Answers from Japan to the Questions in the Preparatory Document of the XV Ordinary General Assembly of Synod o […]
Answers from Japan to the Questions in the Preparatory Document of
the XV Ordinary General Assembly of Synod of Bishops
I. Japan Statistics
1. Population: 127,095,000 (Statistics Bureau of Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, 2015: (“Age (5-year-old class), population by gender” and “(Reference table) “Trends in the national population”)
Fertility rate (Total special fertility rate): 1.45 (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, Ministry Secretariat Statistical Information Division: “Vital Statistics, 2015”
[Reference population: 126,761,000 people (April 2017)]
2. Population of young people (16-29 years old) and proportion of total population (Statistics Bureau of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications): 15 to 29 years old = 18.49 million, 14.5 percent of population.
3. Catholic population and percentage of the total population (2016): 434,054, 0.34 percent of population.
* Average marriage age (most recent 5 years, by gender)
(Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare)
* Average age of seminary entrance (most recent five years).
N.B. Figures for entrance to religious life are not available.
5. Percentage of the total population of students, workers (clarify occupation, if possible), unemployed (NEET – not in education, employment, or training), 2017.
|Non-Labor Force Population (=Students, Houseworkers, Young NEET…)||33.2% (8.53 million)
[Number of High School, College of Technology, Junior College and University Students of the same year…6.35 million]
|Workers (=Lobor Force Population – Unemployed People)||64.0% (16.43 million)|
[Unemployed People…2.6% (0.68 million)]
|NEET||2.1% (0.54 million)|
N.B. Though the question asks for statistics for 16-29-year-olds, the available statistics are for 15-34-year-olds.
(Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, “Labor Force Survey”: Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Workers, “Statistics Directory for Education and Science”)
II. Evaluating the Situation
a) Young People, the Church and Society
1. In what manner does the Church listen to the lived situations of young people?
The dioceses make various opportunities for young people to gather, and try to utilize connections with young people there for access to information. Sometimes SNS (social networking sites) etc. are also used to gain timely information. However, due to the great differences in dioceses and regions of Japan, those involved in youth ministry face various limits to the situation and the amount of information varies greatly. A twice-a-year gathering of young people from all over Japan is a good opportunity to hear the current situation.
As the aging of Japanese society continues, priests spend much of their time in the pastoral care of the elderly and sick. Also, due to the decrease in vocations, priests have many concurrent duties such as church pastor, committee work, and meetings, a situation that is exhausting. Priests, too, are aging, and the time they have available to engage with young people has decreased. In addition, generational differences make dealing with young people difficult. It is not possible to employ full-time youth ministers in Japan, so any information about youth comes from observation of young people in the parishes. In addition, pastoral workers explore opportunities to gain information about young people through parents and guardians, laity who cooperate in various activities, connections with mission schools, camps, and social gatherings.
The social situation surrounding young people who come to church is diversifying. Examples include the decrease in the young population due to the declining birthrate, the tendency for the period of youth to expand due to late marriage, the resulting age gap among youth in the church, problems in employment, the situation of the working poor, and relocation due to job change. Consequently, it is difficult to arrange regular gatherings of youth.
Parents and children seem to think of the sacrament of Confirmation as “graduation from the church,” and thus the younger generation moves away from the church. Furthermore, school club activities and the increasing power of cram schools also accelerate the trend. Information about the current situation of young people in general is grasped through news and other sources, but for knowing young people who are away from the church, we have lost the means of learning directly from them.
In recent years young people of foreign nationality are increasing in Japan. An increase in Vietnamese and Filipino technical interns is especially notable. However, because of severe working conditions such as low wages or low Japanese language ability, they miss opportunities for fellowship with Japanese youth. Meanwhile, the number of second generation adolescents, children of immigrants (“doubles”), is beginning to increase, and we look forward to the development of their networks.
Many priests make efforts to grasp the current situation of young people, but feel difficulties at the same time. Young people’s means of communication change swiftly and as there are few people expert in keeping up with them, it is difficult to obtain information about young persons whose connections go beyond parishes and dioceses.
2. What are the main challenges and most significant opportunities for young people in Japan today?
Modern youth are so busy that they have neither the time nor the financial wherewithal for relaxation. Students are busy with club activities, part-time jobs, and job hunting activities. Young people with irregular employment are also in a difficult situation in terms of time and finances
Difficulty in communication
Many young persons struggle with relationships at work. There seems to be a problem with communication skills. It is important that the church draw near to those in this situation and listen with healing care to their concerns. Building good human relationships is essential at the stage of growth of young people going into society. An important work of the church is to keep supporting young people both by healing and training. But the shrinking youth population hampers that opportunity. Securing sufficient young people is an urgent task.
Young people caught up in virtual experiences have lost direct family relationships and social interaction. For this reason, young people who are not good at human relationships and human-to-human communication, and cannot engage well in hierarchical social relationships have increased. This is a phenomenon that can be seen not only in society at large, but also in the church. Consequently, they fail to develop the ability to deal with comments from elders or superiors without bottling up their pain. In many cases, they withdraw totally from society and deeper into their loneliness.
Single youth, divorce
As in the rest of society, so in the church, the tendency toward late marriage and the desire to remain single have increased, and early divorce is also increasing. In today’s Japanese society, there is difficulty in finding love and fostering love. It may be that the pleasures of having children and building a family have not been sufficiently conveyed.
Despite living in a global era in which young people have so many opportunities, the number of youth suicides has not decreased. Clearly there is something that suppresses young people in society. A reason given for so many suicides in Japan is that there a lack of connectedness that would show a way to deal with either hope or despair. The deterioration of the economy and the employment situation of contemporary society, the difficulty of building loving and deep relationships, and the lack of power of the church to adequately present the gospel are also factors.
3. What kinds and places of group gatherings of youth, institutionalized or otherwise, have a major success within the Church, and why?
There are regional differences, but while it is difficult to gather in parishes, regular gatherings beyond the parish function as important opportunities for young people to relax, learn and pray. For young people who are not good at starting something alone, having companions who can walk with them plays a major role as a starting point for moving forward. It is important for young people who are away from the church that such gatherings continue even if there is a small number of participants because it remains an important “home” to which they can return. In other words, it is an important opportunity to return to the church, a place to look back on one’s identity as a believer, a place to become a youth leader, and to be church.
Japan is a small country, and disasters occurring in small domestic jurisdictions immediately affect the lives of people throughout the country. Therefore, the response to disasters is quick. By getting involved as volunteers in such situations, young people experience encounters with various people through a shared purpose. It is an opportunity to learn that they are needed, to experience a sense of accomplishment, and know the importance of uniting with others. A young man or woman returning to the church after such an experience brings a new sense of the beauty of the church through encounters with victims. hA new level of faith and maturity result from the encounter with new people and ideas. However, although there is great interest in volunteering at the time of a big disaster, there is somewhat less interest in becoming long-term volunteers because deep involvement and patience are required.
Young people who serve as leaders at camps and workshops for young children themselves meet Jesus, encounter colleagues, and receive grace through children’s smiles. Doing preparation such as faith reflection and Scripture study, and sharing affection and meeting with neighbors at planning meetings leads to deeper relationships not only with the children, but with one another as friends. It would be wonderful if we could find a new generation of leaders.
4. What kinds and places of group gatherings of youth, institutionalized or otherwise, have a major success outside the Church, and why?
Commercial events in modern Japan based on marketing strategies attract young people’s interests, develop a particular consciousness, and utilize all kinds of ingenuity that bring about a sense of belonging. In addition, an industrialized approach has been taken to attract young people to sports and music events that easily create a sense of unity. Keywords for the young are interests, clear purpose, a sense of belonging, a sense of unity. Cults and emerging religions etc. make good use of such events to draw youth, skillfully manipulating unaware young people. Meanwhile, even in Christianity in Japan, using music, animation, etc., has a different attractiveness than usual. In addition to the words of the Bible and prayer, there is room for considering the use of music and animation as in commercial events.
Students’ extracurricular activities
School club activity is important for students. Club activities create a connection among students and are a place of learning before going into society. Club activities are strongly attractive to students because they can choose the activities by themselves and it is easy to obtain a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment by participating in tournaments etc. Extracurricular activities are held after school, on Saturday, on Sunday and on public holidays, and some schools receive the enthusiastic support of alumni associations and guardians. Even after graduation, what participants have acquired through club activities and what they have gained mentally becomes a great asset in social life. Learning to build human relationships while conducting club activities is valuable for students because they are also a factor that is considered when job hunting.
Volunteering is important to young people as an activity that enables them to achieve some purpose and thus obtain fulfillment. Young people also actively participate outside the church. Even if there is no faith, people gather, raise their self-confidence, make contacts with people, regions, and society, and build human relations. Recently, Catholic schools have looked beyond domestic volunteer relief opportunities, but also overseas. Such activity is linked with learning social studies, geography and history, and many students who are not believers participate in order to promote coexistence and the love of neighbor on a global scale. Finding the joy of being of service to others is common to all countries.
5. What do young people really ask of the Church today?
Healing and comfort
Viewing youth overall, there is an increase in psychiatric and developmental disorders triggered by human relations in school and society. School club activities, part-time jobs and studies keep students busy, while young laborers’ lives tend to be unstable due to irregular employment, low wages, and difficulties in finding employment. Even so, young people still find significance for their existence through service activities, growing in independence, while at the same time seeking healing, peace, and comfort somewhere in their hearts, seeking fellows, places, and times with the same thoughts. They seek some heart’s peace as they go out into society.
Places to gather / companions
There was a time when the church was a place where young people could gather with peace of mind and confidence that there would be someone there for them. However, due to the management system of the church, the reduced number of priests and so forth, we cannot satisfactorily provide a church open to young people. At the same time the companions who would walk together are exhausted and unable to welcome young people with vigor. As an effect of the declining birthrate and their busy life, gathering to meet others is difficult. This trend can even be seen in big cities, but the problem appears most clearly in rural areas. Still, young people are seeking places where someone is there to affirm them.
Quiet time · space · companions
Not a few young people in our busy society take quiet time, reflect on the self, and try to turn their hearts to God. Many young people participate in prayer gatherings such as Taizé. Young people have the power to discern the real thing. But external forces (temporary temptations and surrounding influences) can cause that real thing to be lost. Young people need friends who will provide mutual support. They need cooperators. The church needs to prove concretely that it can provide what they really seek, knowing that the current situation cannot really provide that.
Young people are seeking other youth with the same faith. However, the motivation is different between youth who got baptized as adults and others who were baptized as infants. There are differences in ways of thinking and feeling about knowledge, lifestyle, church, and prayer. There are few opportunities to give young people correct faith education, and spiritual direction is not done. Outside of learning situations, they consult on human relations rather than spiritual matters. The inadequacies and lack of time of pastors who spiritually guide them, as well as missed opportunities mean a lack of results. Young people strongly desire immediate solutions, and there is little spiritual intention to seek solutions as Christians. Rather than rely on the church, they seem to adapt the church to their own aims.
6. What possibilities for participation exist in your country for young people to take part in the life of the ecclesial community?
Youth in the church, youth who come to the church
Given the aging of the church, parishes need the power of youth to manage the church. It is obviously important to support the church. Many young people also participate in activities such as liturgical ministries, altar serving, religious education, communications, and various committees. However, where a parish has hide-bound habits, elders treat young people as a handy labor force. Young people who have been in the parish a long time are often forced by their long connection into certain roles in the church and they tend to shy away from responsibilities because there is no freedom to do what would make them happy. There are many cases where young people stay away from the church because, “If I go to church, I will have jobs dumped on me.” Sunday is the one day out of their busy schedules when young people can enjoy the day as they wish, and so they avoid going to church. As a result, there are many cases where responsibilities in the parish are borne by young people who have recently moved into the parish, those newly visiting the church, and the recently baptized. As a recent trend, many young people who come to church for the first time are seeking healing and consolation for emotional difficulties. It is very difficult for a young person who is dealing with personal problems to have a role in the parish. Meanwhile, young people are showing great skill in dealing with children. Young people seem to be more able to connect with peers and those younger than they rather than to their elders.
Beyond the structures
Because the youth population of the church is decreasing, it is difficult to develop vigorous activities in each parish. But when the young people are connected at the community, district, parish, or national level beyond the parish, they exert great power. When youth gather, they use their own initiative to supply for any lack of support from their elders. In fact, such support can become a stifling framework, narrowing their activities. It is more important than ever to emphasize autonomy. Although their power is immeasurable, their gatherings for organization, relaxation, play, etc. are not necessarily a step away from faith. Although there may be prior issues based on church organization and faith, it is also important for companions to wait patiently, convinced that something will be created through gathering. Pastors or other adults should not forget that young people are in the middle of a growth stage and derive hidden purity from their youth.
7. How and in what manner is contact made with young people who do not frequent Church surroundings (those who have moved away from the church or who are not baptized)? What places and opportunities are available where connections can be made?
Youth who have moved away from the church
It is important to continue seeking reunion based on information from friends, parents, family, etc. It is especially important to continue to connect using SNS, and there is a necessity to prepare a place for them to return. It is also necessary to prepare opportunities to return by making the parish a welcoming place for marriages, funerals, and such as well as a place to find ease when suffering troubles. Periodic meetings, happy events, and the chance for reunion with old friends are important opportunities for them to come back.
Youth who are not yet baptized
In many cases young people find connections with the church that allow easy participation through schools, social services, and volunteer activities. Also, the Internet is effective. After young people have first established human relationships (including romantic love), in some cases they may be invited to take part in church events, or in other cases introduced to an interesting gathering on the Internet. Either way, meeting places and gatherings with a concrete purpose will give the opportunity for young people to participate. The church must continue such activities and continue to provide opportunities for young people to visit. However, we must keep in mind that not all young people who come to the church are looking for religion, nor will they immediately lead a life of faith, so we must provide patient support and lead them to the joy of faith.
The need for events
In continuing to offer a wide range of opportunities such as the Internet, places of prayer, places for gathering, places of fun, places of learning, international relations and so on, preparations are necessary that allow young people to be involved according to their interests and timing from time to time. It will become easier for them to participate by making it so that young people rather than adults can take the lead in calling upon them.
b) Pastoral Vocational Programs for Young People
8. How are families and parishes involved in the vocational discernment (in the broad sense) of young people?
In making young people’s life choices in Japanese families, priority is generally given to academic advancement and employment. In other words, it is commonly understood that it is good to get a job at a famous and stable company by enrolling in a higher-level school, and various efforts are directed toward making that possible. Even in Catholic families, school events and employment schedules are prioritized, and faith education and church activities are generally regarded as less important.
In most parishes, organized activities related to life selection and vocation directed toward young people do not exist in part because of the scarcity of young people. However, it seems that it is common for young people to consult clergy, religious, and older Christians. Moreover, preparation by young people to receive the sacraments of Confirmation and Matrimony are a valuable opportunity to catechize them.
In addition, although there are fewer seminarians or novices, parishes offer prayers for vocations to the priesthood and religious life and take up collections for their support.
9. How do schools and universities or other educational institutions (civil or ecclesial) contribute to young people’s formation in vocational discernment?
Among Catholic school teachers and students, there are few Christians. At those schools, retreats, meditation, seminars, etc. are planned for young people. Also, as the number of priests and religious on faculties has decreased, lay faculty members oversee faith education. However, under the current educational system, it seems that faith training is becoming unclear. In response to that situation, in some dioceses attempts are being made to appoint a local parish priest to the educational institution as chaplain. In the past, there were many students who were baptized at their Catholic school and who later entered the religious congregation that ran the school. However, that situation has almost disappeared. Still, there are students who are influenced by religion classes and events such as experiential learning and volunteer activities and hope for Baptism. Also, some schools actively cooperate in church activities by providing venues when church events such as bazaars are held.
10. In what manner are you taking into account the cultural changes resulting from the development of the digital world?
Various kinds of information can be easily obtained, and it is useful as a means to communicate without having to set a place. However, concerns that young people who have grown up in a society in which the digital world had already developed can be manipulated by biased information, and face problems in human relationships due to incomplete communication. Through direct dialogue, an education is needed that can raise personal ethics and the ability to recognize truth and misinformation. It is also necessary to protect young people from extreme ideas such as cults and manipulative information.
11. How can World Youth Days or other national or international events become a part of ordinary pastoral practice?
As far as World Youth Day is concerned, publicity from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan has raised awareness to some extent in parishes. However, in some places calls to youth are influenced by the interests of pastors. There is also a difference in the degree of interest among young people who have participated and those who have not, but interest is spreading thanks to the connection and appeal of young people who have participated. In addition, World Youth Day triggers other youth activities. Every diocese or church district prepares participants and arranges follow-up after the event. There are also parishes that support youth and send them to the event. Calls for participation to parishes or dioceses with few young people are a challenge.
12. In what manner is your diocese planning experiences for the pastoral vocational program for young people?
Various programs are implemented and planned by each diocese: training programs, sharing sessions, cathedral Masses, hiking, pilgrimages and so on. In addition, retreats and camps sponsored by religious congregations are advertized at each parish. However, participants are few. Activities to raise support for seminarians (such as the “Grain Association”) are present in most of the parishes, providing material assistance as well as prayer.
c) Pastoral Care Workers with Young People
13. How much time and in what manner do clergy and other formators provide for personal spiritual guidance?
Dioceses: Diocesan clergy do not regularly provide spiritual direction. However, some of them do so personally without a regular schedule. And, there are priests engaged in formation work for the diocese who provide spiritual accompaniment for an hour each month.
Responses from Women’s Religious Congregations:
- Novices meet twice a month with a director for 45-60 minutes. One session is devoted to the rule and constitution of the congregation, while the other is focused upon the spiritual state of the novice.
- Each week, an hour is devoted to exploring the novices’ everyday consciousness.
- Postulants and first-year novices have direction once every two weeks for 30-60 minutes. Second year novices have it weekly.
- At the novitiate, we conduct spiritual direction once a week, with other opportunities provided as needed.
- Spiritual direction takes place for once a month for 60-90 minutes.
- Apart from everyday accompaniment, individual direction takes place during three retreats during the year of nine nights and 10 days.
14. What initiatives and opportunities for formation are in place for those who provide pastoral vocational guidance?
- Currently working on the training of catechists for Confirmation preparation.
- The diocese has set up a training staff for a Confirmation Study Group, there is a study group for training to teach catechism and a Faith Committee.
- Once a year, there is a national gathering of formators sponsored by the Catholic Vocation Team to revitalize priests, religious and laity engaged in vocation work.
Religious communities of men:
Representatives of communities gather several times a year to prepare gatherings of young men.
Religious communities of women:
- A vocation formation committee in the province meets regularly. Monthly gatherings are part of the annual provincial plan with themes such as “Prayer gatherings,” “The way of the sacred heart.” “Prayer and sharing” is sponsored by each convent as an annual event.
- Under the auspices of the Conference of Major Superiors of Women, a committee of formators from each province sponsors a 4-5 day “Training session for formators” once a year.
15. What personal guidance is offered in seminaries?
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, seminarians are led day by day to a deeper fellowship with God and Christ, to making their whole life follow the Holy Spirit, to faithful meditation on the Word of God, to active participation in the liturgy, and to loving service of the little ones. During the semester, the seminarian chooses one person as a spiritual companion from the seminary staff or one of the training cooperator priests as a spiritual director with whom he meets for 30-60 minutes every two weeks. In addition, counselors are available for those who wish to meet with one.
Three times a year as an obligation, and other times as needed. Spending time together in conversation is important.
d) Specific Questions According to Geographic Areas: Asia
a. In Japan, why and how do religious gatherings by those who are non-Catholic exercise an attraction on young people?
They mainly provide gospel-related events and music for young people and offer playgrounds, dining places, and places to spend time after school. They also do volunteer activities. In addition, the KGK (Kirisutosha Gakusei Kai – Christian students’ association) is a group of about 1,300 students affiliated with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students who conduct Bible studies and prayer meetings in universities, junior colleges, vocational schools, and other educational institutions. Its purpose is campus evangelism and the growth of Christians through it. They do various activities such as volunteer activities.
They engage in recruiting at universities. Young people have their own sharing schedule on a regular basis and share the various situations in which they find themselves with other young people. Simple doctrine and values make them attractive with regard to unity. Problems of self-interested principles, brainwashing, and mind control are pointed out. (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unification Church, New Palace, Ehara Spiritual, New Age, Pastafarianism, Powerstone, Fashion, Powerspot, 88-Place Pilgrimage, Happy Science, Mormonism, etc.)
Japanese traditional religion
Temple and shrine festivals where one can experience traditional culture draw as many as 15,000 people. Buddhists offer various programs ranging from workshops on Zen and cuisine, lectures on scriptures and interreligious dialogue, tea ceremonies on ships, experiences of Noh and Kodo(incense burning), dialogue corners with monks, board game based on a Buddhist world view, talk events with brain science experts and mountain ascetics (shugensha), to concerts of nuns who are pop music idols. People enjoy participating in summer festivals and shrine events. Also, for health reasons people engage in such practices as yoga and fasting, as well as visiting shrines to collect red seals that verify the visit. Temple-run cafes and sutra cafes, etc. are popular. By combining an atmosphere far from the everyday and a style of cafe especially popular among young women, they attract young people who like brand-new things.
b. In a society where secularism dominates, how can Christian teaching combine with the values of Japanese culture?
Where love is concerned, there is something in common, regardless of religion or the general society. Moreover, from ancient times Japan has cherished such heart-focused ideals as caring, mercy, humility, concern for one’s neighbors, the hospitality, and closeness to socially vulnerable people.
From the viewpoint that the gods live in things in the natural world, there are hearts that respect nature, cherish all things, see everything is a gift from God, and receive all as a grace.
Martial Arts / Traditional Arts
The values embodied in such “ways” as the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, archery, judo, kendo or the like may share connections with Christian values in their concern for thinking of another’s position, showing hospitality, cherishing things, and maintaining harmony.
There are many who hold the opinion that there is no direct connection between the teaching of Christianity and the values of Japanese culture.
c. How is the language used in a young people’s world incorporated in the pastoral care of young people, especially in the media, sports, and music?
- By sharing information to a large number at once, SNS effectively attracts young people to gatherings and promotes sharing.
- Internet radio Katorazi! is being distributed on YouTube. This reaches more young people than merely posting various events and activities on a home page does.
By doing sports together and having fun, there is a similar effect to sharing. Regardless of differences in language, sports events can gather people together. Young people who are not baptized also easily participate. There are also regular hiking pilgrimages. New vocations have been born during them, and they are opportunities to revitalize faith.
At Masses, we use lively songs and Protestant hymns that young people prefer and sing, as well as Taizé prayers. At retreats, we share based on the lyrics of pop songs with evangelical messages. In addition, when doing church-related events, young people themselves compose theme songs. For youth Masses, songs for young people that are played on guitar and by bands are preferred.
III. Sharing Activities
1. List the main types of pastoral activity in accompaniment and vocational discernment in your present situation.
In Japanese society there are no religious elements in workplaces or schools, so there is no opportunity to pray in everyday life. Therefore, there are many places where prayer activities such as Taizé prayer groups, spiritual exercises, retreats and such are regularly held monthly. Since there is an increasing number of foreign nationals, there are efforts to make places and opportunities to pray with those young people.
Nowadays children receive less faith education, so gatherings of young people at parishes or convents provide opportunities to study the Bible and church teaching documents, catechism, etc. At regular gatherings, in addition to study, time is often given to sharing and eating with others. In addition, there are also meetings where teachings of the church that help youth’s faith life are briefly presented.
Young people engage in activities not only inside the church but also practice their faith in the actual society around them. Such activities include peace education to not repeat the tragedy of war, and outreach to the homeless as ways to develop a loving and compassionate faith. When young people communicate with various kinds of people with whom they have not been involved before, they will appreciate the fact that the sort of life they lead is not necessarily common. By continuing such activities, they acquire and deepen a faith that can be a leaven in society.
Because there many Catholic foreign nationals living in Japan, regular gatherings with those young people are increasing. Since many of them came to Japan as children and did not receive religious education, there are programs for their faith formation. In addition, there are exposure tours for young Catholics to other Asian countries so that they might deepen their understanding of those countries and develop exchanges.
2. Choose three activities you consider the most interesting and relevant to share with the universal Church, and present it according to the following format (no more than one page for each experience).
① Peace Activities
a) Description: In a few sentences, roughly describe the activity. Who are the leading characters? How does the activity take place? Where? Etc.
In the dioceses and parishes there are a peace education programs for youth and children to avoid repeating the tragedy of war. These include summer pilgrimages to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing sites.
b) Analysis: Evaluate the activity, even in layman’s terms, for a better understanding of the important elements: what are the goals? What is the theoretical basis? What are the most interesting insights? How have they developed? Etc.
The purpose is to help participants through pilgrimages and peace education to understand the misery of war and the atomic bomb and to grow as persons who build peace. Encouraged and challenged by the Hiroshima Peace Appeal of Saint John Paul II, Japanese Catholics work for peace. Led by youth from various dioceses, there are pilgrimages to Hiroshima to join in the August 4-7 Hiroshima diocesan commemoration of the atomic bombing.
We provide opportunities for youth living in peaceful Japan to think and act for peace. The peace activities of the Hiroshima Diocese provide opportunities to engage in prayer and worship for peace that go beyond the limits of dioceses, denominations, and religions, and experience churches beyond one’s own parish. Also, the experience of witnessing the misery of war by visiting the site of the atomic bombing and listening to the stories of survivors is an opportunity to think deeply about peace. Making the pilgrimage in the hot season and experiencing physical difficulties along with friends seems to be a valuable experience. In the course of acting as a church community, sharing, helping each other, and praying together are opportunities for children and youth to come to a greater awareness. After the pilgrimage, participants report to elder people on the youth activity and share their thoughts about peace, so that exchanges beyond generations and opportunities to share thoughts on peace are promoted.
As part of preparations for the Hiroshima pilgrimage, study sessions are held to learn the importance of peace and the severity of atomic bomb damage. Participants come to know the social situation in wartime and the suffering of atomic bomb victims and learn the importance and preciousness of peace so as not to repeat war. The Hiroshima Diocese welcomes pilgrims from churches all over Japan and supports their activities. Many young people assist those activities as staff.
c) Evaluation: What are the goals? If not achieved, why? Strengths and weaknesses? What are the consequences on the social, cultural and ecclesial levels? Why and in what way is the activity important / formative? etc.
The goal is to build a society in which young people keep the importance of peace in mind and not repeat the tragedy of using nuclear weapons or ever again make the mistake of waging war. By participating in the various events and continuing to appeal for peace, the aim is to bring peace to the world. The ultimate goal is to develop young people who having experienced the pilgrimage become people who contribute to peace. It is a good opportunity to think about what Japan can do as a bombed country for the world church. It is also a valuable opportunity as an atomic bombed country to send a message of peace. These peace activities are conducted as church activities without any bias toward specific political programs or ideologies. They cooperate not only with believers, but also with other groups of citizens and so on in issuing the important appeal for peace.
② Overseas support · Overseas exchange
Through study and overseas exposure to Asian countries, youth experience a deepened awareness of the world (especially the developing countries) and experience solidarity with them. In addition, there are continuing activities to share joy through support for economically suffering Asian countries and exchanges with local people.
Through study and experience, young people deepen their awareness of the world (especially the developing countries) and experience solidarity with them. While it is difficult to take long periods of time from work or school, it is a great opportunity for participants to learn. The experience of inconveniences greatly different from Japan has a big influence on human growth. Participants come to deeply understand the necessity of solidarity and coexistence with Asian neighbors. Especially for an island nation like Japan, encounters with neighboring countries are essential. It is an important opportunity to learn about the simplicity Japan has forgotten, the difference in living conditions between rich and poor and Japan’s wartime responsibilities, and to accept the reality of victims and perpetrators. Participants learn about true richness and lack, becoming more aware of an evangelical view. There are also volunteer activities abroad that were born of the goodwill and intentions of young people under the auspices of religious congregations. While the primary objective is to volunteer in overseas destinations, participants find a new awareness of themselves through the encounter with this experience, and the encounter with people. There are dioceses that deepen the exchange by becoming sister dioceses with others in various Asian nations etc. and providing financial support, prayer and other aid, as well as exchange visits of young people. As part of the efforts of the entire Japanese church, a Japan – Korea student exchange is held. Though being the nearest neighbors, a gap remains between the countries because of past colonial rule. Because history education and attitudes toward that history differ between the two countries, there are many surprises. With a goal of mutual understanding, these gatherings for joint prayer continue.
Many young people are involved with various countries, reflecting and developing self-awareness with the goal of bringing their experiences into their individual future work in society. In general, economic and temporal aspects are given more importance in society than church activities, and personal life is given priority. The whole church is caught up by that wave, so it is important to explore what can be done in it. Developing the treasures gained through volunteer activities helps participants to become better members of society who will contribute to a better society by being a neighbor to others.
③ Youth activity beyond the diocese
Young people come together and exchange information beyond diocesan boundaries through Network Meetings (NWM). NWM is a place of free exchange among Catholic adolescents as well as laity, religious, and priests who support young people’s activities, a forum to share their problems and faith. It is also a place to meet and encounter young people who do diverse activities in various areas.
With the dissolution of the Youth Committee of the CBCJ, youth ministry on a nationwide scale has ceased. In response to that, It became necessary to develop vernues where priests, religious, and young people can meet and discuss together. As a result, the “Network Meeting” was set up where young people and those involved with them can freely discuss and exchange, and the Catholic Youth Communication Council was set up to support that effort. The Council is supported by participating dioceses, and provides venue for NWM in conjunction with the Council’s Steering Committee. The Steering Committee and NWM are held at the same venue. The Steering Committee set up the NWM Executive Committee, and the youth at the venue and the members of the Steering Committee work together to organize NWM. After NWM, there is an evaluation and based upon that analysis new means of supporting youth are explored and implemented.
NWM aims to facilitate the exchange of information and ideas among participants, to motivate young people, and to stimulate church activities. As of now, NWM is held twice a year, attracting hundreds of participants each time. Many young people in the area where it is held are involved in preparations as staff. The number of participants from dioceses that are not part of the program is increasing as is participation by many congregations of religious. Exchange of information on activities in various places is also carried out, forming a connection among young people all over the country, with exchanges by young people continuing even beyond NWM. In the host community, young people who do not usually participate in church activities also become actively involved in preparations. NWM has attracted favorable attention from various places throughout the church in Japan. However, because its basic purpose is the exchange of information and ideas, there may be inadequate consideration to prayer and spirituality. Even if young people’s involvement temporarily rises in the area, it burns out after the activity ends, and there are cases where it has not led to the ongoing activation of youth. In addition, since programs are held in various parts of Japan, the difficulty in participating for those without the financial resources to travel to the venue, especially foreign nationals, raises problems.