Mitsunobu Ichiro SJ
Outgoing Director of Jesuit Social Center
If I remember correctly, I was appointed as the Director of the Jesuit Social Center Tokyo in 2010. Since then, our center had relocated from Kawada-cho, Shinjuku-ward to Kibe hall, Kojimachi. I have juggled my duty at the center with my work at the Faculty of Theology at Sophia University. I regret to say that I was unable to fully engage with the center’s activities, that is to say, as much as I would have liked to, although I am highly positive about making contributions to our society and I believe that we have broaden horizons of the Theological Research Education.
I have a confession to make. I was slightly surprised when I was asked to write this article as a second-director to the center. I was surprised that Jesuit Social Center was led by Father Ando Isamu for about 30 years before the center’s relocation to the Kibe Hall after its establishment in 1981. When I joined the “social apostolate”, this field was already an established activity of the Society of Jesus. At the 32nd Jesuit General Congregation of 1975, the goals of “Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice”, and “Social Apostolate” were set as the two pillars of our Jesuit mission, as we know it today. I was much surprised at the hard work carried out by a very small number of members and collaborators who gathered in a small residential house in Shinjuku and had continued to work hard for 30 years.
Although our Jesuit Social Center is well known, our budget, personnel, and activities are rather modest compared to the seriousness and graveness of social problems we face in Japan and globally. Despite this, I am proud of my staff contributing to the society and dealing with serious contemporary matters such as immigrants, refugees, global economy and poverty, history recognition and peace formation, life and death penalty, labor, healthcare treatment, human rights, and ecology from a spiritual point of view.
I started getting involved in the “Social Apostolate” in 2006, when the first Abe administration tried to change the “Fundamental Law of Education”, as I felt a sense of injustice being an educator myself. Since then I have been involved in matters such as the Constitution revision, abolishing nuclear weapons, history interpretations and relations with neighboring countries, while thinking about “peace” and the “Kingdom of God” of Jesus Christ. I must also say that, up to now, I have received no reactions regarding my activities. I have a poster on the door of my university office that says, “I am opposed to the Revise Fundamental Law of Education, December 2006”. For the past 10 years I have kept this message posted. Nevertheless, during that period I have had no students or professors giving me either positive or negative views about my stance.
The current administration has forcibly enacted legislation, such as “Secret Protection Act”, “National Security Law” and “Conspiracy Law” which enables Japan to carry out collective self-defense rights. The government has also forcibly enacted the “Fundamental Law of Education” back in 2006 and it is highly keen to change the Article 9 of Japanese Constitution, its key focus and thus my fight against my “ill-fated rival” that threatens peace is likely to continue.
In the church, people do not speak about these issues feeling afraid to stand out. The idea that the “Church is a place to pray” and not a place to discuss any political and social issues prevails. I could not agree more with the basic principle of the “Church as a place to pray”. However, just praying is insufficient in terms of Christianity.
Pope Francis cherished the word “integral” and by this, he meant that “various things are connected and influencing each other”. We cherish ideas such as “relationship with creation and environment”, “relationship with God”, “good interpersonal relationships within the community” and “good relationship with ourselves” and, by that, we believe that these ideas promote peace and reconciliation. Based on these ideas, I would like to conclude my remarks with a quote. I believe in “faith which stems from love”, faith and justice in our goals, actions, and our lives are indispensable. “Faith and justice are undivided in the Gospel which teaches that faith makes its power felt through love”. (GC 32, Decree 2, No.8)