Social and Pastoral BulletinNo. 89Apr. 15, 1999

From Shimonoseki (13)
Hayashi Hisashi
(Jesuit Labor Education Center)

Here in Shimonoseki while the flowers of the cherry trees were in full bloom, the TV cameras were televising the tragic escape of the refugees in Kosovo and their deportation. In the meantime people, here, are enjoying a cheerful time with drinks, for a short while, under the cherry blossoms. Although is good to enjoy nature, the pain and suffering of many families and citizens like ourselves from all over the world are also shared by us, as a result of the spread of global information. All through the 20th century the world has cruelly experienced such tragedies, nevertheless the existing frames on which religions, states or ethnic groups operate have not only been unable to provide solutions, but, often, have aggravated the seriousness of the problems.

President Clinton after deciding to strengthen the air strikes took off for his Easter holidays. Great quantities of weapons, as well as human lives and nature have been used up inhumanly. What an idiotic and fruitless thing! The celebration of Easter in the middle of such destruction did not bring any hope or joy. There must had been some possibility for states and local ngos to confront the realities that ended in such a destruction.

Even in East Timor where independence is finally taking concrete shape, it is said that arms have been handed over to provoke and instigate opposition and, although there are forecasts for tragedies to come, the moves of states and governments are really slow and ineffective. In fact, our own ngos are very weak and dull also. Much less, at this time of local elections, no matter how one may feel the need of trying all kinds of means to present a representative from local citizens' groups, there is no strong backing.

In the midst of all this, we had at the end of March a long meeting, till late in the evening, without being able to have a meal. The meeting was of the group managing the "Ngos Network Yamaguchi". (Confer No. 84 of this Bulletin).

The establishment of this network of several ngos of Yamaguchi prefecture last year, held many problems since its beginning. The "Network" begun to function as a kind of a subcontractor of the prefectural administration, with little time of preparation. The axis of it is the Yamaguchi International Exchange Society which made the first call for the "Network " and is acting as its liaison office. Big and small-scale ngos, gathered together in a hurry with a variety of partners spread all over South and East Asia, the Near East, Russia and the African continent. They were enthusiastically eager to rectify the Japanese foreign aid and ODA that has gone a long way off the mark. On top of that, the new Network started its activities without solidifying its basis at the grass roots level, leaving everything in the hands of the ngos' veteran activists, designing hasty plans which could correspond to the orientations of the prefecture and Japan International Cooperation Agency, in hope of obtaining their financial support. The three main key programs are:

  1. Seminars on Global Citizens and International Cooperation
  2. Practical Workshops to Promote International Cooperation of Local Governments
  3. The International Cooperation Festival.
For the small ngos that have to act with few members and scarce resources, the assistance to the people of their own partner countries is their first priority, but they have now the burden of implementing the plans of the Network.. As an example, the transportation costs needed to attend just one meetings of the committee will be able to cover the monthly expenses of a family in the countries they provide aid. Most meetings deal with events to perform and the ngos do not have much to say. Citizens of ngos who are already overburdened with their own family lives have to undertake tasks of the administration, as its subcontractors, besides the activities of their own groups. Like the well experienced and social-minded they are, they also criticize with discontent the slow and weak process of the plans for a grass-rooted democracy.

It is there where they made a stop to prepare a solid natural basis for their common action. While several ngos continued their preparations together, the idea begun to originate that Shimonoseki will take the responsibility to conduct plans for an International Festival. People talked about creating a network with persons who knew each other well and could exchange information satisfactorily, restricting themselves to strengthening their collaboration and exchanges of information to the west side of the prefecture, before establishing a total network covering the whole area of the prefecture. As a result, they formed a network under the name of "Net Save".

Some people might think of rapid disintegration and splinter factions in the Network, but for those groups and individuals who are not part of the Yamaguchi Network their base for action has been expanded. "Net Save" links close-by places in the west region (seibu) of Yamaguchi prefecture, and includes local and international goals.

I, personally, feel the problematic limitations of international cooperation and exchanges conducted by the central and local administration, and I think that, in the process of a participatory cooperation, one must proceed with mutual collaboration, and especially in case of emergency situations across borders, I dream that ngos could act fast and efficiently. Is this anything but a dream?

When I hear of the Abraham Mission or of the activities conducted by international ngos, like JRS, I tend to think that even small ngos could temporarily join forces together, provided that they do not miss the links they already have with their original partners. But, this is never an easy task. One doubts about the real aims of the network. The network which was created to continue self-training to develop the existing ngos by themselves and to promote inner reforms of the administration, is groping for its identity in the midst of tensions. What can be acquired by a network of local ngos? What has to be done? These are our questions from Shimonoseki.


From the Editor

§§§ Miss Niamh, a lay person, in charge of the JDRAD's central office visited our center in February. During March 14-16, the lay staff of the three Social Centers: Shimonoseki, Osaka and Tokyo, met together for the first time at a workshop. Recently, Jesuits also have, finally, started to pay attention to the existence of lay colleagues. It is still a long way to go to assure a true co-working relationship. In our Tokyo center, also, we continue working today while fighting amicably.

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