by Ibaraki Kimiko, member
Ageo Godo Church, Kanto District
The World Day of Prayer has been observed in Japan for 70 years, with the exception of the years 1941 to 1946, due to the Second World War. This year, gatherings sponsored by the National Christian Council in Japan's Women's Committee were held in various areas and places under the theme prepared by church women in Papua New Guinea: "Though we be many, we are one body in Christ." Over ten thousand persons across denominational lines gathered at the prayer meetings held in more than 200 places throughout Japan.
In Saitama Prefecture, the area in which I participated, meetings were held at three separate places. The two churches central to the preparation of these meetings were Ageo Godo Church (Kyodan) and Omiya Seiai Anglican Church, which facilitated the gathering of 125 people from the Kyodan, the Church of Christ in Japan, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Anglican Church in Japan. During the time of hymns and prayers, our hearts were quickened by the "voices" and "prayers" in the liturgy provided by the women of Papua New Guinea.
While looking over the liturgy, the unexpressed human pain and sadness that I sensed in the words of the written prayers and "voices" of the Papua New Guinea women brought to remembrance past events in Japan. These emotions are not unrelated to the experience of the people and country of Japan, so I was able to hear the cries of their hearts in relation to new situations that have developed. I have heard that during the time of the World War II invasions, the Japanese military maintained so-called "comfort women" [enslaved prostitutes]. In recent years, as an economic super power, Japan has engaged in the exploitation and destruction of the country through the activities of its businesses, although this cannot be said to be the policy of Papua New Guinea itself.
We read the prepared liturgy's Prayers of Praise, Prayers of Thanksgiving, Prayers of Repentance, and Prayers of Assurance of Forgiveness. Following the sermon, while listening to the prayer of the fourth "voice," which prayed for other people, we realized that this is a voice we must not ignore. The voice said: "We pray for the restoration of the natural environment and natural resources that have been exploited by other persons. That destruction has become the reason for our painful battle to continue to live. Please free people from poverty, and especially free people from the kind of greed that will even sacrifice others because of its own great wants." Referring to the mistakes of the past and present, the final prayer, "Please help us to be your good creation and to be good stewards," echoed deeply and strongly in our hearts.
The women responsible for creating the liturgy included in it the problems and issues that couples in Papua New Guinea are facing. The "voices" and prayers expressing pain and sadness were not at all those of unrelated persons because we were consciously aware that it is our own mistakes that is causing them.
This time, the NCCJ Women's Committee created and distributed a pamphlet to deepen understanding of the World Day of Prayer and to make it better known. In the section entitled "From knowledge to prayer; from prayer to action," is the following statement: "Through the World Day of Prayer, women realize that prayer and action are not to be separated. We affirm the fact that this day has a great influence on the world." The explanation given of the World Day of Prayer is clear and easy to understand.
Through the World Day of Prayer we can find meaning in learning one another's perspectives on race, culture, and tradition, as well as in coming to know and understand each other. Through sharing the trials inflicted on the couples of Papua New Guinea as well as their benefits, hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, and through bearing their burdens together, our faith in Jesus Christ was deepened to enable us to seek understanding and peace.
While reading together the prayers of the Papua New Guinea women, our hearts were centered on the issue of "how we can become one body in Christ." I am praying that this will be realized through the leading of the Lord as we earnestly hear and obey God's Word. (Tr. RT)