A murderous attack on disabled people in Japan has brought condemnation and condolences from the World Council of Churches (WCC).
News accounts of the murders of 19 mentally disabled persons, aged 18 to 70, at the Tsukui Yamayure-en centre in Sagamhira, Japan, on July 26 identified a 26-year-old former employee of the centre as the assailant.
The nighttime attack also injured two dozen people.
Reportedly claiming to want to make the disabled “disappear,” the suspect had previously advocated euthanasia for persons with severe disabilities and difficulties.
“The gift of life is an absolute fundament of human values and human rights,” said acting general secretary Rev. Dr Hielke Wolters, after the attack.
He referenced a statement by the WCC’s Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN), adopted a month ago by the WCC central committee, “The Gift of Being.”
Wolters continued, “All persons bear the image of God, are beloved of God, and deserve our loving care because, in the end, all persons are vulnerable. This assault violates our deepest convictions and the singular duty we owe each other as children of God.”
Said Wolters, “As societies, we are in danger of forgetting or denigrating the personhood and value of those who suffer from chronic physical or mental disease or injury. Yet all our ethics and core commitments to human rights really begin here, with the affirmation of the sacred value of all human life.”
Said Dr. Samuel Kabue, EDAN’s programme executive, “Life is a gift from God, and no one has a right to take it. This goes beyond any religion in that the world community through the United Nations has clearly stipulated that everyone has a right to life. The Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities is very clear on this when it states that every human being has the inherent right to life and every state shall take necessary measures to ensure its effective enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others. Thus the murdered people deserved protection from the state, and people who have already expressed negative sentiments on the lives of people with disabilities should be kept away from any institution that looks after them.”
Wolters added, “We grieve with the families of these 19 men and women, robbed of their futures by this savage act, and for those injured. We pray for and with them, and we stand with our member churches and all persons of good will pledging to protect and nurture the precious gift of life, especially where it is most restricted and challenged.”