Building peace begins within ourselves, Joseph Mitsuaki Takami, Archbishop of Nagasaki and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan says in the following message:
In response to the strong “Appeal for Peace” at Hiroshima by Saint Pope John Paul II on February 25, 1981, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan designated the days from August 6 to 15 as “Ten Days for Peace.” These days were chosen because the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Memorial Days and the Commemoration Day for the end of World War II all occur in this period. This year marks the 35th time we mark this period.
It goes without saying that our prayers for peace, and the responsibility to learn and think about peace and to act for peace are never limited to this period. For example, we must not forget Okinawa Memorial Day on June 23. We must pray for peace, learn and think about peace and act for whatever is needed for peace throughout the year. And yet, we are required to spend this particular period giving even more attention than usual to peace.
World peace has been shattered and is constantly threatened by such events as the Syrian War, terrorist activities by fundamentalists and others, armed conflicts involving control of resources and hegemonic shows of force. Numerous people including children and women are killed or injured, forced to leave home, deprived of a normal life and even life itself. Terrorist attacks occur in major cities in Europe, the United States or in Muslim nations. Many Japanese people have become victims. Terrorist attacks are waiting to happen at anytime and anywhere in the world. That is why we pray that powers in both Asia and the West will move toward reconciliation rather than a sort of cold war, and that the spirit of peace enshrined in the European Union (EU) will spread globally and tensions in East Asia will be reduced. US President Obama stressed in his speeches seven years ago in Prague and this past May in Hiroshima that we seek and pursue “a world without nuclear weapons.”
We should look to “mankind’s capacity to act together in solidarity and, on the basis of our interconnection and interdependence, to demonstrate concern for the more vulnerable of our brothers and sisters and for the protection of the common good” (cf. Pope Francis, Message for “World Day of Peace” 2016, 2). Depending on the power of humanity and the grace of God, we want to realize the high ideal of eliminating not only nuclear weapons but all types of weapons and violence from the world. Within our country, we cannot be indifferent to murders that occur on a daily basis, or to discrimination based on nationality, culture or gender, to domestic violence, hate speech, or sexual or power harassment. Appropriate steps are required to be taken constantly. And we must not fail to be wary of security-related laws and the movement to change the Constitution which will inevitably involve the Japanese people in the cycle of violence.
The Hebrew word “shalom,” which for Christians is the original language of “peace,” has various meanings: prosperity and success; wholeness; greetings; well-being; public and private peace; friendship; freedom and salvation. In other words, “peace” means that each one of us lives a fulfilling life, while valuing the dignity of one’s own and others’ lives and building friendly relationships with God and others.
As Pope Francis points out, we must make efforts not to exclude a single person, but must love, forgive and accept each other because we all are embraced by the mercy of God. There is no peace where someone is excluded, dominated, disrespected or discriminated against. By making efforts to complete the fulfillment and happiness of heart and body, work and private life, and relationships with God and people in particular, we must begin building peace within ourselves. We all can do that and we all must do that. That is the sure path to realizing world peace.
May the God of love and peace be with us (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:11).
July 7, 2016
Joseph Mitsuaki Takami, Archbishop of Nagasaki
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan