A Message from the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan
This is a year in which peace has been violently trampled. The dignity of life is neglected and its protection has been shoved aside. We will enter our Ten Days of Prayer for Peace this year in the midst of a new crisis for life.
In the face of more than two years of the pandemic threat, Pope Francis has emphasized that solidarity is essential to protect lives and confront the crisis. At his general audience on September 2, 2020, the pope called for “diversity and solidarity united in harmony” as the way to emerge from this crisis in a better state than before.
However, over the past six months what has unfolded before our eyes has not been harmony, diversity or solidarity, but confrontation, exclusion and violence.
As the world faces a pandemic this is no time to engage in war. But world leaders’ thoughts seem to differ from ours.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shocked the world as a violent act of a major power that trampled on the growing efforts of the international community in its search for peace. The situation continues to unfold without regard for the wishes of so many people who want to protect life and seek peace.
During the pandemic we have learned from experience that supporting each other and caring for one another’s lives, in other words supporting each other in solidarity, is the best way to protect life. Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but a situation in which the various factors of society where conflict might occur are removed and life is lived in mutual support.
But when we are touched by the many people who are violently deprived of life by war and our hearts are overwhelmed by the unreasonableness of it all, the fear and anger that arises pushes compassion and support out of our emotions. Now the world is being swept by feelings that peace can be won through violence. But that would only trample on true peace.
In this year’s Urbi et Orbi Easter message on April 17, Pope Francis begged us:
“Please, please, let us not get used to war! Let us all commit ourselves to imploring peace, from our balconies and in our streets! Peace! May the leaders of nations hear people’s plea for peace.”
The fact of war is so powerful that many life crises are driven from our awareness. People have been forced to flee their homeland for various reasons and are on a journey of escape, others find it difficult to connect their lives with economic conditions, and yet others face dangers to life due to persecution because of their politics or beliefs — these are among the many issues in the world related to human life that have been neglected for many years. There are people around us who are victimized by laws and beg for help.
God’s gift of life must be protected from its beginning to its end. Those of us who support each other in this common home are called upon “to promote eco-justice, aware that we are called to defend human life from conception to death, and all forms of life on Earth. (Laudato Si’ Action Platform, Goal 2: Response to the Cry of the Poor)
As we enter the Ten Days of Prayer for Peace, we are given time to reflect upon and act for peace from different angles. In his Easter message, Pope Francis said, “Every war brings in its wake consequences that affect the entire human family: from grief and mourning to the drama of refugees, and to the economic and food crisis.” He then concluded his message with this call: “Brothers and sisters, may we be won over by the peace of Christ! Peace is possible; peace is a duty; peace is everyone’s primary responsibility!”
Sisters and Brothers, peace without violence is possible. During the Ten Days of Prayer for Peace, let us raise our voices and take action to proclaim the solidarity that creates peace.
✠ Isao Kikuchi, Archbishop of Tokyo
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan
July 7, 2022