Oita, Japan – On Japanese Constitution Memorial Day, 03 May, fourteen Japanese Mennonite and Brethren in Christ leaders issued a call against proposed amendments to the Japanese constitution, particularly to article 9, the so-called “peace article.”
On the same day, national newspapers released polls showing that proposed amendments to the constitution are gaining support.
Under article 9 of the constitution, drafted in 1947 by Allied occupation forces and adopted by the national Diet with extensive support of the nation, the “Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”
Further, article 96 of the constitution states that amendments must pass both national governing bodies with a two-thirds majority and must gain majority support in a national referendum.
The governing Liberal Democratic Party, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is proposing to relax the amendment approval process in article 96. Further, the government is advocating for changes in article 9 – changes which would create a National Defense Force with fuller military powers than those of the existing Self-Defense Force.
“With these developments at a time of unprecedented tensions,” wrote the church leaders, “we as Anabaptists/Mennonites who have opposed all wars and have experienced martyrdom among more than a few members must acknowledge that we are being put to the test. As an historical peace church, now is not the time to close our mouths and keep silent. It is time to stand up by the power of our Lord Jesus and say that war is the greatest of sins and that we must not open up any path that would cause our country to engage in war again.”
The church leaders sent their message to Protestant periodicals in Japan and also to periodicals of Anabaptist/Mennonite churches in North America. (Click here for the full text of the message.)