Peace Means Equal Rice in Every MouthNovember 7, 2008
Tokyo is about a two hour ride by the bullet train from where I live. This last month I traveled three times to the big metropolis. When I go I like to look out the window and see the mountains, the rice fields, and the old farm houses nestled into the forest. In October the rice fields turn a gentle golden color. Harvest is near. Each stalk is heavy with plentiful rice. This year there have been fewer typhoons than usual. The farmers are looking forward to a good harvest. It is good that rice is plentiful. On my last trip to Tokyo I could see snow on the mountains. Winter is around the corner.
My daily life in Sendai these days is a bit stressful. I have announced that this will be my last term to work at the Sendai Student Center as its director. I have been trying to pass on this youth ministry, started by missionaries 58 years ago, to the Japanese church. But things have not gone so smoothly. The next four years will be a challenge to see if we can work together to find my successor, and whether the local churches can come around to seeing the ministries of the Student Center as a part of their own. Ownership and leadership must be in the hands of the local Christians. Much of mission these days is about letting go of the old, so that God can birth something new. Please keep the Japanese church in your prayers.
Another dimension of my work which brings me much joy is to be a part of an inter-religious movement to "protect" the Japanese Constitution from being revised. As it stands now Japan cannot go to war. However, with strong backing from the US, the Japanese government is taking steps to change Article Nine which "forswears the use of military force to solve international conflicts." The Japanese government is prepared to move for a national referendum sometime after the year 2010. The media has been eager to fill the hearts of the people with fear of North Korea and China. The question for those of us citizens who want to build a world without war is; can we raise the consciousness of the Japanese people to think about the implications of losing this peace clause. And can we build an international network which will claim Article Nine as a symbol of hope not only for Japan, but for all peoples.
I traveled to Tokyo to serve as translator for a follow-up meeting to the First Inter-Religious Conference on Article Nine held in November of 2007. (See Feb. 2008 mission letter) Thirty one Buddhist, Muslim and Christian leaders came together to learn, share, and plan for a second Inter-Religious Conference, most likely to be held next year in Seoul, Korea. There was a sense that this issue affects all countries in the Far East – and the role of the United States a key factor for a future of peace in the region. The members of the follow-up meeting will send a letter to the new president of the United States, requesting him to follow new policies with regard to the Far East. They also discussed concrete action plans which involved peace marches, developing peace education material, networking and sharing of information, etc. I was most impressed to see the Japanese Christians at the forefront, providing so much leadership. It made me proud to be a partner in mission with them.
The word for peace in Japanese is "heiwa." The Chinese characters used for this word mean "equal rice in every mouth." We know that militarization breaks community, and causes economic disparity. War destroys and destabilizes life. Therefore, a world without war is a world where everyone is blessed with "equal rice in every mouth."
Those who work for peace will always be a handful. But the harvest they will bring in will be a blessing for "all peoples!"
Jeffrey Mensendiek serves with the Council on Cooperative Mission, assigned to the Gakusei (Student) Center in Japan. He serves as Director of Gakusei (Student) Center in Sendai, Japan.
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