Abe Keita (Franciscan priest)

Among the main events we have celebrated this year we should mention the 60th anniversary of the end of the war and the Hanshin earthquake of 10 years ago. Last November American President Bush met with our Prime Minister Koizumi in Japan, an event this year that caught the attention of the mass media and had a wide coverage.

The official discussions seemed to have been related to the mission of Japan's Self Defense Forces in Iraq and the American military bases in Japan, issues directly connected to the revision of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. Watching the TV news I felt doubts about how far the lessons of the last war have been implemented in Japan, the only country in the world to have experienced nuclear bombing.

At the beginning of November I received electronic mail from the Melchizedec group of Kojimachi church informing me that during a peace march in Okinawa, opposing the construction of an American military base in Henoko (Okinawa) a Buddhist monk, Kizu Hiromitsu, of the Nipponzan Myohoji Temple had been arrested by the police and put into jail, because he obstructed the passing of a police patrol car at one of the gates of Kadena American military air base in Okinawa. The mail asked for support of the monk who was fasting in protest and to raise the voice demanding his immediate release without prosecuting him. Although I tried to contact by phone the police in Okinawa the phone was always busy, most probably because of so many protests but soon after, the news arrived that he had been released.

Every time I listened to the news during the last months I feel that Japan is moving far away from being a peaceful country and the last rock left could be Article 9 of Japan's Constitution that is about to be revised. The fact that Japan's religions have become active to defend the present Constitution could be taken as a sign that there are still persons in Japan demanding peace. Following their own religious teachings and spirituality they have overcome their differences focusing on the defense of Article 9 and make public appeals through ads in the Newspapers to keep Article 9 of the Constitution, under the common name of "Article 9 Association of Religions.

There are voices regarding possible missile attacks from North Korea that try to justify legislation in case of emergency, but examining the "White Book" edited by the Japan Defense Agency last year, such attacks are improbable. As a result, many people doubt the need of revising the Constitution.

Looking at the issue from the point of view of the relationships between North Korea and Japan such attacks are unthinkable, but considering the American military pressure from Japan it could be very possible that North Korea launches Tepodon missiles against American military bases and main Japanese cities.
Due to this, public gatherings make appeals against the revision of the Constitution, under fear that as a result of revising Article 9, Japan and the United States will start together military preparations that will become the main cause to provoke possible military retaliation by North Korea. It could be said that not to change Article 9 is a very important move for the peace and safety of the North East Asian region.

Again, Japan's Article 9 is unique in the constitutions of the world and some international conferences, like Hague's World Citizens' Peace Conference (1999) and the UN-NGOs 2000 Conference have highly valuated it. Due to all this, both movements, to revise the Constitution or to oppose its revision, especially by the association of religions, are actually calling the attention at the end of this 60th year of the postwar.

[ Article 9 Association of Religions ]

In June 2004 a group of 9 members, Inoue Hisashi, Oe Kenzaburo, etc., inaugurated the "Article 9 Association" to enlighten people all over the world on the principles of a peaceful constitution, afraid of the strong moves to revise the Constitution. Religions, from their side, accepted the peaceful spirit of the new Association and decided to keep the present Constitution established in May 2005 the "Article 9 Association of Religions". About 60 religious personalities have offered their names, among them there are 10 Catholic bishops, Cardinal Shirayanagi, Sr. Hirota Shizue, etc. This religions' organization is not trying to establish an independent organization but acts as a support group of the already existing "Article 9 Association".

Please, contact directly the group if you want to become a member.

<Article 9 Association of Religions>
TEL:03-5632-4490 FAX:03-5632-4523

<Article 9 Association>
TEL: 03-3221-5075 FAX: 03-3221-5076
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