"Der verwundete und zu Boden gefallene Mensch, ist das nicht Jesus selbst?" (Pfr. SEKI, Kyoto, 2002)
"Anerkennung verweigern nicht zuletzt viele Christinnen und Christen" (M. Sonntag)
"Ich bin doch ein Mensch" (Kalligraphie aus der Befreiungsbewegung der Buraku)
2011: We Shall Overcome
During this calamitous time brought on by the horrific damage wrought by the great earthquake and the resulting nuclear accident, we have received great strength and encouragement from the heartfelt prayers and numerous messages of support from around the world. These show us that we are not alone and that we live in this world together in solidarity.
Though distance separates our various churches, we share in common the Lord's Table. That table is a symbol of reconciliation and of all the world's people living together, is it not? Likewise, as we fellowship around that table in prayer, how great a strength is born within our hearts! Nevertheless, in today's Kyodan, the Lord's Table seems to have become a means of division and exclusion, and that saddens me greatly.
At points in the past, there have been instances where certain Japanese Christians have refused to take communion from one cup together with people of buraku descent. I don't know whether that is directly connected or not, but in almost all Kyodan churches today, communion is served in individual cups rather than a common cup. This, then, brings to mind the question as to with whom and how are we to live together. It is my prayer and hope that one day, the Japanese church will drink from one cup and eat from one loaf together in joy as they we hold hands in prayer.
It will take a long time for the disaster areas and Japan as a whole to recover. It is God's help and the prayers of people around the world that will give us the strength to accomplish this difficult task.
(Crowned With Thorns)
We Shall Overcome
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
This past April 5, the strong voice of a pastor participating in a protest sang out, "We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome some day..." They had gathered in support of Rev. Otani and 3 others who were being unjustly arrested by the police for their activity in July of last year at the Haginochaya polling station, where they had gathered to protest the treatment of the day laborers of Kamagasaki. As homeless people without a residence certificate, these people were not eligible to vote, and so the basic human rights they were supposedly guaranteed by the Japanese constitution were not being extended to them.
This reasonable protest, however, was viewed by the state as a treasonous act, and so they used their power to squash that protest in the name of that same constitution. For those of us watching this, it was a chilling example of state violence. At the trial, however, Rev. Otani declared that his actions were not simply a political statement in the face of such state oppression, but that they were a statement of faith based in obedience to Jesus Christ. He powerfully demonstrated to all who heard him that it is the victory of Christ over death on the cross that is our hope in the face of the "powers of this world" that would suppress voices of righteousness.
From this past March, Japan has been battered by the natural disasters of earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons together with the manmade disaster at the nuclear power plant. The label of "nuclear contamination" pinned on Fukushima and surrounding areas has led to various acts of discrimination. But in the face of all of this, politicians and financiers have been focused on selfish interests and have left behind the poor and the weak. The state has taken advantage of this situation to further solidify their authoritarian power. (Just recently, I heard that another pastor was unjustly arrested in Otsu.) So, what kind of hope can we see in a world in which people live only for their own personal interests and basic human rights are ignored?
The song "We shall overcome" was born out of the victory of Jesus at the cross, and it is in that that we find hope. Our hope is in Christ, who bore that crown of thorns, and so I want to walk with those who are unjustly suffering as I follow Jesus.
(Crowned With Thorns)