|"The spirit we have, not the work we do, is
what makes us important to the people around us."
A Benedictine Sister of Erie, Joan Chittister is
a best-selling author and well-known international lecturer on topics of justice, peace, human rights, women's issues, and contemporary
spirituality in the Church and in society. She presently serves as the co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, a partner
organization of the United Nations, facilitating a worldwide network of women peace builders, especially in the Middle East. A speech
communications theorist, Sister Joan's most recent books include The Way We Were (Orbis) and Called to Question (Sheed & Ward), a First
Place CPA 2005 award winner. She is founder and executive director of Benetvision, a resource and research center for contemporary
spirituality in Erie.
Sr. Joan will give major addresses at two events in August. She keynotes the
Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) on Saturday, Aug. 19, during its
annual assembly in Atlanta, Georgia. She will speak to leaders of religious
communities across the country on the theme, "Remembering the Vision, Embracing
On Monday, Aug. 21, she is the opening speaker at the Chautauqua Institutes
week-long celebration of Five Women Healers. Her topic will be "A Spirituality
of Healing: What do you weep for?"
|By Joan Chittister, OSB
While people go on being killed in Iraq every day and more and more
Taliban creep back into Afghanistan every month, and war threatens to engulf
even more of the Middle East now, an issue brews in Japan that could change the
geopolitical balance of the globe. But few Westerners are aware of it, and
almost no one here is talking about it.
And yet, the issue has as much to do with the United States as it does
with Japan itself.
The question is whether Japan is independently Asian or a hybrid, a kind
of little USA bred by us and beholden to us. The answer is not as easy to come
by as we might be inclined to think.
My first night in Tokyo, for instance, supper was served by women in
silk kimonos kneeling on bamboo mats. The next day I ate spaghetti -- good
Italian spaghetti, incidentally -- at a small Japanese-Italian restaurant on a
side street. The day after that, lunch was a huge bowl of green salad topped
off by an even bigger cold octopus whose tentacles reached every-which-way down
the table. Point: On the one hand, Tokyo is a very Western city. On the other
hand -- dont be fooled -- it definitely is not.
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But the confusion shows. Even in them, certainly in us. Westerners can
be easily misled by the tall, gleaming office buildings and the sleek, rapid
trains that developed during the American occupation that followed World War
II. But down deep, Japans culture is uniquely its own: highly communal,
breathtakingly efficient, profoundly, philosophically and politely Asian.
So, the problem comes from the growing notion that Japan is an American
outpost in the Pacific Ocean.
The United States, according to the Catholic Council for Justice and
Peace, a commission of the Japanese Catholic bishops conference,
maintains 135 military installations in Japan in 27 municipalities, and
extending over 1,100 km, or almost 700 miles.
In October 2005, an agreement between the U.S. and Japanese governments
expanded past security agreements that confined the U.S.-Japanese military
alliance to the defense of Japan and peace in the Far East to, among other
things, preventing and eradicating terrorism.
As a result of this new agreement, both U.S. and Japanese forces
are to be renovated, reinforced and equipped to carry out U.S.-directed global
missions. Obviously the plan, in effect, would absorb the Japanese
military into the U.S. military.
The United States, the document says, has even suggested moving the
global headquarters of its 1st Army from Washington State to Camp Zama near
Peace groups in Japan view this proposal, whether it ever occurs or not,
as a sign that the United States sees Japan as its own surrogate territory.
The rest of the world might well see it as a sign of an expanding U.S.
And the problem is getting worse.
Now, forces in Japan itself, generations who did not live through war,
want Japan to be a normal country, meaning in possession of an
army. The United States, too, is encouraging Japan to change the very article
of the Japanese Constitution that the United States required of Japan when the
Constitution was written.
Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution reads:
Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice
and order, the Japanese people renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation
and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes ...
land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be
maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be
Japan, free to put their money into computer chips and electronics
rather than bullets and bombs, has prospered economically under Article 9.
As a result of Article 9, for example, the 200 Japanese troops sent to
Iraq in 2003 had to be deployed in non-combat zones only and for
the purpose of humanitarian aid. They could not participate aggressively in
what the Japanese Conference of Catholic Bishops calls a vicious cycle of
violence ... and retaliation.
Instead, as a result of the movement to delete Article 9 from the
Constitution of Japan, unprecedented anti-Japanese demonstrations have begun in
East Asia, especially in China and Korea. The tide of fear is running
It looks like fuel to the fire of an already crackling arms race in the
region. It looks, too, like what will be seen as more U.S. aggression globally.
It looks like trouble.
So much for the security weapons bring us all.
But the Japanese bishops say something else that may give us all
They write in their short but pointed three-page peace pastoral:
The Bishops Conference published the message
Resolution for Peace 50 years after the end of war. In it we
acknowledged that before and during the war, the Catholic church in Japan
lacked an awareness of the prophetic role it should have fulfilled to
protect human life and carry out the will of God. ... In the 10 years
since, despite our calling for peace, the world has not been able to shake the
chains of various forms of violence. We are very much aware that now is the
time we have to perform our role as prophets, that is, to read the signs
of the times and convey the message of God.
Catholics are less than 1 percent of the population of Japan. They do
not move into the public debate with great numbers of the faithful or great
support in the government as Catholics in the United States do. They do not
curry great national favor or bring numbers of voters into the polls.
What they do bring to the discussion, however, is courage. The only
nation on earth to have been subjected to the use of nuclear weapons -- which,
incidentally, we now authorize for strategic use in the field -- they refuse to
confuse patriotism with humanity.
Are we not right to be proud of the fact, the Japanese peace
pastoral goes on, that for 60 years we have not killed anyone in war and
that none of us have been killed in war.
They are forthrightly calling the world -- calling you and me -- to
write to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and his government,
appealing to them not to add to the culture of violence on this globe, not to
repeal Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, the renunciation of war as
means of settling international disputes and the renunciation of arms.
Clearly a very Asian commitment to peace.
But then they also sent a delegation -- Auxiliary Bishop Michael Goro
Matsuura of Osaka, the bishop-president of the Catholic Council for Justice and
Peace, Deacon Masataka Nagasawa, executive secretary of the council, and
Mercedarian Sr. Filo Hirota, president of the Association of Major Superiors of
Religious Women of Japan and a council board member, to seek collaboration with
peace and justice groups here. Clearly a very Western commitment to
From where I stand, it occurs to me that smallness is no obstacle to
truth-telling. If were only willing to tell it.
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