Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra Gives Regular Concert
On December 17, 2005, the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra (TOKWO) gave its 87th regular concert in the main hall of the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space under the title "Jazzy Winds, Vol. 2." Mr. Ichiro Saito appeared as a guest conductor with Mr. Nobuya Sugawa as concertmaster. The concert offered a fusion of classical music and jazz. TOKWO performed Duke Ellington's jazz band adaptation of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. It was TOKWO's first public performance of a piece in the style of the Big Band era.
In collaboration with a variety of performers, including guitarist Kazumi Watanabe, TOKWO also played Count Basie's One O'clock Jump and other works from BCM International, a consortium of four American composers. For encores, TOKWO played In the Mood and Moonlight Serenade to the applause of an audience of more than 1,100.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Announces Grant Recipients for Third Term of Fiscal 2005
In December the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced the grant recipients for the third term of fiscal 2005. The sum of 3,692,400 Japanese yen was allocated to two projects. The executive committee allocates funds for joint projects with other organizations, independent projects, aid grants, and emergency aid. In this third term, one project was selected from the category of joint projects with other organizations. The fund donated 1,366,000 Japanese yen to the Banyan Home Foundation, based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. At its facility, the foundation cares for orphans infected with AIDS by their mothers. The foundation also promotes the children's self-reliance by sending them to local schools and offering them vocational training. Another project was selected from the category of aid grants. The fund donated 2,326,400 Japanese yen to the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), based in Geneva. The contribution will be utilized to promote the "Reaching Critical Will" project, which is the WILPF's disarmament program. Ms. Marii Hasegawa, recipient of the 13th Niwano Peace Prize in 1996, was a former president of the WILPF's United States Section.
Japanese Association of Religious Organizations Organizes Its Second Symposium on Bioethics and Religion
On November 30 the Japanese Association of Religious Organizations (JAORO) held its second symposium on bioethics and religion at Tsukiji Hongwanji temple in Tokyo. Some 150 religionists of five member organizations of JAORO, such as Kyoha Shinto Rengokai (a sectarian Shinto association), the Japan Buddhist Federation, the Japan Confederation of Christian Churches, Jinja Honcho (Association of Shinto Shrines), and Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan), took part. Rev. Katsumasa Imai, director of the Chuo Academic Institute, affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai, joined the symposium as a panelist.
In 1997, 34 Japanese religious organizations made a joint "Appeal from Religionists" in which they urged national lawmakers to carefully consider arguments against the legalization of brain death as the end of a human life. Eight years have passed since the Organ Transplant Law was passed by the Diet's upper house. Recently in Japan's parliament, drafts to revise the Organ Transplant Law have been discussed, and the law has aroused public debate on various points. JAORO has worried that there has been too little discussion of brain death and organ transplants for the molding of public opinion.
The November symposium was chaired by Prof. Susumu Shimazono of the University of Tokyo, and included six panelists: Prof. Yoshihiko Komatsu of the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, Professor Emeritus Kiyoshi Aoki of Sophia University, Rev. Tatsuo Imaoka of the Jodo Shu Research Institute, Rev. Yasushi Saito of Oomoto, Rev. Kodo Takeuchi of the Research Center for Soto Zen Buddhism, and Rev. Katsumasa Imai of Rissho Kosei-kai.
Shinshuren Hosts Lecture on Japanese Religious Consciousness
On November 29 the Shinshuren's Society for the Study of Interreligious Cooperation (Rev. Shigeru Idei, president of Shuyodan Hosei-kai, chairman) held its 67th general meeting, in which 20 members took part. The society holds general meetings several times a year to study current religious issues. At the November meeting Professor Kenji Ishii of Kokugakuin University, Tokyo, lectured on the theme "The Religious Consciousness and Religious Activities of the Japanese: Results of Research." Referring to such topics as "the changing phase of religiosity," "the decline in religious consciousness," and "the influence of the mass media," he spoke about some of the results of his research on the general public's attitude toward religion and religious organizations. He also discussed the problem of prejudice influencing the media's control of information about religion.
Niwano Peace Foundation Allocates Activity Grants in Second Half of Fiscal 2005
In November the Niwano Peace Foundation announced grant recipients for the second half of fiscal 2005. The foundation allocated 6 million Japanese yen as activity grants to nine organizations. The goal of the grants program is to help build world peace and harmonious coexistence by encouraging individuals or groups involved in research or social activities based on a religious spirit. During the period of application, July 1 to August 31, the foundation received 79 applications from organizations both in Japan and abroad.
The amounts and recipients are as follows: 800,000 yen to the Jumma Net in Tokyo to pursue sustainable rural development projects for the indigenous people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh; 800,000 yen to the Catholic Institute for International Relations in the United Kingdom to support faith-based and civil organizations for peace and justice in Southeast Asia; 600,000 yen to the Mulindi/Japan One Love Project in Japan to train Rwandan prosthetists in Rwanda; 800,000 yen to the European Project for Interreligious Learning in Switzerland, which offers unique training in conducting interreligious dialogue in the multicultural and multireligious countries of Europe; 500,000 yen to the Pacific Asia Resource Center in Tokyo to support women in the fishing villages near Jaffna, Sri Lanka, through its income-generation projects for victims of the tsunami of December 2004; 700,000 yen to the Community-based Development Initiatives Center in Nagoya, Japan, to operate rural development projects in Bazar Tete, East Timor; 500,000 yen to the NCC Center for the Study of Japanese Religions in Tokyo to hold its Interreligious Studies in Japan Program for the study of Japanese religions and to provide opportunities for interreligious dialogue; 500,000 yen to Tondeike, Kurumaisu-no-kai (Go! Fly! Wheelchairs) in Sapporo, Japan, to train Vietnamese in Vietnam in the repair of wheelchairs; 800,000 yen to the Shapla Neer, Citizens' Committee in Japan for Overseas Support in Tokyo to promote its support program of rural development for victims of the 2004 tsunami in the village of Norshingdi, Bangladesh.
Ninety-ninth Birthday of Founder Niwano Celebrated
On November 15, Rissho Kosei-kai celebrated Founder Nikkyo Niwano's 99th birthday in Fumon Hall at the Tokyo headquarters and at all churches throughout Japan. In Fumon Hall, about 4,700 members gathered from throughout the country, and the ceremony was broadcast to all the churches by satellite TV.
Forty young women members from various dissemination areas made offerings to the Buddha, followed by sutra chanting led by Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of the board of directors of Rissho Kosei-kai. Then a young member representing other members from all the churches told what she had learned through Rissho Kosei-kai youth fellowship. Next, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, gave a sermon on the teachings.
Referring to Zen Master Dogen's acknowledgment of Shakyamuni Buddha as a benevolent father and great teacher, President Niwano said that we have received Shakyamuni's teachings through Founder Niwano just as Dogen did through his teacher, Zen Master Rujing. President Niwano explained that what matters most for Buddhists is their acceptance of Shakyamuni Buddha as their sole teacher. He also mentioned the Lotus Sutra's teaching that bodhisattvas are born in this world with the wish to relieve other people's sufferings. He added that members are saved the moment they are filled with the bodhisattva spirit of desiring to save others.
Shinshuren Youth Association Members Visit Europe on Pilgrimage for Peace
During November 7-15, six members of the Youth League of Shinshuren, including its Standing Committee, visited Poland and Switzerland on a pilgrimage for peace. In Poland they visited the site of the concentration camp at Auschwitz, where they saw the gas chambers and the Wall of Death and various buildings that have been preserved as reminders of Nazi atrocities. During World War II, 1.5 million people, among them a great number of Jews, were killed in the camp, the largest in the Third Reich. They were systematically tortured and then gassed. At the Wall of Death several thousand people, most of them Polish political prisoners, were shot by SS troops. The members of the pilgrimage group prayed for the victims before a cenotaph in the camp.
They then went to Geneva, Switzerland, where they took part in the Youth Inter-faith Forum. This was held as part of the Geneva Inter-religious Weekend, organized jointly by the World Council of Churches and the Geneva Inter-religious Platform. Some one hundred religious youths, mainly from Europe and the Middle East, participated in the event, which aimed at promoting interfaith dialogue. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, Mr. Yasutomo Sawahata, the organization's representative in Geneva, took part.
During the forum Rev. Michiomi Rikihisa, chairman of the Youth League of Shinshuren, spoke to the participants about the association's activities. Describing the memorial service for Japan's war dead and world peace that Shinshuren holds annually on August 14 at Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery in Tokyo, he reported that adherents of Shinshuren member organizations throughout Japan made about 200,000 paper cranes for this year's service. He explained that in Japan paper cranes symbolize a desire for world peace and human happiness.
The forum participants then learned how to fold paper cranes and made some themselves. After that, at an interfaith service in Saint Peter's Cathedral, the participants received the paper cranes they had made as well as those made by Shinshuren members for this year's memorial service at Chidorigafuchi. At the end of the interfaith celebration, the participants gathered in the courtyard of the cathedral and made a bonfire of the paper cranes, following a traditional Japanese ritual, and prayed for the purification of their hearts and minds and for divine protection of their work for peace.
Rissho Kosei-kai Announces Results of Fund-Raising Campaign for UNICEF
In November, the Youth Division of Rissho Kosei-kai announced that a total of 88,519,209 Japanese yen had been donated by members and well-wishers through the organization's fund-raising campaign for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Members of Rissho Kosei-kai churches throughout Japan were actively involved in the campaign, which started at the beginning of October 2004 and ended in October of this year. This year the Buddhist organization also continued its special fund-raising campaign, begun last year, to help children in Afghanistan. Members carried out the fund-raising campaign energetically , especially on Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Day in May, and also engaged wholeheartedly in local activities to promote the aims of the campaign among ordinary citizens in their local communities.
Rissho Kosei-kai's fund-raising campaign for UNICEF began in 1979, which the U.N. General Assembly declared the International Year of the Child. The total amount of private contributions collected by Rissho Kosei-kai over 25 years has reached more than 6 billion yen and has been utilized to support children in more than 60 countries. All the donations collected as of October are to be transferred to UNICEF headquarters in New York to be used for the various projects specified by the fund-raiser. Rissho Kosei-kai has designated certain UNICEF projects for improving the education of children in the Philippines, India, Myanmar, Laos, Afghanistan, and Cambodia. In the rehabilitation conducted in Afghanistan after its civil war, Rissho Kosei-kai members' contribution is to be utilized for activities to offer every Afghan child the opportunity to receive an education.
Religious Youths Convene Preparatory Meetings for WCRP VIII in Cordoba, Argentina, and New York
Under the auspices of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP), international gatherings for religious youths were held in New York and Cordoba, Argentina. These were preparatory meetings for the World Youth Assembly to be held in Hiroshima and Kyoto prior to the eighth world assembly of WCRP in Kyoto in August 2006. As representatives of the host country for WCRP VIII, Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, vice-chairman of the WCRP's international youth committee as well as director of Rissho Kosei-kai's youth division, Rev. Michito Miyake, chairman of the Youth Board of WCRP/Japan, along with Rev. Yoshitaka Hatakeyama, acting secretary-general of WCRP/Japan, participated in both gatherings.
On November 1, under the theme "Religious Youth for Peace: Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security," the Summit of North American Religious Youth Leaders was convened at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York. The participants included 57 youths from various religious organizations and departments of colleges in the United States and Canada. After opening remarks delivered by Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, vice moderator of WCRP, Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, a special assistant to the WCRP secretary-general, outlined at Plenary Session I the structure and mechanism of WCRP as well as unique role of religious youth leaders in the WCRP's activities. Violence was a main topic of Plenary Session II. Two presenters described various kinds of violence that have plagued North America and referred to past great exponents of nonviolence, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, who also encouraged interreligious cooperation. During the sessions, the participants divided into five working groups to discuss the roots of violence and possible solutions. Some groups pointed out that violence is often rooted in discrimination, while other groups pointed to oppression, ignorance, apathy, or a lack of spirituality. After Plenary Session III, the participants confirmed the importance of education and interaction beyond the boundaries of the various sects and religions to solve problems. In closing the summit meeting, the participants arrived at a consensus on building the North American Inter-religious Youth Network, which will select the representative participants in WCRP VIII and develop educational programs for youths in cooperation with the WCRP.
On November 4-6, an interreligious youth assembly was convened at a hotel in Cordoba, Argentina, with the assistance of the Interreligious Committee for Peace of Cordoba (COMIPAZ). Some 73 religious youth leaders from 12 countries took part. Mr. Elias Szczytnicki, a coordinator for the Latin American region of WCRP, opened the assembly with his greetings. The representatives of the participating organizations, including various religious groups and sects, explored the roots of violence prevailing in their regions in the following seven sessions. Many pointed out poverty as the root of violence, and they described the some of the consequences of poverty, such as discrimination, violence, drug abuse, and HIV/AIDS infection. Each presenter discussed religious education for young people and the humanitarian aid their organizations have conducted. The participants became more aware of the need for the cooperation among religious youths of different faiths and for concrete action to solve problems through education programs and the mass media. They also discussed the possibility of working to overcome the political and social problems they had discussed.
In the presentation by Japanese participants, the youth board of WCRP/Japan explained its activities in Japan. In his speech, Rev. Koichi Matsumoto said, "I am convinced that religion, that is, human wisdom, can lead to the solution of the various problems of the world today." He concluded, "The association and concrete actions of our young people and other members will surely contribute to world peace."
In the closing ceremony, the participants agreed to create a network of religious youths to solve the problems of violent conflict and poverty. They then also agreed to choose carefully screened representative delegations for WCRP VIII in Kyoto in 2006.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Makes Further Donation for Relief of Earthquake Victims in Pakistan
On November 4 the executive committee of Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund, headed by Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of the Buddhist organization's External Affairs Department, announced the additional donation of 3 million Japanese yen for the relief of victims of the earthquake in northern Pakistan.
In the three weeks after the earthquake on October 8, it was reported that the death toll in both Pakistan and India exceeded 50,000. The Pakistani government put the number of injured at more than 70,000. There are still some areas from where the Pakistani authorities have not had any official reports on the earthquake's impact, so the total number of the dead is not yet known.
The executive committee decided to donate 2 million Japanese yen for relief activities by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Pakistan. This UN refugee agency has worked for 25 years in Pakistan caring for Afghan refugees. When the earthquake struck, the agency immediately started distributing tents for 100,000 families of earthquake victims, including Afghan refugees, and other necessities, including blankets, which were kept in the agency's Pakistan warehouses. The agency also aims to set up a secure camp environment and distribute relief supplies of daily necessities for around 1.4 million of those made homeless by the earthquake.
Other recipients of the donation are Shinshuren and the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace. Five hundred thousand yen was donated to the two organizations. As of November 4 a total of 10 million Japanese yen was donated from the Peace Fund to the above-mentioned three organizations and JEN, a multiorganizational NGO, for relief of the victims of the Pakistani earthquake.
Rissho Kosei-kai Joins Annual Week of Prayer for World Peace
A Week of Prayer for World Peace (WPWP) was observed around the world October 23-30. Nineteen years have passed since Rissho Kosei-kai joined the program, in which people of different religions pray together for world peace wherever they are. At the Tokyo headquarters, local churches, and homes, members of Rissho Kosei-kai recited a Prayer for World Peace to renew their commitment to concrete actions for world peace. Before chanting the Lotus Sutra in the morning, members read aloud a note on the significance and purpose of the week of prayer and then recited the prayer, which consists of seven petitions based on different themes.
A variety of multireligious gatherings were also held throughout Japan by Rissho Kosei-kai members and people of other religions in their local areas so that they could offer peace prayers beyond differences of sects and religions.
On October 28, members of the Hiroshima Church of Rissho Kosei-kai joined a prayer service at the Memorial Cathedral for World Peace of the Noboricho Catholic Church in Hiroshima. The cathedral, destroyed by an atomic bomb in the Second World War, was rebuilt after the war to commemorate the atomic bomb victims and console their spirits. Members attended the prayer service and recited together the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi and the Prayer for World Peace.
On October 23, in London, the executive committee of the WPWP held an interfaith prayer gathering at the Fo Guang Temple. About 300 adherents of Bah'aism, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism took part. Ms. Tomoko Hirota, a representative of Rissho Kosei-kai of the U.K., and Mr. John Gisbey, a trustee of Rissho Kosei-kai of the U.K., were present and offered prayers on behalf of all Buddhists assembled there.
IARF and IALRW Cosponsor Lecture on Religious Pluralism
The Japan chapter of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) and of the International Association of Liberal Religious Women (IALRW) cosponsored a lecture at the Kosei Library in Tokyo on October 29. Some ninety people attended. The event was highlighted by a lecture on religious pluralism by Professor Hiromasa Mase, head of the graduate program at the Tohoku University of Community Service and Sciences in Yamagata Prefecture. Emphasizing the importance of recognizing that the lives of all people are interdependent and of accepting the diversity of religions, Professor Mase said a genuine spirit of tolerance can be cultivated when we come to share awareness of coexistence and symbiosis with all others.
International Buddhist Congregation of Rissho Kosei-kai Holds Public Seminar on Lay Buddhism
On October 29, the International Buddhist Congregation of Rissho Kosei-kai invited Dr. Gene Reeves, its international advisor, to hold a public seminar in Tokyo at the Joen-ji temple of the Nichiren sect of Japanese Buddhism. Some fifty people took part, including foreign residents in Japan from the U.S.A, Germany, and Britain. For two hours on the evening of the seminar, Dr. Reeves lectured on the special characteristics of lay Buddhism.
South Korean, Chinese, and Japanese Buddhist Leaders Hold Eighth Conference in Busan, South Korea
On October 24-25, the Eighth South Korea-China-Japan Buddhist Friendly Interaction Conference was held in South Korea under the auspices of an association of Korean Buddhists. Some 500 Buddhists from three countries, including leading priests representing various Buddhist sects and their lay followers, took part in the conference to strengthen their ties among three nations for the sake of the Buddhist truth. Rissho Kosei-kai sent a delegation of 14 members, including Rev. Norio Sakai, its honorary executive board member, and Rev. Ken'ichiro Nakamura, head of its Kyoto Church. Twenty members of Korean Rissho Kosei-kai, a sister organization of Japan's Rissho Kosei-kai, also attended the conference.
The conference was held in a hotel in Busan on October 24. On the following day a special Buddhist ceremony of prayer for world peace was held at Pomosa temple in Busan. After the delivery of a plea for peace, a joint invocation for peace was read out. Rev. Beop Deung, vice-president of the association, said he hoped their prayers for conflict resolution in various parts of the world would demonstrate Buddhist solidarity and wisdom to people in contemporary society who have gone astray in antagonism and discord.
In the afternoon of the same day, the participants met again at a hotel in Busan to join for an international seminar. At the seminar, three Buddhist representatives from three countries made keynote addresses, and eight participants made supplementary addresses.
The annual conference originally began by the late Mr. Zhao Puchu, president of the Buddhist Association of China. By applying the spirit of Mahayana Buddhism, Buddhists in three-neighboring East Asian countries would confirm their mission and future activities at the annual conference dedicated to the common goal of world peace.
Peace Fund Supports Earthquake Victims in Pakistan
On October 21 the executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced an additional donation of 5 million Japanese yen for JEN's relief activities in Bhag for victims of the earthquake in northern Pakistan on October 8. Bhag is a mountain village about 100 km northeast of Islamabad.
The committee had already donated 2 million yen on October 9. The money was entrusted to JEN, a multiorganizational NGO of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a member. The first portion of the donation was used for a fact-finding tour by JEN to ascertain victims' needs as well as to plan its own emergency relief.
According to a report by JEN, its headquarters in Tokyo dispatched Mr. Cyril Cappai, director of its overseas department, and several staff members to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, on October 9. Mr. Kiyotaka Tamari, head of the JEN Kabul office in Afghanistan, also visited devastated areas in Pakistan to set up its support program for the victims in Bhag.
With a magnitude of 7.7, the earthquake was one of the strongest in Pakistan's history, and the region hit hardest was along the border with Kashmir. Many people also lost their lives in neighboring India and Afghanistan. Even in and around Bhag, 90 percent of the villagers' houses were flattened, and it was reported that more than 10,000 people lost their lives. JEN learned that the area was isolated because of landslides closing the access roads. JEN plans to start the delivery and distribution of 2,000 family tents, blankets, and relief supplies. Rissho Kosei-kai's additional donation would be utilized for the empowerment of the JEN's relief activities there.
WASBE President Meets Chairman Yamanoi
On October 16, the president of the Singapore chapter of the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE), Dr. Lee Tian Tee, visited Rissho Kosei-kai Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi at the organization's administration building in Tokyo. The Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra (TOKWO), affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai, was invited to give a performance at WASBE's 12th international conference, held in Singapore in July, hosted by its Singapore chapter. Dr. Lee expressed gratitude to Rev. Yamanoi for the wind orchestra's great contribution to the success of the WASBE conference. He also praised the internationally acclaimed high level of musicianship, and proposed the establishment of a music clinic for children in Southeast Asia and the Pacific-rim area. Chairman Yamanoi mentioned the importance of meeting and knowing each other through music at the international level. Referring to the fact that the All Japan Band Competition has been held at Rissho Kosei-kai's Fumon Hall every year, he said that music is food for young people's spiritual growth.
New Projects of South Asia Program Will Begin in India and Sri Lanka in 2006
The Niwano Peace Foundation decided on India and Sri Lanka as the venues in which a new aid project for 2006 will be implemented as part of its South Asia Program. Sri Lanka was chosen for the first time for projects. Advisory committee meetings for the South Asia Program were held recently in Delhi and Colombo, at which Mr. Shin'ichi Noguchi, executive director of the Niwano Peace Foundation (participating only in Colombo), Mr. Tadashi Takatani, secretary-general, and Professor Masaaki Ohashi of Tokyo's Keisen University, who acts as an advisor to the program, took part, together with members of local advisory committees. The participants in the meetings discussed annual themes for 2006. They chose "Marginalized Group" as the theme for projects in India and "IDPs [Internal Displaced Persons] and Human Resource Development" for projects in Sri Lanka.
"Marginalized Group" in India refers to women, people of lower castes, the physically and mentally challenged, and other socially disadvantaged people, or groups of people living in harsh social conditions because of persisting discrimination against them and the inadequacy of social systems to ameliorate the situation. In cooperation with local NGOs, the advisory committee aims to improve the social status of these people and defend their human rights.
The project in Sri Lanka aims to support people forced from their homes by a twenty-year civil war between the government and the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). According to a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in May, 350,000 people lost their homes during the civil war. While the damage caused by the tsunami on December 26 of last year attracted wide media coverage and victims received aid from within Sri Lanka as well as from overseas, war-ravaged Sri Lankan villagers have been forgotten, and for most there was no way for them to return to their homes. It was against such a social backdrop that the advisory committee chose the theme "IDPs and Human Resource Development" for the Sri Lanka project. In both countries, the screening of local NGOs will take place soon, and on the basis of the screenings, some NGOs will be chosen as partners in the South Asia Program, whose activities the Niwano Peace Foundation will begin to support.
The operating funds of the South Asia Program come from Rissho Kosei-kai's Peace Fund, whose executive committee entrusts the program's management to the foundation.
WCRP Outlines Eighth World Assembly
On October 5, the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) outlined plans for its eighth world assembly, to be held in Kyoto in August 2006. The plans were reported at the 88th meeting of its board of directors as well as at the 85th meeting of councilors of the Japanese Committee of the WCRP, held at Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto.
At the beginning of the October 5th meeting, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, as president of WCRP/Japan as well as of the organizing committee for the eighth assembly, said, "There are now almost ten months left before the next world assembly. We would like to endeavor to join hand in hand with one another to hold a fruitful conference 36 years after the first world assembly was held here in Kyoto."
Under the main theme, "Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security," the assembly is to convene August 26-29 at the Kyoto International Conference Hall. An estimated 500 senior religious leaders from 80 countries around the world are expected to take part. At plenary sessions and commission sessions, the leaders will discuss the advancing of shared security through conflict transformation, peace building, sustainable development, and the mobilizing of action for shared security.
Prior to the world assembly, youth conferences are to be held in Indonesia, the Americas, the Middle East, and Europe. In Japan, a summit of Japanese religious youths is to be held in Tokyo on January 24-25. During August 21-25, a world summit of youth religious leaders will be convened in Hiroshima and Kyoto. Some 300 religious youth leaders will join the four plenary sessions besides the special programs held in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. A women's assembly also will be held August 24-25 at the Kyoto International Conference Hall.
At the eighth assembly, one of the main focuses will be further development of the inter-religious councils (IRCs) that were organized in 57 countries around the world with the support of the WCRP. The participating senior religious leaders also will discuss the topics of conflicts, religious extremism, arms proliferation, and environmental degradation and disaster.
Anniversary of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's Entrance into Nirvana Commemorated
On October 4, at the Tokyo headquarters and churches throughout Japan, Rissho Kosei-kai observed the sixth anniversary of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's entrance into nirvana. In Tokyo, ceremonies took place in Fumon Hall and at the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle dedicated to the Founder. About 4,000 members taking part in the ceremony in Fumon Hall recalled the Founder's virtues and renewed their sense of gratitude for his compassion as well as feelings of adoration and praise of him. The ceremony was relayed by satellite television to all Rissho Kosei-kai churches in Japan.
The ceremony in Fumon Hall was preceded by the ritual of opening the door of the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle, where the Founder's relics are enshrined. President Nichiko Niwano opened the door as many members stood praying nearby. Then President and Mrs. Niwano and Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi offered flowers at the altar before the stupa.
At the ceremony in Fumon Hall, preceded by music performed by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra, 40 young women members representing their dissemination districts offered noted products from many parts of the nation at the altar before the image of the Eternal Buddha. A brief period was arranged for the participants to commune silently with the spirit of the late Founder as a video screen displayed scenes from films of him preaching the Dharma or strolling in his home village, while a recording was played of his chanting the Lotus Sutra. During these moments of spiritual communion with the Founder and at 10:34 a.m., the exact time of his passing, members meditated on their gratitude for the Dharma and renewed their dedication to practice of its teachings. The chairman led chanting of the sutra, after which the president read out of a message of gratitude and praise for the Founder's achievements.
Then Chairman Yamanoi addressed members on the preparations for celebrating the centenary of the Founder's birth in 2006. He said one of the undertakings is a compilation of his teachings and that members from all over Japan have contributed more than 8,900 letters conveying their thoughts and emotions about the Founder and his teachings, which headquarters staffs have referred to for the compilation.
President Niwano then spoke to members on Buddhism's fundamental teaching of the impermanence of all things. He said it is important to see all things and events in the light of the Dharma. He said the Founder thought of all people as the Buddha's children and led them by broad-minded preaching of the Dharma. He added that the establishment of the World Conference of Religions for Peace was made possible only by the Founder's promotion of new concepts with the teaching of the One Vehicle in the spirit of lay Buddhism. Finally, President Niwano encouraged members' spiritual progress by saying that we can learn new lessons and teachings one after another through selfless struggle to follow the Dharma with the aspiration for perfect enlightenment.
Perfect Weather for Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival
On October 2, the Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival was held at Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo and the surrounding area. From the Tokyo District as well as from branch churches throughout the nation, 5,621 members gathered for the annual festivity. In the spirit of "Each Person's One Vehicle, Big-heartedness, and Grand Dream," the festival's purpose is to celebrate the virtuous deeds of the 13th-century Japanese priest Nichiren, who disseminated the Lotus Sutra in the face of severe persecution. The festival is also an opportunity for members to express respect and admiration for the late Founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, and rededicate themselves to further dissemination of the Lotus Sutra and application of the bodhisattva practice in daily life.
After the opening ceremony in Fumon Hall, contingents from the Tokyo District started marching from the organization's former headquarters. They paraded with mando (portable lighted pagodas) to the delight of some 54,000 spectators lining the streets. This year the parade detoured around the Haramitsu Bridge because of the renovation of the Great Sacred Hall. Members from two dissemination districts and 26 churches in other parts of Japan also joined this year's festival with a great show of enthusiasm. A joint brass band from Kosei-gakuen high and junior schools for boys and girls enlivened the colorful pageantry.
In the closing ceremony, President Nichiko Niwano praised the participants, saying, "I've drawn great strength from this energetic parade in which so many members have taken part, and I will continue my devotion to religious work as we approach the centennial of the Founder's birth next year."
BCYCC Members Visit Rissho Kosei-kai
From September 29 to October 6, 21 members of a goodwill mission from the Bataan Christian Youth Civic Circle (BCYCC), based in Bataan Province, the Philippines, visited Japan. BCYCC is a self-help organization in the province. The relationship between Rissho Kosei-kai and the BCYCC dates back to the 1970s, when young Japanese from Rissho Kosei-kai and Filipinos built the Friendship Tower together in Bataan. Some of the young Filipinos who worked on the project went on to found the BCYCC. A number of the founding members joined this year's goodwill mission to Japan.
On October 1 the Filipinos toured the facilities of Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters and had a talk with President Niwano in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. Rev. Keiji Kunitomi and Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, the Buddhist organization's department directors, were also present. During the meeting, Mrs. Anna Banzon Tuazon, a BCYCC former president and now head of the Foundation of Bataan Christian Youth, affiliated with the BCYCC, expressed thanks for the steady financial support from the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund to provide scholarships and pay for construction of the Bataan Library and Museum. She also emphasized the importance of sustaining the BCYCC's work in cooperation with Rissho Kosei-kai. President Niwano expressed his wish that the relationship of trust and friendship between Japan and the Philippines would be further strengthened. He said he treasured the memory of his stay in the home of the governor of Bataan thirty years ago and the relationship of trust fostered by personal contacts with the governor's family.
On October 2 the Filipinos attended the Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival in Tokyo, and on October 3-6 they joined a homestay program sponsored by members of churches in the Chubu districts, where they had an opportunity to see the practice of Buddhism in ordinary people's daily life. On October 4 at various churches they participated in the commemoration of Founder Niwano's Entrance into Nirvana.
International Faith Dissemination Group of Rissho Kosei-kai Starts Publication of Multilingual Newsletter
On October 1, Rissho Kosei-kai's International Faith Dissemination Group released its first multilingual newsletter entitled Shan Zai via the Internet. Shan Zai are Chinese words that Kumarajiva used in the Lotus Sutra. When Shakyamuni praises his followers, he says "Shan Zai, Shan Zai (Excellent! Excellent!)." The group hopes Buddha's blessings will be extended to those all over the world through the newsletter. The group also hopes the monthly newsletter will promote the Dharma by providing guidance from President Nichiko Niwano and useful information, and that the newsletter will build communication between members of Rissho Kosei-kai in Japan and overseas. Each newsletter will be published in three bilingual editions: Japanese and English, Japanese and Korean, and Chinese and English.
Click here to read the first issue of Shan Zai
Shinshuren Holds Seminar on the Environment
On September 27 Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) held a seminar on global environmental problems at its Tokyo headquarters. Ms. Mineko Imaizumi, a researcher of environmental issues living in Germany, lectured on the environmental policies of Germany and how Germans have tackled environmental problems. Some 20 people, including participants in Shinshuren's environmental project, took part. Ms. Imaizumi explained that in Germany, as a result of the extended use of easily recyclable materials for manufactured products and the government's policy of requiring manufacturers to make recyclable packing materials, the amount of trash sent to reclamation sites or incinerator plants has been greatly reduced. She went on to describe other government energy policies, under which Germany has successfully reduced emissions of carbon dioxide. These have included cogeneration, by which industrial facilities use their waste energy to produce heat or electricity; conversion to solar, wind, and geothermal plants; the promotion of mass transit by banning private vehicles from urban areas; and encouraging citizens to set up carpools, to reduce the number of cars in the streets. She also described other unique activities that have proved successful--an "environmental pass" discounting fares for public transport; a department store selling recycled goods; and rebates to public schools for saving electricity. After giving examples of the environmentally friendly lifestyle promoted in Germany, Ms. Imaizumi declared that solving environmental problems requires more than trusting people's sense of responsibility and that it is important to figure out ways to make efforts to protect the environment enjoyable as well as effective.
30th Anniversary of the Donate-a-Meal Campaign
In September Rissho Kosei-kai announced that the Donate-a-Meal Campaign had marked its thirtieth anniversary. The campaign is one of the organization's peace activities inspired by the Buddhist spirit of compassion, prayer, and almsgiving. Members who participate in the campaign forgo a meal each day several times a month and contribute the money saved to the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund through their local churches.
Over thirty years, members have contributed a total of well over 10 billion Japanese yen. Managed by the executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund, the funds have been used to support various peace activities in the fields of environmental protection, rural development, social welfare, protection of human rights, and support for refugees in Asian, African, and European countries.
The campaign was originated by Masakane Inoue, founder of the Misogi-kyo religious organization. It is said that he started a donation campaign during a devastating famine throughout Japan in the Tempo period (1830--44) of the Edo era. After the second world assembly of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP), held in Leuven, Belgium, in 1974, Shoroku Shinto Yamatoyama revived the donation campaign in modern times among member organizations of the WCRP as a way of following up prayer with concrete action. In 1975, Rev. Kinjiro Niwano, then director of the Youth Division of Rissho Kosei-kai, praised the spirit of the donation campaign at a youth conference in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, and the campaign took root as one of the peace activities in the spirit of Buddhism conducted by Rissho Kosei-kai youth members throughout the nation.
Week of Prayer for World Peace Starts October 23
Throughout the world during October 23-30 a multireligious Week of Prayer will be observed. The international network of prayer, in which world religionists pray simultaneously for world peace and human happiness, was set up in 1974. Since then the Week of Prayer has been observed annually beginning on or around October 24, the anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. This year 41 religious organizations-Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, and Jewish-will take part in the event.
Rissho Kosei-kai has been participating in the Week of Prayer for 19 years, since 1986, the UN International Year of Peace. During the week, members will pray every morning for world peace at the Tokyo headquarters, at their churches, and in their homes. This year the daily recitations will include excerpts from sermons by Founder Nikkyo Niwano and President Nichiko Niwano. The prayers will be preceded by a declaration of the spirit and aims of the Week of Prayer, in which leaders of Rissho Kosei-kai will try to arouse members' concern about armed conflicts and terrorist incidents in the world, as well about social problems in Japan, such as the increase in suicides and juvenile crimes. Leaders will also emphasize that prayers for peace should be accompanied by concrete actions. Some local churches also plan to hold multireligious prayers with members of other religious groups, thereby promoting interreligious cooperation at the grass roots.
Emergency Support Given to Victims of Natural Disasters in U.S. and Japan
On September 16 the executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund, headed by Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of the Buddhist organization's External Affairs Department, announced the donation of $50,000 (about 5.5 million Japanese yen) toward the relief of victims of Hurricane Katrina, which in August devastated areas along the Gulf Coast of the United States in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The death toll in New Orleans and surrounding areas is estimated to range from several thousands to more than 10,000. More than a million people were reported evacuated to shelters. Emergency aid and repair work were hampered by damage to infrastructure.
The money is to be distributed to local relief organizations to meet the demands of survivors in the devastated areas through the United States Council of Rissho Kosei-kai, which was established in 2002 by staff members from the Tokyo headquarters and leading members of Rissho Kosei-kai churches in the United States. For the distribution of relief funds, the International Faith Dissemination Group at the Tokyo headquarters will cooperate with Rissho Kosei-kai of New York, whose membership district includes the Southern states damaged by the hurricane.
The committee also donated a total of 5 million Japanese yen to support relief operations for the victims of Typhoon No.14, which hit Japan's Kyushu region in early September. Torrential rains and strong winds caused floods and landslides throughout the Japanese archipelago, especially in Kyushu. Survivors lacked portable water, electricity, and reliable communications. At least 18 persons were confirmed dead and nine were missing. As decided by Rissho Kosei-kai leaders in the membership districts ravaged by the typhoon, the money will be distributed to local relief organizations operating there. One million yen was allotted for relief in the three prefectures of Oita, Kagoshima, and Yamaguchi, and 2 million yen for Miyazaki Prefecture.
19th Peoples and Religions Meeting Held in Lyon, France
The 19th International Meeting: "Peoples and Religions" took place in Lyon, France, during Sept. 11--13. Hosted by the Italian lay Catholic Community of Saint Egidio, the annual meeting is held in different cities in Europe in the spirit of the Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi in 1986, initiated by the late Pope John Paul II. Under the theme "The Courage to Forge a Spiritual Humanism of Peace," some 350 people from 50 countries took part, including religious leaders, politicians, and other civic leaders. Rissho Kosei-kai sent the chairman of its board of directors, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, as its representative.
After the opening assembly on September 11, the participants of various faiths divided into 25 groups for three days of roundtable discussions to forge solidarity and seek common ground for world peace. The themes of the discussions included "Dialogue and the World's Religions Post-9/11," "John Paul II's Spiritual Legacy: The Spirit of Assisi," "Civilization of Coexistence," "The Moslem-Christian Dialogue: Present, and Future Perspectives," and "Children of the World: Between Conflict and Peace."
In his speech during the discussion titled "Japan 60 Years after Hiroshima," Rev. Yamanoi said, "The sixty years of the postwar period have brought about various changes in our society. The number of people who experienced the Second World War is diminishing and growing older. The youth of Japan is a generation who does not know the realities of the horrible results of the atomic bombs." He added, "We (of Rissho Kosei-kai) have renewed our devotion to world peace by acquainting people around the world with the sufferings of atomic bomb survivors so that such bombs will never be used again." As an example of Rissho Kosei-kai's efforts for peace, Rev. Yamanoi referred to the activities of the Hiroshima Religious Cooperation and Peace Center, organized by five Rissho Kosei-kai churches in Hiroshima Prefecture.
On the meeting's final day, the participants separated into groups with others of the same faith to pray for peace according to their own traditions. After that they reunited again in the Gallo-Roman Theater for an interfaith prayer service. At the final ceremony, the participants adopted an appeal for peace, which incorporated the results of the roundtable discussions. The appeal says, "Peace and justice increase the chances for a better world, and dialogue is the path to peace." It adds, "The profound diversity of religions and cultures is now more evident. Although globalized, the world has not become all the same." It concludes by saying, "It is time to work together courageously to forge a spiritual humanism capable of building peace among nations and individuals. The aim is not the triumph of one or the other, but the creation of a civilization where people live together. The art of dialogue is the patient way to build this civilization of coexistence."
Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia Holds Presentation Ceremony of Focus of Devotion to Its Members
On September 11, Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia held a ceremony for conferring the image of the Eternal Buddha (the organization's focus of devotion) on the organization's members at the Delhi Dharma Center in New Delhi, India. Sixty members from India, Nepal, and Bangladesh attended the ceremony at the center, which is operated by Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia.
After the members chanted the sutra, each received an image of the Eternal Buddha, as a focus of faith and devotion, from Rev. Hiroshi Niwano, an emeritus executive board member. He expressed the wish that they would follow bodhisattva practice at home and in their local communities in their homelands.
Forty-eighth Anniversary of Cofounder Naganuma's Death Commemorated
On September 10, the forty-eighth anniversary of Cofounder Myoko Naganuma's death was commemorated at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters and all its churches throughout Japan. Cofounder Naganuma was born in 1889, established Rissho Kosei-kai with Founder Nikkyo Niwano in 1938, and died in 1957. During her lifetime, she guided many people to Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra and was revered by members as a "compassionate mother." The commemoration aimed to help members recall her virtues and achievements and to rededicate themselves to dissemination of the teachings.
Forty-nine hundred members from local churches gathered for the commemoration ceremony in Fumon Hall at the headquarters. After offerings were brought to the altar by forty young women members, a board member of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, led the assembly in sutra chanting. Then President Nichiko Niwano read out a tribute to the cofounder's virtuous achievements. A video on her dedication to the faith was shown to convey how Myoko Naganuma came across with the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and practiced benevolence. Then, a member who had directly received the teachings from Cofounder Naganuma during her lifetime told how he gained religious merit through practice of the faith.
After that, President Niwano made a speech in which he quoted from the Seventeen-Article Constitution drawn up by the sixth-century Japanese statesman Prince Shotoku: "Although others give way to anger, let us on the contrary dread our own faults." Thus he emphasized the importance of asking ourselves whether we are at fault when someone gets angry with us. After observing that the religious practice of members of Rissho Kosei-kai at the time of its founding was the same as that of members today, he suggested that the most direct route to enlightenment is overcoming the ego. Furthermore, he said the primary cause of suffering is the arrogance of never admitting one's faults, and that there can be no true solution for our problems unless we are aware of our self-regard and apologize to others for our faults. Thus, he showed how to resolve quarrels and conflicts.
Rissho Kosei-kai Sends Delegation to 58th Annual DPI/NGO Conference of the United Nations in New York
Under the theme "Our Challenge: Voices for Peace, Partnerships and Renewal," the 58th Annual DPI/NGO Conference was held at the United Nations headquarters in New York September 7--9. Some 698 organizations, including 1,800 civic leaders and representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in 86 countries, took part. Rissho Kosei-kai's delegation included Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, deputy director of the External Affairs Department, and Rev. Koichi Saito, minister of the New York Church.
The DPI/NGO conference is held before the annual opening session of the UN General Assembly. This year, one of the main focuses was confirmation of the process for implementing Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These were adopted in 2001 after the resolution of the Commitment to Global Peace was signed by participants in the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders at UN headquarters in New York in the previous year. Eight MDGs were set for attainment by 2015: (1) eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; (2) achievement of universal primary education; (3) promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women; (4) reduction of infant mortality; (5) improvements in maternal health; (6) conquest of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; (7) guarantee of environmental sustainability; and (8) development of a global partnership for development. In panel and roundtable sessions as well as midday NGO interactive workshops and multi-stakeholder dialogues, the participants had animated exchanges.
Rissho Kosei-kai is a registered organization of the UN's Development of Public Information (DPI) and dispatched a delegation to the annual DPI/NGO conference as an observer. Since this year marked the 30th anniversary of the Donate-a-Meal Campaign, one of Rissho Kosei-kai's peace activities, the organization decided to send a delegation to the conference as official participants to disseminate the spirit of the campaign throughout the world.
In the workshop titled "Human Rights and Dignity for All: Youth Engagement in the Peace Process," Mr. Ichiro Kojima, a member of the Ichikawa Church, spoke as a representative of the executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund. He outlined the Donate-a-Meal Campaign and the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund and explained how money contributed by Rissho Kosei-kai members will be used for economic development and humanitarian aid, contribution to the UN's activities, the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign, and the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa. In concluding, Mr. Kojima said that human happiness depends on people showing compassion to one another, respecting one another's individuality, accepting cultural diversity, and sharing limited natural resources.
Youth Volunteer Team Returns from Philippines
From August 10 through September 9, a team of volunteers from Rissho Kosei-kai's Global Volunteer Leaders (GVL) participated in a project conducted by the Infanta Integrated Community Development and Assistance, Inc. (ICDAI), a nongovernmental organization (NGO) based in the town of Infanta in the province of Quezon, the Philippines. Eight members of GVL, which is a special program for youth members sponsored by Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Division, visited Infanta to help local farmers and their children, who have experienced hardship since devastating typhoons hit their town last year and destroyed crops.
The project, which is conducted by ICDAI and is aided by United Nations agencies, trains local farmers in sustainable agriculture without the use of toxic pesticides and creates reliable sources of food, thus encouraging self-reliance. In June ICDAI started an agricultural rehabilitation program for villagers in the area, called Infanta Chickens, which encourages the raising of poultry. Eight Rissho Kosei-kai members stayed in local residents' homes and worked with them on various ICDAI projects, including Infanta Chickens. The Rissho Kosei-kai members also toured five elementary schools in the area to help distribute food to children.
Rissho Kosei-kai regularly sends youth members abroad as volunteers for independent projects. They take part in projects of local NGOs in Asia and Africa promoting economic development and education, especially for children. This also gives the volunteers an opportunity, as they work with members of local NGOs, to reflect on themselves in the light of the Buddhist teaching of the One-vehicle as taught in the Lotus Sutra.
U.S. Members of Rissho Kosei-kai Pray for Katrina Victims
Katrina, the fifth-largest hurricane in U.S. history, did great damage to the American Southeast, particularly New Orleans. After hearing of the disaster, members of Rissho Kosei-kai's four churches in the U.S. (Hawaii, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York) chanted the sutra and prayed for the relief of the victims, at churches, chapters, and members' houses, from September 2 to 8.
On September 1, when the heads of the four churches discussed what spiritual measures to take, they decided to hold sutra-chanting services in memory of those who died and to pray for the speedy relief and recovery of the survivors.
The New York Church distributed fliers to members calling on them to join in the sutra chanting and prayers and to donate money for the hurricane victims. The New York Church started prayer services on September 2 at the main church and the Chicago chapter, the Boston liaison office, and members' homes. The Los Angeles Church held a sutra-chanting service during the ceremony on Founder Niwano's monthly memorial day, in which fifty members took part. Also, at the Hawaii and San Francisco churches, members prayed and chanted the sutra for the victims' recovery.
From September 2, many victims in Louisiana found refuge in neighboring Texas. Three families have been staying at members' houses in San Antonio. The San Antonio Chapter distributed food and mattresses among them on September 4, and has also been collecting relief goods for the evacuees from people in the community, including clothing and daily necessities.
Members Participate in Campaign to Save Electricity
For three months, beginning in July, Rissho Kosei-kai members actively participated in the second Electricity-diet Movement, a campaign for saving electricity and thereby reducing the emission of carbon dioxide, a major factor in the greenhouse effect. The members took every opportunity in their daily lives to save electricity at home and at branch churches, as well as at their work places. The campaign is the second of its kind and was originally proposed by Shinshuren, the Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan, and first conducted last year. To establish a lifestyle based on the spirit of "knowing satisfaction with little," members across Japan have promoted various unique activities, which in turn have raised members' consciousness of how daily activities affect the global environment. Some Rissho Kosei-kai members even cooperated with people of other Shinshuren member organizations by forming an environmental committee, through which they set an example of earth-conscious lifestyles and encouraged the public to participate in the campaign. At the Kasukabe Church, Saitama Prefecture, half of the light bulbs in the corridors were removed, and lights in the office were kept off during lunch breaks. The air-conditioning was set at 28 degrees Celsius in every room to keep the use of electricity low. Members kept track on a chart the amount of electricity that the church used. They also chose from among themselves electricity-consumption monitors, who tried a variety of ideas to save energy at home and reported the results to the church. Similar activities were also promoted at many other churches. The campaign ended on September 30. The Shinshuren secretariat will collect the data on electricity consumption during the campaign. The result of the campaign will be announced by Shinshuren soon.
Hearing-Impaired Members Join Gathering in Tokyo
On September 3 and 4 Rissho Kosei-kai organized a special program for its hearing-impaired members to make a pilgrimage to its headquarters in Tokyo. One hundred seventy six members, including 60 hearing-impaired persons, joined from 38 branch churches throughout Japan. The participants also included voluntary care-givers, who can communicate in sign language. It was the third such special pilgrimage in a series organized by a special committee, which included hearing-impaired members.
On September 3, after arriving at the Second Group Pilgrimage Hall, the participants moved to Fumon Hall for a reception, at which volunteers from Hachioji Church performed the play "Cinderella" in sign language.
On September 4 the participants attended a meeting in a conference room in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. The meeting opened with sutra recitation led by hearing-impaired members. After watching a video about members who had been especially active in organizing the pilgrimage, the participants heard religious testimony from one member on behalf of all the participants. Representing Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters, Rev. Hiroshi Hasegawa, director of its dissemination department, delivered an address, and as a proxy for Rev. Kosho Niwano, the Buddhist organization's president-designate, Rev. Kyoko Hirano, deputy director of the dissemination department, read out the president-designate's message to hearing-impaired members, which said that the sincerity of their religious devotion would spread among more and more people through the special pilgrimage program.
JEN Celebrates Its Tenth Anniversary
On September 3, JEN celebrated its tenth anniversary at a ward facility in Shinjuku, Tokyo. JEN is Japan's first multiorganizational nongovernmental organization, and Rissho Kosei-kai is a founding member. Some 95 people, including former staff members and supporters of JEN, took part in the celebration. An opening address by Rev. Kenshiro (Keiji) Kunitomi, a director of JEN and the director of the General Secretariat of Rissho Kosei-kai, was followed by congratulatory messages from guests, including Ms. Mieko Osanai, a former president of JEN as well as a board member of Japan Team of Young Human Power (JHP), and Mr. Koji Suzuka, from Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Ms. Keiko Kiyama, JEN's secretary-general, outlined JEN's ten years of activities and expressed gratitude to those present for their support of JEN. She said, "During the ten years of JEN's activities I have learned that every life is equal and precious. We could not have done anything without the initial contributions of the local staff members at the places where JEN launched its supporting activities." She expressed her hope for the future, saying, "We would like to engage in further collaboration not only with our many supporters in Japan but also with local people in the regions where JEN has conducted its activities."
Since its founding in 1994 as the first Japanese multiorganizational NGO, JEN has sought to make ordinary Japanese citizens a visible presence in places of natural disaster and regional conflict, conducting relief activities. According to the report of JEN's secretary-general, JEN has helped almost a million people in various countries throughout the world, including Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, India, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sri Lanka.
WCRP/Japan's Youth Board Holds Summer Camp
On August 27 and 28, the tenth summer camp was held by the Youth Board of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) at the International Conference Center Hiroshima and other sites in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The summer camp's theme was "Road to 2006: Confronting Violence," and 76 religious young people took part, from member organizations of WCRP/Japan.
The eighth world assembly of the WCRP (WCRP VIII) will be held in Kyoto during August 26--29, 2006. Beforehand, the WCRP youth conference, at which religious youth from around the world will gather, will be held in Hiroshima and Kyoto during August 21--25. The 2005 summer camp was planned as an opportunity for religious youth in Japan to discuss global problems and deepen their involvement in WCRP VIII as a step for world peace.
On the first day of the camp, after greetings by Rev. Michito Miyake, chairman of the WCRP/Japan Youth Board, the participants saw a video titled "The Present State and Problems of Interreligious Cooperation in the World: A Case of Uganda in Africa." They learned about the assistance activities that the Inter-Religious Council (IRC) of Uganda initiated in 2001 for HIV patients, orphans, and former child soldiers.
Following that, Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, a special assistant to the WCRP secretary-general, spoke to the participants about the mission of WCRP. Giving examples in Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Iraq, where religious leaders have struggled to make peace through national IRCs, he emphasized the great influence their collaboration has had on governments and citizens. Then the camp participants visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. They also heard testimony from one of the atomic bomb survivors, Setsuko Iwamoto, who belongs to the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation. M At their service of prayers for peace at the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound, they held lighted candles and prayed for world peace.
On the next day, they formed groups to discuss social issues in Japan related to spirituality, education, the dignity of life, and community. Finally, they exchanged opinions about the 2006 WCRP Youth Conference and made a variety of proposals--for instance, on how prayer services for peace and cultural exchange programs should be organized.
Niwano Peace Foundation Allocates Grants in First Half of Fiscal 2005
In August, the Niwano Peace Foundation announced grant recipients for the first half of fiscal 2005. The foundation allocated 5.26 million Japanese yen to eight organizations in activity grants and 1.39 million yen to two individuals in research grants.
The activity grants are as follows: 600,000 yen to the Japan's Aid for War Orphans in Asia (AWOA), which operates a counseling service for children in Afghanistan; 560,000 yen to the Duang Prateep Foundation in Thailand, which helps find jobs for impoverished people living in Thai slums; 600,000 yen to Ms. Masako Tanaka for her project to record the testimony of ordinary residents on regional conflict in Nepal; 700,000 yen to the Japan International Center for the Rights of the Child (JICRC), which evaluates projects to eliminate child trafficking in Cambodia; 800,000 yen to Amnesty International Japan for its program of health checkups for foreigners detained by the Japanese Bureau of Immigration; 700,000 yen to the Development Education Association and Resource Center (DEAR) to hold a forum on religion and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); 600,000 yen to the Asian Foundation to hold workshops on human trafficking; and 700,000 yen to the Nagoya NGO Center to hold a workshop to train staff members of Japanese NGOs.
A total of 1.39 million yen in grants was awarded to two Japanese research fellows: to one fellow for an anthropological study of the development of the Islamic movement in Thailand, and to the other to aid his efforts to mitigate rulings by the International Criminal Court in northern Uganda in ways that bring about pardons and settlements.
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.
Chinese Buddhist Priests Visit Rissho Kosei-kai
On August 18 Rev. Jue Xing, vice president of the Buddhist Association of China, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters and had a talk with Rev. Kinjiro Niwano, emeritus executive board member of Rissho Kosei-kai. Also present were Mr. Zhang Lin, deputy secretary-general of the Buddhist Association of China; Rev. Pu Zhengfa, a member of its board of directors; and Rev. Chi Zhen and Rev. Hui Chan of the China Buddhist Academy. Rev. Jue Xing also visited Rissho Kosei-kai in April. Referring to the friendship between Mr. Zhao Puchu, the late president of the Buddhist Association of China, and Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, the late founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, and the history of exchanges between the two Buddhist organizations, he declared that their relations in the Dharma have been deeper than words can express. He then outlined plans for the World Buddhist Forum, to be held in China next year. Rev. Niwano reported that Rissho Kosei-kai will celebrate the centenary of the Founder's birth and that Rissho Kosei-kai's high school (Kosei Gakuen) has had an exchange with a high school affiliated with Beijing Normal University.
Rissho Kosei-kai Sends Representative to UN Disarmament Conference in Kyoto
During August 17--19 the sixth United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues in Kyoto was held at the Kyoto International Conference Hall. It was organized by the United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs as well as its Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific under the title "The United Nations after Six Decades and Renewed Efforts for the Promotion of Disarmament." It was hosted by the Japanese government and the city of Kyoto. A UN disarmament conference is held each year in a different Japanese city.
At this year's conference, some 60 persons from 19 countries, including representatives of governments, academic institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as well as UN agencies, participated. Rissho Kosei-kai sent Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, deputy director of its External Affairs Department.
The conference addressed reform of the United Nations and challenges in the field of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. Because this was the first international gathering of the UN since the 2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in New York last May, it addressed the various issues arisen from the 2005 Review Conference, especially the institutional improvement of the NPT, its review process, and regional nuclear issues. The conference also took up such matters as illegal trafficking in small arms and light weapons, and education on disarmament and nonproliferation.
On August 19, a symposium was held in the same hall with the participation of some 100 people, including Japanese junior and senior high school students. After the keynote address by Mr. Yasushi Akashi, former under secretary-general of the United Nations, students put questions to the five panelists on the possibility of Japan becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council; Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan, which renounces war; and future prospects for disarmament.
Rissho Kosei-kai Observes the Day of Repose for the Spirits of the War Dead and Prayers for Peace
On August 15, 2005, the 60th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War, annual ceremonies were held for the Day of Repose for the Spirits of the War Dead and Prayers for Peace at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and local churches throughout Japan.
At Fumon Hall at the headquarters, some 3,500 members from the Tokyo District gathered to mourn and pray for the victims of World War II and all other wars. They prayed also that lasting peace would come soon, with the ending of all current wars and conflicts throughout the world.
In the ceremony at Fumon Hall, 109 student members from the Tokyo District offered lighted candles, flowers, toys, sweets, drinks, and paper cranes at the Buddhist altar before the Buddha image, during solemn music performed by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra and Kosei Choir. Following the sutra chanting led by Rev. Hiroshi Hasegawa, director of the Dissemination Department, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, recited a prayer for merit transference and offered at the Buddhist altar a paper crane he had made.
Then a 23-year-old youth member representing all the members offered his comments, referring to peace study tours he had made in Okinawa, South Korea, and Hiroshima while in high school and college. He said he could work best for world peace by firmly accepting the facts of World War II and that he wished to share what he had learned with as many people as possible. He stated that his goal in life is constantly to keep a sense of gratitude and compassion for others. Finally, he pledged to express his gratitude through sensitivity to other people's points of view.
President Niwano emphasized the importance of introspection, during which we should reflect on whether we ourselves are to blame for impeding world peace. Further, he said, we should make the Buddhist virtues of kindness and forbearance part of the fiber of our beings in order to contribute to world peace. Thus, he said, each one of us needs to make further efforts for world peace by understanding the core teachings of Buddhism.
Shinshuren Holds Service for War Dead
On August 14 the 40th annual memorial service for Japan's war dead and prayers for peace was held under the joint auspices of Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) and its Youth League. Some 4,000 people from 36 Japanese religious organizations belonging to Shinshuren, including Rissho Kosei-kai, took part. The annual observance was held to mourn the dead of all wars and to pray for the repose of their spirits as well as for world peace.
At Tokyo's Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery, where the service was held, Rev. Nichiko Niwano delivered an opening address as chairman of the sponsor organization. Mentioning the decline of civility in Japan (following the country's economic recession), he said that Japanese are mentally at war with themselves, not with any country. He said the war dead would find true repose only if we feel gratitude for our being born human and for the blessing of the support of everything around us. Such an attitude is the first step toward peace, he said. To give their prayers concrete form, he said that in October the representatives of the federation would make a peace pilgrimage to former battlegrounds in Okinawa and to Nagasaki and Hiroshima to pray for the dead of World War II.
Memorial services conducted by each member organization according to its own rites were followed by the offering of paper cranes (symbols of peace in Japan). Forty young women members of Shinshuren offered lighted candles at the altar in the hexagonal building where the ashes of the war dead are enshrined as children read out a prayer for peace.
Preparatory Committee for WCRP VIII Meets at Kyoto International Conference Hall
During August 6--7 the preparatory committee for the eighth assembly of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP VIII), to be held in Kyoto August 26--29, 2006, met at the Kyoto International Conference Hall in Kyoto. Eleven members, including Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, vice moderator of the WCRP, and Dr. William F. Vendley, its secretary-general, were present. President Niwano, who represented the host organizations for opening the assembly in Japan as president of the Japanese Committee of the WCRP, also attended the meeting and chaired its fourth session on August 6.
In July 2004 the first meeting for preparing the programs of WCRP VIII was held at Rissho Kosei-kai's Kyoto Church. Since then preparations have gone forward to set up ten subcommittees dealing with the assembly's programs. The subcommittees' agendas include the programs of the assembly, the screening of participating representatives, the main theme and subtheme of the assembly, development of the Inter-Religious Councils (IRCs), and public relations for WCRP VIII.
During the meeting of the preparatory committee, its members were briefed on the progress of preparations by members of subcommittees. After discussion the participants referred their requests to the subcommittees and the International Secretariat of the WCRP for their advice and suggestions. The participants also discussed how WCRP VIII might set up a network of IRCs under the auspices of the WCRP.
The first assembly of the WCRP was held in Kyoto in 1970 in the Kyoto International Conference Hall. Since the eighth assembly will also convene there, the committee hired the hall during this preparatory meeting to get an idea how the scheduling of programs might be carried out.
WCRP Secretary-General Speaks About WCRP VIII
On August 4, Dr. William Vendley, secretary-general of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP), made a speech on the aims and activities of the WCRP at Fumon Hall in Tokyo. He gave a general outline of the eighth assembly of the WCRP (WCRP VIII), to be held in Kyoto in August next year. Some 70 Japanese religionists, most of whom are members of WCRP/Japan member organizations, attended. Following an opening address by Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai and of the Finance Committee of WCRP/Japan, Dr. Vendley spoke for about an hour. He began by pointing out the significance of the eighth assembly being held at the WCRP's birthplace, where participants will become acquainted with its founding spirit. The WCRP has since developed into the world's largest international multireligious movement. Pointing out that violence underlies all the world's problems--poverty, injustice, environmental destruction, and so on--he expressed his hope that WCRP VIII will provide an opportunity for world religious leaders to come up with concrete steps for confronting violence and promoting mutual security.
18th Conference Held on Interreligious Prayer for World Peace
On August 3 and 4, under the aegis of the Tendai Buddhist denomination, a conference on Interreligious Prayer for World Peace was held at a hotel in Kyoto and at Enryaku-ji temple on Mount Hiei in Shiga Prefecture. The conference was part of the Religious Summit Meeting on Mount Hiei, first organized in 1987 and endorsed by the late Ven. Etai Yamada, the denomination's 253rd head priest, to commemorate the spirit of the Day of Prayer for World Peace at Assisi held at the initiative of the late pope John Paul II in the previous year.
At the opening ceremony in a hotel in Kyoto, some 360 representatives of Japanese religious circles together with invited religious leaders from abroad took part. After the opening address delivered by Ven. Ryoko Nishioka, administrative director of Tendai denomination, Ven. Jakucho Setouchi, a popular novelist and female Tendai priest, and Ven. Phra Phaisan Vongvoravisit, a member of the Thailand's National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), delivered keynote addresses, titled "Power of Voluntary Service" and "Buddhist as a Vehicle for Peace," respectively. On the morning of August 4, a symposium was held in the same hotel on how Buddhists can contribute to conflict resolution. Chaired by Ven. Gijun Sugitani, advisor to the Tendai's international religious cooperation association on peace, six representatives of various religious faiths, such as Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity, attended a panel discussion. That afternoon, a service of Interreligious Prayer for World Peace was held in front of the Kompon Chudo at Enryaku-ji temple. Prayers recited by six representatives from overseas were followed by an invocation by the Most Ven. Eshin Watanabe, 255th head priest of the Tendai denomination. Before 1,000 participants, six Japanese religious representatives, including Rev. Nichiko Niwano as chairman of Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan), mounted the platform with Most Ven. Watanabe. In his invocation, Most Ven. Watanabe referred to the death of Pope John Paul II and stressed the importance of following in the spirit of the late pope who contributed to the development of the interreligious dialogue and cooperation.
WCRP Officers Visit Rissho Kosei-kai, Discuss WCRP VIII
On August 2, Dr. William Vendley, secretary-general of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP), and the Very Reverend Leonid Kishkovsky, its vice moderator, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters and had a dialogue with President Nichiko Niwano in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. Also present for the dialogue were Rissho Kosei-kai's Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi; Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of the organization's General Secretariat; and Rev. Yoshitaka Hatakeyama, under secretary-general of WCRP/Japan. At the beginning of their conversation, Dr. Vendley introduced Rev. Kishkovsky, director of ecumenical affairs for the Orthodox Church in America, to President Niwano. President Niwano, who also serves as an international president of the WCRP, warmly welcomed Rev. Kishkovsky, who was visiting Rissho Kosei-kai for the first time. The main topic of their conversation was WCRP VIII, which will be held in Kyoto in August 2006. Everyone present pledged their active participation in preparation for the next assembly, such as building links with their national interreligious councils. They also discussed the importance of cooperation between the WCRP and the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the need to honor the uniqueness of individual religious traditions for interfaith cooperation.
Blankets Collected in 2005
In August the executive committee of the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa, of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a member organization, announced that 119,133 blankets had been collected for African people, including refugees, in the campaign of April 1 to May 31. The blankets, donated by Japanese of good will throughout Japan, were stockpiled in a warehouse of Nippon Express in Yokohama for inspection and packing. After the selection of countries where the blankets would be sent, they were to be shipped in September. Rissho Kosei-kai also has announced a plan to dispatch members of volunteer groups next February to Africa to hand out the blankets in countries that have suffered from long drought and civil war, where blankets are needed because of the big difference between day- and nighttime temperatures. Japanese people have not only given blankets but also donated money to Rissho Kosei-kai members to pay for shipping the blankets.
Egidio Officers Have Dialogue with Rissho Kosei-kai Chairman
On August 1, Professor Agostino Giovagnoli, director of the Asian Department of the Community of Saint Egidio, and Ms. Francesca Grande, its vice director, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters and had a talk with Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi. The Community of Saint Egidio, a Catholic lay organization headquartered in Rome, has been actively engaged in conflict resolution and the relief of the underprivileged, while promoting a wide range of peace activities. It also sponsors annual international meetings in various European cities. The community received the 16th Niwano Peace Prize in 1999. Professor Giovagnoli reported that the Community of Saint Egidio is planning a workshop to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at this year's international meeting, to be held in Lyon, France, in September. He asked Rev. Yamanoi to participate in the meeting and deliver an address. Rev. Yamanoi said that at a time when the world is in grave danger from such terrorist attacks as the recent bombings in London, people of different religious faiths may not stand idly by but must cooperate closely for peace.
Volunteer Members Join Afforestation Program in Ethiopia
From July 18 through July 30 Rissho Kosei-kai dispatched 13 volunteer members to Ethiopia's northern region of Tigray, where they were to participate in an afforestation program in cooperation with the Relief Society of Tigray (REST), a local nongovernmental organization based in Mekelle, the regional capital of Tigray. It is said that 40 percent of Ethiopia was once covered with greenery. Because of the 17 years of civil war that began in 1975, conflicts between Ethiopia and Eritrea from 1998 to 2000, frequent severe drought, and deforestation, the area of greenery has dropped to 1 percent. In 1993 Rissho Kosei-kai began supporting an afforestation project that REST was carrying out in the region's Samre Saharti district, as one of the Buddhist organization's joint projects overseas. Over 12 years, some 10 million saplings were planted in the various parts of Tigray. On July 20 the volunteers, led by Rev. Masuo Suda, head of the Rissho Kosei-kai Kindergarten, paid a courtesy call on H. E. Mr. Kenjiro Izumi, the Japanese ambassador to Ethiopia, at his official residence in Addis Ababa, before traveling to Tigray. On July 21 they visited REST's headquarters in Mekelle, where they were briefed on REST's activities by one of its directors. During July 21--25 they planted some 1,800 saplings, including eucalyptus, in the Mai Tekli, Amdi Woyane, and Gijet districts, pairing off with local villagers. They also toured nurseries of eucalyptus and other trees in Gijet and the afforestation areas in Samre Saharti, where the first volunteer mission from Rissho Kosei-kai planted saplings in 1993. During their stay in Mekelle they also visited some of the people who had received blankets collected throughout Japan in the Campaign for the Sharing Blankets with People in Africa, of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a founding member.
UNHCR Regional Representative in Japan Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On July 28, Mr. Robert Robinson, who was recently inaugurated the regional representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Japan, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo. Accompanied by his assistant, Mr. Hajime Kishimori, Mr. Robinson had a dialogue with Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai's board of directors, in its administration building.
In their conversation, Mr. Robertson outlined his hopes for Japan's future role in the international community, saying Japan had a mission to contribute to world peace without the use of force. He also expressed his hope that Rissho Kosei-kai would make its voice heard for the sake of world peace. Rev. Yamanoi recalled the strong dedication to world peace of Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, the Buddhist organization's founder, and described the peace activities Rissho Kosei-kai has undertaken, including the Donate-a-Meal Campaign and the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign. Furthermore, Rev. Yamanoi mentioned the World Conference of Religions for Peace, of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a founding member, saying that all people of religion should stress the significance of dialogue for peace in the international community.
Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra Tours Europe
At the invitation of the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE) and the World Music Contest (WMC), the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra (TOKWO), affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai, made a special concert tour overseas July 16--26.
The 12th International Conference of WASBE was held in Singapore July 10--16. Some 2,000 band members, conductors, and composers gathered there from all over the world. The international conference is held every two years in various parts of the world to provide participants the opportunity to study and share their experiences and knowledge during a series of lectures and concerts. On July 16, TOKWO gave a special concert in the Esplanade Concert Hall to mark the end of the conference. At the sold-out concert, the orchestra performed several pieces, including Les Trois Notes du Japon, by Toshio Mishima, and Dionysiaques pour orchestra d'harmonie militaire, op. 62, by Florent Schmitt. The audience for WASBE was deeply impressed by TOKWO's excellence.
The orchestra traveled to Switzerland for a special performance at St. Pierre Cathedral in Geneva on July 21. The audience included Mr. Yoshiki Mine, the Japanese ambassador and head of the Delegation of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament at the U.N. headquarters in Geneva. He was pleased to have a chance to hear TOKWO, and after the concert he chatted with its members.
TOKWO concluded its European tour in the Netherlands at the invitation of the World Music Competition (WMC) to perform at the World Music Contest in Kerkrade, regarded as one of the world's most important international festivals for band music. Before an audience of about 1,250, TOKWO performed several pieces, including Bugaku (Japanese Court Music), a work commissioned by the orchestra from Donald Grantham, under the baton of Douglas Bostock. The audience gave TOKWO a standing ovation for its outstanding performance. Mr. Hub Bogman, chairman of WMC, praised the performance, saying the audience was deeply moved and received a strong impression of Japanese culture. Mr. Bostock, TOKWO's principal conductor, said after the concert that TOKWO's challenge was to communicate with audiences through music. He also said TOKWO would strive to maintain its high standard.
President Niwano Meets Retired Anglican Pastor
On July 25 Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, met with Rev. George Mullins and his wife, Mrs. Olive Mullins, in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall at the organization's headquarters complex.
Rev. Mullins has long enjoyed a friendship with Rissho Kosei-kai since he visited Japan in 1968. He studied Rissho Kosei-kai from a Christian viewpoint and presented his findings in a thesis in 1971. In 1976 he taught students of the Rissho Kosei-kai Gakurin Seminary for one year, and later welcomed students and youth members of Rissho Kosei-kai to his home when they were in Australia for study.
At the meeting on July 25, Rev. Mullins presented President Niwano with a copy of his book Raising Up Bodhisattvas in the Modern Ages, which presents the results of his study of Rissho Kosei-kai's founder, its religious practices and teachings, and its many accomplishments. In his conversation with President Niwano, Rev. Mullins shared his memories of Founder Nikkyo Niwano and Rev. Motoyuki Naganuma, the first chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai. He also paid tribute to the organization's leadership in interreligious dialogue and cooperation, which President Niwano has exercised through Shinshuren (Federation of the New Religious Organizations in Japan) and the WCRP (World Conference of Religions for Peace). President Niwano thanked Rev. Mullins for his lasting friendship with Rissho Kosei-kai and told him about plans to celebrate the centennial of Founder Niwano's birth in 2006.
Ullambana Ceremony Observed in Fumon Hall
Rissho Kosei-kai held its annual Ullambana Ceremony on July 15 for members to transfer the merit they had gained from sutra recitation to the spirits of their ancestors. About 3,800 people from 73 churches throughout Japan gathered in Fumon Hall, in the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters complex in Tokyo.
Following young women members' offerings of lighted candles, flowers, and delicacies at the Buddhist altar, Rev. Kosho Niwano, president-designate of Rissho Kosei-kai, led the assembly in chanting the sutra. During the ceremony, 18,815 posthumous names were read out by the president-designate and 288 church representatives who are qualified Dharma teachers.
Then one woman on behalf of the assembly testified to her awakening to the knowledge that her life is sustained by the Buddha and the many people around her. She said that although she suffers multiple myelomas and spends her life struggling with the disease, she had gained hope of survival and felt deep gratitude for the people around her, especially for the support of her family and fellow Rissho Kosei-kai members. She also expressed determination to share her feelings of gratitude with many others for her continuing survival.
Following that testimony, President Niwano made a speech, which can be summarized as follows:
"Parents are the representatives of countless ancestors. Since they are the roots of life and the source of children, if we nurture the roots, the tree, (we children) will grow naturally. We are taught that it is important to offer selfless devotion to our parents, out of gratitude for their bringing us into this world. Moreover, those who seek the Buddha's wisdom and recite the o-daimoku and the sutra every day, taking refuge in the Buddha, are already saved. But keeping the joy of salvation to themselves is never the way of the bodhisattva. Our mission is to convey the Buddha's wisdom to others through dissemination activities."
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Announces Grant Recipients for Second Term of Fiscal 2005
In July the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced the grant recipients for the second term of fiscal 2005. Some 1.7 million Japanese yen was allocated to five recipients. The executive committee allocates funds for joint projects with other organizations; independent projects; aids grants; and emergency aid. In this second term, the committee allocated funds to the following five projects in joint projects with other organizations:
1. Five million Japanese yen to the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC), which provides an educational program for members of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to help them develop skills in risk management for conducting international relief activities in areas of regional conflict.
2. Six million yen to the Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA) for its successive projects of reviving the Cambodian Buddhist heritage in cooperation with the Cambodian Ministry of Religious Affairs.
3. Two million yen to the Corrymeela Community, which is the 14th recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize and has promoted reconciliation between the Catholic and Protestant communities of Northern Ireland.
4. Two million yen to the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention, which helps women in Afghanistan find ways to earn income to support their families and improve the country's economy.
5. Two million yen to the African Development and Emergency Organization (ADEO), which operates HIV/AIDS clinics and educates Kenyan youth in avoiding AIDS.
Cambodian Ambassador and Buddhist Leader Visit Rissho Kosei-kai
On July 8 H. E. Mr. Pou Sothirak, the Cambodian ambassador to Japan, and his father, Rev. Sanghabodhi, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters and conferred with President Nichiko Niwano at the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. Rev. Sanghabodhi is a leading figure of Cambodian Buddhism. Also present were Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, Rissho Kosei-kai's chairman, and Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of its External Affairs Department.
In 1995 Rissho Kosei-kai supported construction of a building in Phnom Penh for the National Buddhist Institute of Cambodia through the coordination of Cambodia's Ministry of Religion. Through the Shanti Volunteer Association, a Japanese nongovernmental organization, Rissho Kosei-kai has also supported a project to reprint Buddhist scriptures and books for Cambodian clerics and children.
Members of Rissho Kosei-kai's Ashikaga Church in Tochigi Prefecture also supported the construction of an elementary school in Cambodia. These support activities have been funded by donations from Rissho Kosei-kai's Peace Fund.
During the meeting Ambassador Sothirak and Rev. Sanghabodhi expressed thanks for the contributions of Rissho Kosei-kai members to help Cambodia. Ambassador Sothirak also described the institute's significance for Cambodia. Rev. Sanghabodhi, who once served as a provincial governor before his ordination, highly praised the spirit of Rissho Kosei-kai's Peace Fund. In answer to a question from the ambassador about Rissho Kosei-kai members' religious practice, President Niwano said each member aspires to the bodhisattva way of saving others by leading them to the Buddha's compassion, thus serving their family, their society, and the world.
The ambassador then emphasized that Cambodia's most precious treasure is its Buddhist faith as a way of life, promoting peace through compassion.
The UN Agencies and Japanese NGOs Report on Relief Operation for Tsunami Victims
In early July, Rissho Kosei-kai released an interim report to members on relief activities for tsunami victims conducted by UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) supported by the Buddhist organization's peace fund.
According to the reports from these organizations, the tsunami affected 12 countries on the Indian Ocean and forced some 1.7 million people to live in tents or other temporary shelters in countries such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India. Through its Peace Fund, Rissho Kosei-kai has so far donated a total of 52 million Japanese yen to nine UN agencies as well as Japanese NGOs.
The report says relief activities have changed from emergency aid to steady support for reconstruction and rehabilitation, which includes counseling tsunami survivors in those countries.
JEN, a Japanese NGO of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a founding member, has started relief operations for victims in the southern Sri Lankan town of Hambantota. It helps people rebuild their lives, especially with counseling, and offers group counseling to children during their participation in sports events.
The Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA) operates a mobile library for children who took refuge with their parents in some 30 shelters in Thailand's southern province of Phangnga. SVA hopes the mobile library will lift their spirits. The Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC) has reported the case of an ethnic minority in Thailand's southern province of Ranong being denied relief as unregistered residents. In cooperation with other NGOs working in the country, the JVC will seek not only to aid tsunami victims and offer counseling to children but also to resolve various other problems caused by the tsunami, such as human rights violations, disputes over land ownership, and the restoration and conservation of natural resources.
In March the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees left Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where devastation by the tsunami was greatest, and was invited to return there by the Indonesian government to assist in providing 1,000 prefabricated houses to meet the needs of those on the province's west coast who had lost their homes. The World Food Program (WFP) focused mainly on logistical support by distributing food and medical supplies. It also transported the injured to hospitals. WFP continues to support tsunami victims with a long-term perspective for reconstruction.
Rissho Kosei-kai of Sri Lanka and Karatsu Continue to Help Tsunami Victims
Immediately after the tsunami of December 2004, Rissho Kosei-kai of Sri Lanka conducted relief operations for the victims. Members supported the rebuilding of collapsed houses and disseminated the Buddhist teachings to meet victims' spiritual needs. The relief activities included sending writing materials to 300 children in the southern village of Beruwela, 70 kilometers from Colombo, as well as donating rice, sugar, and milk for daily consumption. Their support extended to the 200 children who took refuge in a rural Catholic church, in the form of shoes, socks, and bags. According to a report from the head of Rissho Kosei-kai of Sri Lanka, some 40,000 people perished in the disaster, and the tsunami destroyed about 3,000 houses. Rissho Kosei-kai of Sri Lanka has been holding a memorial service for the victims on the first day of every month and plans to support the building of a hospital in the area.
The Karatsu Church of Rissho Kosei-kai in Japan conducted nine fund-raising campaigns from March to July for victims of the earthquake in Niigata Prefecture last October as well as of the tsunami. The church decided that the funds should be used for the victims' rehabilitation, which is expected to take a long time.
WCRP/Japan Holds Meetings of Board of Directors and Councilors
On July 6 the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) held the 87th meeting of its board of directors as well as the 84th meeting of its councilors, at the headquarters of Jinja Honcho (Association of Shinto Shrines) in Tokyo. The fifty-two participants included Rev. Nichiko Niwano as president of WCRP/Japan; and directors and councilors, including Rissho Kosei-kai Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi. From Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Masao Yamada, a member of its board of directors, Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of the External Affairs Department, and Rev. Yoshiko Izumida, a former honorary executive board members, were also present.
A welcoming address by Rev. Masami Yatabe, president of Jinja Honcho, was followed by Rev. Nichiko Niwano's opening address. Reports on the organization's activities and the closing of accounts for fiscal 2005 were read out and approved. The committee announced that after careful deliberation it had elected Peter Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi as an honorary president of WCRP/Japan, and Rev. Tatsuo Miyake, chief minister of Konko Church of Izuo, as an honorary advisor. The committee also elected Rev. Mitsuo Miyake, chief minister-designate of the Konko Church of Izuo, as an executive director, and the Most Ven. Eiin Yasuda, chief abbot of the Yakushi-ji temple and chief priest of the Hosso sect of Japanese Buddhism, as a director. Newly elected councilors were Rev. Yoshinobu Miyake, executive director of Konko Church of Izuo; Rev. Takahiro Miwa, head priest of Hiyoshi Shinto Shrine; and Rev. Yukiyasu Yamamoto, chief priest of Tsubaki Grand Shrine. Rev. Yoshitaka Hatakeyama, under-secretary-general of WCRP/Japan, became the acting secretary-general. As for the eighth assembly of WCRP, to be held in August 2006, WCRP/Japan announced the organization of a steering committee to convene the assembly in Japan.
WCRP/Japan also reported on the following activities during the meetings: a joint symposium with the Japan Liaison Committee of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF/JLC) in the NGO Global Village Hall at the 2005 World Exposition in Nagoya; relief activities for victims of the December 2004 tsunami; and reconstruction of a rain reservoir in the village of Namalwatta, northeastern Sri Lanka. The WCRP/Japan Youth Board also reported on its activities for the preparatory conference for WCRP VIII, held July 4--6.
Asian Religious Youth Meet in Ambon, Indonesia, to Discuss Conflict and Peace
For three days beginning on July 4, Asian religious youth gathered in Ambon, Indonesia, for a preparatory meeting for the WCRP Youth Conference, an international gathering of youth to be held in Hiroshima and Kyoto in 2006 before the eighth assembly of WCRP (WCRP VIII). Sixty-eight young people from 14 countries in Asia and other areas took part. From Japan 25 young people took part, headed by Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division. The meeting aimed to empower Asian religious youth to end conflicts, by studying the causes and nature of current conflicts in Asia, and to cooperate in making their societies safer. It was also hoped that the meeting would be an opportunity to acquaint religious youth with WCRP activities and prepare them for participation in WCRP VIII.
Ambon was the scene of violent religious conflict between Muslims and Christians beginning in 1999. The conflict ended two years ago, but there is still deep division. That youth of different religious backgrounds have joined together in the city encourages hopes of interreligious cooperation for world peace.
At a news conference on July 3, in which 11 news organizations took part, three executive participants in the youth conference, including Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, a special assistant to the WCRP secretary-general, explained the conference's significance and aims.
During the meeting, participants heard lectures and took part in panel discussions and group sessions on the current conflicts in Asia and confirmed the role of religious youth in building peace. They also had exchanges with local religious youth. On the final day the participants adopted a declaration that asserts the need to develop programs for conflict prevention and peace education and calls for a concrete plan to establish networks of youth in all countries of Asia.
Rissho Kosei-kai of U.K. and Geneva Host Joint Training Session
On July 2 and 3, Rissho Kosei-kai of the U.K. and Rissho Kosei-kai Geneva hosted a joint training session for Japanese members living in Europe. Twenty-two members from Britain, Switzerland, France, and Italy participated in the session. The session, the first of its kind that Rissho Kosei-kai's two European offices have sponsored together, aimed at promoting exchanges among the Sangha members in Europe and renewing their dedication to the faith, in preparation for the centenary of the birth of the late Founder Nikkyo Niwano, to be commemorated next year. During the seminar three people, including Mr. Yasutomo Sawahata, representative of Rissho Kosei-kai Geneva, gave religious testimonies to those attending the training session. Hoza meetings also took place, in which participants shared their memories of Founder Niwano and discussed problems of dissemination due to language and cultural differences. At the end of the seminar, Ms. Megumi Hirota, representative of Rissho Kosei-kai of the U.K., encouraged the participants to unite as one big family and promote mutual exchanges, to repay Founder Niwano, in the year of the centennial of his birth, for his guiding them to the Buddha's law.
Rissho Kosei-kai Sends Representative to UUA General Assembly
At the invitation of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), Rissho Kosei-kai sent Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, deputy director of its external affairs department, to be a guest at UUA's 44th general assembly, held June 23--27 at the Convention Center in Fort Worth, Texas.
The friendly ties between Rissho Kosei-kai and UUA grew out of the friendship between Founder Nikkyo Niwano and Dr. Dana M. Greeley, UUA's first president. For more than thirty years, both organizations have cooperated through various activities of the WCRP and IARF. In 2004, President Niwano was invited to speak at the UUA general assembly in Long Beach, California.
On the afternoon of June 23, Rev. Kamiya talked with Rev. Olivia Holmes, director of international relations of UUA, and UUA's Partner Church Council members. They shared ideas about exchange programs at the level of the two organizations' local churches. That evening the general assembly held its opening plenary session, attended by about 4,000 ministers and members of various congregations.
On the following day, Rev. Kamiya joined the breakfast meeting held by the Interfaith Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based group that promotes democratic values and defends religious freedom through the faith and good will of people of different religions. After that Rev. Kamiya attended a luncheon meeting held by Rev. William Sinkford, president of the UUA. Rev. Holmes, Dr. Daryl Balia, general secretary of the IARF, and Rev. Yukiyasu Yamamoto, chief priest of Tsubaki Grand Shrine in Japan, were also present. They discussed IARF's role, which has changed with the times, and its significance as an organization of interfaith meetings and encounters.
Rev. Kamiya joined one of the workshops in the general assembly, chaired by Rev. Holmes, on cultural stereotypes that prevail worldwide. Referring to his experience of interreligious cooperation and peace activities as a staff member at Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters, Rev. Kamiya said it is essential to overcome superficial cultural differences and become aware of our buddha-nature, the fundamental human dignity within each of us, so that we can overcome stereotypes and prejudice.
IBC Holds Its First Service in English at Yokohama Church
On June 26 the International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) of Rissho Kosei-kai held a worship service at Rissho Kosei-kai's Yokohama Church with the participation of some 50 people. The IBC already holds a regular Sunday service in Fumon Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters, where the IBC has been based since last year. The IBC's purpose is to share the Buddhist teachings in English with people of all nationalities, especially non-Japanese residents of Japan. It was the first time the IBC held a Sunday service at a Rissho Kosei-kai facility other than Fumon Hall. It began with an opening address by Rev. Masumi Goto, IBC minister, followed by sutra chanting by all participants. Dr. Gene Reeves, international advisor to the IBC, then gave a sermon. The participants also joined in a hoza counseling session as part of the service. Rev. Goto said he expected that the IBC's worship services in English in Yokohama would help disseminate the Buddha's teachings among non-Japanese residents. The IBC is considering holding regular services in English at the Yokohama Church besides the regular services in Fumon Hall.
Rissho Kosei-kai Holds Workshops for Its South Asian Leaders
Rissho Kosei-kai's South Asia Church, based in Tokyo, organized workshops for its leaders from the South Asian region from June 9 to 23. Seven leaders from Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and India took part in the various programs conducted by the Buddhist organization.
From June 9 to 15, the seven leaders paid separate visits to the Tachikawa, Toyoda, Minami-Tama, Hachioji, and Higashi-Matsuyama churches to study hoza counseling sessions and religious guidance with local members. During their studies with local church members in the Kanto region, they stayed at local members' houses and saw how daily devotions are performed in the home.
From June 21 to 23, the seven leaders participated in workshops in Fumon Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo. Rev. Teruo Saito, minister of the South Asia Church, lectured on the Lotus Sutra in Buddhist history, the four requisites of a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra, and Rissho Kosei-kai's religious training. Rev. Hiroshi Hasegawa, director of the Dissemination Department, explained the ideal spiritual outlook of leaders of Rissho Kosei-kai. Rev. George Mullins, a retired Australian Anglican pastor, lectured on the bodhisattvas "springing up out of the earth" mentioned in the sutra.
Rissho Kosei-kai Representatives Participate in WCC Conference
Two staff members represented Rissho Kosei-kai at an interfaith conference sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC), held at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, June 7--9, under the theme "A Critical Moment in Interreligious Dialogue." They were Mr. Munehiro Niwano of the organization's Gakurin Seminary and Mr. Yasutomo Sawahata, Rissho Kosei-kai's Geneva representative. The participants included scholars and journalists as well as religious leaders who had been playing major roles in interfaith dialogue. In his welcoming address to some 130 conference participants from ten world religions, WCC General Secretary Dr. Samuel Kobia outlined the WCC's involvement in interfaith activities over the past thirty-five years, saying that the promotion of interreligious dialogue had been one of the WCC's most important missions.
On the first day of the conference, Mr. Niwano served as moderator at a session titled "The Survey's Findings." He also had dialogues with Dr. Kobia and H.H. Catholicos Aram I, moderator of the WCC Central Committee. He exchanged ideas with WCC leaders on interfaith efforts, such as those promoted by the World Conference of Religions for Peace. During one group discussion, Mr. Sawahata described the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign, one of Rissho Kosei-kai's peace activities, which he explained had served also as a good opportunity for religious education. He said that through participation in the campaign, elementary and junior high school pupils can learn about the religious and cultural backgrounds of the countries to which the bags of gifts are sent, thereby acquiring true knowledge of other religions and shedding any prejudices against them.
IARF/JLC and WCRP/Japan Hold Events Held at World Expo
On May 28 the Japan Liaison Committee of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF/JLC) and the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) jointly held their second international symposium on the theme "Can people of religion solve cultural conflicts?" in the NGO Global Village hall at the 2005 World Exposition in a suburb of Nagoya, one of the largest cities in central Japan.
At the symposium, Dr. John Taylor, an IARF representative in Geneva and a former secretary-general of the WCRP, made a keynote speech, saying in effect that the purpose of human existence is not conflict but partnership, and that true peace will be achieved when people of religion not only preach peace but also work with others to foster the partnership of the human family.
Dr. Taylor's speech was followed by a discussion among three panelists chaired by Rev. Yoshinobu Miyake, chief minister of Konkokyo Church of Kasugaoka. The panelists were Dr. Olivia Holmes, director of the international relations of the Unitarian Universalist Association; Mr. Shlomo Alon, chairman of the Interfaith Encounter Association; and the Most Ven. Eiin Yasuda, chief abbot of Yakushi-ji temple and chief priest of the Hosso sect of Japanese Buddhism.
Their points can be summarized as follows. First, the most important condition for peaceful coexistence is not only harmony between all religions and cultures but recognizing and respecting one another's differences. Second, since prejudice and hatred are based on scant knowledge of others, it is essential to interact directly with people of other cultures and faiths and learn from them. Third, those who make war in the name of religion stray from the true practice of religion. We can avert cultural clashes by remaining faithful to the fundamental message of all religions, which is tolerance and justice.
Besides a symposium, on May 24 to 31, WCRP/Japan presented a workshop called Space for Prayer and Meditation for visitors to the NGO Global Village hall. Four members of the disarmament and reconciliation committee of WCRP/Japan took turns from day to day giving lectures on the importance of prayer, meditation, and Zen meditation. They also demonstrated how these practices can enrich people's hearts and minds.
Tenth International Lotus Sutra Conference Held in Beijing
The 10th International Conference on the Lotus Sutra, sponsored by the Chuo Academic Research Institute, affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai, was held May 23--26 under the theme "The Lotus Sutra and Tiantai Buddhism" at a hotel in Beijing. Thirteen scholars of Buddhist studies and theology from China, Japan, and the United States participated in the conference. Rissho Kosei-kai began sponsoring the conference in 1994. It has invited international scholars to these conferences to promote discussion and exploration of the Great Vehicle teachings of the Lotus Sutra, which are much less well-known among Western scholars than other Buddhist traditions, such as Zen, Tibetan, and Pali, to make them better known worldwide. Since 1994 the conference has been held almost annually in Japan at a Rissho Kosei-kai retreat facility or at a highland hotel. From the beginning Dr. Gene Reeves, international advisor to the IBC and former dean of the Meadville/Lombard Theological School, has been acting as the main organizer. This year, Beijing was chosen as the venue for the commemorative 10th conference in honor of China's role in the development of Mahayana Buddhism, especially the Lotus Sutra. On the basis of the papers presented, the scholars promoted discussions of such topics as "Lotus Sutra Commentary in Medieval Japanese Tendai" and "Earthly Orientation of Tiantai Buddhist Doctrine." Other topics included comparative studies between Buddhism and Christianity, such as "Wisdom, Compassion, and Charity: the Lotus Sutra and Augustine." Dr. Michio Shinozaki, president of Rissho Kosei-kai's Gakurin Seminary, spoke of the Buddha's Original Vow in the Lotus Sutra. Following the conference, the participants traveled to Shanxi Province May 27--30 and visited Buddhist sacred sites on Mount Wutai.
Rissho Kosei-kai and Other NGOs Jointly Operate Booths at World Expo
On May 20, in the NGO Global Village at the World Expo in Nagoya, Rissho Kosei-kai and five other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) jointly operated booths at the pavilion of IARF/JLC and WCRP/Japan, called the Hall of Reviving the Human Spirit Through Prayer. The five NGOs were JEN, the Japan Team of Young Human Power, Shapla Neer, the Japan International Volunteer Center, and the Shanti Volunteer Association. Rissho Kosei-kai has provided the NGOs with financial aid through its Peace Fund.
The five NGOs and Rissho Kosei-kai reported on their relief and peace activities for the needy in Cambodia and Afghanistan through video presentations and a photo exhibition.
One booth provided information on programs of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund, such as the Donate-a-Meal Campaign, the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa, and the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign.
President Niwano Meets Director of Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies of Jordan
On May 18, Mr. Hasan Abu Nimah, director of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies (RIFS) of Jordan, visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and had an informal talk with President Nichiko Niwano. Also present was Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of the External Affairs Department.
At the meeting, Mr. Nimah offered his view of the mission of people of religion, which is to do good for all people. He said people nowadays pursue material goods at the expense of forsaking traditional ethical values. He added that people in the Middle East feel fatigued and oppressed by the military interventions of the United States and Britain, and he called these a form of colonialism. Japan, on the other hand, he said, has contributed in fair and just ways to the region's rehabilitation.
President Niwano mentioned his visits to the Middle East for the seventh assembly of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP VII) in Amman, Jordan, in 1999 and to Israel at the invitation of Israeli religious leaders. He said preparations are under way to convene WCRP VIII in Kyoto in 2006, and that as a Buddhist he hoped to contribute to peace in the region. He added that world religious leaders at the conference would discuss specific issues of the region and try to come up with solutions.
Mr. Nimah is a former Jordanian diplomat and permanent representative to the United Nations. From 1993 to 1994 he was a member of the Jordanian delegation at peace talks between Israel and his country in Washington. D.C.
Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne Visits Rissho Kosei-kai Headquarters
On May 17 Dr. Ahangamage Tudor Ariyaratne, president of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo and met with President Nichiko Niwano in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of the Buddhist organization, and Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of its External Affairs Department, were also present. The movement founded by Dr. Ariyaratne fosters rural development and peace in Sri Lanka by helping villagers attain economic self-reliance based on Buddhist values and ideals. He is also the ninth recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize, of 1992. At the beginning of the meeting Dr. Ariyaratne praised the selection of Dr. Hans Kung as recipient of the 22nd Niwano Peace Prize for 2005, telling President Niwano he thought Dr. Kung was an excellent choice.
President Niwano talked with Dr. Ariyaratne about his visit to Sri Lanka in December 2003 at the invitation of the four most senior Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist leaders in return for their hospitality at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo. Dr. Ariyaratne, explaining the historical relationship between Buddhist and Christian communities in Sri Lanka, and reviewing the current state of religious affairs there, pointed out that members of Rissho Kosei-kai of Sri Lanka have contributed to promoting grass-roots interreligious dialogue among the various religious communities.
While explaining that Sri Lanka had suffered the deaths of thousands of people and devastating property damage from the tsunami of December 2004, Dr. Ariyaratne also pointed out that many Sri Lankans wish for an end to civil war and hope peace negotiations will succeed. He said also that he had organized groups to pray and meditate for peace, to encourage all people of Sri Lanka to think in terms of peace and tolerance, thus raising peace consciousness of people at the grass-roots.
Dr. Hans Kung Joins Niwano Peace Foundation Symposium in Kyoto
At the Kyoto Fumon Hall of Rissho Kosei-kai, the Niwano Peace Foundation Symposium 2005 was held on May 13 in honor of Dr. Hans Kung. Some 420 people, including representatives of Japanese religious circles, Rissho Kosei-kai members, and ordinary citizens took part. The foundation has held an annual symposium in honor of the latest winner of the Niwano Peace Prize since 1994. In 2001 the foundation adopted the symposium's main theme, "From Kyoto: A New Challenge for People of Religion." Under the special subtheme for 2005, "Interreligious Dialogue and Peace," this year's symposium opened with an address by Rev. Kinjiro Niwano, chairman of the foundation. His address was followed by a video presentation on the work of Dr. Kung.
In his keynote address, "No Clash, but Dialogue Among Religions and Nations," Dr. Kung explained his ideas on the new overall political constellation. He said, "In principle, the new paradigm means policies of regional reconciliation, understanding and cooperation instead of the modern national politics of self-interest, power and prestige." Presenting his idea of the requisite for this, he said, "Rather, it presupposes a social consensus on particular basic values, basic rights and basic responsibilities." He concluded by offering his vision of the alternatives of the future, which depend on the globalization of ethics in coping with global problems.
After exchanging greetings with Prof. Kenneth Tanaka of Musashino University and Prof. Seiichi Yagi of Toin University of Yokohama, Dr. Kung participated in a panel discussion chaired by Prof. Ryusei Takeda of Ryukoku University.
WCC Secretary for Interreligious Dialogue Dr. Hans Ucko Visits Tokyo Headquarters
On May 13 Dr. Hans Ucko, program executive of Inter-Religious Relations and Dialogue of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters and had a dialogue with Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi. Dr. Ucko expressed his appreciation for Rissho Kosei-kai's assistance with the holding of a meeting titled "Consultation of Christian-Theravada Buddhist Leaders" in July 2004, which was cosponsored by the WCC and the Christian Conference of Asia. Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, deputy director of Rissho Kosei-kai's External Affairs Department, joined the meeting, and the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund assisted with its expenses. During the dialogue, which extended to such topics as religion's contribution to conflict resolution, Dr. Ucko referred to hoza counseling sessions of Rissho Kosei-kai, saying that hoza methods might also serve as an effective means of easing regional and international tensions and ending conflicts. Chairman Yamanoi responded by saying that hoza is the essence of Rissho Kosei-kai, explaining that it plays a significant role in members' practice of the faith.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Announces Grant Recipients for First Term of Fiscal 2005
In May the executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced the grant recipients for the first term of fiscal 2005. The sum of 10.7 million Japanese yen was allocated to five projects in both Japan and other countries. The allocations are managed according to the four categories set up by the committee: joint projects with other organizations; independent projects; aids grants; and emergency aid.
The three projects were selected from the category of supporting joint projects with other organizations. For the program for prevention of AIDS in Asia and Africa, the fund donated 1.7 million Japanese yen to the Services for the Health in Asia and African Regions (SHARE), which provides assistance to HIV carriers in Thailand. SHARE also disseminates information on HIV/AIDS to villagers throughout the country. For supporting refugees and peace-building, the fund donated 2 million Japanese yen to the Japanese Association for Refugees (JAR) and the Campaign for the Children of Palestine. JAR supports legal and social assistance for foreign refugees who have lived in Japan. The Campaign for the Children of Palestine provides dental care and health education for children in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
The two projects were selected from the category of supporting-aid grants. For the United Nations, the fund donated 3 million Japanese yen to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for its nurse training projects for Palestinian refugees in the Middle East. The fund also donated 2 million Japanese yen to the United Nations Association of Japan for its assistance in holding the 11th United Nations Symposium on Northeast Asia in Kanazawa, Japan.
Chairman Yamanoi Meets Rev. Mullins
Rev. and Mrs. George Mullins visited Rissho Kosei-kai and met with Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of the board of directors of Rissho Kosei-kai, on May 12. The retired Australian Anglican pastor has long enjoyed a friendship with the organization since he visited Japan in 1968. He studied Rissho Kosei-kai from a Christian viewpoint and presented his findings in a thesis in 1971. In 2002 it was published in book form under the title Raising Up Bodhisattvas in the Modern Ages. He taught students of the Rissho Kosei-kai Gakurin Seminary for one year, in 1976, and welcomed students and youth members of Rissho Kosei-kai to his home when they were in Australia for study.
At their meeting, Chairman Yamanoi expressed deep gratitude for Rev. Mullins's contribution to making known the beliefs and activities of Rissho Kosei-kai. They exchanged views on overseas missionary work, interreligious cooperation, and the virtues and character of Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, the late founder of the Buddhist organization. Rev. Yamanoi said, "During next year's centennial of Founder Niwano's birth, it will be especially important for us to deepen our appreciation of Founder Niwano's teachings and pursue his aims."
Dr. William Vendley Visits Rissho Kosei-kai Headquarters
On May 12 Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary-general of the International Secretariat of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP), which is based in New York, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo and met with President Nichiko Niwano. Other Rissho Kosei-kai officers present were Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman; Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of the External Affairs Department; and Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of the General Secretariat. From the WCRP, Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, director of Inter-Religious Council Development of the WCRP, and Rev. Yoshitaka Hatakeyama, under secretary-general of the Japanese Committee of the WCRP, were also present. During the meeting, Dr. Vendley spoke to President Niwano about his recent visit to China at the invitation of the Chinese Committee on Religion and Peace (CCRP), WCRP's national affiliate in China, to meet leaders of Chinese religious communities. Explaining that the Chinese government values the work of the CCRP and has encouraged it to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with the WCRP in a joint effort to promote world peace, he spoke to President Niwano of the importance of strengthening the relationship between the CCRP and the WCRP to promote interreligious cooperation in Asia. He reported that the WCRP will pursue that goal in cooperation with the CCRP. He also reported on preparations for the eighth assembly of the WCRP in Kyoto in August 2006. He informed the president that the WCRP is also planning another gathering of leaders of world religions to be convened in Tokyo after the Kyoto assembly.
22nd Niwano Peace Prize Awarded to Roman Catholic Theologian
On May 11 the Niwano Peace Foundation presented the 22nd Niwano Peace Prize to the Roman Catholic theologian Dr. Hans Kung at the Nippon Press Center building in Tokyo. Some 180 people, including representatives of Japan's political and religious circles, attended the ceremony.
At the presentation, H.E. Bishop Gunnar Stalsett, head of the Diocese of Oslo of the Church of Norway and a former member of the screening committee for the Nobel Peace Prize, described the screening process for the prize, and Rev. Nichiko Niwano, the foundation's president, presented a citation, a medal, and 20 million Japanese yen to Dr. Kung.
After an address by President Niwano, congratulatory message from Mr. Nariaki Nakayama, Japan's minister of education, culture, sports, science, and technology was delivered by proxy. Then, Rev. Tatsuhito Satomi, chairman of the Japanese Association of Religious Organizations (JAORO) and the Japan Buddhist Federation, also read out his message of congratulation. In his tribute to Dr. Kung, Rev. Satomi praised Dr. Kung's concept of a global ethic for world peace in a world in which self-interest sets off an unbroken chain of tragic events. Dr. Kung then delivered his acceptance address, "Toward a Global Ethic."
Dr. Kung, president of the Global Ethic Foundation in Germany and Switzerland, was born in Sursee, Switzerland, in 1928. He entered the Catholic priesthood after receiving master's degrees in philosophy and theology from the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome. He also studied at the Sorbonne and the Catholic Institute in Paris, and received a doctorate in theology in 1957. He was appointed by Pope John XXIII as official theological consultant to the Second Vatican Council, a post he held from 1962 to 1965. From 1960 until 1996 he was professor of theology at the University of Tubingen in Germany, where he has worked unstintingly to promote the ecumenical movement toward unity among the various Christian churches.
A document drafted by Dr. Kung, "Declaration Toward a Global Ethic," was presented at and adopted by the Parliament of the World's Religions held in Chicago in September 1993. Dr. Kung was also one of the drafters of the "Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities," which was proposed by the InterAction Council and adopted by the United Nations on the 50th anniversary of the U.N.'s "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" in 1998. He was also appointed in 1997 by the U.N. secretary-general, along with Richard von Weizsaecker, the former president of Germany, as a member of the Group of Eminent Persons.
WCRP European Committee Meets in Graz
The World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) held a European Conference May 5--8 at Graz, Austria, under the theme "Multi-Religious Cooperation for the Common Good: Building Healthy Civil Society." Some 60 people from 11 European countries, including representatives of religious groups and scholars of religion, took part. They included Rissho Kosei-kai's representative in Geneva, Mr. Yasutomo Sawahata. The conference has been held every two years to promote interreligious dialogue in Europe. This year participants discussed religion's social responsibilities and the present state of interreligious dialogue. In one of the working sessions, Mr. Sawahata spoke of the role that the late Founder Nikkyo Niwano of Rissho Kosei-kai played in establishing the WCRP.
South Asia Program in Bangladesh Starts
The South Asia Program promoted by the Niwano Peace Foundation initiated a new aid project for Bangladesh in May. Its main theme is "Poverty Alleviation." The project is part of a program begun in 2000 to improve living conditions in South Asia by giving financial support to the activities of local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
Beginning in April 2004 the South Asia Program's first aid project, under the theme "Food Security," was carried out in cooperation with three NGOs in India. The second aid project, under the theme "Women and Gender," started in India in April 2005. Bangladesh is the second country to benefit from the program.
The recipient, Solidarity, a local NGO, was chosen according to theme for 2004, "Food Security." Solidarity was aiding people living and farming on large sandbars, called char by the locals, which emerged as islands in various rivers in Bangladesh's remote northern district of Kurigram, where the only industry is agriculture. Because of the constant erosion of the sandy soil and such natural disasters and floods and storms, the residents live in poverty. When natural disasters hit char areas, houses and crops are submerged, and residents must find a new place to live.
Solidarity plans to start organizing self-help groups in char dwellers' communities and help them negotiate with local authorities for food aid as well as health care. The operating funds of the South Asia Program come from Rissho Kosei-kai's Peace Fund, whose executive committee entrusts the program's management to the foundation.
Rissho Kosei-kai Members Promote Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa
As Rissho Kosei-kai is a member organization of the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa, its members have vigorously promoted the campaign and collected blankets from local supporters. Starting annually on April 1, the campaign lasts two months, reaching its high point between the organization's Youth Day and the end of May.
On April 24, the Nagano Chuo Church held a meeting on the campaign at a municipal center in Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture. It was attended by 33 people, including mayors of nearby cities, as well as teachers and students of junior high schools in the area. Mr. Waichi Hoshina, secretary-general of the executive committee of Rissho Kosei-kai's Peace Fund, and other members who had visited Ethiopia and handed out blankets to the needy in last year's campaign explained the need for the blankets. The Tomakomai Church in Hokkaido prepared 5,500 fliers and distributed them to local households. The Fukuchiyama Church and Kita-Hiroshima Church in the west of Japan's main island of Honshu appealed to local citizens through local newspapers and TV.
On April 29, during a week of holidays in Japan known as Golden Week, the Kita Church of Tokyo joined an ecological campaign conducted by Tokyo's Kita Ward. The church operated a booth to publicize the campaign and collected blankets from local citizens. On the same day, the Teradomari Church in Niigata Prefecture also collected 163 blankets, helped by its previous PR activities.
Vatican Invites President Niwano to Inaugural Mass of Pope Benedict XVI
On April 24, the inaugural Mass for the 265th pope was celebrated in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, President Nichiko Niwano attended along with delegates from more than 150 countries, international organizations, and various faiths.
The invited representatives of other various faiths sat to the right of the altar platform. Sitting in the front row, along with President Niwano, other representatives from Japan included Ven. Kojun Handa and Ven. Ryoko Nishioka of the Tendai Buddhist denomination, and Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, chairman of Myochikai.
In his homily, the pope asked for the support of all the faithful and urged young people to give themselves to Christ.
On the following day, the pope received delegates of various faiths from around the world in audience in the Clementine Hall and stressed his commitment to interreligious dialogue. Later, Rev. Niwano had a private audience with the pope and congratulated him on his election. They shook hands, and the pope encouraged Rev. Niwano to collaborate with him for world peace.
In his message to the pope, President Niwano said: "It is the wish of every religion to bring about a world in which all life is respected. In this regard, too, our hearts are as one with that of the Holy Father, and I hope that we will continue to progress in that direction step by step, having joined hands with the world's religious leaders. " As the president of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP), he urged the Vatican's further cooperation for the success of the eighth assembly of the WCRP, to be convened in Kyoto in 2006.
New Interfaith Director at Assisi Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On April 23, Father Adam Bunnell, O.F.M. Conv., general delegate for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue at the International Franciscan Centre for Dialogue, in Assisi, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters and had a talk with the organization's chairman, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi. Also present for the dialogue were Father Eugene M. Kawashimo, O.F.M. Conv., assistant general for Asia and Australia of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual; Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's General Secretariat; and Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of the External Affairs Department.
Father Bunnell became general delegate for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue two years ago, succeeding Father Maximilian Mizzi. He visited Japan to follow up his predecessor's efforts for interfaith exchange with Japanese religious organizations. During their talk on April 23, Father Bunnell and Rev. Yamanoi agreed even further on the importance of promoting interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Rev. Yamanoi said people of faith must broaden their concerns over the world's problems and work for solutions through constant dialogue and cooperation. Father Bunnell said that one of the next opportunities for the Franciscan International Center and Rissho Kosei-kai to cooperate would be if Assisi hosted an international interreligious conference on religion and violence.
President Niwano Appears on TV for Familyfest 2005
In April Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, appeared in a video telecast worldwide for Familyfest 2005, celebrated simultaneously in 78 countries throughout the world. Organized by the Focolare Movement, a worldwide Catholic lay movement based in Italy, the festival is held every ten years, and this was the third. In his video, Rev. Niwano addressed the festival theme: "Home--Love Brings About Peace."
The purpose of the Familyfest is to promote the family as the key to solving the world's problems. The Focolare Movement, with which Rissho Kosei-kai has long enjoyed close ties, played a major role in inviting Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists worldwide to join in the event. The festival coincided with the death of Pope John Paul II, and the participants prayed for him.
Through the cooperation of 17 satellite networks and 38 national and 26 regional TV networks, the event was relayed to some 200 Familyfest gatherings around the world. On April 16, national programs were broadcast in more than 180 countries, and an hourlong world program, which included President Niwano's video, was broadcast to about 150,000 people in 78 countries from the festival center in Rome. Referring to the encounter between Rissho Kosei-kai and the Focolare Movement, President Niwano said in his message, "The world of love or compassion, which all of us aim to create, cannot be achieved overnight. Only if we fill each of our homes with love and compassion will peace in society and the world become possible. With this engraved in our minds, we would like to advance hand in hand from now on."<
Mr. Yasutomo Sawahata, the Rissho Kosei-kai representative in Geneva, also participated in the Familyfest in Switzerland and made a speech entitled "The Significance of the Family in Buddhism."
Rissho Kosei-kai Sends Delegation to Philippines for Friendship Tower's 30th Anniversary
Rissho Kosei-kai members visited the Philippines April 6--11 to join in celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Friendship Tower in the city of Bagac, Bataan Province. The delegation was led by Rev. Masanobu Koyata, director of the Shikoku District, and consisted of 87 members, including Rev. Hiroshi Niwano, honorary executive board member, and two church heads; Rev. Masatoshi Kohno (Kamaishi); and Rev. Masayuki Idei (Kagoshima). Fifty-five members from all churches in Japan as well as Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the organization's Youth Division, also participated.
The celebration was held on April 8. Some 200 people, including ordinary citizens and the members of the Bataan Christian Youth Civic Circle (BCYCC), took part, in the presence of H.E. Mr. Enrique Tuason Garcia, Jr., the provincial governor; and H.E. Mr. Armando T. Ramos, the mayor of Bagac. The recitation of a prayer by a Catholic priest was followed by chanting of the Lotus Sutra led by Rev. Niwano. In his address Rev. Koyata, on behalf of the delegation, told the gathering that the tower is a symbol of the continued friendship and cooperation between Filipinos and Japanese. He said also that he hoped the people of both countries would always bear in mind their responsibility to promote world peace and that the anniversary celebration marked a fresh start in their friendship. There were offerings of paper cranes and a wreath of flowers--Japanese symbols of peace. At the end of the ceremony, members of Rissho Kosei-kai's delegation paired with Filipino participants to ring the bell of the tower in memory of the victims of the Pacific War and for world peace, and eight doves were released as further symbols of peace.
That evening members of the delegation joined in a cultural exchange in front of the provincial government office building, hosted by the Bataan Tourism Council Foundation, headed by Mrs. Vicky Garcia, the governor's wife. Fourteen members of a Japanese drum group of Toyota Church performed in front of more than 1,000 participants. On April 9 the delegation was invited to the Bataan Day Ceremony on Mount Samat in memory of the victims of the attack by Japanese troops when Bataan fell to Japan in the Second World War. The memorial was attended by the president of the Philippines, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as guest of honor, and by the ambassadors of the United States and Japan.
Flower Festival Celebrated at Pure Land Temple
On April 10 a ceremony marking the Flower Festival (Hana Matsuri) celebrating the birthday of Shakyamuni Buddha was held at the Pure Land temple Denzuin in central Tokyo. Some 260 people--foreign residents of the Tokyo metropolitan area and tourists from 15 countries, including the United States, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and South Africa, as well as Japanese Buddhists--took part. The event, which took place for the second time at Denzuin since last year, was sponsored by the Pure Land Sect of Japanese Buddhism and the International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) of Rissho Kosei-kai.
The ceremony took place in the temple's main hall, according to Pure Land ritual. A small shrine housing a statue of the infant Shakyamuni stood before the altar. At the beginning of the ceremony, following the ritual of purifying the main hall with water, the Cherokee singer Rattlesnake Annie sang "Prayer in the Early Morning" and "Comanche Tears." Dr. Gene Reeves, IBC's international advisor and a former dean of the Meadville/Lombard Theological School in Chicago, gave a Dharma talk titled "The Lowland Buddhism of Guanyin (Kannon)," in which he emphasized the importance of everyone joining in the Buddha's work to make the world a better place. This was followed by offerings of incense by guests and sutra chanting and homage to Shakyamuni and Amida Buddha by all participants. At the end of the ceremony Rev. Taizen Asao, chief secretary of Denzuin, addressed the participants, explaining the significance of the Flower Festival. Afterward, in the main hall, the Zojo-ji Gagaku Group, a troupe of Japanese traditional court musicians who are priests of the Pure Land Sect, performed gagaku music and dance. A Sri Lankan participant expressed her joy at being able to celebrate the Buddha's birthday in Japan with people of different countries.
Shakyamuni's Birth Celebrated at Fumon Hall and All Churches
On April 8 Rissho Kosei-kai members celebrated the anniversary of Shakyamuni's birth at Fumon Hall in the organization's headquarters complex in Tokyo as well as all the churches throughout Japan. In Fumon Hall about 3,500 members gathered from throughout Japan. After the Kosei Choir sang a hymn in celebration of Shakyamuni's birth and forty young women representing all the youth members made offerings to the image of the infant Buddha on the stage, Rev. Hiroshi Hasegawa, a Rissho Kosei-kai director, led the whole assembly in chanting the sutra.
President Nichiko Niwano then made a speech in which he quoted words attributed to the infant Shakyamuni: "I alone am honored, in heaven and on earth." President Niwano said this means we have the power to carve out our own destinies and advance through recognition of the truth. He said our lives are intertwined in an infinite net of causes and conditions and sustained by the full power of all the beings around us. Striving to become aware and appreciative of that fact, he said, is the core of Shakyamuni's teachings. Thus he emphasized the importance of awakening to the value of all life. Further, he taught that the Buddha reveals that all phenomena can serve to help us perfect ourselves, and he made clear that in our practice for achieving enlightenment, we should accept the lessons of adversity to improve ourselves and be truly grateful for them.
The worship service in Fumon Hall was followed by a parade from the hall to the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle by 106 juvenile members of Rissho Kosei-kai in traditional Japanese attire, along with Indian, Bangladeshi, and Sri Lankan members and the Kosei Choir.
On the same day, as a part of the Buddhist organization's promotion of the Flower Festival, all Rissho Kosei-kai churches throughout Japan held ceremonies in celebration of Shakyamuni's birth, and members of some churches placed an image of the infant Buddha in a small pagoda near the local railway station, inviting passers-by to pour sweet hydrangea tea over the image to express their veneration. This year is the last in the eight-year period of the campaign promoting the Flower Festival.
President Niwano Pays Visit of Condolence to Vatican's Nunciature in Japan
After the death of Pope John Paul II on April 2, requiems were held throughout the world. President Nichiko Niwano visited the Vatican's Nunciature in Japan on April 5 to express his profound condolences to the acting nuncio, Msgr. Leon Kalenga.
The funeral service in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on April 8 was attended by Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's External Affairs Department, on behalf of the organization's president, along with various heads of state and world religious leaders. Later, Rev. Matsubara met with Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and offered him President Niwano's condolences.
On the same day, at St. Mary's Cathedral in Tokyo, a requiem was held under the supervision of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan. On behalf of all Rissho Kosei-kai members, Dr. Michio T. Shinozaki, a member of the organization's board of directors, attended the Mass with representatives of Japan's religious and political circles as well as of various embassies in Japan. On behalf of Emperor Akihito, Crown Prince Naruhito also attended. Some 3,500 people, including guests and Catholics in Japan, attended the Mass, celebrated by more than 100 bishops and priests.
President Niwano Welcomes Chinese Buddhist Priests at Tokyo Headquarters
On April 4 President Nichiko Niwano welcomed three leading Chinese Buddhist priests from Shanghai, China, and they had an informal talk in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters. The three priests were Rev. Jue Xing, head priest of the Shanghai Jade Buddha Temple and vice president of the Buddhist Association of China; Rev. Hui Chan, president of the Buddhist Association of Jiading-qu of Shanghai; and Rev. Hui Zhi, vice head priest of the Shanghai Jade Buddha Temple. Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of the External Affairs Department of Rissho Kosei-kai, and Mrs. Yoshie Niwano, the wife of President Niwano, were also present.
Saying that he was impressed by President Niwano's efforts to promote friendship and cooperation, not only within Buddhism but also among world religions, Rev. Jue Xing reaffirmed the lasting friendship between Buddhists in China and Japan. He also expressed his belief that Chinese Buddhists' friendship with President Niwano and Rissho Kosei-kai would strengthen even further.
President and Mrs. Niwano visited China together recently: in 2000, when President Niwano received an honorary professorship from the China Buddhist Academy; and in 2002, when he was invited by the Buddhist Association of China to join in observing the thirtieth anniversary of the normalization of Sino-Japanese relations. These trips were also among the main topics of conversation with the three visitors. On that day thirteen lay members of the Shanghai Jade Buddha Temple also visited Rissho Kosei-kai and enjoyed a guided tour of the headquarters complex.
Rissho Kosei-kai Dispatches Parent-and-child Volunteer Group to Republic of Azerbaijan
From March 23 through April 3, a volunteer group of juvenile Rissho Kosei-kai members and their parents visited the Republic of Azerbaijan. They took part in the distribution of small bags of gifts to refugee children from Chechnya in Azerbaijan. The Little Bags of Dreams Campaign is one of Rissho Kosei-kai's peace projects, in which elementary and secondary school pupils throughout Japan make small bags and collect toys and stationery items to put in them. Representative juvenile members travel to the country of the intended recipients and hand out the bags in a spirit of Buddhist prayer, compassion, and donation to children who have lost their homes and family members as a result of wars or other armed conflicts.
In Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, the volunteers visited schools for the children of Chechnya refugees and of displaced persons in Azerbaijan, as well as a refugee center, and handed out 1,466 bags to children in cooperation with the local nongovernmental organization (NGO) Hayat (meaning "Life"). The children became victims of armed conflict between Chechnya and Russia, and Azerbaijan and Armenia, after their countries gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Bags collected in last year's campaign were also distributed to children in Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, the Gaza Strip in Palestine, and Lebanon by local NGOs with friendly ties to Rissho Kosei-kai.
IARF and WCRP in Japan Offer Spiritual Development Programs at World Expo
The Japan Liaison Committee of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF/JLC) and the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) will share a pavilion in the NGO Global Village at the 2005 World Exposition in a suburb of Nagoya, one of the largest cities in central Japan, from May 1 to 31. The World Expo, whose theme is "Nature's Wisdom," opened March 25 and will continue until September 25.
The pavilion, known as the Hall of Reviving the Human Spirit Through Prayer, focuses on the development of individual spirituality and a sense of gratitude for all life. In May, IARF/JLC and WCRP/Japan, as well as their member organizations, including Rissho Kosei-kai, will display exhibition panels, show videos, and present workshops and a variety of concerts separately. On May 20, in the same pavilion, Rissho Kosei-kai will share a booth with five of its affiliated nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are active in promoting overseas assistance in developing countries.
President Nichiko Niwano Sends Letter of Condolence to Vatican on Demise of His Holiness Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II died at the age of 84 in his private apartment at the Vatican at 9:37 p.m. on April 2. During his pontificate of 26 years, he consistently opposed war and terrorism, while making enormous efforts for world peace through interreligious dialogue and cooperation. John Paul II was an outstanding world religious leader, and his efforts for peace greatly influenced people around the globe. Upon hearing the news of the pope's "returning to the house of the Father," Rissho Kosei-kai's president, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, as president of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) and the Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan, sent a letter of condolence to Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue at the Vatican.
Born in 1920 near Krakow, Poland, Karol Wojtyla was archbishop of Krakow from 1964. In 1978 he was elected the 264th pope and first non-Italian pope in 450 years. He energetically traveled throughout the world, visiting more than 100 countries. On his tour of Japan in 1981, he visited Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.
Especially in interreligious dialogue and cooperation, he showed the most determined and practical attitude of any pope in history. His endeavors included ecumenical and interreligious dialogue with Protestants, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Jews.
The pope sent delegates from the Vatican to the fourth world assembly of the WCRP, held in Nairobi in 1984, and successive WCRP world assemblies thereafter. At the sixth world assembly, convened at the Vatican, the pope appeared with Rissho Kosei-kai's founder, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, at the opening session and addressed the world religious leaders gathered in the Synod Hall.
On the Day of Prayer for Peace, advocated by the pope and observed in Assisi, Italy, in 1986 and again in 2002, President Niwano participated as a representative of Japanese Buddhists. He also attended the World Assembly of Religions in 1999, hosted by the Vatican, and appeared onstage with the pope during the assembly's closing ceremony in Saint Peter's Square before a gathering of some 20,000.
Both Rissho Kosei-kai's founder and president met the pope many more times, in private and general audiences. Founder Niwano met the pope in 1979, the second year of his papacy. President Niwano had a special audience with His Holiness in 1983, and seven more meetings in later years. President Niwano last met the pope when he received His Holiness's personal greeting during the weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square in April 2004.
President Nichiko Niwano Inaugurated as New Chairman of WCRP/Japan
On April 1 President Nichiko Niwano of Rissho Kosei-kai was inaugurated as the third chairman of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan). He was elected as the new chairman during the 86th meeting of the Board of Directors and the 83rd meeting of the Councilors of WCRP/Japan held at the Konkokyo Church of Izuo in Osaka on March 22. Rev. Niwano succeeded Peter Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, who had served as the second chairman of WCRP/Japan for the past nine years, since 1996. The first chairman was Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, who led the multireligious body for 24 years, from its establishment in 1972, two years after the first general assembly of the WCRP in Kyoto in 1970.
During the news conference after the Board of Directors meeting, Cardinal Shirayanagi declared that the WCRP had set a fine example of people of various religious and cultural backgrounds working together for peace. He added that as peace begins in the heart of individuals, people of faith bear special responsibility for peace.
Expressing his strong concern over the movement in Japan to amend the clause in the Constitution of Japan renouncing war, which has recently gained momentum sixty years after World War II, Cardinal Shirayanagi said he hoped concrete actions for peace would be taken under the new chairman. President Nichiko Niwano praised Cardinal Shirayanagi for his past dedication to WCRP/Japan, saying the cardinal's warmth, impartiality, and tolerance had encouraged adherents of member organizations of WCRP/Japan to join in its activities. Rev. Niwano then expressed the hope that WCRP/Japan would develop further as an organization in which people of different religious convictions are willing to take part.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Expenditures in Fiscal 2004
The executive committee of Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund reported its spending on grants in fiscal 2004. The sum of 518,304,169 Japanese yen, which was raised through the Donate-a-Meal Campaign, was provided for aid projects in both Japan and other countries in the fields of development, human rights, environmental protection, and work for peace. Management of the fund is based on the guiding principle of putting a religious organization's social ideals into practice, by enriching the spirit of the campaign through prayer, compassion, and donation-becoming one with others who are suffering from various calamities.
The allocations were made as follows, according to four categories set up by the executive committee:
1. Joint projects with other organizations. The sum of 147,711,716 Japanese yen was allocated to 20 joint projects, including the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa and Ethiopia's reforestation program.
2. Independent projects. The sum of 99,251,241 Japanese yen was allocated to ten independent projects, including the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign and the Rissho Kosei-kai Global Volunteers program.
3. Aid grants. The sum of 232,087,050 Japanese yen was distributed according to five sub-categories: (a) grants commissioned by the Niwano Peace Foundation, (b) programs for interreligious cooperation, (c) special assignments, (d) support for the United Nations, and (e) emergency aid for natural disasters. The management of the former general grants for projects of nongovernmental organizations and other groups was entrusted in 2004 to the Niwano Peace Foundation to award grants for more specialized fields. The South Asia Program, which the foundation launched in 2004, received 27,446,700 Japanese yen. Eighty million Japanese yen was provided in emergency aid in the aftermath of such natural disasters as earthquakes, floods, and tsunami, which caused enormous devastation in Japan and other countries.
4. Emergency aid. The sum of 39,254,162 Japanese yen was allocated to the Iraq project promoted through the World Conference of Religions for Peace.
Rissho Kosei-kai Staff Members Participate in IAHR Congress
Rissho Kosei-kai officers and staff members participated in the 19th World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR), which convened March 24--30 in a hotel in Tokyo. President Nichiko Niwano participated in the opening ceremony on March 24 as chairman of the Japanese Association of Religious Organizations. Several headquarters officers and staff members also took part in the sessions, which were held every day throughout the congress. Rissho Kosei-kai also supported the convening of the congress through financial assistance and by offering accommodation to several participants from overseas.
The theme of the congress was "Religion: Conflicts and Peace." Some 1,700 people from 39 countries took part, most of whom are scholars of religion. Besides several plenary sessions and symposiums, some 350 sessions were held. At one session on the theme "The Lotus Sutra and Peace," Dr. Michio Shinozaki, president of the Gakurin Seminary of Rissho Kosei-kai, and Ms. Chieko Osawa, a Gakurin seminarian and a graduate student of the University of Tokyo, served as panelists, along with Dr. Hiroshi Kanno, a professor at Soka University. Dr. Gene Reeves, a researcher on the Lotus Sutra and the former dean of the Meadville/Lombard Theological School in Chicago, served as coordinator; and Dr. Paul Swanson, director of the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, as respondent.
In his presentation "Nikkyo Niwano's Understanding of Peace and the Lotus Sutra," Dr. Shinozaki stated that for Founder Nikkyo Niwano the ideal Buddhist state of nirvana meant dynamism of creation and harmony. He said that Founder Niwano's efforts to promote interreligious cooperation were based on his firm conviction that the teachings of all religions share a common origin, and he especially emphasized the spirit of the Bodhisattva Never Despise in chapter 20 of the Lotus Sutra for promoting interreligious cooperation.
Ms. Osawa spoke of the religious views reflected in the literature of Kenji Miyazawa, a famous Japanese poet and author of children's stories in the early twentieth century. She said that for Miyazawa, also a devout follower of the Lotus Sutra, creating children's literature was a form of religious practice, noting that he strongly believed that the world of children's stories can free people's imagination to penetrate a deeper reality.
Three Indian NGOs Receive Grants from South Asia Program Promoted by Niwano Peace Foundation
The consultative committee of the Niwano Peace Foundation's South Asia Program announced three local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as recipients of its aid project under this year's subtheme, "Women and Gender," which began in India in April 2005. They are the Institute of Psychological and Educational Research (IPER), the Rural Development Association (RDA), and Vanangana.
IPER is to start its new program of assisting women living in the slums of Kolkata, West Bengal, by improving their living conditions and social position.
RDA is set to start its training program for women living in 110 villages in West Midnapore district, West Bengal, to improve their quality of life. By assisting the self-help groups already existing in the villages, RDA aims to enhance its training program for education, hygiene, livelihood, and social engagement to help the village women become self-reliant.
Since its foundation, Vanangana has supported and helped those known as "untouchables" become self-reliant. In many parts of India they suffer discrimination and oppression, and in the villages where they live, their access to wells or irrigation facilities is restricted. They call themselves Dalits (based on the Sanskrit word "dalita," meaning "oppressed") as a sign of their determination to fight discrimination based on their birth. Vanangana is to start training Dalit women in 100 villages in the Chitrakoot district of Uttar Pradesh to manage irrigation systems.
Since 2000 the Niwano Peace Foundation has implemented its South Asia Program, which gives financial support to the activities of NGOs in South Asia aimed at improving living condition there, and has made "Poverty Alleviation" its main theme. The foundation also has decided to adopt an annual subtheme. The first aid project in India under the subtheme "Food Security" was implemented in 2004na. The operating funds for activities of the South Asian Program come from Rissho Kosei-kai's Peace Fund, whose executive committee entrusts the program's management to the foundation.
Chairman Yamanoi Attends International Council Meeting of IARF
Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of the board of directors of Rissho Kosei-kai, visited Oxford, England, to attend meetings of the International Council of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) March 14 --16. The meetings were held in the Oxford Friends Meeting House in a suburb of Oxford, and some 25 religionists took part, including members of the International Council, regional coordinators, and IARF staff members.
Rev. Yamanoi was elected as a member of the IARF International Executive Committee and as its treasurer at the 31st World Congress of the IARF in Budapest, Hungary, in 2002, and he took part in the Oxford meeting in his capacity as treasurer. The participants discussed the estimated financial budget of 2005 and the 32nd world congress, to be held at Fo Guang Shan, Republic of China, in 2006. In the meetings they divided into three groups for three sessions on such topics as "What is the most essential factor for the IARF 2006 Congress?", "The theme of the next congress," and "Procedures for the general meeting." At the session on "What is the most essential factor for the IARF 2006 Congress?", Rev. Yamanoi emphasized the importance of the solidarity among members of the International Council.
Rissho Kosei-kai Presents Funds for Disaster Relief
On March 9 Rev. Kazunori Motomura, Niigata district director of Rissho Kosei-kai, visited the Niigata prefectural office and met with Mr. Hirohiko Izumida, governor of the prefecture. Rev. Motomura handed Mr. Izumida a letter detailing the total contributions of 106,246,608 Japanese yen for earthquake victims.
The money was collected through Rissho Kosei-kai members' activities, including fund-raising campaigns and charity bazaars. Rissho Kosei-kai opened a bank account from November 14, 2004, to February 17, 2005, in which people throughout Japan deposited donations. After closing the account, the Buddhist organization announced the total amount of deposits at a meeting of heads of churches on March 7.<
The donations were utilized for the relief of victims of Typhoon No. 23, which hit Japan's main island of Honshu on October 20 and 21, as well as for victims of the earthquake that struck central Niigata Prefecture on October 23, 2004. The organization also donated funds to Japanese prefectures where the typhoon caused damage, including Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures.
Great Sacred Hall Being Renovated
On March 7, at the meeting of all Rissho Kosei-kai church heads, the headquarters directors reported on the policy and plans for the renovation of the Great Sacred Hall and its precincts, which is one of the projects to commemorate the centennial of Founder Niwano's birth.
At the meeting, after Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, general secretariat director, reported on the process and progress of the renovation, Rev. Hiroshi Hasegawa, dissemination affairs director, outlined the basic policy for the project. Rev. Hasegawa reaffirmed that the Great Sacred Hall, as the main center of Rissho Kosei-kai's religious activities, will always be open to members, whether for reciting the sutra, taking part in hoza sessions or volunteering for maintenance duty. He also explained that members coming to worship at the headquarters should begin their tour on the first floor of the Great Sacred Hall, worshipping before the statue of the Eternal Buddha and receiving training in the Buddha's teachings. He said much consideration was being given to enhancing an atmosphere conducive to devotion, including new landscaping around the hall, to put visitors in a spiritual state of mind. Rev. Keiichi Hashimoto, general affairs director, described the plans for new landscaping and improvements on each floor.
In January 2002 the three Rissho Kosei-kai departments of Dissemination, General Affairs, and the Secretariat began collaborating on a study for the renovation and seismic retrofit.
In October 2003, Rissho Kosei-kai started the work of installing the base-isolation device between the building and the foundation, to ensure the safety of visitors and religious and cultural properties and to make the hall a public shelter in case of a major earthquake.
Further, after the three departments considered the organization's ninth long-term plan, which stipulates improvements in facilities for worship in the Great Sacred Hall and the reception of members, they agreed on a design for renovation, both for the interior of the hall and the exterior landscaping. The board of trustees approved it in October 2004, and full-scale renovation work began in February 2005.
Rissho Kosei-kai Members Collect 136 Million Japanese Yen for Disaster Victims
At a meeting of Rissho Kosei-kai's heads of churches in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall on March 7, the Buddhist organization announced that 136,246,608 Japanese yen had been deposited by donors throughout Japan in a bank account open from November 14, 2004, to February 17, 2005, for the relief of disaster victims in Japan. Rev. Hiroshi Hasegawa, a member of Rissho Kosei-kai's board of directors and director of its Dissemination Department, thanked all those who made donations.
After the devastation caused by Typhoon No. 23 on Japan's main island of Honshu on October 20 and 21, as well as the earthquake that struck central Niigata Prefecture on October 23, Rissho Kosei-kai decided to open a bank account to receive donations for relief of the victims.
The Buddhist organization also announced that it had allocated 106,246,608 yen for relief of the earthquake victims in Niigata Prefecture. The organization also donated 10 million yen to Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures and 3 million yen to Okayama, Kochi, and Kagawa prefectures for typhoon victims. Rissho Kosei-kai also contributed 1 million yen to the Central Community Chest of Japan's Kyoto Office
Rissho Kosei-kai Celebrates 67th Anniversary
On March 5, Rissho Kosei-kai celebrated its 67th anniversary with a ceremony in Fumon Hall in the organization's headquarters complex in Tokyo. Some 4,800 members took part in the event, which was relayed by satellite TV to all churches throughout Japan, where similar ceremonies were held simultaneously.
In Fumon Hall, 40 members of young women's groups offered lighted candles and flowers. After sutra chanting led by Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi, President Nichiko Niwano offered a dedication prayer. Then Rev. Yamanoi gave an address on behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai. Referring to the current renovation of the Great Sacred Hall and President Niwano's nationwide dissemination tour for the 2006 centenary of Founder Niwano's birth, he urged members to reflect on the significance of the founding of Rissho Kosei-kai, which has allowed members to fulfill themselves through the Buddha's teachings and disseminated the teachings so widely. In a commendation ceremony, President Niwano handed certificates of appreciation and gifts to senior members who had contributed significantly to the organization's development over many years.
After a representative of the members gave a speech of testimony to the faith, Rev. Yasumi Hirose, president of Oomoto, made a congratulatory speech. Referring to the history of Rissho Kosei-kai's contributions for the welfare of humanity and world peace, he called for cooperation with Rissho Kosei-kai in building world peace, and said their joint efforts would make the two organizations a beacon for peace in today's world. Then President Niwano, in his speech of guidance, emphasized understanding and accepting the Buddha's teachings and conveying them to others.
IARF's New General Secretary Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On February 22 Dr. Daryl Meirick Balia, the new general secretary of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF), and Rev. Olivia Holmes, director of international relations of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), paid a courtesy call at the headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai and conferred with the chairman, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, in the administration building. Dr. Balia was recently appointed the IARF's new general secretary to head its international office in Oxford. He is a native South African of Indo-Nepalese origin and served as a Methodist minister in Cape Town, where he built a church and performed community service for resettled victims of apartheid. He also strove to promote dialogue and mutual understanding among the multiracial peoples of South Africa.
At the beginning of the meeting, Rev. Yamanoi congratulated Dr. Balia on his appointment, saying it was very significant that the IARF would choose someone from Africa as its general secretary. Dr. Balia said he would make every effort for the IARF to meet all the expectations of Rissho Kosei-kai members.
Rev. Holmes said she shared President Nichiko Niwano's belief in the importance of the family in giving children a wholesome upbringing. Rev. Yamanoi described some of Japan's serious social problems in recent years, saying crimes are being committed by teenagers or children even younger. He explained that President Niwano emphasized the importance of "having a family filled with warmth" in the recognition that juvenile delinquency can be linked to unhappiness in the family. He also explained the president's teaching of the "three practices" in daily life as the pivotal discipline for the relationship between parents and child, as well as between husband and wife. The "three practices" are greeting other family members by saying "good morning" at the beginning of each day; replying "yes" crisply and clearly when called; and always pushing in one's chair when leaving the table and aligning one's shoes neatly after removing them at the entrance to the home.
WCRP and Rissho Kosei-kai Representatives Join WCC Central Committee Meeting in Geneva
On February 15--22, the World Council of Churches held a meeting of its Central Committee at the Ecumenical Center in Geneva, Switzerland, in which some 200 people participated, including committee members, staff, and observers. On behalf of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, Mr. Kyoichi Sugino, director of Inter-religious Council Development, took part as a guest. Mr. Yasutomo Sawahata of Rissho Kosei-kai of Geneva participated on behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai as an observer. In the course of the meeting Mr. Sugino promoted dialogues with leading members of the Central Committee, as well as WCC's department directors, discussing future cooperation between the WCC and WCRP in such areas as conflict resolution and support for AIDS orphans. As the general assemblies of both the WCC and WCRP are scheduled in 2006, it was also confirmed that the two organizations would draft a memorandum to develop cooperation. Mr. Sawahata met with Dr. Hans Ucko, WCC's programme executive for interreligious relations, with whom he discussed the course of dialogue and cooperation in 2005 between the WCC and Rissho Kosei-kai. Dr. Ucko reported that the WCC would sponsor an interfaith conference in Geneva in June, and invited Rissho Kosei-kai to participate. Mr. Sawahata also met with His Holiness Aram I, moderator of the Central Committee, and exchanged views on peace education, education of youth, and medical assistance for people affected by war and natural disasters.
Religious Youth from South Korea and Japan Hold Eighth Exchange Program
The Eighth Japan--South Korea Youth Encounter 2005 was held February 16--21 in Seoul, South Korea. Fifty-nine youths from religious organizations in South Korea and Japan took part in the program, which was cosponsored by the Youth Board of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) and the Korean Conference on Religion and Peace (KCRP). From Rissho Kosei-kai, twelve members took part, including Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Division and secretary-general of the Youth Board of WCRP/Japan.
The event began with the participants' visiting the Independence Hall of Korea in Seoul, the former site of Sodaemun Prison under Japanese rule. In that prison, the Japanese government confined and tortured Koreans who had worked for their country's independence.
In the exchange program, the participants divided into four groups according to such themes as Peace, Volunteer Work, Religion, and Culture. The Peace group visited Odusan Unification Observatory near the border with North Korea and learned about the history of both countries. The Volunteers group called at a school for children with learning disabilities in Seoul and took part in volunteer work. The Religion group visited Seoul's Anglican Cathedral and Bongwonsa temple, headquarters of the Taego sect of Korean Buddhism, and learned about religious doctrines and their history. The Culture group visited the Lotte World Folk Museum to learn about Korean history and culture.
At the Young Men's Christian Association in Seoul, the participants heard lectures by Mr. Yun Bup Dal, secretary-general of the Won Buddhism Youth Association of South Korea, and Rev. Matsumoto of Rissho Kosei-kai. During the program on February 17--18, the participants separated into Korean and Japanese pairs and stayed at the homes of 18 Korean families of KCRP member organizations.
The exchange program began in 1990 and is held every two years. It provides opportunities for religious youth to build genuine trust in one another on the basis of their common religious spirit, and to consider their roles in realizing world peace.
Niwano Peace Prize Awarded to Dr. Hans Kung
The Niwano Peace Foundation (Nichiko Niwano, president; Kinjiro Niwano, chairman) has decided to award the 22d Niwano Peace Prize to the Catholic theologian, Dr. Hans Kung, president of the Global Ethic Foundation in Germany and Switzerland. This was announced at a press conference held at Rissho Kosei-kai's Kyoto Fumon Hall in Kyoto on February 22.
Dr. Kung has won renown around the world for his advocacy of "global ethics" to build world peace. He was appointed to the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII as a theological consultant. He also drafted the Global Ethic Declaration of the Parliament of the World's Religions held in Chicago in 1993.
After the selection of Dr. Kung for the prize, H.E. Bishop Gunnar Stalsett of Oslo, Norway, a longtime member of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee and the chair of the international Niwano Peace Prize Committee said, "Professor Hans Kung has made a unique contribution to the interfaith movement. His scholarly contributions as well has his strategic mind have moved both religious leaders and ordinary people to build bridges for common service to humanity. His insights are indispensable for any viable peace process in such areas as the Middle East, Iraq and Sri Lanka."
The Niwano Peace Prize is awarded on the basis of recommendations gathered from over 1,000 leading figures in 125 countries, which are deliberated in strict fairness by the committee before it reaches a decision. The presentation ceremony will take place in Tokyo on May 11. In addition to the award certificate, Dr. Kung will receive a medal and 20 million Japanese yen.
Rissho Kosei-kai Observes Anniversary of the Buddha's Entrance into Nirvana
On February 15 Rissho Kosei-kai solemnly observed the anniversary of the Buddha's entrance into nirvana in Fumon Hall at the organization's Tokyo headquarters. (The Great Sacred Hall is closed for a seismic retrofit.) Similar ceremonies were also held at all the organization's churches throughout Japan. The anniversary is one of the three major annual Buddhist events and is an occasion for all members to ponder the significance of Shakyamuni's death and renew their vows to disseminate his teachings. Some 3,900 members took part in the ceremony at Fumon Hall.
It began with an offering of flowers and lit candles before the statue of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni by 40 young women members of Tokyo's Tama area, wearing saris. This was followed by sutra chanting led by Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, the chairman of the Buddhist organization's board of directors. President Nichiko Niwano then gave a Dharma talk in which he explained the significance of the Meditation on the Place of Enlightenment, which is always recited before the sutra chanting, and he encouraged members to ponder its meaning. He said the world we live in is also the one in which Shakyamuni Buddha and other buddhas attained enlightenment, taught, and entered nirvana. He expressed his gratitude to the founder and cofounder of Rissho Kosei-kai, who enabled all members to encounter the unchanging precious Buddhist teachings.
Indian Partner NGOs of Niwano Peace Foundation's South Asia Program Submit Interim Report
In July 2000, the Niwano Peace Foundation initiated the South Asia Program to assist the activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in South Asia to help improve living conditions there. In 2003 the foundation organized a consultative committee meeting for the program, inviting scholars, social activists, and representatives of NGOs to plan the program in detail. The committee decided that the program would cover Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the seven Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, and West Bengal. It adopted "Poverty Alleviation" as its main theme. It also decided that a sub-theme would be deliberated annually; the first year's sub-theme is "Food Security."
The concrete program was inaugurated in New Delhi, India, on March 29, 2004, with three Indian NGOs that had been helping rural people become self-reliant: Adhikar, the Bharat Integrated Social Welfare Agency (BISWA), and Jan Jagriti Kendra (JJK). Recently the three NGOs reported on their activities to the Niwano Peace Foundation, as follows.
Adhikar has implemented a "livelihood promotion program" in 32 villages of the Nayagarh district in the state of Orissa, whose inhabitants are mostly tribal people, farmers, and landless laborers. Because of chronic unemployment, many residents migrate to other states in search of work. Adhikar, while further developing its original projects to promote micro-financing and human rights, also has initiated new programs for the construction of irrigation facilities in villages, agricultural education for villagers, and health care.
BISWA has been assisting tribal people in the Sambalpur district of Orissa by setting up "self-help" groups in 10 villages, to empower villagers to identify problems in village development and find solutions themselves. BISWA also conducted monthly "awareness camps" in each village to promote children's health and education, environmental protection, and the right to own land. Women of the self-help groups have worked to improve women's social status and facilitate communication among the groups. BISWA also held a training program to develop women's skills in such traditional crafts as bamboo ware.
JJK has worked in Bilaigarh region of the Raipur district, in the state of Chhattisgarh, a marginalized community of tribal people and outcastes. Because the local topography makes farming difficult, most tribal families barely eke out a living on the land they own. As the villagers had no previous experience with organizational activity, JJK's focus has been to hold meetings of villagers to build trust and develop a common understanding of the social and agricultural problems they face. According to a recent survey by JJK of living conditions, more than 80 percent of the villagers live in poverty. The distribution system for food and other essential commodities is inefficient, which drives up prices, which the villagers can ill afford to pay.
Israeli Ambassador Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On February 4, Mr. Eli Cohen, the Israeli ambassador to Japan, paid a courtesy call at the headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai and had a talk with President Nichiko Niwano in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. Mr. Gil Haskel, counselor of the Israeli Embassy, and Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's External Affairs Department, were also present. Mr. Cohen told Rev. Niwano that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would hold a summit on February 8th at Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. He said that a great opportunity for building harmony between Israel and Palestine would come in 2005, and he expressed hope for peace among all the peoples of the region.
Mr. Cohen emphasized the spirit of helping others, referring to the aid Israel gave to the Japanese village of Yamakoshi in Niigata Prefecture, where a powerful earthquake in October 2004 did considerable damage to houses. In August, Israeli and Palestinian students participating in the Second Japan-Israel-Palestine Joint Student Conference, held in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture, were invited to the village, where they received a warm welcome and stayed in residents' homes. Mr. Cohen said it is a tradition of Israelis to help those who suffer hardship.
President Niwano told the ambassador that he had visited Israel twice and briefed him on the Niwano Peace Foundation, an affiliate of Rissho Kosei-kai, which awarded its peace prize to Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, a joint community of Jews and Palestinians in Israel, in 1992, and to Father Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Christian priest and educator in Israel, in 2001.
Rissho Kosei-kai Officers and Staff Members Chant Sutra for Restoration of Statue of Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni
About 500 officers and staff members of Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters, including its affiliates, gathered on February 4 in the Great Sacred Hall to chant the sutra in the hope of perfect restoration of the statue of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni and for the smooth transfer of the images of gods and buddhas enshrined in the Eiju-den hall to the Former Headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai, the organization's birthplace. With that ceremony, the Great Sacred Hall was closed for a year of seismic retrofit as one of the preparations for the celebration of the Founder's birth centennial in 2006.
Niwano Peace Foundation Offers Assistance to Sri Lankan NGO for Relief of Tsunami Victims
The Niwano Peace Foundation donated 1.2 million Japanese yen for medical relief for victims of the tsunami in Sri Lanka. The money was presented in February to the Economic Consultancy House (TECH), a Sri Lankan nongovernmental organization.
TECH, as part of its wide-ranging social engagement in northeastern Sri Lanka, has been promoting relief activities for tsunami victims in Mullaittivu, a devastated coastal town in the northeast. The donation will be used to buy medicine and finance TECH's medical relief in the area. The total of dead and missing in Sri Lanka has exceeded 40,000, not only along the southern coast, where popular resorts are located, but also in the strife-torn north. According to TECH, in the Mullaittivu area more than 5,000 people are presumed dead, and some 6,000 families have lost their homes. Many wells were contaminated, and outbreaks of contagious diseases are still feared. More medicine is needed to provide better treatment and prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
The TECH was established in 1978 to bring about long-term, sustainable development in the northeast province of Sri Lanka. Its president, Professor A. Navaratnarajah of Jaffna University, also serves as a consultant to the Japanese government on issues related to Sri Lanka.
At the ceremony, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of the board of directors of Rissho Kosei-kai, led the sutra recitation and said afterward in his speech that as he chanted, he prayed for the safety of the workers who would undertake the restoration. He also expressed his wish that next year Rissho Kosei-kai will celebrate its anniversary in a beautifully renovated Great Sacred Hall. He said unity and cooperation among the organization's staff would be essential for such a great enterprise.
Seismic Retrofit of Great Sacred Hall Begins
Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters announced that the Great Sacred Hall would be closed to visitors from February 4th to the end of February next year for renovations in compliance with two major amendments to Japan's building code made since 1964, the year the Great Sacred Hall was built. The current code stresses prevention of earthquake damage. After reviewing possible seismic retrofits, Rissho Kosei-kai contracted two construction firms for the work. The roof will also be retiled and the hall's western approach widened. The renovation will give greater protection to the statue of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni, Rissho Kosei-kai's main focus of devotion, and other important religious and cultural properties. Furthermore, the building will be adapted for possible use as a public shelter in case of natural disaster.
During the renovation, worship services will be held instead in Fumon Hall and at Rissho Kosei-kai's former headquarters, near the Great Sacred Hall.
The renovation is also one of the plans for celebrating the centennial of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth, in 2006.
Pan-American Leaders Seminar Held in Los Angeles
A Pan-American Leaders Seminar was held January 21--23 at the Rissho Kosei-kai Buddhist Church of Los Angeles with 24 participants from American and Brazilian churches. The seminar, for church chapter leaders, was organized to further develop the Sangha, or community of Buddhist believers, at the local level through dissemination of the Buddha's teachings.
Following activity reports by representatives of each church, there were lectures by Rev. Norio Sakai, an honorary executive board member of Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters. Through discussion in working groups and hoza counseling sessions, participants deepened their understanding of the lectures and planned in detail how to develop their local Sanghas.
Each American and Brazilian church planned follow-up seminars for local leaders in May and June, to be initiated by the participants in the January seminar, for developing the Sangha in their local communities.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Donates to WFP
In January the executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced it had allocated 10 million Japanese yen to the World Food Programme (WFP) for emergency relief of tsunami victims.
On January 26, Mr. Waichi Hoshina, secretary-general of the executive committee of the organization's Peace Fund, visited the Japan Association for the United Nations WFP in Yokohama and delivered a letter to Mr. Mitsunari Nitta, its senior manager, detailing the total contributions. During their meeting, Mr. Nitta expressed gratitude for the support of Rissho Kosei-kai members and explained the importance of support from private organizations for reviving areas damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. Mr. Nitta also outlined the WFP's efforts to supply food to tsunami victims.
The WFP was established by the United Nations in 1963 and has worked as its front-line agency in the fight against hunger in 81 countries around the world. The WFP plans to provide 170,000 tons of food for 2 million earthquake and tsunami victims by June.
Rissho Kosei-kai Establishes South Asia Church
The Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia Church was inaugurated and a service to welcome its new minister was held at the Thai Rissho Friendship Foundation in Bangkok on January 23. Following the ceremony in Bangkok, similar services were held in Sri Lanka on the 24th, in India on the 26th, in Nepal on the 27th, and in Bangladesh on the 29th. A thousand members in five countries participated in these services.
With growing membership in South Asia, the Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia Church was established on December 1, 2004, to promote dissemination in the area, and Rev. Teruo Saito was appointed its minister. The church serves five countries and had a membership 1,887 households as of December 31, 2004.
At the ceremony in Bangkok, following an offering of flowers by young women members and sutra chanting, Rev. Hiroshi Hasegawa, a member of Rissho Kosei-kai's board of directors and director of its Dissemination Department, described in detail the establishment of the new church and encouraged members to disseminate the Buddhist teachings. In his inaugural speech, Rev. Saito said, "I would like to study and practice the teachings with you to become a person who serves the needs of people everywhere."
Before each service in the five nations, memorial services were held for the tsunami victims, with prayers for the repose of their spirits and for the speedy recovery of devastated areas.
Rissho Kosei-kai of Kobe Marks Tenth Anniversary of Great Hanshin Earthquake
On January 17, the tenth anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake, Rissho Kosei-kai of Kobe held a memorial service for the 6,433 people who died. An additional 43,792 were injured, and 512,882 buildings were damaged. The service was attended by Rissho Kosei-kai's president, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, as well as Mrs. Yoshie Niwano and Rev. Koichi Matsumo, director of the Youth Division. Some 2,230 members took part.
The ceremony began with the showing of a video of the earthquake in Kobe and President Niwano's visit to the Kobe Church on January 19, 1995. Twenty-one women members offered candles lighted from a candle at the memorial to the victims in Higashi Yuenchi Park before memorial tablets bearing the posthumous name of all the victims of the earthquake as well as the names of 81 church members who died. After the sutra chanting, led by Rev. Keishi Shiina, head of the Kobe church, President Niwano delivered a eulogy.
In his message of religious guidance, Rev. Niwano described the need to accept change in daily life. Realizing that life is unpredictable is part of the wisdom of the buddhas and bodhisttvas, he said. He emphasized that everyone is endowed with the capacity to comprehend the Dharma and the truths taught by Shakyamuni Buddha and that we can find the strength to cope with misfortune only by keeping in mind that things can change for the better. He concluded that though life is short, our greatest joy is encountering the Eternal Dharma. He expressed gratitude for that fact and encouraged members to spread the joy of acknowledging the Dharma.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Helps Tsunami Victims
Rev. Katsunori YamAnoi, chairman of the board of directors of Rissho Kosei-kai, visited the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Japan in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo on January 12. He handed a letter to Ms. Pirkko Kourula, regional representative of the UNHCR Regional Office for Japan and the Republic of Korea, detailing the total contribution of 10 million Japanese yen from the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund for emergency relief and reconstruction in areas affected by the tsunami on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Although UNHCR's main purpose is to protect refugees from war or political persecution, it decided to undertake relief activities for six months in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Somalia in view of the scale of the disaster. The UNHCR made an emergency appeal to the main donor countries for about $76 million.
In her talk with Chairman Yamanoi, Ms. Kourula said Rissho Kosei-kai was the first NGO in Japan to contribute for tsunami disaster relief and she thanked him for the donation. Rev. Yamanoi described the Donate-a-Meal Campaign as one of Rissho Kosei-kai's main peace activities, in which ordinary members take part in the course of their daily lives, and said members would continue to do whatever they could for tsunami victims.
President Niwano Delivers His First Sermon of the Year
A ceremony marking the president's first sermon of the year was held at the Great Sacred Hall on January 7. More than 4,000 members gathered to receive his guidance and renew their pledge of spiritual progress during the year. On the platform more than twenty young women members from the Tokyo District made an offering to the statue of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni, the organization's main focus of devotion, and Rev. Kosho Niwano, president-designate of Rissho Kosei-kai, led the assembly in sutra chanting. Then Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of the board of directors, described the importance of this year in preparing for next year's celebration of Founder Niwano's birth centennial and referred to the various natural disasters, such as typhoons, floods, and earthquakes, that caused so much suffering throughout Japan last year. He expressed deep gratitude for members' support of the victims.
After two members, on behalf of all the others, offered New Year's resolutions, President Niwano delivered his first sermon of the year, in which he referred to the two words he had written in traditional Japanese calligraphy on two hanging scrolls on New Year's Day: "Gassho" (joining one's hands in prayer) and "Hoki" (joy in the Dharma). He said the greatest joy of our brief lives is encountering the eternal Dharma and the Buddha's truths. The ceremony was relayed to all Rissho Kosei-kai churches throughout Japan by satellite TV.
New Year's Visit for Worship Held at Great Sacred Hall
The Ceremony of a New Year's Visit, marking members' first act of worship in the year, took place at midnight New Year's Eve in the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo and at all churches throughout the country. Some 9,000 members gathered in the Great Sacred Hall despite the cold weather and a light snowfall.
At the stroke of midnight, chanting of the sutra was led by the chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, followed by President Niwano's offering to the Buddha of his vow for the New Year. In his annual message to all members, President Niwano emphasized the importance of parents showing religious devotion before the Buddhist home altar in front of other family members, encouraging all members in their practice of "Regulating the Family," a new guiding principle adopted by Rissho Kosei-kai at the beginning of last year. President Niwano referred to the natural disasters that had befallen so many people throughout the world and which still cause great suffering. He stressed the importance of a developing a positive outlook in order to help others if we ourselves are involved in such disasters, to cope with the hardships we would face.
Following the ceremony, President Niwano offered a prayer before the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle, paying reverence to the memory of Founder Nikkyo Niwano and making a New Year's offering of spiced sake.
In the first three days of January, some 18,500 members visited the Great Sacred Hall for their first act of worship of the year.
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