World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

You are here: Home / Press centre / News / In Japan, theologians reflect on today’s global manifestations of racism

In Japan, theologians reflect on today’s global manifestations of racism

In Japan, theologians reflect on today’s global manifestations of racism

From left: Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, Rev. Prof. Dr Sang Chang, Rev. Prof. Dr Fernando Enns, The Rev. Prof. Dr Renta Nishihara, and Rev. Dr Sung-Jae Kim. Photo: Hisashi Yukimoto/WCC

18 September 2019

* By Hisashi Yukimoto

Twenty-five ecumenical theologians and leaders gathered for public lectures coordinated by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Tokyo, Japan, on 17 September under the theme “Global Manifestations of Racism Today”.

Lectures and responses reflected on racism as a major concern of the ecumenical movement. Reflections focused on understanding global manifestations of racism today, and reaffirming the intersection of race and ethnicity with other determining characteristics

In a welcoming speech, Rev. Dr Sang Chang, WCC president for Asia, said the findings of the conference will form a part of a comprehensive report on the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. “Accordingly, it is an opportunity to reflect on the future course for the pilgrimage,” Chang said, adding that the findings will also be presented at the upcoming WCC 11th Assembly in 2021 in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC deputy general secretary, urged participants to consider the history of the WCC in responding to racism. "What can we learn from that experience?” Phiri asked. "And then, we should also read the signs of our times by asking ourselves, ‘How is racism manifesting itself now?’ "

We must also consider “how the presidents of different countries are actually motivating people to be racist; how nationalism is being expressed; how religion is being used to promote racism; and how churches worldwide are responding to racism”, said Phiri. “We know that substantial work has already been done in theological reflections to eradicate racism but we need to also encourage churches to respond. And from there, we can say, ‘Okay, what should a new programme look like?’”

Rev. Prof. Dr Fernando Enns, moderator of the Theological Study Group of the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, said: “We need to understand a lot about ourselves, about our own involvement in racism.”

Rev. Dr Sung-Jae Kim, general secretary of the National Christian Council in Japan and a counselor for the Center for Minority Issues and Mission, said that Japan now is facing two great issues. “One is an ever-worsening conflict between Japan and South Korea, particularly from July this year,” he said. “And another one is increasing racism against Koreans in Japan.”

Rev. Prof. Dr Renta Nishihara, WCC Central Committee member in Japan, shared his personal story of his encounter with Jesus Christ when he was a university student, through attending an ecumenical on-site workshop on Korean descendants who were facing discrimination at Higashi-Kujo in the Japanese western city of Kyoto.

“I would like to emphasize that Japanese ecumenism [is] rooted in the fields of such social issues,” he said.

*Hisashi Yukimoto has been a Japanese Christian journalist for more than 10 years

“Pilgrims walk with minorities in Japan” - WCC news release 16 September 2019

"In Japan, indigenous and ecumenical youth call for action against racism" - WCC news release 12 September 2019

WCC member churches in Japan

Learn more about the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace