[ SOCIAL AND PASTORAL BULLETIN No. 140 / Oct. 15 .2007 ]
Abe Keita (Franciscan priest)  
The local activities at Ikuno (Osaka) have developed today from literacy courses to a number of other different activities. As I mentioned in the last issue of this Bulletin, the Korean Mothers' School (Omoni Hakkyo) started using the Seiwa Church as classrooms. This was, little by little, naturally recognized and now whenever the Church is free at day time, day nursery activities are held there.
Rev. Seno Katsuo, the Protestant pastor of Seiwa Church at the time, was the one to decide on the use of the Church for local activities. Under his leadership and, as a result of the efforts of the Consultative Committee for local Activities of Ikuno and of the fervent support of people dedicated to local issues, the Seiwa Social Center was established through the Seiwa Common Welfare organization with its base in the Church. This opened the ground to develop further involvement in answering local needs.
Such events invited other local Christian institutions to increase the use of their facilities to answer local needs. First the Protestant Seiwa Church that was followed by the Catholic Ikuno Church and others offered their facilities to be used as ordinary sites for local activities, becoming models for other nearby churches.
In the late '70s there was a close connection between the Ikuno region and the pressure to offer the use of the church to deal with the local needs. Even now in various parts of Ikuno where there are small-scale enterprises that produce 'hep sandals,' for instance, there is no space for activities and, on top of that, public halls do not have enough multi-purpose facilities that could be freely used as ordinary centers for activities without much time restrictions. On the other hand, facilities that could be available were only churches free after services and bible studies.
That way churches contributed to local activities that developed into welfare corporations so much that in a non-Christian country like Japan churches become committed to local society by offering space to the activities of citizens. The guarantee of a center for activities weights considerably for getting involved in local issues.
The free access to facilities of the churches has assured sites to citizen's groups so that NGOs and welfare organizations fully rooted could start various local activities. Through Ikuno's Omoni Hakkyo and others, persons that participated in their activities could find a site to organize institutions like the Seiwa Social Center and the Committee for Local Activities in Ikuno. And it can be said that the staff personnel remaining in the town made substantial contributions there.
Certainly, many local activities in Ikuno remained self-sufficient and as I have explained earlier Ikuno's Omoni Hakkyo has continued active for 30 years. Autonomous activities are, maybe, financially tight but they can continue using the Seiwa social center and the Church and operate by leasing the equipment in unconventional conditions. And again, not being restricted by contracts, they have continued the activities in free ways because the content of their action has not been systematically framed.
The past 30 years gave birth to many different activities. They consist in day nursery and in activities for youngsters, for persons with handicaps, always keeping the local characteristics of Ikuno. Simple activities, like visiting first-generation Koreans to listen to their experiences were also performed. Lately, care services for senior citizens living in that region have increased. The size of the activities is different depending on the nature of the bodies, welfare or autonomous organizations that conduct them. Nevertheless, in order to answer the needs, there is a characteristic form to change the content by adopting some different form of activities.
In this respect, the work of the Community Based Organization (CBO) that considers the residents of the place suitable to solve local issues at grass roots levels enjoys an important role. As it is the case with the Omoni Hakkyo and other local activities, the residents started by answering the voices and needs of local people and, as the time passed by, people received on going training with the results of growing into rooted local activities.
On top of that, considering that this region is home to many foreigners, the 30-year long social activities at Ikuno have become a model for further involvements. But besides this historical background, such concrete dedication to local issues offers hints to churches with regard to their role in local societies, as well as how to adapt to changes of our times.
Ikuno Omoni Hakkyo will publish the 30 Anniversary Book in the end of this year. Please, refer to Seiwa Social Center. [Tel. 06-6741-0650]
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