TWO new Bills that undermine the specifically pacifist constitution in Japan have been passed by the lower house of its parliament, despite huge public protests. If they become law, they could mean that Japanese troops would be sent overseas to fight for the first time since 1945.
The Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, backed the two Bills, saying that it was necessary to expand the part played by the military. A doctrine of “collective self-defence” was used — even though opinion polls showed that more than half the Japanese public opposed them.
The Anglican Church in Japan, Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK), added its support to the protests in a public letter to Mr Abe, calling for the immediate withdrawal of the new Bills, which have still to pass through the upper house of Japan’s parliament.
In the letter, bishops and other church leaders wrote: “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.”
Thousands of people demonstrated outside the Japanese parliament as the Bills were passed.
Anniversary marked. Next week Japan marks the 70th anniversary of the devastation of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs.
Church leaders from eight countries — including the Anglican Primate of Japan, and bishops and ecumenical church leaders from the United States, Germany, South Korea, Canada, Netherlands, Norway, and Pakistan — will take part in a World Council of Churches pilgrimage to listen to survivors and pray in churches in the two cities.