The World Council of Churches (WCC) president for Asia, Rev. Dr Sang Chang, met in Tokyo with the chief cabinet secretary of Japan, Yoshihide Suga, on 4 August to convey two recent statements by the WCC Central Committee related to nuclear dangers and to preserving the peace clause in Japan’s constitution.
The visit came two days before the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States at the end of World War II.
The WCC statements, "Towards a Nuclear-free World" and "The Re-interpretation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution" were delivered by Chang as a show of solidarity between the WCC and the Japanese churches.
Also participating in the visit were Rev. Dr Prof. Renta Nishihara, WCC Central Committee member from Japan, Rev. Makoto Kato, executive secretary of the United Church of Christ in Japan, Rev. Hiroko Ueda, formerly the acting general secretary of the National Christian Council in Japan, and Mr Yoichi Noguchi of the Niwano Peace Foundation.
Presenting the statement on a nuclear-free world, Chang noted the WCC’s declaration that “nuclear weapons cannot be reconciled with real peace.” Chang also referred to the assistance churches have given to some 370,000 survivors of the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima.
“We would like to request the Japanese Government to ensure better protection of public health in all areas affected by the Fukushima Daiichi tragedy and to phase-out nuclear power plants,” she said.
Regarding current moves to re-interpret the Japanese constitution’s peace clause Chang noted, “We urge the Japanese Government to honour and respect both the letter and the spirit of Article 9. We make this request bearing in mind the strong support for Article 9 among the Japanese people and the deep appreciation for Article 9 in the countries of East Asia.”
Chang stressed the cooperation between the WCC and Japanese churches. “Although the Japanese churches are a small minority in Japan, we believe that their witness on critical issues in Japanese society serves as a beacon of light and hope for the Japanese people. Therefore, the WCC will continue to work closely with the Japanese churches and Japanese people on the pilgrimage of peace and justice,” she said.
Chief cabinet secretary Suga replied that as the only country to have suffered an atomic bombing Japan has “taken the responsibility to address the nuclear problem”. He expressed his gratitude to the WCC and the churches of Japan for their various support in response to the situation in Fukushima.
Concerning Article 9, Suga said “The right of collective self-defense is recognized everywhere around the world and global conditions have changed significantly in recent times. Thus we have come to consider the right to collective self-defense within the framework of Article 9 of the Constitution.”
Nishihara said, “Although the response of chief cabinet secretary Suga was consistent with previous government views, this opportunity to convey a message from Christians around the world and in Japan to the chief cabinet secretary, essentially the second ranking official in charge in the Japanese government, was historic and carries with it immeasurable significance.”