Ever since the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, the Kyodan has been supported by so many churches around the world, and I really feel that this support has helped open the eyes of our rather inward-looking church to the prayers of people all over the world.
One aspect of this that I would like to highlight is the support the Buraku Liberation Center (BLC) received from an organization with which we had had no connection. Working through the auspices of EMS in Germany, the Waldensians (“Waldenser” in German) of northern Italy contributed a large sum of money for the work of eliminating Buraku discrimination in Japan, which was used to set up special programs for the period of October 2013 through September 2014. The BLC has referred to this as the “WE Project” (for Waldenser and EMS(Evangelical Mission in Solidarity)) and thus set in motion several projects that, due to financial restraints, it had not been able to undertake during its 33 years of ministry since being established in 1981.
These projects included the publishing of a collection of sermons born out of the Buraku Liberation Movement entitled “Let There Be Light to Humanity: Messages Towards Buraku Liberation;” the holding of lectures featuring Ishikawa Kazuo and his wife; and the showing of a new documentary entitled “SAYAMA: Until the Invisible Handcuffs Are Removed,” which documents the scapegoating of Ishikawa some 51 years ago when he was falsely accused and convicted of a murder he was clearly innocent of and for which he has still not been cleared.
The BLC was also able to hold a major conference of activists in the Buraku Liberation Movement in Aizu Wakamatsu (Fukushima Prefecture) that was attended by 230 people from around the country. They also were able to send BLC Management Committee Chairperson Higashitani Makoto and two others to Germany to learn about the plight of the Sinti-Roma people and the discrimination they face. The Waldensians itself has a long history of being discriminated against, and the reaching out in solidarity like this with not only its prayers but also its very generous financial support has been a great encouragement to us. This has been a great opportunity to learn about discrimination issues around the world and will certainly be a catalyst to spur on our own efforts to work in solidarity with others around the world to reach out to those who suffer from the curse of discrimination.
The Waldensians is a lay religious movement that the Roman Catholic Church labeled as a heresy and persecuted. In 1176, Peter Waldo, a wealthy merchant in Lyon, France began this movement of voluntary poverty in southern France, where he sent out people two by two (Matthew 10) to call the clergy to repentance for their excesses. Needless to say, they incurred the wrath of the Roman Catholic Church and the bishop of Lyon forbade any lay person to preach. Waldo protested to the Lateran Council but, eventually, was excommunicated by Pope Lucius III in 1184. Despite persecution, this movement has left its mark in various places around Europe and has maintained its focus on living together with the poor. Although it was viewed as a heretical sect, in 1858 in Italy, it was granted religious freedom on par with the Roman Catholic Church and has continued to exist to the present.
Last November, the BLC sent a report on these activities, in English, to both the EMS and to the Waldensians, expressing its deep appreciation. Through this, the Kyodan as a whole is now being encouraged to reach out in solidarity to all who suffer from discrimination around the world, from the Buraku and Ainu people in our own country to the Sinti-Roma of Europe, the Dalit of India, and the blacks in the U.S. (Tr. TB)
—Nagasaki Tetsuo, general secretary