Peace and Reconciliation-Article 9 and Non-violent Conflict Transformation



Payap University

Toshi Yamamoto

Kwansei Gakuin University

Peace and Reconciliation-Article 9 and Non-violent Conflict Transformation

The case of Japan

<Memories of carving of pigs>

As we just celebrated 500 years of Luther’s reformation on Oct 31, this year, I would like to begin with some personal reflection upon my last visit in Germany.

About 5 years ago, when I was attending a conference in Germany, I had a chance to visit a church called “The Castle Church” in Wittenberg, Germany. The church is well known, 500 years ago, Martin Luther posted his 95 thesis on its door in protest against the Catholic Church’s practice of indulgences. As I went around the church building to the back, I was surprised to find a carving of pigs placed on the top of the outer wall. So I asked my German friend, “Why are the images of pigs up there on such a famous church?” The answer was, that they were made in the early 12th century as a symbol of contempt for the Jews. In those days, the churches in Germany called Jewish people “pigs”, and treated them as such. In 1983, the 500th anniversary of Luther’s birth, the building was going to be renovated, and the topic came up at the church as to whether or not the carving of the “pigs” should be destroyed. The decision of the church people was that it should remain just as it was so that people would not forget that shameful part of the churches’ history which was the horrible discrimination against the Jews. I was rather shocked to learn that such a decision could be made. This would never have been done in Japan. The traditional Japanese way of dealing with the past is to either “put a lid on a scandal” and “sweep it under the carpet” or to “let bygones be bygones”.

It is ironical and a pity that the Jewish people, who faced discrimination and oppression as well as having experienced a terrible holocaust, has turned out to have a Jewish government that now acts as oppressors toward the Palestinians.

Our hope lies in the fact that some Jews, Palestinians, and others worldwide who are protesting against the Israeli government as they work together  for reconciliation and peace.

Nevertheless, the carving of the “pigs” serves as a powerful living reminder of the painful past of the German people. The “pigs” also suggest that to forget our sins may be an even greater sin than to commit them. Because what is forgotten cannot be healed and that which cannot be healed easily becomes the cause of greater evil. Forgotten Auschwitz creates Hiroshima. And forgotten Hiroshima will create another nuclear disaster.

At the outset of my talk, I would like to remind you that our personal and collective memories of war, violence, and non-violence could play an important role in conflict transformation and peace building here and now.

<Memories of War and Peace>
I remember, long, long time ago, before the Iraq war started in 2003, that I read an article on an interview with US senator, Daniel Inoue who happens to be a member of the church which I served as one of the pastors about 25 years ago in Hawaii. He was President pro tempore of the United States Senate, (third in line in the Presidential Line of Successions) from 2010 until his death in 2012, making him the highest-ranking Asian-American politician in U.S. history. As of April this year, the name of the airport in Honolulu was changed to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, to honor him.  (The airport was formerly known as Honolulu International Airport. )
He also was a member of the famous 442nd Regimental Combat Team in the European Theater, which many of the Japanese Americans volunteered to serve in during the World War II. Dan Inoue lost his right arm during the War. He said in his interview, “Only 23 out of 100 Senators opposed the Senate resolution that gave President Bush the authority to attack Iraq.”  Dan Inoue was one of them. He also said, “when I became a senator 50 years ago, 50% of the members experienced combats . These men knew first hand that war is death, destruction and bloodshed, but now only a handful of them remain.” The collective memory of war is fading out more and more on the part of people who make important decisions in the US, as well as in Japan.

< Memories of old nationalism in Japan>

In contrast to Europe, which is moving toward disarmament since its inception of EU, Asia in general still continues to expand its military. Along with the geopolitical situation in North East Asia, a dangerous new style of “Emerging Nationalism ” is on the rise in Japan which I will speak later in relation to the Article 9 of peace constitution. And at the same time, old style of traditional nationalism continue to intensify in Japan.

In order to grasp the importance of the “old nationalism” in Japan, we need to go back about149 years. The Meiji Restoration in 1868, which followed more than two hundred years of national seclusion, shook the whole society. European culture flooded the Japanese lands. The Japanese government thought it urgent to create a national unity by a strong centralization of power, supplemented by prestige. The 16-year-old Mutsuhito (Emperor Meiji) fulfilled this role and the modern emperor system came into being. The Meiji Japanese government carried out a number of policies under a powerful military influence but the first thing that they did was to inaugurate Shinto as the national religion. The emperor became the highest priest of the whole nation and supreme commander of the imperial army and navy. The Meiji Government prompted the unity of Shinto and the State in order to establish its legitimacy and build loyalty. The emperor was considered as a descendant of Amaterasu Omikami (the Sun Goddess) and “the living god” of Shinto. The Imperial Constitution stipulated that the emperor was divine and inviolable. As some of you know well from the history, the Meiji government had more in mind than just the deifying of the emperor to unify the nation. They wanted to make the best use of the emperor to carry out their intention to expand the Empire of Japan, which subsequently would lead to the invasion of many Asian countries and severe suffering by the people of Japan as well. State Shinto in effect provided the basis for suppression of all opposition enabling ultra-nationalists to wage war.

To the later shame of many Christians, some church leaders even urged Christians in Korea and Taiwan, Japanese colonies, to accept shrine worship, which brought much suffering to the Christians in those countries. The Nihon Kirisuto Kyodan (the United Church of Christ in Japan=UCCJ, which is the largest Protestant denomination in Japan) at that time, attempting to rationalize Japan’s atrocities, sent a letter to Asian churches which interpreted Japan’s military expansion as historical progress and God’s will. Later the UCCJ issued in 1967 a “Confession of Responsibility during World War 11 stating “we seek the mercy of God and ask the forgiveness of Asian neighbors for mistakes committed in the name of the UCCJ at the time of formation and during the war years.”

This is a very important collective memories for Japanese Christians in terms of peace and reconciliation with our neighbors in Asia.

< Emerging Nationalism and Article 9>

Today, 72 years after World War II, Japan is changing at full speed into a country which is capable of initiating war. During the past several years, as a part of “hardware” consolidating efforts by the Japanese government, many laws dealing with the “National Security “were hardened. Additionally, the Japanese government is in the process of changing the Japan’s Peace constitution. At this time Article 9 is being targeted for change.

As you might have heard, the coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner, Komeito, retained its two-thirds majority in the Lower House in the Oct. 22 election. Again this will give Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the strength needed for the Diet to propose rewriting the Constitution.

Article 9 of Japanese constitution says:

1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.

2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

Article 9 holds that The Japanese People forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation. An Armed Force or other institutions which have with war potential, will never be maintained.

In order to change the constitution, the Japanese government has been conducting a “software” consolidation of school education. This involves the imposition of what is called “patriotic education”. New subject for moral education has been introduced into school curriculum and before then, Children must keep a “diary of reflection” (kokoro no note), and a commendation of a particular history-falsifying school textbook, the details of which I will discuss later in my talk.

More serious yet is the fact that Japan has been sending the SDF (Self Defense Force) to Iraq, Sudan and other countries as an established reality as a means of convincing the Japanese people to change the constitution.

Let me illustrate some of the recent dangerous changes that have happened in Japan.

Sign of Nationalism -Recent Dangerous Moves in Japan

The emerging nationalism has much to do with the fact that Japan has lost its long -held status as an economic superpower during the 1990s in light of the US centered economic globalization. Japan’s younger generation were reared during a time when their country’s economic success bred a strong sense of pride and honor. These Japanese grew up expecting their country to take the lead in Asia. However, over the last 20 years, they have watched a sharp decline of Japan’s economy in an extended recession. Everyone also realizes that China has quickly and steadily assumed leadership of the region. There is a growing sense of economic insecurity on the part of many Japanese people. Along with this economic insecurity, the DPRK (North Korea) has contributed more than the others to Japan’s growing concern over its national security. Along with the political campaign against DPRK, Japanese citizens and policy makers are now openly discussing Japan’s own nuclear armaments. This would have been also unthinkable about 20 years ago.

  • Emergency Legislation and Security related bills

Back in 2004 the Japanese Diet approved three laws related to military emergencies. For the first time since World War II has ended, Japan has a legal framework to initiate as well as respond to a military attack. When in the judgement of the Prime Minister there is an urgent situation herein a military attack on Japan can be expected, the law mandates individual cooperation. These laws require ordinary citizens to cooperate in their working place and local areas to support any U.S. military or SDF (Self-Defense Force) operations as a matter of highest priority. An individual who does not follow these orders can be punished, which could include possible imprisonment.

Two years ago security- related bills passed at Diet and it would allow the right of collective self-defense, which a majority of scholars have pointed out are illegal in nature, send the self-defense force all around the world rather than in limited areas based on a judgment made by the government in power, and allow the use of military force.

Who would possibly attack Japan? Japan is after all, a group of small islands with millions of people. There is no oil or valuable natural resource. A review of history reveals that Japan has had practically no experience invasion. One needs to look back to 1274 and 1281 when the Mongols attempted an invasion of Japan to create a tributary state. Even then, the Mongol Empire did not invade Japan out of blue. Prior to the invasion, for six years, the Mongols had been sending diplomatic notes to the Japanese Imperial Court. The Japanese Kamakura government at that time ignored them all.

All other military emergencies that Japan has faced throughout history were self-initiated. Either Japan struck first or Japanese troops overran foreign territories. The last thing that we need is a set of emergency laws that will actually invite crisis.

  • Revision of the Peace Constitution

Since it came into effect on May 3, 1947, the Constitution, particularly the war-renouncing Article 9, had long been considered sacrosanct. However, a series of proposals by business and political leaders in the past set the stage for constitutional amendment. The ruling LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) has mapped out a draft of its amendment proposal several years ago, when it celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding.

There are many points to discuss about constitutional revision, but as I mentioned earlier, it is Article 9, the “war denouncing clause” that bears most heavily on the future course of Japan. It is widely pointed out that the article 9 has been accepted by Asians as Japan’s promise to never again embark on military aggression overseas. It is like a “life insurance” for Asians. Chalmer Johnson, a former professor at UC Berkeley in California, said in an interview about a documentary film titled “Japan’s Peace constitution “, that Article 9 is an apology to the Asians who suffered under Japanese militarism during WWII.

  • Text book issue and Education

Of course, laws by themselves do not initiate a war. People’s minds and hearts are required to support any war effort. Education invariably plays an important role in patriotism.

Back in 2001, there was a big controversy about the textbook issued in Japan. One of new history textbooks for the Junior high school, which passed the official screening of the Education Ministry, described very little about our wrongdoing in the past. Just to give you a few examples, the historical fact of the “comfort women” was completely deleted from the textbooks. The “Nanking Massacre” is described as only the “Nanking Incident. ” In contrast with the image of “pigs” at Castle Church in Germany, this textbook is trying to close our eyes to past history and to beautify Japan’s history of invading Asian countries.

<Theological Reflection: Article 9, People’s Security, and People’s Theology>

As some of you might see, outside the U.N. building in New York there is a peace monument wall bearing the inscription, “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they learn war anymore. Isaiah ” (Isaiah 2 v4) On the other hand, in the same OT, Joel 3:10 says, “ Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears;  let the weakling say, “I am a warrior.”

The very opposite words are written. The Joel passage might be more matched with the reality of their geopolitical situation at that time. They called peasants and farmers to prepare for the war by saying they should: “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears “

During the time when Prophet Isaiah was active back in 8 century BC, the country was divided into two nations, North and South. The Northern kingdom was attacked and defeated by Assyria and the South, Judea was barely survived. People were displaced in dismay and overwhelmed by hopelessness. It was just like same situations in Japan after World War II as a result of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombing.

Isaiah proclaimed, in the middle of despair and hopelessness, that the defeated country will be honored and respected in the future by many countries, not by strong weapons and mighty military power but by “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore “ Similar vision was expressed in the preamble of the Japanese constitution. It says, “we desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from the earth.”  Both Isaiah and the Article 9 intended to declare the “Non-Violence “as a nation’s principle and directions.

We often talk about “national security “. However, the term “national” is a misleading and has a limited meaning as an adjective of “state” because the phrase “National Security” often implies the security of the ruling configuration. By people’s security, we mean an alternative security doctrine informed by the values and morals of the Kingdom of God that are contrary to the designs of the military industrial complexes and their political agents. The prevailing view that sees violence, military and weapons as redemptive in essence denotes the rejection of our faith in the “Prince of Peace”. And if they must be the custodians of justice, peace and security of the people, NGO and churches in the region, must play a leadership role by evolving new strategies that lead to peace.

As we know, various coalitions and networks of people’s peace movements have emerged thanks to the recent development of internet and SNS. However, we also see more conservative and right-wing politicians are coming out in different parts of the world. They also are gaining more support from people with populism and exclusive, intolerant political agenda by using SNS. Now, the global peace movement is faced with the challenge of transforming this alliance into more solid movements with well-defined objectives, strategies and constituencies.

The discussion of the Empire leads to a critical reflection on the theology of the Empire. It reminds me of the fact that we now live in an age of Empire. Among academics, this new area of research is referred to as “post colonial studies.” This new study has also affected theology and the study of religion.

Biblical scholars also have become aware that imperial domination played an important role in the story of the people of Israel. I do not have the time or space to go into the details of the Hebrew Bible, but the Exodus is the rescue of the people from the oppression imposed by the Egyptian Empire. The people of Israel were colonized by a series of Empires – the Babylonian, the Median, the Persian and the Macedonian Empire.

Jesus lived in a society marked by extreme violence imposed by the Roman Empire. How did Jesus react to his people’s oppression by the Roman Empire, supported by the Jewish aristocracy? If Jesus had simply preached inwardness and personal salvation, the Empire would have been pleased. Jesus, instead, preached the coming of God’s reign, God’s gracious entry into history to transform human life in accordance with peace and justice. It is clear that his preaching undermined the legitimacy of the existing order of the Empire. How should we speak and act in light of the existing globalization led by Empires in this world? That seems to be one of most crucial theological questions in our time.

<Non-Violent Wise Disobedience for a Guide Dog>
One of my blind friends shared with me a story about the training program of guide dogs for blind people. She said that they have the term ” wise disobedience. ”  A guide dog is trained to follow the commands of its master. But when the dog knows that a serious danger lies ahead if the master takes a certain road, the dog ignores the master’s “go ” command and persists in its disobedience. This is what they call ” wise disobedience. “
While it is necessary to say no or put up resistance, we should learn that there can be the option of practicing non –violent ” wise disobedience “ when we are facing massive power and military enforcement.
I believe that we need to continue our efforts to build communities of peace with justice based on our faith and belief. We should work for peace and reconciliation in order to bring about vision of non-violence and people’s security in this world.


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