2023 Ten Days of Prayer for Peace ‘That which protects the dignity of human life’ A Message from the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan


2023 Ten Days of Prayer for Peace ‘That which protects the dignity of human life’ A Message from the President […]

2023 Ten Days of Prayer for Peace
‘That which protects the dignity of human life’
A Message from the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan

Threats and Crises for the Sanctity of Life

Seventy-five years ago, on December 10, 1948, deeply regretting that the repeated world wars had taken countless precious human lives, the third session of the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 1 of the Declaration states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

The Church continuously declares that all people are created in the image of God and that “the dignity of human beings is bestowed by God — not created by human society, that it pertains universally, and that no one must violate it.” (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. – cf. 2005 Ten Days of Prayer for Peace). However, what is unfolding before our eyes is the reality of a world that violently seeks to take away the dignity of life, God’s gift.

The War in Ukraine

In particular, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for which there is still no hint of a solution, continues to endanger lives and deprive them of their dignity. While trampling on the wishes of the many people who want to protect lives and seek peace, this crisis for life is growing more serious. In the face of unreasonable events and with no clue to their resolution, the world is being swept along by emotions that affirm peace through violence rather than solidarity in compassion and mutual support.

The affirmation of violence when combined with mutual distrust between nations leads to the acceptance of deterrence by force, and it is alarming that the buildup of force is even being permitted in Japan in the name of self-defense.

But violence does not create true peace. Human dignity does not need violence for its protection. It can only be protected by solidarity in which we humbly listen to and support each other in reverence for God who created life.

Humanitarian Accommodation for Children Without Residence Status

Japan is no different. In various ways, human dignity is being taken away and precious lives are facing crises. Though various problems with the bill had been pointed out, the Diet recently passed a bill to amend the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.

On March 25, 2022, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan sent a request to the then Minister of Justice Yoshihisa Furukawa to grant special permission to reside in Japan to some 300 children who were born and raised in Japan to parents who did not have resident status along with their families, and subsequently sponsored an online petition. Unfortunately, the dignity of many human beings, including these children, continues to be at risk.

We always have insisted and always will insist that there is no difference in value in each person’s life and that all are equal in dignity. Therefore, we call for respect for human dignity and provision of humanitarian consideration for all.

The Need for Solidarity to Eliminate Exclusion

While there is widespread apathy towards those whose lives are in danger and who have lost hope in their difficulties, there is also a growing tendency in society to seek security by excluding those who are different. The situation in which human dignity is endangered by exclusion is becoming more serious.

In the context of the pandemic over the past three years, Pope Francis has continued to insist that solidarity is essential to creating a better future. He has emphasized the importance of compassion for the vulnerable and in his Easter message to the whole world he prayed:

“Comfort refugees, deportees, political prisoners and migrants, especially those who are most vulnerable, as well as the victims of hunger, poverty and the dire effects of the drug trade, human trafficking and all other forms of slavery. Lord, inspire the leaders of nations to ensure that no man or woman may encounter discrimination and be violated in his or her dignity; that in full respect for human rights and democracy these social wounds may be healed; that the common good of the citizenry may be pursued always and solely; and that security and the conditions needed for dialogue and peaceful coexistence may be guaranteed.” (Urbi et Orbi Message, Easter 2023).

May the Peace of Christ be with Us

We, the Church, hope for a society that protects human dignity and values all life, and we aim to transform society to a place where solidarity through compassion and mutual support is realized.

There are many people who support each other and show solidarity through concrete acts of love, even in difficult situations. Those who act to achieve a world where no one is left behind are a beacon of hope in the darkness of anxiety and distrust.

Pope Francis concludes his Easter message: “May you, the Lord of life, encourage us on our journey and repeat to us, as you did to the disciples on the evening of Easter: ‘Peace be with you!’ (Jn 19:21).”

In this period of prayer for peace, let us continue to work for the realization of peace by receiving strength from the words of the Lord who says, “peace be with you.” Let us commit ourselves to build a peaceful world in which the dignity of each person is protected, their rights are respected, and life is protected.

✠ Isao Kikuchi, Archbishop of Tokyo
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan
July 7, 2023