Category Archives: Japan

Message from Japanese Bishops 70 Years after the War

Catholic News Service

Mount Fuji, Japan
Mount Fuji, Japan

Japan’s Catholic Bishops have issued the following statement to mark the 70th anniversary of World War Two. Blessed are the peacemakers – Now especially, peace must not depend upon weapons.

To our Brothers and Sisters in Christ and to All Who Wish for Peace

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan issued messages marking the end of the Second World War in 1995 (Resolution for Peace — On the 50th. Anniversary of the End of the War) and 2005 (Peace Message After 60 Years From the End of War World II — The Road To Peace Based On Nonviolence — Now Is The Time To Be Prophetic). In this year in which we mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, we wish to once again declare our commitment to peace.

1. The Church Cannot Remain Silent in the Face of Threats to Human Life and Dignity

For the Catholic Church, this is a noteworthy year because it marks the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
In the first half of the Twentieth Century the Christian Church centered in Europe experienced two world wars and genocide against the Jews by Nazi Germany. Reflecting on these tragedies, the Church cannot close itself up with merely “religious” concerns. We have realized that the problems of humanity are our problems. The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, issued at the end of the Second Vatican Council, is a clear example of this insight, opening with the following words.

“The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.

From the end of the Second Vatican Council up to the papacy of Pope Francis today, the Church has actively faced the issues of human life and dignity, especially of those who are excluded or oppressed.

2. The Decision to Renounce War

Japanese colonial rule on the Korean Peninsula until 1945 as well as acts of aggression against China and other Asian countries caused great suffering and sacrifice among people. The Second World War was a horrible experience for the Japanese people as well. Beginning with the Tokyo air raid of March 10, 1945, large-scale air raids struck many cities in Japan. In addition to the many Japanese and foreign troops who became casualties during land combat on Okinawa, many civilians suffered as well. Then finally there were the atomic bombings of Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. These experiences gave birth to a desire for peace that was codified in the Constitution of Japan promulgated in 1946 based on the sovereignty of the people, the renunciation of war and respect for basic human rights. Following this peace constitution, Japan has striven to build relationships of trust and friendship with the nations of Asia.

Against the background of the Cold War and the subsequent fall of the Berlin Wall, the Catholic Church throughout the world has made increasingly clear its opposition to the arms race and the use of weapons to resolve disputes.

In his encyclical Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII said, “in this age which boasts of its atomic power, it no longer makes sense to maintain that war is a fit instrument with which to repair the violation of justice” Vatican II in Gaudiam et Spes opposed the arms race, and urged peace that does not rely upon military force. In his Appeal for Peace in Hiroshima in 1981, Pope John Paul II demonstrated this clear renunciation of war when he said, “War is the work of man. War is destruction of human life. War is death.”

Given this historical background, it is a matter of course that we Japanese bishops respect the ideals of Japan’s no-war Constitution For Christians, the renunciation of war is demanded by the Gospel of Christ. It is a respect for life that cannot be abandoned by religious people and an ideal that is held firmly by the whole human race.

3. The Japanese Church’s peace vocation

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan knows that it has a special vocation to work for peace. It is not based upon any political ideology. We continue to appeal for peace not as a political issue, but as a human one. Our awareness of this vocation is, of course, influenced by the horrors inflicted by nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it is also born of deep remorse when we reflect upon the attitude of the Church in Japan before and during the war.

During a Mass celebrated on September 26, 1986, at the plenary meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) held in Tokyo, Archbishop Shirayanagi of Tokyo made the following declaration. “We Catholic bishops of Japan, as Japanese, and as members of the Catholic Church in Japan, sincerely ask forgiveness from God and from our brothers and sisters of Asia and the Pacific Region for the tragedy brought by the Japanese during the Second World War. As parties involved in the war, we share in the responsibility for the more than 20 million victims in Asia and the Pacific. Furthermore, we deeply regret having damaged the lives and cultures of the people of these regions. The trauma of this is still not healed.”

These words were not those of a single bishop. He spoke as president of the bishops’ conference, conveying the opinion of the whole conference. As mentioned above, in their messages on the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the end of the war, the bishops continued to reflect upon the issue of the Church’s responsibility before and during the war and from that standpoint have expressed their determination in favor of peace.

4. Problems such as recognition of history and the exercise of collective self-defense
Seventy years after the war, memory of it is fading along with memories of Japanese colonial rule and aggression with its accompanying crimes against humanity. Now, there are calls to rewrite the history of that time, denying what really happened. The present government is attempting to enact laws to protect state secrets, allow for the right of collective self-defense and change Article 9 of the Constitution to allow the use of military force overseas.

At the same time, we cannot overlook growing nationalism not only in Japan, but among the governments of other countries in this part of the world. As tensions rise between nations, a strong commitment to improved relations through dialogue and negotiation rather than increased militarization becomes more important for regional stability.

Domestically, the situation in Okinawa presents a particularly serious problem. Compared to the rest of the country, the number of military bases there is especially high. New base construction is underway, contrary to the wishes of the citizens of the prefecture. This demonstrates an attitude that puts priority on armaments while ignoring people and efforts to build peace.

5. Amidst the serious crises facing the world today

Viewing the world today, the tragedies of military conflict and terrorism occur over and over again in many places. In addition to conflicts between nations and ethnic groups, now violence in the name of religion makes it increasingly seem as if throughout the world dialogue has become impossible. In that situation, women and children as well as ethnic and religious minorities are especially threatened and many lose their lives.

In the face of such worldwide destructiveness, Pope Francis has expressed concern that some people seem to speak of a “Third World War” rather than making sure we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. The world faces the sorts of crises that cannot but cause people to wonder if force is the answer.

What has become of respect for humanity? However, repeatedly answering violence with violence will only lead to the destruction of humanity.

The world is dominated by the globalization of companies and the financial system. Disparities continue to widen and the poor are excluded. Human economic activity is causing climate change and the destruction of biodiversity. If we wish to realize peace, this situation must change. We cannot ignore the problems of poverty and the environment that produce disparity and exclusion. We are each called upon to overcome our indifference to the world’s problems and change our lives. We cannot solve all the world’s problems at once, but we can patiently continue to work toward peace and mutual understanding.

In Conclusion

We recall the words of Pope John Paul II in his Appeal for Peace in Hiroshima: “Peace must always be the aim: peace pursued and protected in all circumstances. Let us not repeat the past, a past of violence and destruction. Let us embark upon the steep and difficult path of peace, the only path that befits human dignity, the only path that leads to the true fulfillment of the human destiny, the only path to a future in which equity, justice and solidarity are realities and not just distant dreams.”

We are encouraged by the words of Jesus Christ, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt. 5:9). Seventy years after the end of the war and 50 years after the end of the Second Vatican Council, let us renew our determination to seek peace and to work for peace. We Catholics in Japan are small in number, but in union with other Christians and along with believers of other religions and those throughout the world who wish for peace, we renew our commitment to work to make peace a reality.

In Japan, U.S. bishop says USCCB will push for nuclear disarmament

Catholic News Service
By Paul Jeffrey, Catholic News Service

Prayer for peace on 70th anniversary of Hiroshima bombing Prayer for peace on 70th anniversary of Hiroshima bombing Prayer for peace on 70th anniversary of Hiroshima bombing Japanese girl displays folded paper cranes during 70th anniversary of Hiroshima bombing Christians march to Catholic Memorial Cathedral for World Peace in Hiroshima during commemoration of atomic bomb drop Girl displays folded paper cranes for 70th anniversary of Hiroshima bombing.

People pray at a memorial in Hiroshima, Japan, Aug. 6, to commemorate the victims of the atomic bombing of the city by the United States in 1945. Delegation members from the World Council of Churches, in Hiroshima for the commemoration, said they would return home to build a movement to rid the world of nuclear weapons. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)
People pray at a memorial in Hiroshima, Japan, Aug. 6, to commemorate the victims of the atomic bombing of the city by the United States in 1945. Delegation members from the World Council of Churches, in Hiroshima for the commemoration, said they would return home to build a movement to rid the world of nuclear weapons. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

HIROSHIMA, Japan (CNS) — For a long minute on a sunny morning, silence fell over the memorial park that commemorates the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of the city.

A gong sounded repeatedly as local residents and visitors from around the world stopped to remember a similarly sunny morning 70 years ago when a fireball ripped apart the skies.

Among the visitors to Hiroshima was Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico. It was the bishop’s first visit to Japan, and he said he was moved by what he saw and heard from Japanese Catholics, who have been adamant in demanding an end to nuclear weapons.

“It’s important for an American delegation to be here with the Japanese in this moment, because we celebrate the efforts they have made for peace, and we stand in solidarity with them. They are part of a church that around the world has spoken against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, a message that here is directed particularly at the United States,” Bishop Cantu told Catholic News Service.

“So although our countries were enemies 70 years ago, we have become allies in this effort. We do, however, recognize that there’s movement in Japan toward building up their military capabilities again. We caution against that, and we stand with the bishops of Japan in opposing that,” he said.

Bishop Cantu, who serves as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, said that as a U.S. citizen, he arrived in Hiroshima with a sense of “sorrow and repentance.”

He also was to travel to Nagasaki, the second Japanese city on which the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb, for similar ceremonies Aug. 9.

“The Japanese bishops have much to teach us. I was heartened to read their statement from earlier this year in which, on behalf of all Japanese, they repented for the harm they did to people of the region (in the wars). That attitude allows us to start moving forward,” he said.

Following a Mass that marked the bombing’s anniversary at the Catholic Memorial Cathedral for World Peace, Bishop Cantu spoke to the congregation about the work that U.S. bishops are doing to ensure that the world will experience no more Hiroshimas.

The bishop said that since the end of the Cold War in 1991, Americans think little about nuclear weapons and the threat they pose. The recent agreement negotiated by the several countries with Iran “puts nuclear weapons in the forefront of political debate after years of being an afterthought in the minds of most Americans,” he said.
For many of his generation, Bishop Cantu said, “the return to a serious discussion of nuclear disarmament may seem like an outdated exercise. Sadly, it is not.”

He cited the nuclear threats of Russia over Ukraine and Russia’s announcement in June that it is boosting its nuclear arsenal by putting 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles into service. He said those developments have lent fuel to hawks in the U.S. Congress, who in turn want to modernize the U.S. arsenal, replacing old weapons systems they claim are obsolete. Such an attitude likely reflects changing public opinion in the U.S., he said, noting that opinion polls show declining support for reducing nuclear arsenals.
That means the U.S. bishops, who have for decades argued for reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons, have major work ahead, he said.

“The task of the U.S. bishops is to convince the majority of Americans … that they need to support the vision of a world without nuclear weapons. They need to believe that such a goal is possible,” he said.

But the bishops cannot go it alone and have often partnered with others with similar interests in peace, he explained.

“Happily, our partners in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament are not confined to just the religious community in the United States. There are scientists, politicians, business and military leaders, academics, and civil society activists who have joined this effort,” he said.

Yet the bishop warned that the struggle against nuclear weapons in the U.S. has encountered difficulties of late in Washington’s hot political climate. Given what he called the “increased political polarization within our Congress,” all signs indicate the road to authentic disarmament will be long and difficult, but Bishop Cantu pledged that the U.S. bishops will continue “to fight the good fight to eliminate nuclear weapons.”

Okinawans Want Their Land Back. Is That So Hard to Understand?

FOREIGN POLICY IN FOCUS

The U.S. military sits at the center of a dispute that’s plagued the peaceful island of Okinawa for decades.

By Jon Letman, Originally published in Truthout.

Protesters hold up anti-military base signs in Okinawa. (Photo: Chota Takamine)
Protesters hold up anti-military base signs in Okinawa. (Photo: Chota Takamine)

Living in a country where people learn world geography through frequently fought overseas wars, Americans are accustomed to reading about places where we’ve fought wars — Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. But one formerly war-ravaged part of the world most Americans don’t think much about is Okinawa.

Once the independent kingdom of Ryukyu, Okinawa was annexed by Japan through a series of events in the 1870s. At the end of World War II, 70 years ago, Okinawa was the site of one of the war’s most ferocious battles.

Caught between the armies of Japan and the United States, Okinawans suffered unspeakable horrors during the “typhoon of steel.” Viewed as expendable under imperial Japan, many Okinawans were killed outright by Japanese soldiers or forced to commit mass suicide. An estimated 120,000 Okinawans — between one-third and one-quarter of the population — died between March and June 1945. Continue reading Okinawans Want Their Land Back. Is That So Hard to Understand?

Japan court bars restart of Takahama nuclear reactors

Asia

The court said the plant was not ready for a major earthquake
The court said the plant was not ready for a major earthquake

A Japanese court has blocked the restarting of two nuclear reactors in the western city of Takahama, after local people raised safety concerns.

 

The plant had already obtained approval from the country’s nuclear watchdog.

But locals had petitioned the court in Fukui prefecture, where Takahama is located, to intervene, saying it would not withstand a strong earthquake. Continue reading Japan court bars restart of Takahama nuclear reactors

Survivors mark four years since 3/11 disasters

Japan Times
KYODO, STAFF REPORT

A man prays for victims of the March 11, 2011, quake-tsunami disaster at a memorial site in the city of Sendai on Wednesday. | KYODO
A man prays for victims of the March 11, 2011, quake-tsunami disaster at a memorial site in the city of Sendai on Wednesday. | KYODO

Japan on Wednesday commemorated the fourth anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami with prayers for the more than 18,000 people who died or who remain missing following the disaster, which devastated much of the Tohoku region.
The anniversary comes at a time when post-quake reconstruction in hard-hit Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures remains incomplete, with many evacuees still forced to live away from their hometowns amid decommissioning work at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and decontamination work across Fukushima Prefecture. Continue reading Survivors mark four years since 3/11 disasters

New Leak Spurs Radiation Spike at Fukushima

Common Dreams

The latest incident underscores the difficulty of safely cleaning up and decommissioning the nuclear plant

Deirdre Fulton

Workers at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station work among underground water storage pools in April, 2013. Two types of above-ground storage tanks rise in the background.(Photo: IAEA Imagebank/flickr/cc)
Workers at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station work among underground water storage pools in April, 2013. Two types of above-ground storage tanks rise in the background.(Photo: IAEA Imagebank/flickr/cc)

A fresh leak of radioactive water was detected at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant on Sunday, raising new concerns about ongoing efforts to clean up the site. Continue reading New Leak Spurs Radiation Spike at Fukushima

TEPCO executives won’t face charges over Fukushima disaster, Japan prosecutors say

ABC News

Japanese prosecutors say three former Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) executives will not be charged over their handling of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, setting up a possible showdown with a rarely used citizen’s panel that could still force an indictment.

A spokesman for the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office said the prosecutors decided not to issue charges due to insufficient evidence.

“We conclude that there is not enough evidence to suggest that TEPCO executives could have predicted or could have avoided (the accident),” said Ryoichi Nakahara, deputy chief prosecutor of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office. Continue reading TEPCO executives won’t face charges over Fukushima disaster, Japan prosecutors say