by Iijima Makoto, executive secretary Kyodan East Japan Disaster Relief Projects Planning Headquarters
The International Youth Conference on “Aiming to Realize a Sustainable Energy Future,” hosted by the Kyodan in Kyoto March 28-31, was a very significant event in the ongoing efforts to consider issues associated with nuclear power generation and energy consumption, in the following three respects.
1. The conference was held in Japan, which has experienced radiation exposure three times—in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Fukushima.
2. Not only did the conference clarify problems of nuclear power generation from a variety of viewpoints, it provided suggestions about how to realize a sustainable energy society in the future.
3. The conference, which was planned and implemented by youth leaders, gave birth to the possibility of a network that is rooted in the church and based on shared awareness among Christian youth from 12 countries, including not just Asian countries but also Canada, the USA, and Germany. There were 110 participants, with 20 from overseas.
These points are explained further below with corresponding numbers.
1. In 1945 Japan suffered the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and, after the East Japan Disaster on March 11, 2011, also experienced the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. We therefore bear a special duty, now more than ever, to alert the world to the grave effects of radioactive contamination on our lives. At this conference we did not limit ourselves to speaking out; we were able to invite youth from other countries that listened earnestly to our voices and were willing to engage in new challenges with us.
2. The conference made it clear that the nuclear power plant accident of 2011 caused irreparable harm and dire situations in the following ways.
1) There are people who cannot return to their homes due to high levels of radiation.
2) Not only has mandatory evacuation destroyed local communities, differing viewpoints on radiation risks have also caused division in families and among friends.
3) Harmful effects on the health of children resulting from radioactive contamination are growing more serious with the passage of time.
Such problems were illustrated through the use of meticulous materials, and the situations and initiatives in other countries were also introduced. Through this, participants were also made aware of how important it is for us to adopt sustainable energy options into our daily lives; for example, going “off-grid.”*
3. The fact that this conference was planned over a period of one year and was carried out by young people is very meaningful not only for the future of the Kyodan but also for the Christian community in Japan. As we look forward with anticipation to the rich relationships that may develop among the youth who gathered, including those from abroad, we in the Kyodan must ask ourselves what we can do to foster such relationships.
Fellowship can take many forms. The special characteristic of the fellowship experienced at this conference was that participating youth discovered the importance of collaborating across denominational boundaries while remaining firmly grounded in the Gospel faith. Also noteworthy is the fact that 16 of the Kyodan’s 17 districtswere represented at the conference. (Okinawa sent no delegate.) It is encouraging to know that the Kyodan can come together like this to engage a single issue as one body.
Aside from the closing day’s plenary session, where we discussed and adopted a final statement, the conference was an intense event that featured 20 lectures and presentations in 21/2 days. The young organizers did a wonderful job of implementing the program. We can say that this youth conference inherited the spirit of the Kyodan’s first international conference, held at Sendai in 2014, and bore fruit beyond our expectations.
The tasks that lay ahead of us are: (1) to ensure that the issues of nuclear power transmitted from Japan will be deeply and widely received abroad and (2) to work with overseas partners who sent youth to this conference to host in those countries, on a rotating basis, a series of conferences focused on nuclear power issues.
With heartfelt prayers to the God of history, this concludes my report on the conference. (Tr. DGM)
*Going “off-grid”: Disconnecting from the power distribution network (“grid”) of major electric power companies by installing and using one’s own power-generation facilities.