Abe Keita (Franciscan priest)

I ended my 7 years living in Ikuno (Osaka) and this summer I was transferred to Kawasaki. Since there are things I was not able to write in my series of articles of this bulletin, I will do it now from a different perspective.
First, when I expressed my wish that I wanted to live near Ikuno's Korean town, in order to participate in the local activities there, I was allowed to do it under the condition that I return to the monastery, during the weekends, and participate in the liturgical prayers with the others there. One of the community members advised me not to try to get active in changing the surroundings. Instead, he said, I would better share the pain and the reflections of those persons overrun by officials and Japanese society.
This advice was somehow unexpected. The reason was that the image I had of dedicating myself to the local people had been much influenced by the work done by the small communities of several religious congregations living in Sanya and Kamagasaki during the 80s. At that time, lectures on Liberation Theology were frequent and the so-called 'prophetic' communities that were small worked locally in social issues. Small-scale community building inserted among the people and with a prophetic role was highly evaluated and communities were established in several places. There are only a few left now. The methods of evangelization and the actual needs have changed and also vocations have diminished. All these can be counted as reasons.
Again, there were other reasons why I felt that the advice given to me was unexpected. My participation in local activities will presuppose that, by taking action, some visible results will appear, but seeing the lack of priests working in parishes why to do that? Will not be more effective to train lay people in the parishes and to conduct volunteer services through them? What is the meaning of living in a rented apartment and participating in local activities if nobody gets baptized? No matter this thinking and the pressure exerted by parishioners, the opinion mentioned above was going against the current.
Through my involvement with local people I felt again that effectiveness is still a high value in Japanese society as well as in the Church, and that was implied to me by members of my Congregation that were against my opinion.
For instance, in the activities of the local community there are cases of success as well as of failure, and when one compares the reactions of the local community with those of Church people, there is, certainly, a difference in that the local community does not question effectiveness, while Church people do it. Such reaction is somehow expected. In Japan, to produce results and to be useful and able to do something are highly evaluated and the fact that the Church is influenced by such value systems should not be considered strange.
There are reasons why local people do not question results. In the case of Ikuno, Christians started various activities there that began as an answer to the needs of the local people. Some of those activities developed into big-scale institutions and yearly events, or human rights movements that though sued the official policies of the government often lost the trials. Nevertheless, in spite of acting without visible results of victory, people living in that region showed sympathy to such action for the people suffering from oppression, realizing that it gives them strength to continue fighting together.
It can be concluded from this, that the important thing is not to do this or that or to produce results, but it is also rather important to be with the people and to learn from their situation. This is my honest impression in participating in the activities of the people with whom I was living. Once again, I feel grateful for the advice I received before going to live in Ikuno.

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