Fund for Peace Donates Emergency Aid to Earthquake Victims in Southeastern Iran
The Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Fund for Peace decided to donate 8 million Japanese yen in emergency aid to victims of the earthquake that devastated the historic city of Bam in Kerman, Iran, on December 26. Some 120,000 people were victims of a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. About 30,000 were killed, 12,000 injured and 100,000 left homeless. The search for the missing continues in Bam, and many relief materials have been contributed from inside and outside the country. On December 29 Rissho Kosei-kai Chairperson Katsunori Yamanoi met Iran's ambassador to Japan, Ali Majedi, at the Iranian Embassy in Tokyo and handed him a letter detailing contributions totaling 4 million yen. Mr. Majedi explained the situation in Bam and emphasized the need for more emergency support. Referring to Japan's long history of devastation caused by frequent earthquakes, Rev. Yamanoi said all Rissho Kosei-kai members shared the Iranian victims' grief. On the same day, Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's External Affairs Department, visited the Japanese Red Cross Society and presented a letter notifying it of a contribution of 3 million yen mainly for use by the Iranian Red Crescent for relief activities to improve sanitary and health conditions in disaster areas. Furthermore, the committee gave 1 million yen to JEN to ascertain the Iranians' need of help for reconstruction.
President Niwano Visits Sri Lanka
From December 10 to 15, President Nichiko Niwano visited Sri Lanka for the first time since 1964. In June 2002 the four most senior Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist leaders held a press conference in Tokyo and issued "The Tokyo Statement" to urge conflict resolution in the country. The event was organized by Rissho Kosei-kai in cooperation with the Japanese Committee of the World Conference on Religion and Peace and the Japan Buddhist Federation. President Niwano went to Sri Lanka to reciprocate the Theravadin leaders' visit to Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters during their stay in Tokyo. In Sri Lanka, where there has been prolonged conflict between the majority Buddhist Sinhalese and minority Tamils, peace negotiations are continuing under a cease-fire. President Niwano took this opportunity to actively promote, especially among Buddhists, interfaith dialogue for world peace between religionists in Sri Lanka and Japan. He met with prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters of the Siam Sect, the Ramanna Sect, and the Amarapura Sect. After taking part in a welcoming ceremony in Colombo, President Niwano visited Rissho Kosei-kai of Sri Lanka and met the local members.
Rissho Kosei-kai Opposes Dispatch of Japanese Self-Defense Forces Overseas
Concerned that the Japanese government would approve a basic plan to dispatch Self-Defense Forces (SDF) units to Iraq on December 9, Rissho Kosei-kai issued a statement opposing it on December 8. The statement, in the name of Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of the organization's External Affairs Department, was sent to Cabinet members who had received political endorsement from Rissho Kosei-kai. On the following day, the same statement was sent to members of the upper and lower houses of Japan's parliament whom the organization had backed.
Before the Iraqi War and Japan's enacting a package of emergency contingency bills, Rissho Kosei-kai, from the standpoint of religionists who set a high value on peace and all life, called on the government to consider carefully its political decision and to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The Buddhist organization's recent statement expresses concern that the government might act hastily in dispatching SDF units without a full discussion of the possible consequences.
The statement mentions the possibility of SDF units' being targeted by terrorist attacks. Rissho Kosei-kai is also concerned about security at Samawah in Al-Muthanna Province, where the government says SDF units would engage in humanitarian aid activities and assistance for the rebuilding of Iraq.
Rissho Kosei-kai's statement also expresses deep regret over the slaying of two Japanese diplomats in Iraq on November 29. It also points out that dispatch of SDF units might provoke conflict in what has so far been a noncombat zone, undermining peace and order in the area.
Rissho Kosei-kai suggests that the government has not sufficiently explained to the Japanese people why SDF units should be sent to Iraq. Rissho Kosei-kai's goal is world peace, in which all people live in harmony, and to attain that goal, it urges careful discussion of the world situation. Discussion of these matters, Rissho Kosei-kai believes, does not amount to yielding to the threat of terrorism.
Rissho Kosei-kai's document concludes by calling on the government to contribute responsibly as a member of the world community from an overall, broad-ranging standpoint after careful investigation and consideration of the situation.
Japanese Relief Workers Evacuated from Iraq
In early December JEN, a multiorganizational NGO, and the Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC), which promotes international relief for Iraqi war victims, reported to Rissho Kosei-kai on how they would continue to provide relief after evacuating their Japanese staffs from Iraq. Rissho Kosei-kai's Fund for Peace has supported the two Japanese NGOs since March 2003. Since two Japanese diplomats were killed in northern Iraq in November, the Japanese NGOs have coped prudently with the serious situation there. JEN said all its staff members have resumed relief activities in Baghdad in cooperation with local staff members. But on December 10 its last Japanese staff member was evacuated. JEN also said that its Japanese staff had been encouraged by the late Ambassador Katsuhiko Oku, one of two Japanese diplomats who were slain on November 29, to persevere with relief activities, such as assisting in the emergency restoration of water supply and sanitary facilities at elementary schools in Baghdad. JVC said that it also ordered evacuation of its Japanese staff but it would continue providing relief in the form of medical aid by giving guidance from Amman to local staff members, including doctors, remaining in Iraq.
Anniversary of Buddha's Enlightenment Observed
On December 8, the anniversary of Shakyamuni's attainment of buddhahood, one of the three major annual Buddhist events, was observed at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters as well as its churches throughout Japan. Some 4,000 members participated in the ceremony at the organization's Great Sacred Hall. The ceremony began with an offering of flowers and lighted candles before the image of the Eternal Buddha, by young women members wearing traditional Indian saris. The sutra recitation, led by Rev. Kosho Niwano, president-designate, was followed by a video presentation on the Buddha's enlightenment, which according to tradition took place at dawn on December 8. President Nichiko Niwano then addressed the gathering on the anniversary's significance and how it should affect Buddhists' outlook.
WCRP Members Visit Rissho Kosei-kai
World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP), and Dr. Hayder Abdul Amir, coordinator of the Iraqi Inter-Religious Council for Peace (Iq-IRC), affiliated with the WCRP, in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo. Also present were President-designate Kosho Niwano, Chairperson Katsunori Yamanoi, and Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, director of Worldwide Service of the WCRP. During their talk, Dr. Vendley emphasized that the WCRP plays an important role at a tense time for the world. He then commented on the previous day's gathering of young leaders of Rissho Kosei-kai for peace dialogue, saying that the partnership of WCRP members and young Rissho Kosei-kai members is truly significant. Then Rev. Sugino described the WCRP's six spheres of activities, including the development of the Iq-IRC and the strategic humanitarian support activities in Iraq being carried out by Dr. Abdul Amir. Referring to the relationship between Shiites and Sunnites in Iraq, Dr. Abdul Amir said he would actively promote the WCRP's activities for the nation's rehabilitation. He said, "What we have been undertaking is most important for achieving peace in Iraq. It is necessary that the Iq-IRC should play a role as an advisory body for the political problems."
Ceremony Marks Presentation of Funds to UNICEF
On November 22, Rissho Kosei-kai held a ceremony to present donations collected in 2003 to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The ceremony, held in the Great Sacred Hall at the Tokyo headquarters, coincided with a gathering of the organization's youth leaders. Representatives of the youth leaders presented a letter to Mr. Yoshihisa Togo, executive director of the Japan Committee for UNICEF in Tokyo, detailing the total contributions. A total of 129,547,925 Japanese yen was collected by members and well-wishers in public locations throughout Japan through Rissho Kosei-kai's UNICEF fund-raising campaign from July 2002 through June 2003. The campaign was especially promoted on the annual Youth Day in May, through the Donate a Meal Campaign and public charity bazaars. The contribution will be remitted to UNICEF headquarters in New York. At Rissho Kosei-kai's request, it will be earmarked for the support of educational programs in the Philippines, Laos, Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and India. During the ceremony, Mr. Togo thanked all Rissho Kosei-kai members for their support of UNICEF activities.
Rissho Kosei-kai Dispatches Volunteer Members to Donate Blankets to the Needy in Ethiopia
From October 26 through November 8, Rissho Kosei-kai sent 27 volunteer members to Mekelle, the capital of the northern Ethiopian province of Tigray. In cooperation with the Relief Society of Tigray (REST), a local nongovernmental organization, the members distributed some 10,000 blankets collected through the organization's annual Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa. The volunteers spent five days handing out blankets to people suffering from prolonged drought. According to a report by the volunteers, Ethiopians have suffered continuously from drought since the 1980s. The brief intervals between periods of drought, along with shorter rainy seasons, have especially harmed crops and livestock, which support the everyday life of people in the province.
In reply to a question from a volunteer, Mr. Yamane Soslomon, head of the planning and coordinating department of REST, said that Rissho Kosei-kai's continuous peace activity benefits the people of Tigray in three ways: (1) In practical terms, those who receive blankets are protected against the severe morning cold, and others can expect to receive blankets within five years; (2) the program allows the Ethiopian government to concentrate more on aiding the needy in other provinces; (3) Japanese well-wishers' gift of blankets reassures people in Tigray that the world has not forgotten them. Mr. Soslomon encouraged the volunteer members, praising their fruitful activity for peace.
Symposium Marks First Anniversary of Founding of Interfaith Peace Network
On November 15, a symposium commemorating the first anniversary of the founding of the Interfaith Peace Network was held in Tokyo. Some eighty Christians and Buddhists in Japan took part. The theme was "Realizing Peace--What People of Religion Can Do Toward an Era in Which Every Life Is Cared for." A panel of six religionists included Rev. Shincho Shigeta, president of Ayus Network of Buddhist Volunteers for International Cooperation; Rev. Toshimasa Yamamoto, general secretary of the National Christian Council in Japan; and Mr. Aquil Siddiqui, chairman of Japan Islamic Trust. The panelist representing Rissho Kosei-kai was Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, deputy director of the External Affairs Department. Outlining Rissho Kosei-kai's approaches for helping to achieve world peace, Rev. Kamiya quoted President Nichiko Niwano's saying "Ego, which each of us possesses, is the prime culprit disturbing the peace of the world," an idea that has been a guiding principle of Rissho Kosei-kai members in their involvement in peace activities after the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. Rev. Kamiya said that no individual effort in the cause of peace is negligible, but can contribute to a magnificent force for a new world order. He also declared that religionists have the important mission of influencing public opinion and bringing a message of peace to national governments.
Rissho Kosei-kai Reports Results of Little Bags of Dreams Campaign for 2003
In November, Rissho Kosei-kai announced that a total of 53,886 little bags of gifts had been collected during the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign, held from April 20 through August 31. During the campaign, mainly elementary and junior high school students belonging to Rissho Kosei-kai played a significant role in preparing handmade cloth bags containing such gifts as toys and stationery items. Their family members as well as many Rissho Kosei-kai members assisted them in their homes or churches in the campaign period. Since 1999 Rissho Kosei-kai has donated the bags to children who have suffered from civil war or discrimination in such regions as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and West Bank in Palestine, and Afghanistan. This year, with the help of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, with which Rissho Kosei-kai has promoted friendly exchanges for many years, bags will also be presented to children who have suffered from the long periods of ethnic conflict between Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka. Rissho Kosei-kai also plans to dispatch parent-child volunteer groups in March and April 2004 to distribute bags to children in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lebanon, and Northern Ireland.
Monks and Lay Followers from Buddhist Association of China Visit Rissho Kosei-kai
On November 4, 87 monks and lay followers from the Buddhist Association of China visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and held a religious service in front of the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle. A representative of the delegation, Ven. Ming Sheng, the association's vice-president, paid a courtesy call on Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairperson of Rissho Kosei-kai. During their talk, Ven. Sheng highly praised Rissho Kosei-kai for its distinguished service in disseminating Buddhism as a living faith and promoting work for peace. Saying the friendship between the late Mr. Zhao Puchu, the association's past president, and the late Rev. Nikkyo Niwano helped promote understanding between Buddhists of the two nations, he emphasized the importance of keeping alive the spirit of peace that the two religious leaders shared. Rev. Yamanoi also affirmed the strong bonds between the two leaders by referring to words spoken by Mr. Zhao during a dialogue among Mr. Zhao, Rev. Niwano, and the late Ven. Etai Yamada, head priest of the Tendai Buddhist denomination, at Rissho Kosei-kai's retreat facility in Hotaka, Nagano Prefecture, in 1987. Mr. Zhao said he believed they three had been fellow disciples of Shakyamuni hearing his sermon together on Vulture Peak. In conclusion, Rev. Yamanoi emphasized the importance of further interaction between Buddhists of China and Japan.
Chinese, South Korean, and Japanese Buddhist Leaders Hold Sixth Conference in Kyoto for World Peace
On October 28 through 29, the Sixth China--South Korea--Japan Buddhist Friendly Interaction Conference was held at Kiyomizu-dera temple and Rissho Kosei-kai's Kyoto Fumon Hall in Kyoto. Under the auspices of the Japan--China--South Korea International Buddhist Exchange Council, some 300 priests representing various Buddhist sects and their lay followers from three countries took part in the conference to strengthen their ties in the light of Buddhist truth. Representing Rissho Kosei-kai were President Nichiko Niwano; Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of the External Affairs Department; and Rev. Keiichi Takise, head of the Kyoto Church. Under the theme "Buddhism and Peace--Everyday Life and Buddhist Precepts," the conference advocated the introduction of the Buddhist precepts into people's daily lives and their presentation as guiding principles for all humanity in a time of terrorism and conflict around the world.
On October 29, the participants gathered in the main hall of Kiyomizu-dera to hold a religious service of prayers for world peace. After the temple's head priest, Rev. Seihan Mori and representatives of Japanese Buddhist sects officiated at a Buddhist service according to Japanese ritual, Rev. Mori read out a statement of the ceremony's significance to the Buddha. Then the representatives of Chinese and Korean Buddhists recited sutras according to their own traditions and read out messages for world peace. In his message, the Most Venerable Bub Jang, president of the Korean Buddhist Association and chairman of the Korean Buddhist Chogye order, said, "Peace begins in the heart and mind of every individual." He added, "If we close our eyes and think of the sadness caused by war and the happiness brought by peace, and if we contemplate the three defilements of greed, anger, and ignorance lying at the bottom of our hearts, we will understand why we should be tolerant and compassionate with one another. It is this awareness that is necessary for us to take the first step toward world peace and happiness."
That afternoon, in response to an appeal by Rev. Matsubara, the participants joined in the Donate a Meal Campaign, one of Rissho Kosei-kai's peace activities, by forgoing lunch and donating what they would have otherwise spent on food to UNICEF. Then the participants walked in procession three kilometers to Kyoto Fumon Hall, another venue of the conference, carrying a banner appealing to onlookers' desire for world peace.
At the following meeting, three representative Buddhists from three countries including Rev. Ryusho Kobayashi, head of the study division of the Tendai Buddhist denomination in Shiga Prefecture, and Rev. Sheng Hui, vice president of the Buddhist Association of China, made keynote addresses, and eight participants made supplementary addresses. At the end of the two-day conference, the participants signed a joint statement summarizing the results of their discussions. The statement regrets that although world peace is a common hope for all humanity, intolerance of others has resulted in conflicts all over the world. The statement expresses the participants' vow to advocate a way of life based on Buddhist precepts, such as respect for all life, donation, and truth; which mean never taking life unnecessarily, stealing, or lying.
The annual conference, originated by the initiative of the late Mr. Zhao Puchu, president of the Buddhist Association of China, who shared with other Buddhist leaders in three neighboring East Asian nations the hope of forging "golden ties" among Buddhists in South Korea, China, and Japan by applying the spirit of Mahayana Buddhism to confirm their mission and future activities for the common goal of world peace.
Activities for Week of Prayer for World Peace Undertaken
From October 19 to 26, an interfaith Week of Prayer promoted by the Week of Prayer for World Peace, an association established in the United Kingdom more than twenty years ago, was observed throughout the world. On these days Rissho Kosei-kai members studied the aims and significance of the weeklong observance every morning before their devotions. They prayed for world peace at morning services in the Great Sacred Hall at the Tokyo headquarters, at local churches and at home.
On October 21, members of the Nasu Church visited the Asian Rural Institute in Tochigi Prefecture, founded to train local leaders help improve the lives of people in farming areas of Asia and Africa. Some forty members prayed for world peace with thirty students from eighteen countries, including Liberia, Ghana, Kenya, India, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar.
On October 25, some 200 members of the Kawasaki Church in Kanagawa Prefecture took part in a peace ceremony at the Kawasaki Daishi Heiken-ji Temple, joined by some 200 religious leaders in the area. During the ceremony, Deacon Ryumyo Terada offered religious guidance. After Head Priest Ryuten Takahashi led the rite of burning cedar incense for world peace, all the participants offered silent prayers. Then, one by one, eleven representatives of the participants offered a prayer on behalf of their group.
Niwano Peace Auditorium Opens at Mar Elias University, Israel
On October 18, Father Elias Chacour, president of the Mar Elias Educational Institutions (MEEI) in Israel announced at a hotel in Tokyo that a newly opened auditorium at Mar Elias University, the first Christian-Arab-Israeli university in the Holy Land, had been named the Niwano Peace Auditorium. Father Chacour, a Melkite Catholic priest born in Palestine, founded MEEI in 1982. MEEI encourages all students--Christian, Muslim, and Jewish--to value their heritage. It is also an oasis for all students regardless of ethnicity, nationality, or religious affiliation, in the spirit of religious pluralism and "unity in diversity." In 2001 the Niwano Peace Foundation awarded the 18th Niwano Peace Prize to Father Chacour for his dedication to peace through education. The prize of 20 million yen covered part of the auditorium's cost.
Peace Foundation Donates 4.6 Million Yen in Second Half of Fiscal 2003
In October, the Niwano Peace Foundation announced its grant recipients for the second half of fiscal 2003. The foundation allocated some 4.6 million Japanese yen to three organizations overseas and three in Japan.
The overseas grants are as follows: 800,000 yen to the Peace Education Centers Network in the Philippines, which promotes a spiritual and ethical foundation for peace education; 900,000 yen to the Ashta no Kai in India, which operates the Bicycle Bank project promoting rural women's literacy, health, and development; and 800,000 yen to the Nomad Research and International Aid in France, which supports the revival of traditional Tibetan medicine in Ladakh, India
The following grants were made in Japan: 500,000 yen to the International Volunteer Center of Yamagata, supporting the rapidly increasing numbers of mixed marriages and promoting an understanding of the need for international education; 800,000 yen to the NCC Center for the Study of Japanese Religions to operate a program of studying various religions in Japan through seminars and dialogue; and 800,000 yen to the Center for Community-based Development Initiatives, supporting agricultural development and the improvement of living conditions in East Timor.
The Niwano Peace Foundation made its first grants in 1979, mainly to groups involved in research or social activities. Grants are made to religious individuals or organizations that work for world peace and prosperity.
Niwano Peace Forum Discusses Religionists' Roles in Conflict Situations
On October 18--20, the Niwano Peace Foundation held an international peace forum in Tokyo under the theme "The Roles of Religious People and Organizations in Conflict Situations." The Niwano Peace Forum 2003 marked the 20th anniversary of annual awards of the Niwano Peace Prize. Some 100 official delegates, mainly religionists from Japan and abroad, took part in the three-day forum. Delegates from five areas of recent conflict--the Korean peninsula, Sri Lanka, Israel and Palestine, Northern Ireland, and Mexico--reported on their involvement in conflict resolution based on religious principles. In discussions they were joined by six individuals and representatives of two groups that had received the Niwano Peace Prize. The topics were the history, present status, ongoing efforts, and possible future steps toward resolution of the conflicts. Some 200 people, including religionists, scholars, and peace workers, attended the Opening Ceremony at the Tokyo International Forum in central Tokyo. The ceremony was highlighted by two keynote addresses--from Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, president of the Sarvodaya Movement of Sri Lanka and recipient of the ninth Niwano Peace Prize; and Professor Mari Fitzduff, director of a graduate program in Coexistence and Conflict at Brandeis University and previously director of a United Nations University center, based in Northern Ireland.
The panel discussions on the five conflict areas were held in the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, located nearby. Delegates from the five areas served as coordinators and panelists, helping the participants, through presentations and subsequent discussions, deepen their understanding of the history and background of the conflicts in their areas. The forum allowed the participants to seek a better understanding of the facts surrounding the conflicts and acknowledge the importance of religious wisdom in resolving them. The forum also helped the participants, who can often be discouraged by conflicts' seeming intractability, forge ties among themselves.
In closing the forum, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of the Niwano Peace Foundation, expressed his fervent hope that the forum's success would shed a vital ray of hope for the future of humanity.
President Niwano Sends Congratulations to Pope John Paul II
On October 16, His Holiness Pope John Paul II celebrated a Mass in Saint Peter's Square marking the 25th anniversary of his pontificate. Representative bishops and 179 cardinals, including 30 new cardinals, from all over the world took part in the Mass. Every government around the world sent delegations, and some 50,000 Christians attended.
Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, sent the Pope a message of congratulations expressing his high esteem. He wrote, "Even in a country as remote as Japan it is well known that Your Holiness has energetically visited various countries and stressed the significance of reconciliation and trust-building among the peoples of the world, despite your venerable age and infirmities. I have been deeply encouraged as a follower of the religious path whenever I have witnessed or heard about your dedicated activities." President Niwano added, "Participating twice in the historic gatherings at Assisi in 1986 and 2002, I was enabled to renew my sense of mission and self-awareness as a religionist after again being inspired by your enthusiasm." He concluded, "Rissho Kosei-kai is firmly determined to continue its devotion to realizing a world filled with love and compassion in cooperation with other people of world religions."
Rissho Kosei-kai Sends Special Delegation to Bataan
From October 7 through 11, 20 Rissho Kosei-kai members led by Rev. Kinjiro Niwano, an honorary executive board member, visited the Philippines to further friendship and solidarity between Filipinos and Japanese. On October 7 the members traveled to Muntinlupa, in the Manila metropolitan area, to visit a cemetery for Japan's war dead and hold a memorial service.
In the following days they also visited the Friendship Tower in Bagac, Bataan Province, built in 1975 with financial support from the Rissho Kosei-kai Fund for Peace. The tower symbolizes prayer for the repose of the spirits of all those who died in wars as well as the hope of fostering friendship between the two peoples. In Bagac the Rissho Kosei-kai members also visited the starting point of the Bataan Death March. In both places they joined members of the Bataan Christian Youth Civic Circle of the Philippines (BCYCC) in a religious service. On the evening of October 8 they were invited to a ceremony marking BCYCC's 25th anniversary, at a hotel in Balanga, the capital of Bataan Province. The Rissho Kosei-kai members were special guests, as was the city's mayor, Mr. Albert Garcia.
Campaign Raises Funds for Refugees and Displaced Persons in Iraq
In October, Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Division announced it had collected 59,412,507 Japanese yen in an emergency fund-raising campaign to assist refugees and displaced persons in Iraq. Concerned about the growing turmoil in the aftermath of the war, which has left many people homeless, the Youth Division launched the campaign on April 1.
More than 130 churches throughout Japan joined in the campaign, and their youth members played an important role. Despite hot summer heat or rainy weather, they spent many hours standing in public places to ask passersby for donations.
The contributions will be used by the World Conference on Religion and Peace for humanitarian assistance to Iraqi refugees and displaced persons; by JEN, a nonprofit organization, to repair schools; and by the Japan International Volunteer Center, also a nonprofit, to distribute food and provide medical aid.
After the campaign ended on September 30, Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of the Youth Division, sent a message of gratitude to the youth members through the organization's newspaper and Web site.
Help Given to Victims of Tokachi-oki Earthquake of 2003
On October 10, the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Fund for Peace announced it would give 4 million Japanese yen, in token of Rissho Kosei-kai members' sympathy, to people in the disaster areas of the Tokachi-oki Earthquake of 2003.
On September 26, a strong earthquake occurred off the southeastern coast of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), there was an 8.0 magnitude temblor off the coast of the Tokachi region at 4:50 a.m. local time. The worst-hit areas, by a temblor on the JMA intensity scale of "6 Lower," were towns along Hokkaido's southeastern coast.
Seven hundred and seventy-three people were injured, and more than 611 houses were damaged. It was also reported that as of October 4 at least 20 families were still in temporary shelters because of a succession of aftershocks and a fire after the earthquake at an oil storage facility at a refinery in Tomakomai, a coastal city in southern Hokkaido.
Taking these facts into consideration, the committee decided to donate funds to eleven cities and towns to aid victims in the areas worst hit.
Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival Celebrated
The Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival was held October 4--5 at Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo. Some 8,000 members participated in events that took place in the Great Sacred Hall and neighboring areas. It was an occasion for members to honor the dedication of Nichiren, the thirteenth-century priest who, in the face of severe persecution, persevered in spreading the teachings of the Lotus Sutra; and an occasion to honor the virtues of Rissho Kosei-kai's late Founder, Nikkyo Niwano, who dedicated his life to saving humanity through the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.
Participation in the festival helped members identify themselves as torchbearers of the Lotus Sutra's message in today's world. In a parade in the headquarters area, members carried mando (portable shrines) and matoi (traditional firemen's standards) and played traditional Japanese drums, gongs, and flutes. They were followed by contingents of members from 52 churches, including ones in Bangladesh.
After the parade, participants rallied in the parking lot in front of the Horin-kaku Guest Hall and heard an address by President Niwano, who praised their high-spirited display of unity and vigor.
During the two-day festival, some 54,000 members and other citizens visited the headquarters complex for a variety of observances.
Ceremonies Mark Fourth Anniversary of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's Entrance into Nirvana
On October 4, at the Tokyo headquarters complex and churches throughout Japan, Rissho Kosei-kai observed the fourth anniversary of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's entrance into nirvana. In Tokyo, ceremonies were held in the Great Sacred Hall and the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle. Some 6,200 members and guests took part in the ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall. They included members from 118 churches in Japan and overseas. Satellite television relayed the ceremony to all Rissho Kosei-kai churches in Japan.
The ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall was preceded by the ritual of opening the door of the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle. President Nichiko Niwano opened the door, and Chairperson Katsunori Yamanoi and President-designate Kosho Niwano offered flowers in the stupa.
The ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall began with music performed by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra and the Kosei Choir. Noted products from the whole nation were offered on the sacred platform by 20 young women members representing their districts, who were on a group pilgrimage to the headquarters. A sutra recitation and offering of incense by the President-designate was followed by the President's reading of a message of gratitude and praise for the Founder's lifelong devotion to the welfare of humanity, and there was a further offering of incense.
Chairperson Yamanoi then outlined a project to renovate the Great Sacred Hall, one of the projects planned in commemoration of the centenary of Founder Niwano's birth, in 2006. Then Rev. Masuo Nezu, a former vice-chairperson, who was also chief secretary to the Founder, shared some of his memories of the Founder.
In his message of guidance, President Niwano spoke of the right attitude for cultivating the faith, saying, "Founder Niwano gave us various teachings. However, it is not true faith for us to rely only on his teachings. It is very important that each one of us should digest and understand his teachings firmly and disseminate them to others. For us to devote ourselves to greater efforts with that attitude is the Founder's genuine wish."
After the ceremony, on tables before the sacred platform, participants offered incense in memory of the late Founder.
Memorial Services for September 11 Victims Held in Rissho Kosei-kai's Churches
On September 11, the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States, memorial services for some 3,000 victims of the incident were held in various parts of the world. Rissho Kosei-kai's churches and its related organizations also observed the ceremonies, praying for world peace and consoling the spirits of the deceased as well as the victims of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
After the memorial service at the organization's New York church, five representatives held a religious service in front of a monument at Ground Zero. The previous day the church members visited St. Paul's chapel to present two hundred folded-paper cranes, Japanese symbols of peace, as well as letters of sympathy and encouragement from young Japanese members to children of the victims of the terrorist attacks. Chapel members handed the cranes and letters to the children on the evening of September 11. Rissho Kosei-kai's Los Angeles and Hawaii churches also held memorial services for the victims and recited the Lotus Sutra.
At the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space, a charity concert was held by a local volunteer group of the Brighter Society Movement, a nonprofit organization, of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a member. Many musicians participated in the concert. Outside the hall, many youth members of one of the movement's subsidiary organizations collected donations to help build schools in Afghanistan. That evening, many citizens joined the young people in placing lit candles around a model of the World Trade Center. At the moment that the attacks had taken place two years earlier, they offered a silent prayer for the victims.
The Council of Niho Religious People, an interreligious organization in southern Japan, held a ceremony to console the spirits of the victims and to pray for world peace. The council members are local Shintoists, Buddhists, and Christians; among them are members of the Nakatsu Church of Rissho Kosei-kai. Some 1,000 religionists attended the ceremony at the Nakatsu Church.
WCRP Secretary General Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On September 11 Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary-general of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP), met with President Nichiko Niwano at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters. Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, director of Worldwide Service of the WCRP, and Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairperson of Rissho Kosei-kai, were also present. Dr. Vendley described the WCRP's activities to promote interreligious dialogue and humanitarian aid in Iraq. He also stated his expectation that the new Iraqi Inter-Religious Council for Peace (Iq-IRC), convened by the WCRP, would be in a position to make suggestions to the United Nations and the Iraqi Governing Council. He said, "It is important for us to gain public confidence through these activities. We will continue to support Iraq's postwar rehabilitation with mid-to-long-term vision." Dr. Vendley praised Rissho Kosei-kai's humanitarian support for Iraq and expressed his gratitude. The talk then turned to the Eighth World Assembly of the WCRP. Those present discussed the need to develop the results of discussions at the world assemblies into concrete projects, and the importance of a closer partnership between the WCRP/International and its national chapters.
Ceremony for Remembrance of Rissho Kosei-kai Cofounder Observed
A remembrance ceremony for the late Cofounder Myoko Naganuma (1889--1957) was held on September 10 at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters and at its churches throughout Japan. At the Great Sacred Hall, some 4,200 members recalled the virtue of the cofounder, who was adored as "compassionate mother," and renewed their determination to spread the teaching of the Lotus Sutra to many more people. Twenty members of the Young Women's Group then made an offering to the portrait of Rev. Naganuma and her posthumous Dharma title on the platform in the hall. Rev. Kosho Niwano, president-designate, led the sutra recitation and then read an oration praising the Cofounder's virtuous dedication, to which all members are indebted. Following a video presentation describing the Cofounder's life and character, President Nichiko Niwano gave a speech. He spoke about Rev. Naganuma's dedication to the practice of donation, which showed members the importance of learning gratitude for the things they had in the time of scarcity after World War II. He said that her compassionate acts of giving had impressed members, guiding them to the Buddha's teaching. President Niwano emphasized that we are thankful for her compassion, which enabled us to continue our devotion to our religious training.
Aachen Meeting Participants Adopt Appeal for Peace
From September 7 through 9, religious representatives from all over the world took part in the 17th International Meeting for Peace. The convocation took place in Aachen, Germany, under the theme, "War and Peace: Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue." The meeting is held annually in different European cities and is sponsored by the Italian lay Catholic Community of Saint Egidio. Some 600 people from 50 countries were present at this year's meeting; they included religious leaders, scholars, and citizens. Seven Rissho Kosei-kai members attended. The meeting ended with the adoption of an Appeal for Peace for the Year 2003. "At the beginning of this millennium marked by hope and fear," says the Appeal, "we, men and women of different religions, coming from so many parts of the world, have gathered in Aachen to invoke God's great gift of peace: the peace that humanity, so often, cannot provide for itself." The Appeal emphasized the need to promote dialogue: "To those who think that a clash of civilizations is inevitable, we say: 'Free yourselves from this oppressive pessimism that creates a world full of walls and enemies, where it becomes impossible to live safely and in peace. Eventually the art of dialogue empties terror of its reasons and removes the grounds of injustice that precipitates resentment and violence. . . . Religions can never be used to justify hatred and violence. Fundamentalism is an infantile disease in any religion and any culture. The need to find an enemy to establish one's own identity, only imprisons us: it separates one from others and presents violence as more worthy than peace."
WCRP/Japan Visits East Timor
From September 3 through 9, seven members of the Environment and Development Committee of the Japanese Committee of the WCRP (WCRP/Japan) visited East Timor to monitor a rural improvement project led by Jesuit priests. The group, headed by Rev. Mitsuo Miyake, met with Father Keizo Yamada and other Jesuits, and presented Father Yamada with a check of ten thousand dollars U.S. to support the project. Father Yamada, one of the project's leaders, is also a member of the Peace Research Institute of WCRP/Japan. Twenty-seven Jesuit fathers in East Timor launched the project, which seeks to improve the lives of poor villagers by meeting their basic needs. Father Yamada took the initiative of building latrines; raising pigs, goats, and other domestic animals; and constructing irrigation ditches in cooperation with the villagers. WCRP/Japan's donation will be used to purchase materials for building another eighty latrines around Suai village. The group from WCRP/Japan also attended the Commemoration Ceremony for the Martyrs of Suai, held in Saint Mary Church at Suai. This event was a memorial service for the adults and children who were massacred in the church by Indonesian soldiers in 1999. After Rev. Miyake offered a prayer, the members placed school stationery and sweets on the altar.
Niwano Peace Foundation Starts South Asian Project
On August 26 and 27 the Niwano Peace Foundation convened a consultative meeting of its South Asia Program at the India International Center in Delhi. Attending on behalf of the foundation were Mr. Shin'ichi Noguchi, its secretary-general; two staff members; and Professor Masaaki Ohashi of Keisen University. The foundation invited three guests, including Ms. Urvashi Butalia, the eighth winner of the Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture and a cofounder of Kali for Women, the first Indian publishing company specializing in feminism. Next year, in cooperation with Indian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the program will officially launch various projects to further its goal of "Poverty Alleviation." In the consultative meeting, participants discussed such issues as the selection of NGOs to cooperate and how to conduct the program. The committee decided that the theme for next year would be "Food Security." After the meeting, two staff members of the Niwano Peace Foundation visited seven NGOs in northern India to monitor their activities. Rissho Kosei-kai's Fund for Peace announced its support for the foundation's program.
17th International Meeting for Peace Held in Aachen, Germany
From September 7 through September 9, the 17th International Meeting for Peace took place in Aachen, Germany, under the theme "War and Peace: Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue." The meeting is held annually in different European cities and is sponsored by the Italian lay Catholic Community of Saint Egidio, headquartered in Rome. More than 500 people from 50 countries took part, including religious leaders, scholars, and citizens. In the course of the three-day meeting, participants engaged in panel discussions, prayers for peace, and a peace march. The annual meetings carry on the spirit of the 1986 Day of Prayer for Peace held by Pope John Paul II in Assisi, at which Rissho Kosei-kai's President Nichiko Niwano served as a representative of Japanese Buddhism. This year, Dr. Michio Shinozaki, director of the General Secretariat of Rissho Kosei-kai, led the seven-member group from the organization. During a panel discussion he delivered a speech entitled "Buddhist Prayer as a Source of Peace." Explaining that nirvana, the Buddhist ideal state of perfect freedom, is interpreted as harmony or peace, he said that the Buddha made a vow that all living beings shall live in harmony. Saying that in reality people have turned away from God's will and the Buddha's vow, he declared that we must begin our prayers by repenting for having distanced ourselves from the divine will. He also urged religionists to be committed to nonviolence and to overcoming hatred, so that religionists from different traditions and countries can pray for peace together.
Members Participate in Eastern Buddhist League Convention in New York
The 57th Eastern Buddhist League Convention was held in New York on August 30 and 31 under the sponsorship of the American Eastern Buddhist League. On the convention's second day, the World Trade Center Second Anniversary Memorial Service was observed. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, New York branch head Rev. Koichi Saito and four members participated, joining some 170 Buddhists from eastern U.S. states.
The ceremony opened with a silent prayer for the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The participants read an invocation for peace and chanted the Buddhist sutras. Rev. Hakubun Watanabe, bishop of Buddhist Churches of America, read a memorial message for the victims, followed by a greeting from Rev. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, resident minister of the New York Buddhist Church. After the ceremony, the participants conducted a peace march to Ground Zero, site of the terrorist attacks, where they laid flowers and offered a prayer to console the souls of people killed in the attacks.
Fund for Peace Announces Grant Recipients for Third Term of 2003
In September the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Fund for Peace announced its grant recipients for the third term of fiscal 2003. Some 5.4 million Japanese yen were allotted to two projects. One of them, the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace, and Security, was founded in 1973 and provides a network for NGOs working on disarmament and peace issues. Its project includes programs such as publishing the free Disarmament Times (the only publication that provides full and timely coverage of UN disarmament news), promoting the NGOs' participation in formal UN disarmament meetings, and establishing international networks of concerned NGOs through its Web site and online correspondence. The Peace Fund will contribute 2.4 million yen to the NGO Committee's project. Another recipient, the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), was formed in 1972 as a trade union for poor, self-employed women in Ahmadabad in the state of Gujarat, India. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy, SEWA has engaged in activities to benefit poor women workers, such as making efforts to raise their social status and delivering educational programs on women's rights. SEWA plans to establish Shantipath (which means "the path of peace") Centers to rehabilitate the women who experienced the 2002 Ahmadabad riots, as well as their families. SEWA will receive 3 million Japanese yen from the fund.
Rissho Kosei-kai Announces Results of Its UNICEF Fund-Raising Campaign
In September the Youth Division of Rissho Kosei-kai announced the total amount of donations to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) that Rissho Kosei-kai members throughout the country had collected from July 2002 to June 2003. Rissho Kosei-kai began supporting UNICEF in 1974 (the Children of World--World Population Year) through its UNICEF fund-raising campaign, the Donate a Meal Campaign, and public charity bazaars and concerts throughout the country. The total amount of donations since then has reached approximately 6 billion Japanese yen; the moneys have been distributed to more than 60 countries. The total of 129,547,925 Japanese yen was collected by members and well-wishers. The donations will be transferred to UNICEF headquarters in New York, to support education programs in six Asian countries--the Philippines, Laos, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and India--which Rissho Kosei-kai's donation also benefited the previous year. The presentation ceremony will be held during Rissho Kosei-kai's youth leaders meeting at Tokyo headquarters on November 20, with representatives from the Japan Committee for UNICEF attending.
2003 Little Bags of Dreams Campaign Ends
The 2003 Little Bags of Dreams Campaign, one of Rissho Kosei-kai's independent peace projects, ended on August 31. The campaign was conducted throughout Japan beginning April 20; it aims to bring joy to children who have suffered the effects of civil war or discrimination. During the campaign period, the members of the organization made and collected objects such as small toys and useful stationery items, placing them in little cloth bags. Through its churches all over Japan, Rissho Kosei-kai will collect the bags and distribute them to children in various parts of the world this fall, in cooperation with other NGOs.
In Kanagawa Prefecture, for example, fourteen chapters of Kawasaki Church promoted various activities they had created themselves. One common activity was piggy banks: young married women members made the banks and distributed them to other members' houses. Those members and their families donated their savings to purchase items to be placed in the bags.
A 12-year-old boy who was a member of Omiya Church in Saitama Prefecture has taken part in the campaign since he was in the first grade. Asking his classmates to participate, he made a poster for his classroom and placed a box there to collect items. The class created bookmarks using pressed dried flowers, which went with other items into the cloth bags. The students made 32 little bags in four months. The boy expressed his joy about working on the campaign with his friends and his hope for joining the effort again.
Zhejiang Goodwill Mission Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On August 30, 15 members of a goodwill mission from Zhejiang Province, China, paid a courtesy call to Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo and spoke with President Niwano at the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. Also present at the talk was Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairperson. The group of Tiantai monks and Zhejiang provincial officials was headed by Rev. Shi Yunguan, vice-president of Zhejiang Provincial Buddhist Association and supervisor at Guoqing Temple. President Niwano told them about his 2000 visit to Mount Tiantai, and also about the important relationship forged by the late Founder Niwano and the late Mr. Zhao Puchu, past president of the Buddhist Association of China. Referring to the Founder's 1993 visit to Mount Tiantai, Rev. Shi spoke to President Niwano about the importance of inheriting and further developing the religious ties created by Buddhist leaders of China, South Korea, and Japan. Mr. Xing Yuesheng, vice-chief of the National and Religious Committee of Zhejiang Province, expressed his high esteem for Rissho Kosei-kai's contribution to enhancing China and Japan's friendly relationship. He also stressed the importance of promoting the interaction of young people across the two countries.
Religious Youth from Japan and South Korea Participate in Exchange Program
The Japan--South Korea Youth Encounter 2003 was held from August 21 to August 24 in Tokyo. Forty-seven youth from 10 religious organizations in Japan and South Korea took part in the program, which was sponsored by the Youth Board of the Japanese Committee of the WCRP (WCRP/Japan) and the Korean Conference on Religion and Peace (KCRP). The exchange was the seventh of the series, which has been held since 1990 in both Japan and South Korea. The program provides opportunities for religious youth to build genuine trust in each other on the basis of their common religious spirit, and to consider their roles in realizing world peace. During the first two days of the program, the participants were separated into Japanese-Korean pairs and stayed at the homes of 17 Tokyo families, which are members of four religious organizations including Rissho Kosei-kai. On the last day, all the participants held a dialogue, in which they recognized the need to continue the exchange program to remove misunderstanding and prejudice among people with different nationalities, languages, cultures, and religions. On August 23 they were joined by 72 participants in a two-day multireligious summer camp held by the Youth Board of WCRP/Japan. The young people carried out a joint volunteer activity for homeless people living in temporary tents in Taito Ward in Tokyo, cleaning the grounds and serving a meal to the residents.
Rev. Yamanoi Talks with Korean Youths of WCRP
On August 22, as part of Japan--South Korea Youth Encounter 2003, six of the Encounter's Korean youth staff members visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and held a discussion with Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi. Rev. Michito Miyake, chairman of the Youth Board of WCRP/Japan, and Rev. Kiyonobu Tazawa, its vice-chairman, also attended the meeting. Rev. Miyake expressed his gratitude to Rev. Yamanoi for Rissho Kosei-kai's offering its facilities, which had made the meeting possible. The participants exchanged opinions, mainly on the subject of interreligious cooperation. During their conversation, Mr. Kim Kyubum, chairman of the youth committee of KCRP, stated that after the KCRP was established, religionists in South Korea were able to collaborate with each other despite past discord. Rev. Yamanoi replied that it was important for religionists to cooperate to solve various world problems in order to realize peace. He expressed his hope that they would make efforts on behalf of world peace, the common goal of all religionists.
Day of Repose for War Dead Observed
On August 15, 2003, the 58th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War, annual ceremonies were observed for the Day of Repose for the Spirits of the War Dead and Prayers for Peace. Events took place at the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and at local churches throughout Japan. The Great Sacred Hall's interior was decorated with a multitude of folded-paper cranes contributed by members from all over Japan. Some 2,500 members from the Tokyo area gathered there and prayed for the repose of the souls of all victims of World War II and all other wars. During the ceremony, President-designate Kosho Niwano led a sutra recitation. After a prayer for merit transference was read, she offered folded-paper cranes, which she herself had made, and incense for the repose of the spirits of the war dead. President Nichiko Niwano addressed the attendees, observing that wars and acts of terrorism are produced by human beings, and saying, "The Buddha preached that lives are precious. We, who are learning that teaching, should recognize the importance of our own lives and those of others. It is vital that each one of us be aware of how precious every life is."
Niwano Peace Foundation Reports Grant Recipients for First Half of Fiscal 2003
In August the Niwano Peace Foundation announced its grant recipients for the first half of fiscal 2003. The purpose of the grants is to encourage individuals and organizations that carry out research and other peace activities based on a religious spirit, and to promote world peace. Research grants fall into the categories of research on interreligious understanding and cooperation, research on religious approaches to overcoming impediments to peace, and research on the relationship of science to religion and ethics. For peace activities, the categories are social activities based on a religious spirit and activities to empower local communities.
The foundation's screening committee allocated some 3.9 million Japanese yen to 8 research projects, including research on promoting interreligious dialogue in a multicultural setting by Prof. Joseph Camilleri of La Trobe University in Australia, and a study on the political function of Buddhist movements in modern and contemporary Japanese history by Mr. Eiichi Otani, research fellow of the International Institute for the Study of Religions. The foundation also donated some 7.4 million yen to 10 peace activities, including a Fondation Medecins Sans Frontieres Japon project that trains people for overseas medical assistance work, and a project to promote a peace study meeting open to ordinary Japanese citizens, carried out by the Development Education Association and Resource Center.
Shinshuren's Youth League Hosts Korean Religionists
Six members of the Korea-Japan Interchange Association on Religion and Culture, a Seoul-based Korean NGO, were invited to Japan from August 12 to 16 by the Youth League of the Shinshuren (the Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan). On August 14 the members took part in a religious youth seminar sponsored by the Youth League at its headquarters in Tokyo. Rev. Takanori Kumano, deputy director of the Youth Division of Rissho Kosei-kai, a member organization of the Shinshuren, attended the seminar, along with Rev. Pak Kyong Seok, one of the visiting members and leader of a South Korean antinuclear movement, and Rev. Michiomi Rikihisa, chairperson of the Shinshuren's Youth League. Rev. Pak, expressing his concerns about such issues as the construction of a low-level radioactive waste facility in South Korea and the enactment of a package of emergency contingency bills in Japan, stressed the need for cooperation between Japanese and Korean religionists to deal with such matters. Rev. Rikihisa explained that the purpose of the Shinshuren's activities is to bring about a peaceful world in which the lives of all beings are respected. At the proposal of Rev. Kim Dae Sun, president of the association, the seminar adopted a joint communique containing an action plan for organizing a peace forum for religious youth of Japan and Korea. Rev. Rikihisa announced that a memorial service for Japan's war dead and a prayer for peace, organized by the Youth League, would be held that evening at Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery.
Shinshuren Holds Service for War Dead
On August 14 some 2,800 people from the Shinshuren's member organizations including Rissho Kosei-kai, gathered in Tokyo's Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery for the 38th annual memorial service for Japan's war dead and prayer for peace. The ceremony was sponsored by the Shinshuren and its Youth League. Rev. Mitsuhiro Fukata, the Shinshuren's chairperson, delivered an opening address. He said that when people of faith make efforts for peace that are based on the spirit of cooperation, such as those by the Shinshuren, they open a path leading to true rest for the souls of the dead, whose sacrifices laid the foundation for today's prosperity. He declared that such activities bring encouragement to people who are suffering from violent conflicts in many parts of the world. After Rev. Fukata's talk, 64 young women members of the Shinshuren offered lit candles at the altar in the hexagonal building where the ashes of the war dead are enshrined. Representatives of 13 religious organizations proceeded to the altar by turns and conducted prayers according to their respective rituals. Then Rev. Michiomi Rikihisa, chairperson of the Shinshuren's Youth League, pronounced a message for peace. Finally, all the participants presented a floral tribute at the altar.
Members Collect 143,373 Blankets in 2003 Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa
During May and June Rissho Kosei-kai members collected 143,373 blankets in the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa. The blankets will be shipped to countries such as Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Mozambique. On August 11, 40,000 blankets were shipped to Ethiopia. At the end of October, Rissho Kosei-kai will dispatch volunteers to hand them personally to needy people there.
During the campaign, members visited private homes all over Japan to explain the campaign's aims, and also made appeals to the public in the streets. News of the campaign was widely disseminated through community bulletins, radio, and the Internet.
The campaign began in 1984 to provide relief for people suffering the effects of serious drought in Africa. For 19 years, in the spirit of sharing in suffering, offering prayer, and making donations, Rissho Kosei-kai has been promoting aid to refugees and poor villagers in Africa. These villagers endure harsh living conditions brought about by civil wars and prolonged drought. Blankets are essential for their life in highland and desert climates, where daytime and nighttime temperatures differ greatly.
JEN Starts Relief Project in Iraq
JEN, a multi-organizational nonprofit group of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a member, has commenced its relief project in postwar Iraq. Through its three-week investigation beginning April 20, JEN learned that children's safety in Baghdad's schools was not yet assured, because school facilities had been damaged by bombing and looting during the last war, though some schools had already begun classes again. According to JEN, sanitary conditions in the schools were becoming much worse because of sewage from ruined toilets. Therefore, JEN is preparing to repair facilities at three Baghdad schools, in cooperation with UNICEF. JEN also hopes to work with the Iraqi Governing Council, which was inaugurated on July 13. Since early August, Ms. Keiko Kiyama, secretary general of JEN's Tokyo headquarters, has been working to establish JEN's Baghdad office, together with Mr. Cyril Cappai, who will head the office, and other JEN staff members. On August 6 Mr. Nobuo Tachi, a staff member of the Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division, left Japan for Baghdad to meet with the local Iraqi staff and supervise the repair work at the three schools. Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of the Youth Division, accompanied him to witness the mid-August start of the project, which will last nearly seven months. After the immediate tasks are completed, the project will be adjusted to meet the needs of the local people. Funding for the project comes from Rissho Kosei-kai's emergency fund-raising campaign for victims of the Iraqi war.
Rissho Kosei-kai Conducts Afforestation Project in Ethiopia
As one of the joint projects of Rissho Kosei-kai's Fund for Peace, from July 24 to August 2 the Buddhist organization dispatched 20 of its members to the Ethiopian province of Tigray. In cooperation with the Relief Society of Tigray (REST), a local nongovernmental organization, Rissho Kosei-kai members participated in an afforestation project. On July 24 they visited REST headquarters in Mekelle, the provincial capital. They heard a lecture on Tigray's food situation and on REST's activities from Mr. Tsehaye Gebreselassie, head of the Environmental Rehabilitation Division, and Mr. Yemane Soslomon, head of the Planning and Coordinating Department. On July 25 the volunteers visited nurseries at Mai Tekli in the Samre-Seharti district. On July 26 and 28 the Japanese volunteers and some 40 local youths planted 800 saplings, including eucalyptus, in Mai Tekli. It is said that 60 years ago, 40 percent of Ethiopia was covered with greenery. Because of the 17-year civil war that began in 1975, conflicts between Ethiopia and Eritrea from 1998 to 2000, frequent severe drought, and deforestation, the figure has dropped to 1 percent. Rissho Kosei-kai has conducted seven afforestation projects since 1993, planting some 9 million saplings in Tigray Province.
WCRP/Japan Holds Dialogue with Palestinian Muslim Leader
On August 2 the Japanese Committee of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP/Japan) held a dialogue with Sheikh Tal El Sider, former minister of state for the Palestinian Authority, at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo. Sheikh Tal El Sider, presently a consultant to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on religious matters, has been actively promoting peace in the Middle East. In January 2002 he represented the Palestinian Authority at a religious summit meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, which was attended by representatives of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and chaired by the then archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey. Sheikh Tal El Sider visited Japan at the invitation of the Japan Religious Committee for World Federation. The 17 people attending the conversation included Rev. Gijun Sugitani, secretary-general of WCRP/Japan, Mr. Kimiaki Tokumasu, president of the Japan Muslim Association, Mr. Mimasaka Higuchi, the association's honorary president, and Mr. Chiro Nakata, director of the Japan Religious Committee for World Federation. Sheikh Tal El Sider referred to the historic significance of the religious summit meeting in Alexandria, saying that the summit was an epoch-making event in which the Holy Land's religious leaders had opened their minds to dialogue, issuing the Alexandria Declaration. He explained that the declaration, which denounced both terrorism and military attacks against innocent civilians, had become a guiding principle for the "road map for peace" in the Middle East. He also reported that leaders from the three religions had established a permanent committee to continue dialogues for peace. During the question-and-answer session Sheikh Tal El Sider called for the continued cooperation of Japanese religionists to ensure lasting peace in the Middle East.
Afghan Children Receive Little Bags of Dreams
Rissho Kosei-kai announced in July that it has distributed 5,667 Little Bags of Dreams containing small toys and various useful items to children in Afghanistan. The bags were prepared and donated by Rissho Kosei-kai members throughout Japan during the organization's Little Bags of Dreams Campaign conducted from April through August 2002. The handmade bags were sent to Afghan children to offer them hope and encouragement from far away.
Afghanistan is still suffering from the effects of the Soviet invasion in the 1970s, the prolonged civil conflict that followed, and the more recent strikes by U.S. and British forces. Instability and uncertain conditions continue to prevail in the country. Through the cooperation of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, the gift bags were presented to children in elementary school in Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and other cities.
Bon Festival Observed
The traditional Bon Festival was observed on July 15 in the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo. As many as 4,200 members from all over Japan took part. The ceremony began with offerings from 20 members of the young women's groups of local churches who were visiting the headquarters on a group pilgrimage.
President-designate Kosho Niwano then led a sutra recitation, in which she and 256 members qualified as Dharma Teacher offered the reading of 20,800 Buddhist posthumous names of members who had died in the preceding one year. After the president-designate read a prayer for merit transference and offered incense for the repose of the spirits of our ancestors, a mother who had lost her son made a speech as a representative of all members, sharing her religious affirmation with the other participants.
President Nichiko Niwano then offered a guidance in which he recounted the history of the Bon Festival, which originated from the legend that Maudgalyayana, one of the Buddha's ten great disciples, offered a sutra recitation to deliver the spirit of his mother from her suffering in hell. President Niwano explained how the Buddha taught Maudgalyayana, who had been swayed by his love for his own flesh and blood, of the need to abandon self-centered thinking. He said that seeking the salvation of all people is the true spirit of Mahayana Buddhism and that we should devote ourselves to the salvation of each and every person we encounter.
The Bon Festival is one of the most popular traditional Buddhist events in Japan. During the summer season, Buddhists as well as non-Buddhists renew their vow to pay respects to their ancestors and offer prayers for the repose of their spirits.
Rissho Kosei-kai Welcomes Russian Students from Sakhalin
Five students of the Japanese language from the Institute of Economics and Oriental Studies at Sakhalin State University in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, paid a courtesy call at the headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai in Tokyo on July 14. They met and spoke with the chairperson, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi. The close ties between Rissho Kosei-kai and the students at the university have been continuing for 11 years, with the aim of increasing mutual cultural understanding.
This year, after the arrival of the visiting students in Japan on July 4, they stayed in the homes of members on the northern island of Hokkaido and had the brief experience of temporary work at Japanese companies. When he heard the students' reports, Rev. Yamanoi praised their eagerness to deepen their understanding of Japan, emphasizing the importance of the two cultures, Russia and Japan, mutually learning from each other.
Explaining that Rissho Kosei-kai's activity for world peace are promoted through interreligious cooperation, he expressed the hope that the students would recognize even further the need for international cooperation in order to achieve lasting peace. After their meeting with the chairperson, the students took part in gatherings with Rissho Kosei-kai youth members in the Tokyo District, as well as with students at the Hoju Vocational College for Women, which is affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai.
WCRP Officer Explains that Rissho Kosei-kai Members Sustain Iraqi Peace Effort
On June 24 the Awake to World Peace Committee held a fourth peace study meeting at a Rissho Kosei-kai facility in Tokyo. The committee invited Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, director of Worldwide Service of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) to report on the WCRP's peace efforts for Iraq. Some 70 people took part, including Rissho Kosei-kai youth members from Tokyo District. Rev. Sugino reported his recent activities supporting Iraq's postwar rehabilitation, which included an onsite investigation in May. He told the audience that the tension among religious sects and ethnic groups in the country had not diminished even after the end of the war, and that it was crucial for religious people in the country to hold a meeting to discuss ways to build trust and to help realize democracy. He continued by saying that an interreligious meeting hosted and moderated by WCRP was held in Amman, Jordan, on May 27 and 28; attending were 20 representatives of the major Iraqi religions, such as Shiism, Sunnism, and Christianity. The participants had a dialogue with other representative WCRP religious leaders about achieving peace in Iraq. Rev. Sugino expressed his gratitude toward Rissho Kosei-kai members who held peace-prayer sessions for Iraq in their homes or local churches, and who had continued Rissho Kosei-kai's fund-raising campaign for the country's refugees. He emphasized that these efforts were an important driving force in making the Amman meeting a reality. He also expressed his hope that, through the WCRP's support, the local activities of Rissho Kosei-kai members would play an even more significant role on the international scene.
Rev. Yamanoi Joins the General Assembly of UUA
From June 25 to July 2 Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairperson of Rissho Kosei-kai's board of directors, visited the United States. During his stay there he attended the 42nd General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) in Boston, Massachusetts. For four days beginning on June 26, some 7,100 people, including both UUA members and guests, took part in the assembly. As one of the international visitors, Rev. Yamanoi delivered his greetings to the delegates during the third plenary session on June 27. He emphasized that the friendship between Dr. Dana M. Greeley, first president of the UUA, and Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, had borne fruit in the establishment of the WCRP and had contributed to the development of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF). He then spoke about the recent activities of the two international organizations--the WCRP's supporting peace in the Middle East by holding an international interreligious meeting, and the IARF's project to rebuild religious facilities in Gujarat State in western India. He also mentioned that the youth members of the UUA and Rissho Kosei-kai had taken actions to oppose the war in Iraq, and declared that "it is important for us to have a common belief that all things should be in harmony to achieve world peace." After the general assembly, Rev. Yamanoi paid homage at the grave of Dr. Greeley in the town of Concord, offering flowers and chanting the sutra. During his American visit, Rev. Yamanoi also met with Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary-general of the WCRP in New York, and visited Rissho Kosei-kai of New York.
Peace Fund Announces Grant Recipients for Second Term of 2003
In June the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced its grant recipients for the second term of fiscal 2003. A total of 26.40 million Japanese yen was allocated to 17 projects. Among the recipients, 6 projects received grants for the first time. The Interfaith Encounter Association of Israel, one of the new recipients, promotes interfaith dialogue and cross-cultural study for Jewish and Arab youth, to help them learn to understand each other and to advance reconciliation between the two peoples. The Peace Fund donated 0.7 million yen to this project. The Foundation of Illimani, a Hokkaido-based Japanese NGO which received 1.5 million yen, runs nursery schools in Bolivia. It also assists food supply and medical aid programs in that country, which has one of the highest child mortality rates in Latin America. The money provides relief for indigent children.
The Peace Fund continued its assistance to 11 former recipients. One of them is a program of the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention that supports vocational training for young discharged soldiers in Afghanistan. Another continuing recipient is the Japan Burkina Faso Friendship Association's project to improve the quality of life of women and children in Burkina Faso.
Ninth UN Symposium on Northeast Asia Held in Kanazawa
From June 10 to 12 the United Nations Association of Japan held the ninth United Nations Symposium on Northeast Asia in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture. Thirty-three participants, including government officials and scholars from eight Asian-Pacific countries, were present at the symposium, which was entitled "Security, Stability, and Restoring Confidence in Northeast Asia." Attending on behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai were Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, deputy director of the organization's External Affairs Department, and Ms. Kiyoko Kizuka, a department staff member who was present as an observer. At the plenary sessions, the participants engaged in lively discussions on such topics as disarmament efforts, the Korean peninsula, and regional cooperation and community building. On the final day they adopted an "Appeal for Tension Reduction on the Korean Peninsula," which included a request to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to end completely its development of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund contributed 2 million yen to support the symposium; 700,000 yen were donated by the Fund for Peace and Development of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP/Japan).
Rissho Kosei-kai Protests Approved Contingency Bills
On June 10, in the name of Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairperson of its board of directors, Rissho Kosei-kai registered a protest with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi against a package of emergency contingency bills passed by the Upper House of Japan's national parliament, or Diet, on June 6. The package consists of three bills: a proposed new law outlining the nation's response to any military attack by a foreign power, a revision of the law for establishing an emergency management agency, and a revision of the law specifying the contingency duties of the Japan's Self-Defense Forces.
Rissho Kosei-kai had already issued a statement on April 25 opposing the bills when they were introduced in the Diet and were under consideration. In that statement, the organization expressed its concern that if the bills were to be passed in their present form, ensuring national security by means of arms would take precedence over the human rights of the Japanese people. The Buddhist organization called on the government to debate the content of the bills thoroughly before enacting them into law.
In its protest of June 10, Rissho Kosei-kai again expressed its primary policy of not relying on military force to resolve dispute. The document also pointed out that although a provision was added to the bills ensuring protection of citizens' human rights, following discussions among the ruling coalition parties and the Democratic Party of Japan, the content of the proposed legislation did not differ in regard to their force and effect as law. Rissho Kosei-kai insisted that it will strive to build a peaceful world without any need for resorting to military means and asked the government to make greater diplomatic efforts toward peaceful resolution of disputes so as to avoid a situation in which the contingency bills are put into effect.
Religionists Hold Interfaith Dialogue in Kyoto
On May 26 some 30 religionists from Japan and the Community of Saint Egidio of Italy gathered for an interfaith meeting on the theme "Religions and the Challenge of Peace: The Spirit of Assisi in Eastern and Western Countries." The assembly took place in the international conference room of Rissho Kosei-kai's Kyoto church. Representing Rissho Kosei-kai was Rev. Michio Shinozaki, member of the board of directors. The meeting was called by the Community of Saint Egidio to reaffirm the spirit of Assisi and to discuss religionists' future peace activities. Since 1987 the community has sponsored annual international "People and Religions" gatherings in various locations, inspired by the Day of Prayer for World Peace hosted by Pope John Paul II in Assisi in 1986. In the same spirit, Japanese religionists have also gathered annually on Mount Hiei for Religious Summit Meetings. The May 26 meeting comprised three sessions on the themes "Interreligious Dialogue and Peace," "The Spirit of Assisi," and "The Path of Dialogue: Perspectives." In the first session, Professor Agostino Giovagnoli, director of Saint Egidio's Asian Department, spoke on "The Contribution of Religions toward Peace." In the second session, Professor Alberto Quattrucci, also from Saint Egidio, spoke on the international "People and Religions Meetings" (of which he is secretary general); Rev. Gijun Sugitani, secretary-general of the Japanese Committee of the WCRP, spoke on "Mount Hiei Interreligious Gatherings." In the third session, Rev. Pietro Yoshiaki Sonoda, superior of Conventual Franciscans in Japan, spoke on interfaith dialogue from the Christian perspective; Rev. Michio Shinozaki responded from the Buddhist viewpoint. Moderated by a director of the Kyoto Shimbun newspaper, the participants also discussed the role religionists can play in realizing peace, and agreed that promoting prayer and interfaith dialogue in the spirit of Assisi would contribute to building world peace.
WCRP Holds International Interreligious Meeting in Amman
On May 27 and 28 in Amman, His Royal Highness Prince El-Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, moderator of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP), hosted the WCRP's international interreligious meeting entitled "Rejecting Violence and Promoting Peace with Justice." In attendance were some 70 participants, including 20 representatives of Iraq's major religions, such as Shiism, Sunnism, and Christianity; representatives of the WCRP's executive committee and governing board; and delegates from international humanitarian organizations. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairperson of the organization, took part as a proxy of one of the WCRP's presidents, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai. Also present as observers were Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, deputy director of Rissho Kosei-kai's External Affairs Department, and Mr. Shuichi Iwata, a representative of the Awake to World Peace Committee, which supports Rissho Kosei-kai youth members' grassroots activities in Iraq. After lively discussions, participants adopted a "Joint Statement of Representatives of Iraq's Religious Communities," which emphasized the need for humanitarian assistance and social reconstruction in postwar Iraq.
Japanese Nonprofit Organizations Report Relief Activities in Iraq
Two Japanese nonprofit organizations (NPOs) supported by the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund held briefings in Tokyo about their activities on behalf of Iraqis. One of the NPOs, Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC), had aided war victims and refugees in Iraq and Jordan for 12 years following the Gulf War. In the May 8 briefing, JVC representatives explained that the organization had conducted three support projects in Iraq--for medical treatment, street children, and Iraqi refugees in Jordan--to try to alleviate the suffering caused by a decade of economic sanctions following the UN Security Council resolution of 1990. Believing that the situation in Iraq had worsened because of the 2003 war, JVC decided to continue the three projects. In cooperation with French and German NGOs, JVC provided medicine and medical equipment to the Red Crescent maternity hospital in Baghdad, which was damaged by an air strike on April 2, as well as to local clinics. JVC also contributed food to improve the health of children who are homeless, impoverished, or orphans. The number of street children increased after the Gulf War and these children suffered from serious malnutrition after the 2003 war.
The other organization holding a briefing was JEN, a multi-organizational NPO of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a member. According to JEN, criminal offenses such as housebreaking and arson were committed in Baghdad during the postwar chaos. On May 2 some schools began classes again, but their classrooms had been damaged by the war--as evinced by broken windows, untidy toilets, and the presence of unexploded shells--and children had to use the same textbooks employed under Saddam Hussein's regime. JEN decided to launch an Iraqi office to start repairing and improving school facilities.
Twentieth Niwano Peace Prize Winner Joins Niwano Peace Foundation Symposium in Kyoto
On May 11 the 2003 Niwano Peace Foundation Symposium was held at the Kyoto branch of Rissho Kosei-kai. The ongoing theme of the annual symposium is "A New Challenge for People of Religion"; the specific topic for 2003 was "Citizens Working for Global Security: The Role of Religionists." This year Dr. Priscilla Elworthy, director of the Oxford Research Group and recipient of the 20th Niwano Peace Prize, attended the symposium. Also participating were some 200 people, including representatives of Japanese religious organizations and ordinary citizens. Dr. Elworthy delivered the keynote address, entitled "What Can People Do to Stop War?" She mentioned four practical courses of action that ordinary people can take to prevent war: adopt alternatives to violence, advocate through the media, educate others about nonviolence, and form nonviolent peace forces. She concluded, "The inner quality of the people who practice nonviolence is what gives it power. They are moving toward being free of hatred and free of fear." The subsequent panel discussion was chaired by Ms. Reiko Suzuki, moderator of the National Christian Council in Japan. Making up the panel were Dr. Hiromichi Umebayashi, president of Peace Depot, a Japanese nonprofit institute, and Rev. Yukichi Ishikawa, general secretary of Japan Religionists' Peace Conference, and Dr. Elworthy.
Niwano Peace Prize Committee Established
As part of the commemoration of the Niwano Peace Prize's 20th anniversary, the Niwano Peace Foundation has established a committee to choose recipients of the annual prize. The award goes to individuals and groups who carry out peace activities based on a religious spirit. By establishing the Niwano Peace Prize Committee, the foundation hopes to make the award's significance more widely known in Japan and abroad. The foundation intends to further globalize the spirit of the prize by making the screening process public, and to enhance the award's value as a "peace prize encompassing all the religions of the world." The committee consists of ten religionists who have been active in interreligious cooperation and peace activities. On May 7 eight committee members and one deputy held a special session at the Horin-kaku Guest Hall, appointing as chairman H.E. Bishop Gunnar Stalsett, head of the Diocese of Oslo of the Church of Norway and former member of the screening committee for the Nobel Peace Prize. The next day an inaugural ceremony for the committee was held at the presentation of the 20th Niwano Peace Prize. After the members were introduced, Bishop Stalsett addressed the gathering. He said that all across the world, people had begun the new millennium with hopes for peace and prosperity for all, but that their hopes have turned to despair. Instead of the spread of peace, terrorism has increased and poverty has yet to be ameliorated. The bishop declared that the Niwano Peace Prize Committee would begin screening nominees next year, basing its decision on a keen observation of current world problems.
Niwano Peace Prize Awarded to Dr. Priscilla Elworthy
On May 8, at a ceremony in Tokyo, the Niwano Peace Foundation presented the 20th Niwano Peace Prize to Dr. Priscilla Elworthy, director of the Oxford Research Group (ORG). The ORG is a nongovernmental organization in the United Kingdom which studies nuclear issues and is a well-known authority on nuclear disarmament and peace strategies. Some 200 people participated, including representatives of Japan's religious circle and reporters from Japan's mass media outlets. Among the invited guests were nine distinguished religionists from the next prize's screening committee, including Rev. Gunnar Stalsett, bishop of the Church of Norway, who formerly served on the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. Also present were Mr. Stuart Jack, charge d'affaires of the British embassy in Japan; Mr. Yasushi Mitarai, Japan's administrative vice minister of education, culture, sports, science, and technology; and Rev. Izu Kudo, chairman of the Japanese Association of Religious Organizations (JAORO). The ceremony opened with a prayer, which was followed by a report on the screening process. Rev. Nichiko Niwano, the foundation's president, presented the citation, a medal, and 20 million Japanese yen to Dr. Elworthy, and then delivered a commemorative address. Dr. Elworthy, in an acceptance speech entitled "Iraq, War, and Peace," discussed the Iraqi crisis in the context of the U.S. government's strategic global scheme and its reliance on military power. Saying that a systematic nonmilitary route to free the Iraqi people from dictatorship had not been tried, she declared that with sufficient support from Western governments and Western media, a "people power" campaign of civilian resistance would have been possible. In this regard, she pointed out that most people, including politicians and the press, as yet have no language for the skills and power of nonviolence, although their efficacy has been amply demonstrated by such preeminent figures as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Aung San Suu Kyi, and Nelson Mandela.
Rissho Kosei-kai Opposes Proposed Contingency Bills
On April 25 Rissho Kosei-kai issued a statement, in the name of Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairperson of its board of directors, opposing a package of emergency contingency bills that were under consideration by Japan's Diet, or national parliament. The package consists of three bills: a proposed new law outlining Japan's response to any military attack by a foreign power, a revision of the law for establishing an emergency management agency, and a revision of the law specifying the contingency duties of the Self-Defense Force. On the same day, Rev. Yamanoi and Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's External Affairs Department, visited Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's official residence in Tokyo and presented the statement to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda.
Rissho Kosei-kai was concerned that if the bills were to be passed in the present form, they could infringe on the human rights of Japanese citizens and also affect Japan's international peaceful coexistence while seeking to ensure national security militarily. Since the government and the ruling coalition parties hoped to pass the bills during the current session of the Diet, Rissho Kosei-kai took the opportunity to present its views on the bills and to express reservations about their possible effect on Japan's role as a nation of peace.
In its statement, Rissho Kosei-kai raised questions about whether the bills fully agree with principles concerning the dignity of human life, basic human rights, and world peace that should be the goals of both religion and politics. The Buddhist organization is also concerned about the possible risk of the bills leading to the mobilization of the Japanese people in an emergency, thus curbing their basic human rights, since the proposed legislation puts first emphasis on preserving national security by force of arms. It is thus feared that Japan could lose the respect of other nations that it gained as a nation of peace in the aftermath of World War II.
The statement reflects the Buddhist viewpoint that any war leads to the loss of human life. Although resorting to violence to combat violence appears realistic to some people, it eventually leads to an endless cycle of violence. The wisdom and compassion demonstrated by religion are therefore indispensable. The Rissho Kosei-kai document concludes by calling on the government and the ruling parties to discuss the bills thoroughly and take responsible action from an overall, broad-ranging standpoint.
When Rev. Yamanoi presented the statement to Mr. Fukuda at the prime minister's residence, he explained the organization's views and asked that the government hold more deliberate discussions about the bills and make greater diplomatic efforts to achieve a peaceful, stable world. The chief cabinet secretary responded that the bills were intended to outline Japan's response to an emergency situation caused by a possible armed attack from another nation and to create a new legal framework for dealing with the resulting crisis.
Sri Lankan Ambassador Visits WCRP/Japan
On April 24 Mr. Karunatilaka Amunugama, Sri Lanka's ambassador to Japan, visited the office of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP/Japan) at Fumon Hall, Tokyo, where he conferred with Rev. Gijun Sugitani, secretary-general of the committee. The committee had worked with Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters to invite to Tokyo the leaders of four different sects of Sri Lanka's majority Sinhalese Buddhists, so that the leaders could make a declaration in favor of peace for Sri Lanka. Last June the four senior Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist leaders agreed to come to Tokyo together. The committee also set up a press conference in Tokyo, at which the leaders issued their joint statement pleading for peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Last December the committee also sponsored a dialogue, held in Kyoto, with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinge. He exchanged opinions with Japanese religionists about working for peace in Sri Lanka. Last month in Tokyo, Mr. Amunugama expressed his gratitude for the committee's assistance. He emphasized that support from the religious communities, along with a state-to-state aid program, was indispensable for maintaining permanent peace in Sri Lanka, and asked for additional cooperation to that end. Rev. Sugitani promised to encourage further assistance and collaboration, stating that it was natural for religionists to extend a helping hand to Buddhist friends when they were in trouble.
Rev. Niwano Is Reappointed Councillor of JAORO
On April 22 the first 2003 conference of the JAORO's board of directors and councillors was held in Tokyo. Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai and a councillor of the association, took part. After a report on the association's activities was submitted, officials for the next term were elected. As a result of the voting, Rev. Izu Kudo, president of Jinja Honcho (the Association of Shinto Shrines) was inaugurated as chairman of the board of directors. Rev. Niwano was reappointed councillor for another two-year term.
JAORO was founded in 1946 to facilitate collaboration between religious organizations in Japan, to promote religious cultures, and to contribute to world peace. JAORO is supported by five religious organizations, including the Japan Buddhist Federation, Jinja Honcho, and the Shinshuren (the Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan).
Peace Fund Announces Grant Recipients for the First Term of 2003
In April the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced its grant recipients for the first term of fiscal 2003. A total of 31.79 million Japanese yen was allocated to 22 projects. Among the recipients, 11 projects were selected to receive grants for the first time. The Association for Aid and Relief Japan, one of the new recipients, promotes programs that support Cambodians handicapped by land mines and the aftereffects of polio. The association, which received 3 million yen, is helping these people become self-reliant by establishing a vocational school for them. The Peace Fund donated 1 million yen to San Benito SIPAG KO, Inc., a group that promotes education for children in Luzon, the Philippines. The fund also gave 1.3 million yen to the Seventh International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, to be held in November and December in Kobe. The money will cover the registration costs of overseas participants. The Peace Fund continued its assistance to 11 former recipients, including the nongovernmental organization Services for the Health in Asian and African Regions (SHARE), to support a project that advances knowledge about AIDS and its prevention in Thailand. It will also aid the ninth UN Symposium on Northeast Asia in Kanazawa, Japan.
Rissho Kosei-kai Joins Earth Day Event
Rissho Kosei-kai took part in Earth Day Tokyo 2003, which was held in Yoyogi Park on April 19 and 20. In April 1970 an estimated 20 million people from across the United States participated in an environmental rally held in Wisconsin, which was organized by Senator Gaylord Nelson of that state. Since then, Earth Day has been observed in April throughout the world to remind us that we must take care of our planet. Rissho Kosei-kai displayed pictures and charts of its activities for peace at a booth set up in the park and also held a workshop on the background of the activities. The subject of the pictures and charts was Rissho Kosei-kai members' volunteer activities overseas--parents and children from churches across Japan handing Little Bags of Dreams to children in the former Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, and Palestine, as well as youth members distributing blankets collected throughout Japan to people in Africa. Staff members explained to visitors the purposes of Rissho Kosei-kai's Peace Fund and the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa. People were attracted to the booth by a performer costumed as Trill, a cartoon character devised to promote the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign. The staff members also handed out fund-raising boxes and pamphlets for the Donate a Meal Campaign. The Executive Committee of Rissho Kosei-kai's Peace Fund donated 1 million yen to support the event.
Rissho Kosei-kai Headquarters Member Joins JEN in On-site Investigation for Iraqi Reconstruction
On April 20 JEN, a multi-organizational nonprofit organization, and Rissho Kosei-kai, a JEN member, sent a joint group of their members to Iraq to examine the situation of Iraqi refugees. The group consisted of Ms. Keiko Kiyama, secretary general of JEN's Tokyo headquarters, Mr. Noriyuki Shiina, a program officer in JEN's Kabul office, and Mr. Waichi Hoshina, a member of Rissho Kosei-kai's External Relations Department. During their three-week stay in Iraq they will visit Baghdad and Al Basrah. After the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime, JEN believed that the situation in Iraq had entered a new phase, that of rebuilding the country. The social infrastructure of Iraq's cities, such as water-supply systems, were damaged by the American and British military action. JEN will examine the circumstances carefully and launch emergency activities to supply water and assist the refugees. The Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund has already given emergency funds to help JEN start its relief program.
Rissho Kosei-kai Members in Nepal Pray for Peace
On April 8 and 9 Rissho Kosei-kai's Nepali members held peace-prayer ceremonies at Katmandu and Lumbini in Nepal. On April 8, at the Rissho Kosei-kai of Nepal building in Katmandu, 29 members gathered to celebrate the anniversary of the Buddha's birth and to pray for world peace. After reciting the sutra, they read peace prayers forwarded from Rissho Kosei-kai members in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, the United States, and Japan. They also offered prayers for Iraqi war victims. On April 9 at Lumbini, the birthplace of Shakyamuni Buddha, 11 Nepali members held a peace-prayer ceremony. They offered peace messages and folded-paper cranes, which symbolize hopes for peace, to the sacred monument associated with the Buddha. They also made vows to continue their efforts, as Buddhists, for world peace.
Celebrating the Buddha's Birthday
On April 8 a ceremony celebrating the anniversary of Shakyamuni's birth was held at the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters. The ceremony also took place at churches across the country. The observance at the Great Sacred Hall, with 4,200 participants, began with a ritual offering of flowers and candles by 20 members of young women's groups that were on a pilgrimage to the headquarters. President Niwano then led the sutra recitation and offered a dedication prayer. He poured sweet hydrangea tea over the standing image of the newborn Buddha, which was set in front of the image of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni, enshrined as Rissho Kosei-kai's focus of devotion. Then a small boy and girl recited words of admiration for Shakyamuni Buddha. The pair wore the costumes and makeup of ancient Japanese nobles and represented all members' children of the same age. In his address, President Niwano spoke about the legend that the newborn Buddha walked seven steps and cried out in a roar, "I alone am honored, in heaven and on earth." Explaining the meaning behind the words, the president affirmed the preciousness of everyone's life and the importance of realizing, through the Buddha's teaching, the preciousness of all living beings. He emphasized that each of us should celebrate the birth of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni as an opportunity for our own "second birth [awakening to the preciousness of life]," and encouraged all members to renew their vows to further practice the teaching.
IBC Holds a Hana Matsuri
On April 6 the International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) held a special service called Hana Matsuri (Flower Festival) celebrating the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha at the former headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai. Joining the celebration were more than 120 people--Japanese members as well as foreign residents from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Mr. Yitzak Lior, the Israeli ambassador, and Mr. Karunatilaka Amunugama, the Sri Lankan ambassador, were also present. Following introductory remarks by Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai, six students from Hoju Women's Vocational College, wearing saris, poured sweet hydrangea tea over an image of the newborn Buddha, while scattering papers in the shape of legendary mandarava flower petals. After the reading of passages from the Lotus Sutra, Dr. Gene Reeves, international advisor of the IBC, made a speech titled "Joy to the World," in which he stressed the importance of realizing our buddha-nature through respecting others. The IBC provided a booth at the postservice reception to offer people an opportunity to experience a Japanese tea ceremony, do calligraphy, and play a Japanese harp. These activities not only provided occasions for people to learn and practice Buddhist wisdom in English, but helped foreign residents understand Buddhism and Japanese traditions.
International Council of IARF Held in Oxford
On March 27 the International Council of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) met at Harris Manchester College in Oxford. On behalf of Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai and IARF treasurer, Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of the organization's External Relations Department, took part in the council, in which 15 representatives of the member organizations participated. At the council, Rev. Matsubara explained that the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund has supported the Religious Freedom Programmes, which IARF has actively promoted.
WCRP/Japan Holds a Service at the Third World Water Forum
On March 16 seven religionists from the member organizations of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP/Japan) performed a service for world peace and the resolution of the worldwide water crisis. The service took place in the presence of more than 5,700 participants in the third World Water Forum, which was held in the Kyoto International Conference Hall. The forum was sponsored by the World Water Council in several cities in the Kansai region, from March 16 to 23. WCRP/Japan advocates harmony between human beings and the natural environment, and stresses the importance of preserving global ecosystems.
The service opened a session on "Water and Climate." Led by Rev. Gensho Hozumi, a trustee of WCRP/Japan, members representing Christianity, Shinto, and Buddhism appeared in their respective ceremonial costumes, bringing vessels filled with holy water that had been purified through their particular rituals. The representatives poured the water into a vase, symbolizing harmony and unity. Finally, a silent prayer for world peace was offered.
Peace Fund for Iraqi Refugees and Children
On March 20, the executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund urgently announced that it was offering a total of 28.5 million yen to two Japanese NGOs and one international organization in order to promote international relief for Iraqi war victims. Through a report made by two staff members of Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters dispatched to Baghdad a month before, the committee was informed that there was a high possibility that many Iraqi refugees would cross the borders of the neighboring countries if U.S. and U.K. forces began invading Iraq. In addition to this, the committee also recognized the malnutrition of many Iraqi children under a decade-long economic sanction following the UN Security Council resolution of 1990. The committee also saw that the conditions of the handicapped and orphans, who are helpless, together with pregnant women and newborn babies, would worsen if the war became more serious. For these reasons, Rissho Kosei-kai's donation will support the Japan International Volunteer Center and assist medical aid and distribution of blankets to the refugees fleeing to Jordan, and also offer medical care for the pregnant women and babies, as well as food for orphans and those in Iraq who are visually and aurally challenged.
The donation also will support the UNHCR office in taking care of supplying food and water to the refugees in Jordan and also the creation of sanitary health conditions for them. Promoting assistance for psychological care and vocational training programs for Iraqis, it also will support JEN (a multiorganizational NGO) in investigating the current conditions for that purpose.
Rissho Kosei-kai Celebrates Its 65th Anniversary
On March 5 Rissho Kosei-kai celebrated its 65th anniversary at the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo. Some 4,500 members took part in the event, which was relayed by satellite to all the organization's churches throughout Japan, each of which conducted its own ceremony simultaneously. The ceremony in the headquarters opened with an offering of candles and flowers by 20 members of the young women's group. Then President-designate Kosho Niwano led a sutra recitation, and Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai, addressed the members. Referring to the organization's peace activities in the face of the Iraqi crisis, he emphasized the important role that people of faith can play in promoting peace, both in local communities and in the world. Following a testimonial speech by a representative of the members, Rev. William Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, and Rev. Michio Arai, president of the Kyusei Shinkyo religious organization, delivered congratulatory speeches. In his guidance, President Nichiko Niwano spoke about Japan's current prolonged economic depression, during which, he said, it is important to contemplate what the true blessings in our lives are. He then emphasized the need for all of us to respect and pay reverence to every living thing, so that we can realize a world of harmony. During the ceremony, 521 senior members of Rissho Kosei-kai were commended for their many years of distinguished contributions to the organization's development.
UUA President Rev. Sinkford Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On March 4 President Niwano spoke with Rev. William Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and four UUA senior staff members at the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. Ever since Founder Nikkyo Niwano's agreement with Dr. Dana Greeley, the first UUA president, to become partners on the path of peace, Rissho Kosei-kai has maintained a close relationship with the UUA, through interreligious dialogue and cooperation in both the World Conference on Religion and Peace and the International Association for Religious Freedom. President Niwano expressed his thanks to Rev. Sinkford for attending Rissho Kosei-kai's 65th anniversary celebration, scheduled for the following day. Rev. Sinkford said that his visit to Rissho Kosei-kai had enabled him to honor the friendship between Founder Niwano and Dr. Greeley and to renew the partnership between Rissho Kosei-kai and the UUA. The two men also exchanged views on the role and activities of religionists in helping resolve the crises in Iraq and North Korea.
Peace Fund Announces Grants for Fiscal 2002
In March the executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced its grant recipients for fiscal 2002. The sum of 432.58 million Japanese yen, contributed by Rissho Kosei-kai members through the Donate a Meal Campaign, was distributed to 90 projects in Japan and overseas.
Some 153 million yen was appropriated for seven of the organization's joint projects with other groups, such as the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa and an afforestation project in Ethiopia. Another 63.97 million yen was allocated to the organization's independent activities, including the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign, the dispatch of volunteers to countries in need, and five other projects.
The fund divided its aid to other organizations into six categories: general grants, allocations commissioned by the Niwano Peace Foundation, contributions to interreligious cooperation, special grants, grants to support United Nations activities, and emergency relief projects. The fund donated about 213.57 million yen to 76 projects in 34 countries.
The fund contributed some 22.65 million yen to seven emergency relief projects, including the shipment of 20,000 blankets for the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa, aid for displaced Afghans and refugees who had fled to Pakistan after the American and British military action in Afghanistan in October 2001, and support for victims killed in a railway accident in Mozambique in May.
WCRP/Japan Sends Its Fifth Monitoring Team to Afghanistan
On February 23 WCRP/Japan's Refugees Committee sent its fifth monitoring team to Afghanistan for 10 days. The team consisted of Katsuji Suzuki, external relations director of WCRP/Japan, and two other staff members. The trio examined the situation of displaced Afghans in provinces near the Pakistani border. The purpose of the trip was for WCRP/Japan to become better acquainted with Afghanistan's educational situation in order to resume the organization's educational support in the country, support which has been on hold since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The team also visited the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kabul to monitor the UNHCR project to build housing for Afghan returnees, to which WCRP/Japan donated emergency relief last year. With the cooperation of Afghanistan's ministry of education, the UNHCR, and the Jalalabad office of the Shanti Volunteers Association (SVA), the monitoring team investigated the country's eastern provinces, where many returnees from neighboring Pakistan had settled. The team visited 10 schools in these provinces and learned firsthand of the serious shortage of school buildings in the face of increasing numbers of school-age children. At most of the schools they visited they saw the students studying outdoors. Children must endure freezing cold in winter and scorching heat in summer. Even at newly constructed urban schools, which the team also visited, the situation is not satisfactory: the schools are underfurnished with toilets and other facilities. As a result of the trip, the Refugees Committee began discussions about resuming assistance to Afghanistan in cooperation with SVA. The revival of education will be the main axis of the program.
Shinshuren Leaders Pray for Peace at Namtok, Thailand
On February 24 the Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) held a Gathering of Prayer for World Peace at Namtok Sai Yok Noi in Thailand. The meeting demonstrated the Shinshuren's determination to work for world peace and commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the federation's establishment. Forty representatives from eleven Shinshuren member organizations took part in the event; attending on behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai were President Nichiko Niwano, External Relations Director Michio Matsubara, and Youth Division Assistant Director Takanori Kumano.
Namtok is famous as a station on the railway linking Thailand with Myanmar, which was built by the Japanese army during the Second World War. During the construction of this strategic railway, under conditions of severe heat and unremitting toil enforced by the Japanese army, some 20,000 to 30,000 people, many of them Allied prisoners and laborers from Southeast Asian countries as well as Japanese soldiers, lost their lives. It was said that one life was lost for each tie laid. In 1974 the Shinshuren sent to Namtok 31 members of its Youth Division, who constructed a memorial tower and a cenotaph, and held a ceremony to console the spirits of the victims. The prayer gathering took place in front of the memorial tower.
The ceremony began at 9:00 A.M. with a sutra recitation by four Thai Theravada Buddhist monks. Rev. Mitsuhiro Fukata, chairman of the Shinshuren, reviewed the construction of the railway and expressed his wish for consolation of the victims' souls. Then representatives of the Shinshuren unveiled a new cenotaph, before which President Niwano laid a thousand paper cranes, folded by members of the Shinshuren's constituent organizations as an expression of their desire for peace. Then representatives of the Shinshuren's 11 member associations each read words of prayer. The participants renewed their determination to seek the absolute negation of war and to unflaggingly pursue peace.
The Buddha's Entry to Nirvana Observed
On February 15 the anniversary of the Buddha's entrance into nirvana was observed at the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters and at all its churches throughout Japan. This ceremony, which commemorates the death of Shakyamuni in Kushinagara, India, at the age of 80, is one of three major annual Buddhist events, along with the celebrations of the Buddha's birthday and his attainment of buddhahood. The event helps all members contemplate the Buddha's teachings and renew their vows to devote themselves to bodhisattva practice. Some 3,800 members, including those from 70 local churches who made pilgrimages to Tokyo, took part in the ceremony. Forty-six young women members joined in the ritual offering of flowers and lighted candles before the statue of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni; President Nichiko Niwano then led a recitation of the Lotus Sutra. In his subsequent guidance, President Niwano explained the meaning of nirvana and said that the essence of the Buddha's teaching is "to be awakened to the preciousness of all lives." In relation to the Iraqi crisis, Rev. Niwano encouraged us all to reflect on ourselves and to be aware of the hidden drive toward confrontation that exists in each of us. He continued by asserting that the basis of our endeavor for world peace must be the building of peace within each and every one of us.
WCRP/Japan Hosts Symposium on the Global Environment
On February 5 the Development and Environment Commission of WCRP/Japan held a symposium in Heian Jingu Hall in Kyoto. The symposium, supported by Japan's Ministry of the Environment, had as its subject "Water and Life," in anticipation of the third World Water Forum, to be held in March in the Kansai region. Some 230 religionists from WCRP/Japan's member organizations took part.
After a silent prayer by all present, the symposium opened with a talk by Rev. Takeshi Nishida, director of the Ittoen religious organization. Ms. Yukiko Kada, professor at Kyoto Seika University, Rev. Kazuhiro Takai, chief priest of Kifune Shrine, and Rev. Yoshinobu Miyake, president of Konko Church of Kasugaoka made keynote addresses. Ms. Kada outlined the history of human beings' use of water in the Lake Biwa region. Until 1955, she said, the Japanese did not pour sewage into the rivers, and devised methods to keep water clean. She pointed out that the more modern Japan's water system grew, the less aware of water's preciousness the Japanese became. Rev. Takai explained the Japanese people's relationship to water by describing the background of Kifune Shrine, which has the water deity as its object of worship. He stated that the Japanese had a long history of venerating the water deity and that they cherished mountain forests, which functioned as natural reservoirs of life-sustaining water. When our Japanese ancestors cut down a mountain tree, he said, they made an offering to it and planted a sapling in that spot. He urged contemporary Japanese to recall their ancestors' gratitude toward water. Rev. Miyake summarized the rise and fall of past civilizations in terms of their use of water. He recounted an example of an ancient city-state that went to ruin after population growth destroyed its surrounding natural forest. He stressed the need to renew an awareness of water as a limited natural resource. The symposium ended with question-and-answer sessions.
Setsubun Observed to Proclaim Spring
On February 3 Setsubun, the traditional Japanese bean-scattering ceremony, was observed at the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters and at its churches throughout Japan. According to the ancient lunar calendar, that day is the point of separation between winter and spring. Some 3,000 members attended the ceremony at the Great Sacred Hall. After leading the sutra recitation, President Nichiko Niwano delivered guidance to the gathering. He explained the importance of dispelling the three defilements of greed, anger, and ignorance, and of working for world peace. At the subsequent Setsubun ritual, Rev. Niwano and Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman, along with the organization's other officers, scattered roasted soybeans at the hall. This ritual symbolizes the driving out of demons, or evil accumulated during the past year, in order to make a fresh start in the lunar new year and in spring. Prior to the ceremony, President Niwano worshiped at the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle and also held a bean-scattering ceremony there.
Sri Lankan Ambassador Visits Headquarters
On January 28 the Sri Lankan ambassador to Japan, H.E. Mr. Karunatilaka Amunugama, visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo, along with the embassy's second secretary, Mr. Sashikala Premawardhane. They talked informally with President Nichiko Niwano, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman, and two other headquarters officers. Ambassador Amunugama expressed his appreciation for the Japanese religionists who had hosted a conversation with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe when the prime minister visited Japan last December. The ambassador also declared his gratitude to Rissho Kosei-kai, the Japanese Committee of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, and the Japan Buddhist Federation. These organizations had shown support for peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka when they organized a June 2002 joint statement by the prelates of four different sects of Sri Lanka's majority Sinhalese Buddhists. The ambassador said that the prelates' declaration had sent a strong message of peace, not only to Sri Lanka but also to the international community. He emphasized the need for continued efforts to aid the country's reconstruction, both politically and economically, and called for more cooperation from Japanese religionists. President Niwano said that it was his utmost pleasure to be of service to peace in Sri Lanka, and expressed his deep appreciation for the Sri Lankan government's efforts to promote peace in their country. Saying that the aspiration for peace should spread to many more leaders in Sri Lanka, Ambassador Amunugama expressed his hope that President Niwano would have an occasion to visit Sri Lanka.
Portuguese Commentary on the Lotus Sutra Just Published
The Portuguese version of Buddhism for Today, a commentary on the Lotus Sutra by Founder Niwano, has just been published by Cidade Nova, a Christian publisher in Sao Paulo. Father Joao Mira, professor in the Portuguese department of Sophia University in Tokyo, revised the translation by Midori Takahashi, who had begun the work in order to understand her mother's faith in Rissho Kosei-kai's Buddhist teachings. Father Mira worked on the revision from 1991 until 1994; his work was continued by Ricardo Goncalves, former professor in the religious history department of the University of Sao Paulo. Hiromi Matsumura and other leaders of the Brazilian church of Rissho Kosei-kai assisted them in the revision.
Niwano Peace Foundation Supports New Network of Buddhist NGOs in Japan
On January 22 the founding assembly of the Buddhist NGO Network of Japan (BNN) was held in Tokyo. Attending were 50 people, including representatives from 40 Buddhist groups and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Japan that are involved in international cooperation activities. Rev. Kinjiro Niwano, executive director of the Niwano Peace Foundation, and Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's external relations department, also participated. The gathering opened with an address by Rev. Shodo Kobayashi, secretary general of the Japan Buddhist Federation.
In the subsequent question-and-answer session chaired by Rev. Zendo Matsunaga, executive director of the Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA), the structure and aims of the network were explained. Rev. Jintaro Ueda, bishop of the Tokyo diocese of the Anglican-Episcopal Church in Japan, delivered a lecture entitled "The History of Christian NGOs in Japan and Problems in the Age of Globalization." He pointed out that the forces of globalization see the world as a market and view the application of market economics as the highest priority. He warned against the increasing disparity between rich and poor and emphasized the need for NGO activities that will help ensure the diversity of the world's peoples. Such activities, he explained, require compassion, which Buddhism emphasizes in its prescript to respect every sentient being on Earth. He stressed that NGO efforts to improve another country's social environment can also positively affect the NGO workers themselves, as they learn from the receiving country and use their discoveries to improve their own lives and their home societies.
According to the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation, some 300 Japanese NGOs work overseas. The new network was organized over the course of two years, mainly by the Niwano Peace Foundation, the Ayus Network of Buddhist Volunteers on International Cooperation, SVA, the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund, and the Arigatou Foundation. The network aims to promote mutual understanding and cooperation among Japanese Buddhist organizations, and to make more Japanese Buddhists aware of their duty to help solve global problems.
WCRP Women's Board Makes Donation to Relief for Refugees Resident in Japan
The Women's Board of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP/Japan) has offered 500,000 Japanese yen to a joint project promoted by two organizations: the Japan Association for Refugees (JAR), a nonprofit organization, and the Catholic Commission of Japan for Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move, a subsidiary commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan (CBCJ). On January 20 Ms. Yoshiko Izumida, director of the Women's Board of WCRP/Japan and dissemination advisor to Rissho Kosei-kai, presented the donation to representatives of the two organizations in Fumon Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters. The two groups jointly provide legal and social assistance to foreign refugees who have lived in Japan for two years.
The donation will support relief for Afghans who took shelter in Japan after the American and British military action in Afghanistan in October 2001. The number of Afghans living in Japan has increased rapidly. Most of these people, however, are not even recognized as refugees by the Japanese government, and face many problems in the areas of housing, education, health, and job opportunities. In the conversation that followed the presentation, Mr. Norifumi Suzuki, vice-president of the JAR, expressed his hope for continued advocacy for the refugees' rights, and for helping all foreign refugees, including those from Afghanistan, become self-reliant.
Secretary General of the Niwano Peace Foundation Joins an Interreligious Conference in Rome
The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) sponsored an interreligious conference entitled "Spiritual Resources of the Religions for Peace" in Rome on January 16-18. The event brought together 38 participants from 15 countries and 8 religions. Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the PCID, reviewed the Day of Prayer for Peace in the World, which took place in Assisi in January 2002, and explained why the PCID had decided to hold the present conference. He then stated that the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks had caused religious people to recognize the urgency of promoting interreligious dialogues and activities for peace. Participants explored their respective scriptures and traditions, and agreed on the need to examine scriptural passages that have often been misinterpreted or manipulated to foster violence. At the invitation of the PCID, Mr. Shinichi Noguchi, secretary general of the Niwano Peace Foundation, spoke about Founder Niwano's notion of peace, which was derived from the Lotus Sutra, and his approach to world peace as a Buddhist. He went on to explain the originating spirit and activity of the Niwano Peace Foundation, which was established by Founder Niwano. He also announced a plan to sponsor a conference in Japan; invitations are to be extended to the recipients of the Niwano Peace Prize from the Middle East, Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, the Korean peninsula, and Mexico, in an attempt to find the keys to conflict resolution and reconciliation in those regions.
Peace Fund Announces Grant Plans for Fiscal 2003
In January the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced its fiscal 2003 grants program. This year 462.062 million Japanese yen will be distributed to diverse peace projects in Japan and abroad, including Rissho Kosei-kai's joint undertakings with other organizations, Rissho Kosei-kai's independent projects, financial assistance for other organizations' peace activities, and emergency relief projects. The grants are supported by the Donate a Meal Campaign, one of the organization's peace efforts. Rissho Kosei-kai members are active participants in this campaign, which helps those who suffer from hunger and victims of conflicts and natural disasters around the world. The Executive Committee has applied donations to various peace projects, hoping to establish the spirit of "One Buddha Vehicle" in the world. This year the grants will be allocated to the following projects: 106 million yen for eight joint ventures with other groups, such as the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa and a project to develop and promote Buddhism in Cambodia; 146.762 million yen for nine independent activities, including the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign--now in its fifth year--and the Rissho Kosei-kai Global Volunteers. The remaining 209.3 million yen will be divided into general grants, contributions to interreligious cooperation, special grants, grants to support UN activities, grants commissioned by the Niwano Peace Foundation, emergency aid for natural disasters, and emergency funds, which are to be applied to peace activities at home and abroad after full deliberation by the committee.
President Delivers First Sermon of 2003
On January 7 a ceremony marking the president's first sermon of the year was observed at the Great Sacred Hall in the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters complex in Tokyo. Some 5,800 members joined the ceremony, which began with music played by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. Young women members of the Tokyo District offered flowers and lit candles, and Rev. Kosho Niwano, president-designate, led the sutra recitation. Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman, delivered an address emphasizing the importance of having faith during the wild days the world is currently experiencing. In his New Year's sermon, President Nichiko Niwano indicated the two words gassho (putting palms together) and raihai (reverence), which he had handwritten in traditional Japanese calligraphy on two hanging scrolls displayed in the hall. He delivered religious guidance for the new year to the members, saying that we can build a world of harmony by putting our palms together in reverence to each other. All Rissho Kosei-kai churches throughout Japan held similar ceremonies; the ceremony held at the Great Sacred Hall was relayed via satellite to all of them.
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