[WINDOWS TO THE WORLD (2) ] My Involvement in the Social Apostolate

Koyama Hideyuki, SJ (Sophia University)

  In this essay I would like to offer some reflections on my cooperation with the migrants’ desk of the Jesuit Social Center in ecological issues and the rebirth of a new Japan on the occasion of the tragedies we are facing in Japan now.
  I have been involved in peace studies as a professor at Sophia University. Peace is not only the absence of war. We cannot say that peace is present in the midst of poverty or social discrimination or when people are faced with the destruction of their environment. During recent years I have dealt with issues concerning “Refugees” in cooperation with other groups. For instance, I have invited staff members of the Japan Association for Refugees to lecture at my classes in the University, and as the person responsible for the Sophia Relief Services, formerly at the Social Justice Institute, now the Institute of Social Concerns, we have been assisting refugees in Africa for the last 30 years, especially the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Again, in cooperation with Mr. Arikawa Kenji from the Catholic Tokyo International Center, whom I invited to give talks to my students at Sophia University, I have been in contact with refugees. At present I am also helping with the migrants’ desk at the Jesuit Social Center.
  I conducted research on the conflict situation in Northern Ireland before teaching peace issues at Sophia University, but after attending the Japan Peace Society Congress last November on “Possible Permanent Social Reforms based on Non-violence and Withdrawal from Economic Development,” I have concentrated on ecological issues. A book authored by 2 panelists at the Congress, Mr C. Douglas Lummis and Mr Tsuji Shinichi, The Crossroad of Eco and Peace (Otsuki Shoten, 2008) provides abundant hints. For instance, among the many novelties appearing at the time of the industrial revolution, the concept of economic development was probably the most important. This concept became a kind of a religious belief accepted, even nowadays, as the goal for society. Concepts like self-sufficiency and a local based economy, formerly considered so important by human society, were practically discarded.
  The above mentioned book says: “Those holding authority will, most probably, think that groups opposing nuclear energy can be easily brought down, at a time when war against global warming has been declared. Nuclear energy developers are quite happy promoting nuclear plants as they wish” (p.140). “In some countries, aboriginal people were satisfied with obtaining all necessary goods from their nearby mountains and from the ocean, but then one day deforestation began and their land was converted into rubber and sugar plantations. Thus they were forced to look for jobs there in order to survive.
  Modernization seems to follow a natural process, but we can easily understand that behind economic development imperative and violent forces are at work” (p. 163).
  Mr David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party of England, advocates General Well-Being (GWB) as the norm of happiness. “He suggests 3 important elements to raise the GWB. Number one is time spent with the family. The second one is the local natural surroundings where one lives, and the third is the role played in the community where one lives. He advocates making the increase of human happiness the main political target of the country and to stop considering ‘Wealth’ as its economic and political priority. He calls this ‘the politics of happiness'” (p. 173).
  I was reflecting on all these concepts when the enormous tragedy, a mixture of natural and man-made disasters, occurred. Formerly it could have been thought that the theories written in the book mentioned above were just idealistic dreams presented there for table discussion, but it gradually appears clear that reconstruction programs will never be enough. Japan is expected to reset to the zero point in order to be reborn again. An editorial in the April 28th edition of Tokyo Shinbun, referring to the Beatles’ hit song “Get back,” attacks the pride of our society that thought it could control the fierce power of Nature with its high-level technology.
  Psalm 104 sings the praise of God the Creator: “Bless the Lord, O my soul! … Man goes forth to his work and to his tillage till the evening.” I would like to revise our life style so that we can go back to living in harmony with nature, instead of continuing to consume as much energy as we please and face death from overwork. It should be possible to build systems that do not overburden or discriminate against local regions (like for instance the concentration of military bases in Okinawa), to reconstruct shopping centers in local areas, or to design programs primarily based on the use of natural energy resources. According to the Asahi Shinbun (April 22, 2011), the Environmental Agency has declared that by using wind power Japan can expect as much power generation as that produced by 40 nuclear plants.
  Answering the call of the Japan Association for Refugees, “Would you like to join refugees to go and help victims of the earthquakes?” I decided to go to Miyagi on April 30, together with former refugees and foreigners who consider Japan their second home and want to assist victims of the earthquakes. Would you like to come along, too?

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