Hokkaido, Japan/Elkhart, Indiana, USA – Reacting to a proposed change in Japan’s ban against making war outside of its borders, Japanese Mennonites issued a statement reaffirming its anti-war stance.
The protest issued in September 2014 was in response to the Japan Cabinet’s decision in July to reinterpret the country’s pacifist postwar 1947 constitution that limits the use of force to defend Japan. The proposed change would allow the East Asian nation to take offensive action outside of its borders to help defend allies “in close relationship.”
A statement sent by the Peace Mission Center of the Nihon Menonaito Kirisuto Kyokai Kyogikai (Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference), the conference of Mennonite churches of Hokkaido, Japan, protests this governmental change. Addressed to the administration of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the statement outlines the Christian peace position and urges the government to reconsider its recent decision. The government has not responded to the statement.
Earlier, in May 2013, fourteen Mennonite and Brethren in Christ leaders in Japan issued a call against this same proposed constitutional change.
Within Christian and outside Christian circles, Hokkaido Mennonites are letting their convictions be known and encouraging others to do likewise. Yukari Kaga, pastor of Obihiro Mennonite Church and Peace Mission Center board member, said that unlike large denominations, the small conference is united in the stance that “the peace of Jesus is foundational in our faith.”
As a result of the anti-war controversy, young people are also speaking out, taking a stand, and becoming aware of free-speech issues and the free exchange of ideas. “For the school newspaper, they write about what they perceive as odd, and their comments are read by the whole student body,” said Yasuko Momono, a high school teacher and newspaper advisor, who is a member of Furano Nozomi Mennonite Church and a Peace Mission Center board member.
The Japanese government’s former stance emerges from its decision, after World War II, to no longer initiate war and to support only domestic and narrow military support operations. Some Japanese politicians and citizens want the self-defense limits to be lifted, for fear of aggression from neighboring countries in northeast Asia.
– Adapted from a news release by Mennonite Mission Network by Wil LaVeist