On the Occasion of Ten Days for Peace 2013
Comments of the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan
Toward the Ten Days for Peace
Aspiring for peace and justice, we commemorate this year the 50th anniversary of the encyclical Pacem in Terris, which Pope John XXIII (Papal term: 1958~1963) addressed to the Church and all men of good will on April 11, 1963. The background of this encyclical was the division of the German nation symbolized by the Berlin Wall (1961), the US-Soviet cold war and Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) that brought the US and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war and became the symbol of their antagonistic relationship.
This encyclical offers teachings about human rights and duties, the state’s authority and the common good. In addition, critical international issues such as truth, justice, solidarity, refugees, disarmament and economic development are also covered.
The encyclical’s subtitle, “On establishing universal peace in truth, justice, charity and liberty,” expresses the fundamental idea that the basis of peace is precisely the protection of human dignity and rights. It emphasizes that peace can only be realized when human development is based on building a society where people can live their lives in a humane manner.
This truth conveys a strong message to modern society even 50 years later. The Episcopal Commission for Social Issues is now preparing a revised Japanese translation of the encyclical so that it can be used during the Ten Days for Peace this year. I sincerely hope that you will receive its message, which constitutes a basis for peace, and spend a fruitful Ten Days for Peace in the Year of Faith.
Recently, a movement to change the Japanese Constitution has gained momentum. It aims at easing the requirement for amending the Constitution from two thirds of the seats in the both Diets to a majority, with the intention of making it easier to revise articles, especially Article 9, by lowering the barriers for changing the Constitution. Article 9 is a world treasure of which Japan is proud. It reflects Jesus Christ’s teaching of love most abundantly. Because of Article 9, Japan has never killed anyone in war, and no Japanese people have been killed in war. It is our crucial responsibility to protect and make the most of Article 9.
On April 28, 2013, the anniversary of the conclusion of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, the Japanese government held a ceremony to commemorate the day that Japan recovered its sovereignty. However, we must not forget that for people in Okinawa and the Amami Islands this day reminds them of how they were cut off from the mainland. Even after the Peace Treaty came into effect, Okinawa, Amami Islands and Ogasawara Islands were placed under US military rule. Especially in Okinawa, land was taken over and military bases were expanded so that local people have called this day “the day of humiliation.” Moreover, we must not forget that due to the one-sided Japan Status of Forces Agreement, Japan has not yet fully recovered its sovereignty.
On June 23 (the day to console those who died in the Battle of Okinawa), the anniversary of the end of the war in Okinawa, I announce these comments toward the Ten Days for Peace, because I believe solidarity with the people of Okinawa is extremely important. People in Okinawa still suffer from institutionalized discrimination and indifference by people on the mainland as well as various damages inflicted by US bases. In addition, both the US and Japanese governments are willing to construct a new base in Henoko, overriding the voices of the people of Okinawa Prefecture.
As believers and citizens we must reflect in politics our beliefs about the way to peace. The national election prior to the Ten Days for Peace will be an ideal opportunity to that end. Let us learn the teaching of the Church, pray regularly and exercise our rights and duties as citizens according to our conscience.
I pray that you will be blessed with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
June 23, 2013
Peter Takeo Okada, Archbishop of Tokyo
President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan