Social and Pastoral Bulletin_No. 83/Apr. 15, 1998

From Shimonoseki (7)

Hayashi Hisashi
(Jesuit Labor Education Center)

Think globally and act locally. Since we human beings share the same lot with the flora and fauna of this world, it is natural that, looking at the global ecological system, we should take responsibility for our own life styles within the natural environment of the continent, country and region where we live. In fact, many world citizens are making efforts in this direction.

In spite of this, the destruction of the environment is getting worst very fast and its depth is widening. I wish each one of us could find ways to stop this in the places where we are living.

In the last issue I wrote about trees which were cut down in a small city park in the country side without the consent of the citizens there. Everybody will consider that a very small local event compared to global issues. Nevertheless, if one can not get techniques to approach such tiny issues, the solution of global issues will become an impossible task. What is worse, we have to deal with both, global and local issues at the same time.

“What is my attitude with regard to the trees which were cut down and disappeared from the park?”. Several citizens gathered together to decide an action program with regard to such an elementary issue and established the “citizens` forum”

This forum is different from an established and decision making body, it is rather a grass-root network where citizens present their views, exchange information, converse and take action together. The forum, created out of citizens` movements in Shimonoseki, started its activities in 1990 with the motto, “Garbage Our Own Problem” . Since then, it took an international outlook and began to question the real meaning of “internationalization” . The forum has taken up the following themes: Development of the Town of the Straits, Present and Past of the City of Shimonoseki from the eyes of Koreans living there, Welfare of Senior Citizens, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Public Information and the Right to Knowledge, Human Rights Issues in Shimonoseki as seen by the disabled.

In addition to that, they reviewed the public declarations of the City Hall and City Administration, like the Non-nuclear Peace Declaration.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the defeat in the last war, the forum members reviewed the historical materials concerning the Japanese invasion of the Asian continent from the Kanpu (Shimonoseki-Pusan) sea route. At the time of the big Kobe earthquake they verified the urban programs for the prevention of disasters. Then, dioxin contamination was brought to the fore and they began to revise, again, the issues of garbage.

Recently, the forum is not so active. Is it because people can not create concrete plans for reforms? They lack self-reliance, and judging from the low turnouts of voters and passive civil participation during the local public elections, I think that we must, somehow, force through reforms.

In order to make some openings, our Labor Education Center has organized a public meeting on April 19. We have invited both the director and the head of the city`s maintenance and the green-belt-zone departments to inquire about the situation of the city parks, the basic directions concerning their preservation and amelioration, as well as to hear about the overall planning of the new city programs.

The discussions will center on the public budget and the selection of companies that use public funds, on the release of public information and 14 more different subjects. But most important of all is the actual participation of citizens in the decision process of urban policies and its future outlook.

We want to fully participate in the global problems that lie ahead of us, like ecological destruction, the new guidelines (Manual for mutual cooperation in War) of the Japan-USA Mutual Security Treaty, and the bad effects of the capital investments of Japanese ODA and private funding institutions. In this way we can start to act responsibly.

We want to make a “forum” where everybody can participate in the problems affecting them. At times, there will be reactions to the cries of the trees which were cut down in our city parks and disposed off; at other times, we want to search for ways to recover our damaged human society and the renewal of the environment.


From the Editor
This is a call to participate in a common campaign to offer “ one-meal contributions” to a food assistance program for North Korea. Leaving out all ideological concerns, we, together with other groups, are planning a program of assistance to the citizens of North Korea suffering from hunger. In April 25, a public gathering to support North Korean citizens will be held in Tokyo. p(^o^)q
An exhibition of pictures drawn by 14 prisoners, who have received death penalty, will open in Tokyo, from May 20 to 24. Before theorizing on whether capital punishment should be maintained or abolished, everybody is invited to see those drawings full of human feelings. I believe that the starting point to discuss the death penalty is that there is no person unable to recover from past mistakes. Please, try to see the exhibition.
< Shibata Yukinori >