Ando Isamu SJ
I am the oldest staff member of the Jesuit Social Center in Tokyo. I often receive telephone calls from Japanese people who want to meet me. They come to our center at the time of the appointment and ask me, “is professor Ando here today”?
Being a Jesuit priest I, usually have Sunday masses in different churches. Just a few days ago I had a mass in Japanese and preached also in Japanese. After the mass a Catholic came to talk with me and lent me a book in Japanese. I started to read it and then that person praised me, “oh, you can read Japanese” (!)
I have been living in Japan 60 years and was naturalized here about 30 years ago. I was born in Spain. A few months ago I went to Spain and they treated me as a Japanese tourist. I live with Jesuit seminarians, the youngest Jesuit community in Japan.
Bonet Vicente SJ
While teaching about human rights and other social problems at Sophia University, and all the more when I was a member of the Jesuit Social Apostolate Committee, for a long time I have been collaborating with the activities of the Center. During that period, either alone or in collaboration with other professors, I was able to publish the books “Discriminating Society and Human Rights Violation”, “Today’s Society and Human Rights”, “Hunger and Aid”, etc. Then, with a group of students, we started the “Sophia World Food Day” group that every year organized conferences and symposiums about world hunger and poverty related issues. And, refusing to be fingerprinted, I opposed the “Alien Registration Law” as discriminating against foreigners, especially the Koreans living in Japan. The Ministry of Justice then refused to renew my permission to stay in Japan, and as a result, for 13 years I had to stay here without permission.
Now, as a member of the Center’s staff, every year I coordinate the Seminar series about “Social Problems and Catholic Thought”. This year we will have the 12th series under the title “Let us diagnose today’s Japanese Society”.
Then, I worked together for the compilation and publication of the book “Healing a Broken World”, and, with the cooperation of other members of the staff, was able to publish the Japanese translation of two reports, “The Promotion of Justice in the Universities of the Society” and “Justice in the Global Economy ~Building Sustainable and Inclusive Communities~”, edited by the “Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat” at the Society of Jesus’ head office in Rome.
And I also represent the NGO “Association for Solidarity with our Friends the People of Cambodia” (Camboren). We collaborate with “Jesuit Service Cambodia” and support some of their projects. Together with Ms. Chiyo Kawachi, the head of Camboren staff, every year we organize a Study Tour to Cambodia to visit the projects we support there. This year we had the 18th Tour.
I am the person in charge of 2 types of seminars run by the Center, the Secretary of CAMBO-REN (Association for Solidarity with our Friends the People of Cambodia), do the proofreading of our publications, and serve as finance manager. I do not serve tea.
First of all, over the years we have held various types of seminars. We are celebrating the 25th anniversary of a series of seminars called “Development Issues with Fr. Anzorena / Let’s discuss the improvement of slums.” We have had seminars on “social analysis,” exposure tours, solicited volunteers, and have worked lately in coordination with the “Catholic thinking on social issues” program of St. Ignatius parish. Each year we select themes and organize seminars with specialist lecturers in the St. Ignatius parish hall. In 2016 the theme was “Laudato Si’,” in 2017 “On Love in the Family,” and this year it was “Christian Diagnosis of Japan Today.”
In the year 2001 we inaugurated a study tour in Cambodia and in 2003 we launched CAMBO-REN with all the members of the study tour and other friends, under the leadership of Fr. Bonet. Our counterpart is Jesuit Service Cambodia in Sisophon, bordering on Thailand. In solidarity with the poor in Cambodia and the disabled, we conduct projects of human assistance. The local staff, covering a wide region, do not spare themselves in keeping close relationship with the locals in rural areas, taking care of their welfare. We visit the programs every year and meet with the local staff to decide on which projects to assist. Due to the fast economic growth of the country, prices have jumped greatly. For instance, in 2004 the building cost of a new house was US$400, but now it will cost US$1,300. A second-hand bicycle (made in Japan) went up to US$50 from US$30 in 2004. The infrastructures in the cities have improved, but the poverty gap becomes obvious once you leave the main highways. Nevertheless, the content of assistance projects has changed from essential materials, like food, clothing and shelter, to human resource education. This, of course, refers to children’s education and, additionally, microfinance programs for rural families and communities, self-support programs for rural technical improvement and public awareness activities through radio broadcasting.
Yoshiba Hiroaki SJ
I am a Jesuit Brother, but I’m not even known among the Jesuits in Japan. Am I a bottle of excellent rare sake, or a stone rolled by the roadside? Probably I’m the latter.
I was trained to be a social worker and I had been assisting the needy. At present, I am a staff member of Jesuit Social Center and St. Ignatius Church. One of my missions is to foster relations between the Social Center and the Church by providing opportunities to reflect on social issues and getting to know Catholic social teaching in the Church. I do research on people who have been excluded from society, and on the organizations relating to them. Recently, I am especially interested in the policy for Indigenous people in Canada and Australia.
Traditionally, Jesuits have been involved at the front line in people who are excluded from society, and we have learnt from them and tried to build bridges across border lines. We have been stimulated by the wonderful actions of many people, whether Jesuits or not. I hope the Center will cooperate with persons who share good will. It will be wonderful if we can improve our activities with evidence based on research as well.
The origin of my vocation to the Jesuit Brotherhood came from the individuals who have been experiencing hard circumstances and I thought of living in company with them. I am not sure how far I am able to accompany them now, but I hope I can be thrown among those people and I continue to be a stone rolled by the roadside.
I am from Singapore. In 1996, I married to a Japanese man and then moved to Tokyo. Now, we have a beautiful 20-year-old daughter.
In October 2010, I joined the Jesuit Social Center’s Migrant Desk staff. This volunteering job is a most challenging and rewarding work. I had experienced various volunteering activities before, including studying Japanese sign language to communicate with the deaf and working at SANYA (Mother Teresa Home) homeless town. None of them reached a deeply understanding and touched people’s lives and hearts as much as what I’m doing now.
Migrant Desk provides free legal consultation for foreigners including Visa, official status, international marriage, family matters, divorce, domestic violence, employment, labor problems/accidents, traffic accidents, court and other legal issues concerning foreigners. Depending on each specific case, we visit Shinagawa and Ushiku detention centers, accompany migrants to immigration, hospital, school, courts, city halls, visit migrants’ homes or have meals with them outside…
From my experience as a foreigner living in Japan, it will be a hard life for those who are not familiar with the Japanese language. Language barriers make them unable know whom to turn to when needing legal help, advice or share opinions. I am happy to give a little helping hand, even though at times the situations are quite beyond my competency.
I started to work part-time at the Jesuit Social Center in the summer of 2014, and at present I am working there full-time. My job is editing the “Social and Pastoral Bulletin,” and I serve as public relations officer, building and managing the Center’s home page and Facebook page.
My main social activity includes cooperation with the movement “Abolish the Death Penalty.” I am a member of the Japan Catholic Council for Justice & Peace for the abolition of the death penalty. I cooperate with several citizens’ organizations and lawyers’ associations and a religious network that actively demands abolition of the death sentence in Japan and all over the world. Naturally, this movement aims not only at abolishing the death sentence, it desires a world where victims and criminals could both live happily with the help of proper assistance, aiming at the realization of peaceful societies which eventually will not produce any more criminals and victims.
Formerly, I was active in the JOC (Young Christian Workers) movement and I continue my interest in labor issues. I am also working with youth, am interested in the difficult situations they face and their labor conditions, and am involved in issues concerning poverty and living difficulties due to people’s mental suffering. Again, inseparable from that, are the dire needs and suffering which foreign workers and trainees experience.
In my parish I have been working for years with middle and high school children’s groups. For a short period I taught religion in a mission school in Tokyo before working here in the Center. From my past experiences, I am also interested in peace and human rights, exposure tours, and pastoral work with youth.
Other similar activities are the building of sustainable communities that make it possible to erase discrimination and exclusion. Is it possible for everybody to live together happily, without discrimination, in spite of social and economic or health differences, being disabled or not, accepting their own sexuality and sexual orientation, racial diversity, nationality, and ethnic group, native language and culture, religious belief? We are questioned whether and to what extent we can build together tolerant societies where errors and failures, including all kinds of crimes, occur without claiming theories of exclusion.