Planning of a Peace Café

Inoue Yuriko
Peace 9 Group “Imagine” member

  The planning of a Peace Café was a new challenge for us. We have had a wonderful time working with many young colleagues for several years. There is a beauty in our relationships with colleagues of youth organizations in order to pray together, something that other communities do not have. That is why if, in such an atmosphere, we could be manage to organize gatherings oriented toward society, we would conclude that the things we had hoped to realize together would surely be implemented at wider levels.

  However, in reality we have never had the opportunity to talk with friends about the world situation. We have only dealt with our own troubles. We decided to make time to proceed further, reflecting together and trying to overcome the conflicts in our hearts. A peace café that could implement our reflections was the result of a call by Bishop Matsuura to have the courage to speak out together with those defending article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.

  Full of energy, we decided to commit ourselves, but when we started planning the program, we began to be deeply troubled. The thought that we could not let such an opportunity pass led us to realize that we needed to learn many things, but we were at a loss because of our nothingness. We did not know how to proceed.

  Fr Nakai, Director of Shimonoseki Labor Education Center, the venue that helped us prepare for the meeting, and staff Sister Yamamoto encouraged us saying, “It’s a great thing simply to have a gathering of young people, but don’t overwork yourselves. It will be enough just to think about organizing the first meeting.” We relaxed and were comfortable in accepting without any doubt our conclusion about inaugurating a “peace café.”

  On the first day of the café, we started by reporting on the contents announced last October at the peace meeting of the group of article 9 of the Constitution. Based on the results of questionnaires from young people, we produced a play expressing the problems youth have and their views of society. The theme was “what is dividing us, what is linking us.” We asked “How do you feel in daily life when you are separated from others or when you feel connected to others?” From the answers gathered we came to realize that, for various reasons, many people give up before starting to do something.

  After we reported on the discussions, Bishop Matsuura facilitated our sharing. We clarified the motives and problems involved in participating in the peace café. Listening to the opinions of those present at the meeting, we were surprised to hear that, among the young people with whom we usually work, there are those that not only embrace a deep desire for peace but are also interested in social problems. However, in spite of having such common interests, we did not talk about them in our gatherings. We felt enlightened by a close companionship. After dinner we prayed together singing Taizé songs and asking God for peace.
  On the second day, we started the morning-prayer with songs accompanied by Sister Yamamoto’s guitar. Then Fr Nakai shared his experiences abroad, especially in South Korea. The youngsters listened to him in astonishment.

  After that, we worked to produce a collage exhibition. Due to the seriousness of the content of our sharing, many were expected to talk and, counting on those not accustomed to share with others, we made preparations for them to express themselves in various other ways besides talking, but all produced their works with great joy beyond expectation.

  At the end, Bishop Matsuura made a summary of the sharing. The concluding key word was “Overcome.” That word summarizes many of the several expressions manifested in the process of our sharing. We felt that all participants in the gathering, in various different ways, realized the importance of understanding each other and overcoming our resignation and our fear not to be able to do the impossible, and the categorizations established by gender and nationality.
  After the two days’ meeting I thought that we had just started to “overcome.” Looking back again at our meeting, I noticed that we must face up to what to do now. We must continue to increase our membership.

  After the workshop I felt the need to continue thinking as we had been doing. Nevertheless, when I reflect that thinking is not enough, that we must put our ideas into action, I’m at a loss. What is it that makes us suffer setbacks? Most probably it is because we are few in numbers. “World peace” is a very big issue for us to cope with, but getting together in a peace café and reconsidering relationships with our companions shows us the importance of companionship. I think how good it will be to pursue activities to increase the number of new companions.

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