Jesuit Social Center staff
Leader of Tokyo YCW (Young Christian Worlers)
I would like to introduce myself. My name is Yanagawa Tomoki. I came to work as a staff member of this Jesuit Social Center a year ago. Here let me explain something about my activities with the Young Christian Workers Organization (YCW/JOC).
YCW was founded in Belgium 100 years ago by Fr. Joseph Cardijn, who later became Cardinal, and a group of young workers. At the time, many workers, especially youth and women, were treated harshly and were forced to live inhuman lives amid unjust working conditions. Fr. Cardijn, distressed by this situation, listened to the voices of young workers and closely observed their problems. Then, with courage and hope and in solidarity with them, he worked to restore their human dignity. In that way YCW, the movement of young workers, came into existence.
The YCW movement built up its own working method. It is a three-step process: ① SEE ② JUDGE and ③ ACT. First of all, the real lives and work of young workers, including the causes that influence them, are closely observed. Then, judgment is provided with regard to whether their situation is really human or not. Finally, each one reflects on what could realistically be done and action is taken. This whole process is called “Review of the Life and Workers’ Action” (ROLWA) and it is the most basic YCW action.
The YCW movement spread all over the world. In fact, it exerted a strong influence on the Theology of Liberation, which originated in Latin America, as well as on Vatican II, which brought about great changes within the Catholic Church. The three-step method – see, judge, act – has been incorporated into Catholic social thinking.
In Japan, too, over 60 years ago, in 1949, YCW was introduced in Kokura (Fukuoka prefecture). During the 1960s it spread around many Japanese parishes, but now it is active only in several groups nationwide. I am now a leader of a group in Tokyo.
Nowadays the working environment surrounding young people is continually changing, but many young workers are facing similar inhuman realities. Young workers today are treated as mere “slaves” or “objects,” and are not considered human beings. It is certainly not an exaggeration for Christians to say that our present-day society is in basic opposition to evangelical values.
“Young workers are human beings, not machines!” “Every young worker is worth more than all the gold in the world!” Following these convictions of Joseph Cardijn, YCW members continue walking together in solidarity so that all young workers will be able to lead their own lives, working as human beings.