The Anglican Church in Japan, the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK) has spoken out against proposed new laws that would legitimise “collective self-defence”, saying that the move is contrary to the country’s pacifist constitution.
The new security bills were passed by the House of Representatives – the lower house of the Diet, the Japanese parliament – earlier this month and will shortly be considered by the upper chamber, the House of Councillors.
But senior officials in the NSKK, including the chair of its Justice and Peace Commission, the Bishop of Chubu, the Rt Revd Ichiro Peter Shibusawa; the bishop in charge of human rights issues, the Bishop of Kyushu, the Rt Revd Luke Ken-ichi Muto; the chair of its Youth Committee, the Revd Satoshi Kobayashi; the Provincial Secretary, the Revd Shin-ichi Yahagi; and the national Mission Secretary, Makoto Tanigawa; have put their names to a joint letter challenging the proposals.
The letter is addressed to the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr Shinzo Abe, as well as the chairs of the Diet’s two houses, Mr Tadamori Oshima and Mr Masaaki Yamazaki.
In it, the church leaders “call for the withdrawal and repeal of the Security Bills, which allow the exercise of the right of collective self-defence, on the grounds that they violate the Constitution of Japan.” They say that “the ‘proactive pacifism’ advocated by the Abe administration means ‘creating peace through the ability to wage war.'”
They continue: “After forcing through the vote on security legislation at the House of Representatives, Prime Minister Abe stated that the legislation was absolutely necessary in order to protect the lives of Japanese nationals and to prevent wars in today’s difficult security environment. On the assumption that Japan is threatened by enemies, which are not even there, it is stressed that we need to be prepared in order to have no regrets.
“But we want peace, not war. Peace can only be achieved through peaceful diplomacy.
“The Constitution of Japan was born out of remorse for a destructive war. It is founded on the ultimate sacrifices of the war victims.
“Article nine stipulates that ‘the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes’, that ‘land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained’, and that ‘the right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized’.
“It is internationally recognized as a ‘peace constitution’, by which Japan has gained trust as a peaceful state, and which enables Japan to pursue peaceful diplomacy.
“To allow the exercise of the right of collective self-defence and to send the Self-Defence Force to battle grounds anywhere in the world is clearly against Article nine of the Constitution of Japan, as so many constitutional scholars have pointed out.”
The leaders end their letter with a word from Scripture: “We are a people who live by the biblical word, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’ (Matthew 5:9). We believe that war can never create peace. So we implore you to immediately withdraw and repeal the Security Bills.”
A large protest took place outside the Diet when the bills were debated by the House of Representatives.
- Click here for a comment on the proposed new law from the Revd Professor Dr Renta Nishihara, Vice Chancellor of Rikkyo University in Tokyo.