A Gift to the World for Peace
Article 9 Conference statement.
A Gift to the World for Peace
More than 200 participants from
different faith traditions of the world gathered to listen and reflect on the
experiences of the Okinawan people as they struggle to seek peace from US
military bases that have occupied the Okinawans’ island and destroying the
land. This was the 3rd Asia Inter-religious Conference on Article 9 of the
Japanese Peace Constitution, held this past October on the island
of Okinawa, Japan.
Article 9 of the Japanese
Constitution renounces war as a means of settling international disputes and
prohibits the maintenance of armed forces and other war potential- it is an
international oath declaring No to War. This article came into being
after World War II when Japanese leaders met in the capitol of Tokyo to
construct a new Japanese nation; as they met they looked out their windows and
saw the massive devastation and rubble that was covering their country.
Seeing the pain and destruction of war, the leaders said this should never happen
again, and inscribed Article 9 in their Constitution.
Today, however, the Japanese
government has been attempting to amend Article 9 because of the United States’
demand for full-fledged military support from Japan in its “war on terror.”
Over the years, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have been seen a dramatic
increase, bringing their military spending to one of the highest in the
world. One of the United States’ biggest military bases is located in
Okinawa, Japan, and each year the Japanese government contributes over $2billion,
called a “Sympathy Budget,” to the United States to defray the cost of having
the US base in Japan.
While the Article 9 Peace
Conference was gathered in Japan, the thoughts of the victims from the
disasters of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear
Power plant accident this past March came to mind for many of the participants,
as the destruction was similar to what the Japanese saw out of their windows
when Article 9 was written up after WWII. One of the things the
participants seek is that the $2billion “Sympathy Budget” allocation toward the
US be frozen and reassigned to relief efforts in the disaster-stricken areas.
Half of the participants have
attended the Article 9 Peace Conference before and the other half was there for
the first time. But the participants were reminded that the struggle for
peace for the Japanese people had been going on years before this conference.
One person in particular, Rev. Kinjo Shigeaki, who lived in Okinawa
during the battle of Okinawa in 1945, shared his journey during that terrible
time when he lost his entire family. “I wanted to end my life but instead,
I was given new life because my God lives within me; I’m reborn to focus on
living fully”. Rev. Shigeaki has been working with other religious
leaders ever since to make sure that Japan, and the entire world, will never
seek war but peace.
The participants reminded
international partners, especially faith communities in the US, to continue to
support the Japanese movements to keep and strengthen Japan’s Peace
Constitution. Specifically, the participants invite faith communities in
the US to “join in advocacy for the closure of Futenma and other bases in
Okinawa as well as the abandonment of plans to build a new base” in other
places in Southeast Asia.
Rebecca Asedillo from the United
Methodist Church reflected with participants that peace takes more than just
diplomacy and knowledge, but also the spirit of all our faiths to motivate us
for change. “The common good is not loyalty to empire or emperor, or to
nationalism, or any structures in powers. Instead, the common good is that
which enables individuals, communities, and nations to see their
interconnectedness with each other, where one is enfolded in the other and together
they form the whole.” The gathering of this conference was on peace of
the Article 9 Constitution, but this peace article is not just a provision for
the Japanese people only; it also serves as an international peace instrument
towards reductions in military spending, promotion of nuclear-weapon-free
zones, ending violence against women, supporting conflict prevention, and
mitigating the negative environmental impact of the military… it’s a gift to
the world for peace!
October 14, 2011