Social and Pastoral Bulletin_No. 84/Jun. 15, 1998

From Shimonoseki (8)

Hayashi Hisashi
(Jesuit Labor Education Center)

Shimonoseki NGOs have repeatedly held meetings in the main hall of Shoen-ji Buddhist temple (Chofu) which is surrounded by hydrangeas blooming beautifully before the rainy season. The Buddhist monk there is very energetic and has opened an office in Manila, sending, up till now, educational material to about 13 primary schools in the Philippines. He raises funds through bazaars and other activities and, literally speaking, he carries by himself the goods to far away lands.

From Shimonoseki we are linked to people of many other foreign countries, like East Timor, Nepal and Kenya. It is only of late that such citizens` groups gathered to discuss and exchange information together. Although it is somehow irritating, everything started with a call from Yamaguchi International Exchange Society, established by the prefectural administration in order to promote activities of international exchanges.

Several NGOs of Yamaguchi were approached by the prefectural authorities, and after holding a series of meetings, the “NGOs Network Yamaguchi” was founded at the beginning of this year. Once it became a prefectural scale endeavor the links extended to China, S. E. Asia, India and the Middle East. Luckily enough, the head of Genko-ji, a Buddhist temple in Tokuyama, a veteran himself who is the Yamaguchi representative of both, Japan Soto-shu Relief Committee and of Japan NGO Center for International cooperation (JANIC) agreed to become the manager of the new Network Yamaguchi.

There is no doubt that the establishment of the Network smells of “official” promotion, but the aim is not to make divisions between the “official” and the “private” sectors. When one thinks about how to evaluate Japan`s official development aid (ODA), the fact that the private sector (NGOs) has a stronghold within the public administration is especially important for the task to try substantial reforms in aid support from the point of view of the tax payers.

The following are the main results of the plans discussed for this year.
  1. To open a series of 5 lectures on “Global Citizens and International Cooperation” . All and each citizen, aware of being members of the world community called ‘space craft earth’ , should not leave the responsibility to solve global issues only to the UN or government organizations, but they should also get involved in such issues themselves, and work in strong solidarity to find lasting solutions.
  2. Yamaguchi prefecture has made public in 1997 its “Vision to Promote the Internationalization of Yamaguchi” , or the “Discovery of International Cooperation and Exchanges” which aims at mutual development based on equal partnership and on a spirit of living together. As a result of such basic thinking , citizens participate in the promotion of the international attitudes of local governments, and in order that local officials could also profit from the NGO experiences, in-service training on international cooperation will be conducted, together with delegates of tribal minorities of Thailand.
  3. To conduct an “International Cooperation Festival” , similar to the one of last year, so that Shimonoseki citizens get to know the activities of NGOs and through the mutual understanding and collaboration of NGOs their network could be further expanded.
The Yamaguchi NGO Network started to act within these three different phases and with the financial support of the prefecture and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). On top of that, since the nonprofit organizations law, enacted on March 25, opened the door for a true development of grass root organizations, small private organizations that, although conducting very important activities find it difficult to obtain corporate status, can be recognized legally, by establishing a network.

The limitations of official personal exchanges together with the various painful experiences of grassroot organizations will make inroads into the 21 century, bringing local and official efforts together. Provided that citizens` groups act without distorting their identity, based on their solidarity with the marginalized and the oppressed, the time has come to test the results, regardless of the loss of energy and money spent and all the pain involved in the efforts of cooperating with officials.

Late at night when I come back to Shimonoseki I pass by the play ground of a primary school in Yamaguchi where the graduates have carved in a stone monument the following message for the younger generations:

Strong like the grass,
serene like the clouds;
let`s come together
in a circle of light.

It is the message of hope of the rainbow hanging from the sky, after the rainy season.


From the Editor

The soccer World Cup has just started. Nationalists waving their Japanese “hi-no-maru” flags have suddenly increased. The World Cup is said to be a “war” . In any event, it is, by far, much better than to declare a real war, after conducting nuclear tests. Of course, I also watch war movies by TV.

< Shibata Yukinori >