Jun 25, 2010

More foreign aid needed to build peace

I have been granted a chance to meet someone whom I wanted to meet for so many years.  Finally I managed to meet her in her office in Tokyo on Tuesday.  She is the president of JICA, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Ms. Sadako OGATA. 

In April 1995, I was in Bukavu, Zaire as a coordinator for Caritas Japan team working in one of more than 30 Rwandan refugee camps in the area.  It was exactly one year after the beginning of genocide in Rwanda.  On 11 April at 10 pm, our camp, situated in a village called Birava, was attacked by several armed soldiers coming from the lake Kivu which was the border between Zaire and Rwanda.  They managed to cross the lake by 3 boats, according to several eye witnesses. The Birava camp was facing against to Rwanda where refugees, Futu people, came from.  Officially, no one knows who were these soldiers who attacked the camp that night.  Rumor among refugees said they were RPF from present Rwanda.  No one knows.  What I remember is 2 hours of exchange of fire and sounds of bomb blasts.  What I remember is more than 30 dead and more than 150 injured people.  I was shaken.  I can not forget the experience of that night.  Still as at now, whenever I pass by the construction site and hear the sound of jackhammer, I immediately recall that night.  At that time, we could not rely on the Mobutu's army since they were not paid enough or at all.  So we wrote a letter of appeal among Caritas members in the area to Ms. Ogata who was the High Commissioner of Refugees of UN at that time.  The local representative of UNHCR in Bukavu was Mr. Patrick D'souza who used to work for Caritas before.  He immediately took action and negotiated with the UN to hire Zaire soldiers as their own security force to protect camps.  So I wanted to thank Ms. Ogata for quick response at that time.

Now working for Japanese government as the president of the Government foreign aid agency, she shared a lot on foreign aid policy of Japan and peace building.  This meeting was organised by the publisher, Don Bosco and will appear as their article on the September issue of "Katolikku Seikatsu", a Japanese Catholic monthly magazine.  Ms. Ogata is a practising Catholic.  She emphasised that Japanese people have to realise that Japan can not survive by itself alone but only in cooperation with other countries.  To secure world peace, development aid to poorer countries is a must for Japan.

Jun 19, 2010

GA of CBCJ concluded

A week long general assembly of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan (CBCJ) for the year 2010 has just been completed on Friday afternoon in Japan Catholic Center in Tokyo.  All together, 16 bishops and one administrator joined the assembly together with representatives from both male and female major superiors in Japan.  Presently there are 16 dioceses in Japan and auxiliary bishops have been assigned to Tokyo and Osaka, one for each, so that there should be 18 bishops to join the assembly.  However there are 2 sees vacant at this moment in Japan, Oita and Sapporo, and, therefore, one administrator joined the assembly from Oita.  (I am the administrator of Sapporo)

Almost 90 % of the agenda had been proposed by the Liturgy Commission, especially on the translation of Mass text for which the Liturgy Commission has been working for quite sometime.  We had to go through Latin text, present Japanese text and newly proposed translation text at the same time for entire Mass.  In fact, it takes time and we have not finished yet.  When we completed the discussion on the proposed text for this year's agenda, a secretary for the commission told us that he had 5 times more texts ready for us to discuss during next assembly.  We just heard that the English translation has just completed and got the approval from the Holy See recently but I have no idea how many more years it may take to complete the Japanese translation.

On Wednesday evening, after the afternoon presentation given by Caritas Japan on foreign aid policy of the Catholic aid agency, we went to visit the Nunciature in Tokyo.  Photo above is the chapel of the Nunciature which was renovated recently and the Nuncio is explaining us about the newly installed bronze door of the chapel.  After this, Nuncio presented a congratulatory message of Holy Father to Bishop Misue of Hiroshima who has been celebrating his 25th anniversary as bishop this year.  Then the meeting was completed with wonderful Italian dinner.

Well I finally managed to come back to my house in Niigata.  I left Niigata last Friday to Sapporo where I had to give a talk on Saturday in Maruyama parish.  Then after the talk, I flew from Sapporo to Akita to join the Akita district for Laity Rally on Sunday.  Fr. Xavier Susai, SVD, a rector of the SVD seminary in Nagoya gave a talk on the Christian vocation and I said Mass in the afternoon.  Indian born rector of the seminary attracted the laity of Akita district with his wonderful Japanese and several jokes.  From there I flew to Tokyo on Monday to join the GA of CBCJ.  Well, I have to fly again this evening to Sapporo while Japanese National Team is playing in South Africa against to Holland.  There will be confirmation Mass in Sapporo tomorrow.

Jun 10, 2010

Priests' rally in Akita

From 7 June to 9, Niigata diocesan priests' rally was held in Akita which was attended by 29 priests working in the diocese, including both diocesan and religious priests.  At this moment, all together 38 priests are working in the diocese including 2 elder Fathers who have been on their retirement.  Out of this 38, 17 are diocesan priests of Niigata, 2 are of Takamatsu, one from Tokyo diocese, 3 belongs to the Picpus Fathers, 5 belongs to the Franciscans and 10 are SVDs.  This year, the diocese received 2 new priests from SVD, Fr.Hayon, a newly ordained, from Indonesia to Akita and Fr. Odilon from Korea to Tsuchizaki.  We gathered together at Foresta Chokai Hotel in southern Akita.  Hotel is located at the foot of Mount Chokai and surrounded by deep forest.

As we are approaching to the end of the Year of Priests, we chose the theme which is closely related to the daily pastoral realities of priests.  Since Japanese bishops have been talking about the Human Life which is a gift of God, we decided to learn more about the life threatening issue in the area, the suicide issue.  Since 1998, immediately after the current economic recession has started in Japan, more than 30,000 people began to commit suicide every year up till now in all over Japan.  Number is increasing each year and Akita is well known in Japan as the area to record the highest rate of suicide almost every year.  People commit suicide because of financial difficulties, family problem, personal relationship and many other causes but most of the cases have been connected to the depression.  We invited professor Sasaki Hisanaga of Akita University who has been involving himself with the prevention effort of the local government.  Professor Sasaki is a Catholic.  We also invited Bishop Koda Kazuo of Tokyo who has been working on the topic as a bishop in charge of Caritas Japan.  Church has to learn more about the issue to be ready to respond to the need of people who are in danger of committing suicide and also to learn more about how to console the grief of families and relatives of those who committed the suicide.