether the Ainu would fit the category of “indigenous people”
as laid out in the UN Declaration. Such cowardly behavior is not helpful.
However, this kind of attitude illustrates the important role that the
panel of experts has to play. These experts must evaluate carefully
government policies of the past and offer new directions by making clear
the painful history and the discrimination that the Ainu people have
suffered under past policies and see that their position as indigenous
people is set down clearly in the law. A multi-racial group called
“Chi-kara-nisatta” (Building Tomorrow Together) was formed in 2008 and,
rather than watching idly as the panel does its work, this group is
studying the UN Declaration in order to make recommendations to the
panel. The Ainu Peoples’ Resource Center is pleased to be able to work
with this group and will join it when concrete suggestions are presented
to the panel of experts in the near future.

Hokkai District, reflecting on its own past history of walking on the
side of the invader and oppressor, established the Ainu Issues Committee
in 1985, at the time of the Nibutani land claim court case, in an
attempt to join with the Ainu people in their struggle to reclaim their
rights. To be even more active in this work on a daily basis and to
enable church people to see the reclamation of Ainu rights and the end
of discrimination as valid mission concerns, the district established
the Ainu Peoples’ Resource Center. It has worked slowly but surely to
deepen the relationship between the church and the Ainu people. However,
with the exception of Hyogo District and committed individuals, the
situation is that the Kyodan as a whole does not seem to perceive these
issues as mission concerns. I think a big part of our job is to find a
way for the entire Kyodan to recognize and to share the importance of
this work. (Tr. RW)

*The Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan, have their own unique culture
and language and have historically occupied the southern portion of the
Sakhalin Islands, Kurile Islands, all of Hokkaido, and the Tohoku
(northeast) region of Honshu Island (Japan’s main island).

Introducing The National Federation of Kyodan Women's Societies

by Go Kashiko, NFKWS Ecumenical Relations Committee chair
Pastor, Hachioji Eiko Church, Nishi Tokyo District

When the church restructured in 1969, the National Federation of Kyodan
Women’s Societies was organized as an autonomous body within the Kyodan.
As our 40th Anniversary National Assembly is held June 2-3 in Makuhari,
Chiba, the theme, “Salt of the Earth, Light of the World, Connected to
the Church as the Branch to the Vine, Bearers of Mission for Tomorrow
–Learning from Mathew’s Gospel,” will surely inspire and challenge us.

The NFKWS’ membership includes both lay women and women pastors, with
the opinions of each considered equal. It supports the mission of the
Kyodan but determines its own leadership, program, and budget as it
functions on three levels: national, district, and subcommittee. The
main goals and activities of the NFKWS are as follows.

Rainbow Haven, located near the sea in the southern part of Chiba
Prefecture, was built as a residence for retired women pastors and
pastors’ wives in 1973. The building is also used for church school
summer camps, seminars, and meetings. In November 2007, an advisory
committee was formed to consider the merger of Rainbow Haven and
Shin-ai-soo (a home founded in 1959 for retired pastors in Tokyo
District). Construction of a new building, to be called Rainbow Haven
Shin-ai-soo, is now underway in Tokyo, with completion scheduled for
June 2010.

The Ecumenical Relations Committee strives to strengthen ties between
NFKWS and women’s organizations in other denominations, both domestic
and international. Members attend meetings of the Asian Church Women’s
Conference’s Japan Committee, the National Christian Council in Japan’s
Women’s Committee, and other international gatherings to broaden and
deepen relationships with churchwomen in Japan, Asia, and other parts of
the world. The committee also cosponsors youth mission programs with
partner churchwomen abroad, such as the Germany and Japan Youth Exchange
Program, and for over 35 years has run a home-stay program for
participants at Asian Rural Institute (ARI), which trains agricultural
leaders mainly from Asian and African countries. Through the home-stay
program, ARI participants learn about Japanese family and church life,
and Japanese churches and families learn about the realities of life in
other countries.

The Committee to Study the Bible as Canon continues the emphasis on
Bible study and prayer that the NFKWS has had since its beginning. It
holds a monthly Bible study that is open to the public, organizes a
National Bible Study event every two years at different locations in
Japan, publishes a Bible Study Series, and assists many small Bible
study groups throughout Japan, providing leadership as well as literature.

The Literature Committee publishes Church Women, a four-page monthly
periodical with a circulation of roughly 7,300 that informs women of our
mission tasks and aims to create a sense of solidarity in Christ. Church
Women carries sermons that coincide with the church calendar, essays,
symposium papers, up-to-date reports, and information from the NFKWS’
Central Committee and other committees, as well as articles concerning
fellowship with ecumenical groups. The page allocated to reports on
local and district church events helps churchwomen learn about the
ministry and prayer requests of other districts.

The Committee to Study the Situation of Women Pastors publishes an
annual paper and holds annual seminars for women pastors.

The Pastor’s Wives’ Committee was established in 1975 to identify
problems faced by churchwomen, including pastor’s wives. Members consist
of pastor’s wives, women ministers, and lay women. The committee
publishes an annual newsletter, supports church mission activities, and
holds biennial nationwide seminars. The theme of a recent seminar was
“Joy in Walking Together with Peaceful Hearts.”

The Education Based on the Dignity of Life Committee recently published
a book entitled Consider Human Beings based on Education for Children,
after six years of research. The reports included are 1. Environment of
children; 2. Issues of school education reformation; 3. On handicapped
children; 4. Passing the torch of faith to younger generations; 5.
Church and children; and 6. What the Bible teaches about education.

The main purpose of the NFKWS is to help churchwomen recognize ways to
serve in the local church and to help build up the church as a whole. In
the face of issues like the aging of NFKWS members and the serious
decline in the number of youth in the church today, we must strengthen
our solidarity and find ways to transmit our faith to the next generation.

"Liberation Play" Challenges Our Prejudices

by Tim Boyle, missionary
Buraku Liberation Center, Osaka

Of the many activities the Buraku Liberation Center engages in to
educate people both in the church and in general society, the
“Liberation Play” is perhaps the most thought-provoking. The latest
play, “Forty Days in the Wilderness,” is the eighth one produced by the
BLC and was first presented at the 36th Kyodan General Assembly in
October 2008. The basic plot of this play revolves around the actions of
a local church pastor as he tries to help the son of a parishioner of
buraku background land a job in a major company. Instead of interacting
with these people as his equals, however, the pastor unconsciously looks
down on them. Thus, his desire to help is actually motivated by feelings
of pity for them and superiority over them. The pivotal line, which he
utters while talking with a contact in the company, is: “He is from the
buraku, but he’s not really a bad person at all.”

The meaning behind these words is that in reality, he too holds the
common perception that buraku people are generally untrustworthy and
lazy, though in his mind this particular young man appears to be an
exception. Because he inadvertently lets the “big secret” slip out, the
net result is that the young man is passed over by the company in spite
of his clear qualifications. When the pastor finally realizes what he
has done, he figuratively goes into the “wilderness” to reflect deeply
on it, repents of his sin, and then embarks on a struggle to lead his
church to grapple honestly with the issues of prejudice and
discrimination. It is a struggle indeed, as some of the “respectable”
members are more concerned about the reputation of the church than about
doing what God is clearly calling them to do. It is a play that makes
those who watch really think about their own subconscious attitudes, and
challenges all to look into their own hearts and face up to their own
prejudices.

In the year and a half since I began working at the Buraku Liberation
Center, I too have thought deeply about my own prejudices as well as
prejudicial attitudes in general. Probably the biggest barrier to
eliminating discriminatory attitudes is the failure of most
people–including those who profess to support “universal human
rights”–to understand the basis of those rights. The Christian gospel
proclaims that it is the “image of God” imparted to each individual
human being that is the guarantee for his or her intrinsic value and is
thus the grounding for the fundamental human rights of all human beings.
The “image of God” concept teaches us that God values us for who we are
and not for what we can do for his kingdom or for any utilitarian
purpose. Any other basis one could think of for grounding fundamental
human rights ends up being utilitarian in orientation.

For instance, the basic assumption underpinning the secular humanist
worldview is that there is no “creator” other than the chance happenings
of the natural world. Thus, according to this view, just as humans
physically evolved from lower animals, the various cultures they
manifest and the ethical value systems embedded within those cultures
likewise evolved naturally, without any external input from a
(non-existing) deity. Right and wrong are totally relative, and there is
no inherent worth in human beings independent of their utilitarian value
(as determined by whoever is in power).

Within such a system of thought, then, there is no ground for any
concept of universal human rights without borrowing the concept from the
biblical worldview. While the United Nations’ “Universal Declaration of
Human Rights” is a secular document in the sense that it does not
mention God or expressly ground its contents in any religious doctrines,
it clearly is based in the Judeo-Christian worldview, since these rights
are based on our intrinsic value as human beings. But there is no
“intrinsic value” unless this value is grounded in something ultimate,
namely the value our Creator has imprinted on each person he creates.

This is why any form of discrimination is an affront to God when is
based on who a person is (as opposed to what a person has done). In one
sense, there is a proper kind of “discrimination” against any particular
individual–namely just treatment for what he or she has done. For
instance, we properly “discriminate” against someone when they are
justly sentenced to prison for harming someone else. Here, of course,
the word “justly” must be emphasized, as the reality is that there are a
considerable number of cases of injustice, where improper discrimination
(based on who a person is) gets in the way of true justice (based on
what that person has done).

One classic example of this in the Japanese context is the case of
Ishikawa Kazuo, a man of buraku descent who was framed by the police for
a murder he clearly had nothing to do with, based solely on the
expediency of finding someone from the local buraku without an airtight
alibi who could serve as a scapegoat. The BLC has been at the forefront
of widespread efforts to first secure his release from prison (he was
finally released on parole after 31 years) and now to get the Japanese
court to reopen the case so that he can clear his name.

After his transformation into an apostle of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
Paul stated in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave
nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” These
are, in fact, the three main categories of discrimination that are
experienced in human society: racial/ethnic, class, and gender
discrimination. Our goal as followers of Christ is to first to be set
free from prejudicial attitudes in each of these areas and then to lead
society in the same direction. May God grant us the grace and courage to
persevere in this great effort. Your prayers and support for the work of
the Buraku Liberation Center are most appreciated.

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