Report on the World Council of Churches. The tenth Busan Convention (Prequel)

World Council of Churches (WCC) Busan Convention was convened on Wednesday. This convention is framed of worship services in the morning and in the evening. Many kinds of colorful worship services are observed together. The scene describes and recalls the minds to peace and oneness.

Igata Director of Tohoku HELP, Lee Staff, master artist Soichi Watanabe, his wife and I prepared and set up a booth from the first day of its opening. Our booth was in the corner lot, right in front of Busan city tour disk, where moderate numbers of people go by, and could stop by unhurriedly. It was a likely place to have a booth. There, we mainly showed the documentary of Fukushima through images, and the permanently installed Watanabe’s artwork in the booth. The artwork really had its presence there.

The exhibition started with a mysterious situation, where the wall, chairs, and monitors, which should have been there were missing. But through expressing thankfulness and ambition, we received good results from it. The various “training” we went through had now come into use.

The only focus we had in WCC plenary session was to start a debate on nuclear electricity generation. We think that this would bring evolution to WCC, and create a catalyst that produces Asia Pacific Partnership.

In fact, 20 years ago WCC has issued a statement in opposition to nuclear weapon in the Vancouver Convention. Yet, there never was a debate on nuclear electricity generation in plenary session level. Still there was a reason in Fukushima to ask for conversion. It was in the autumn of 2011. Preparation for WCC Convention was held in Jamaica with the subject of “Justice and Peace” in response to the Fukushima disaster. After the endeavor of preparation committee, it was decided that the issue of Fukushima be brought up as an exceptional measure. But then it was concluded in this WCC Convention Preparation that this issue was not worth bringing up in WCC.

This critical phase ignited a blazing fire in the midst of people who had concern for this issue. And an opinion that Fukushima issue should be handled in WCC plenary session came forth from all over the world. This bore fruit last year in December in Aizu Convention, and advanced toward this times WCC. Yet, the situation was severe as before. The ground we lost in Jamaica was great. We Tohoku HELP also, with the people from all over the world, diligently strived to do whatever was in our power to do. We cooperated with Korea, Taiwan, New Zealand, and also obtained cooperation from Indonesia and Philippines, to perform a lobbying activity in a wide range. And then the opening day for WCC came. Pastor Mizuo Ito, representative of the United Church of Christ in Japan, as a speaker of the fist level plenary session, appealed for Fukushima. The things he spoke out started a ball rolling, and Fukushima was brought up in each conference intermittently. Our words of gratitude cannot keep up with all the pastors and lecturers in the whole world, who cooperated with us. Also, many people stopped by in our booth, to hear our story. And master Watanabe’s art attracted many a viewers’ attention. Also, “Advocacy Forum”, where New Zealand, Taiwan Presbyterian Church, and Pastor Keiji Kida (of Fukushima Prefecture Christian Liaison Committee Representative) give out a subject, was carried out every day. On November 1st (Friday), one written petition was completed. 32 religious organization and denominations, from all over the world, with 85 representatives, signed this petition. The petition wrote, “We should learn from the incident of Fukushima and create a nuclear-free world”. With many peoples’ cooperation and aid this signature-collecting campaign was carried out. This petition was carefully discussed at the plenary session. All together 20 petitions were submitted that day (I wasn’t at the plenary session, as I had to give a presentation of Taiwan in our booth). In these kinds of situations, our petition was discussed and was actually approved! Great joy was exchanged within our hearts. Pastor Igata of Tohoku HELP, returned to Japan after receiving this report, and in its place David Macintosh and Naseer Nagano joined our party. Macintosh is the son of a missionary who lived with the Christians of the Korean Christian Church in Japan, and Naseer is a promising young Japanese Muslim of the future. A tour to Kori Nuclear Power Plant was planned on Saturday while WCC went on. Though called “trip” here, it is only a “very close” trip from Busan City to the Nuclear Power Plant just 20 kilometers away. We performed a peace march at the Nuclear Power Plant site, and had a worship service in front of the gate of Nuclear Power Plant. I also sang a hymn and gave testimony in English for about 10 minutes. It was a great experience for me as this was my first English speech without a written draft. Supported by a wonderful translator (Chang Yeon Jae of Ewha Womans University) the worship service moved the hearts of people gathered there afresh. I am grateful for God’s grace, and for missionary Diaz of Minami Sanriku, who coached my English.

On November 8th, the convention ended the 10 day discussion. In the end, our statement was not voted, and at the plenary session it was decided that this should be committed to the Central Committee, which means that the statement will be created anew, and will be discussed if the vote for this adoption is necessary. Our journey will continue on.

We were able to obtain much learning thus far.

First we received report from our partner New Zealand, a country which started this “Nuclear-free nation movement” 40 years ago and triumphed 20 years later. Like Japan, New Zealand also had its national policy “Follow England” till 40 years ago. But all this circumstances changed through the effort of a grassroots campaign and this movement in the government level. And the ongoing victory became a great encouragement to us.

At the same time a report from New Zealand brought us to mind the reality that Southern Pacific Ocean was often used as a nuclear experimental site. In fact the incident of Fukushima is just a production of things that were happening from 40 years ago. We were reminded of these things, as we spoke with many people who came to our booth from Southern Pacific Ocean.

We were also made aware that in Asia, there are significant amount of serious issues with which Fukushima issue is overshadowed. Slave trade, slave labor of emigrants, rape in common, wastes pollution, religious persecution, natural disaster in dire poverty areas, refugees caused by civil conflict and defection, etc. We were made to seriously consider whether or not Fukushima’s petition would hinder the petition of other issues.

This time, I Kawakami participated in the “Ecumenical Colloquy” to discuss about “Justice and Peace”. Here serious theological debate on three words “Justice”, “Peace”, and “Just Peace” rolled out. Understanding that this decisive debate will contribute to the peace movement and human rights movement, I therefore am putting my effort in this debate.

If our movement toward the world concerning Fukushima, remains unfolded within ourselves, or if it is unfolded only around us, in sometime or other this would disappear. How can we resist to the voice, which says Asia has “more serious” issues? The victims should not pull the leg of other victims, and a powerful word is necessary to avoid such conduct. What is necessary is a word that would accept others’ issues as our own, and find our issues in others’ issues. We are defeated because we do not have such a word. Thinking thus, I am seriously participating in this debate.

I believe that the current Fukushima issue will create a catalyst that produces Asia Pacific Partnership, along with emigrant issues, and American military base issues. But in order to do this, we need to surpass the kinetics of the past. The kinetics of the past developed dimension of “Liberation of Individuals”, but surpassing this it needs to move on to “Obtaining independence to support each other”. It is being revealed to us through the “Gathering for Encounter” that this was the theory discovered in the Great Hanshin Earthquake, meaning the new kinetics should be firmly comprehensive and patient, and should expand until churches, temples and religious institutions / denominations would be brought in use. This is what I realized.

Concluded is the prequel report on the World Council of Churches, the tenth Busan Convention. The sequel is planned to be uploaded next week.

(November 18th 2013 written by Naoya Kawakami)

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