Japan: Rising Nationalism Impacts Christians

David Virtue DVirtue236 at AOL.COM
Mon May 21 00:24:29 EDT 2001

Religious Liberty Prayer List


Japan has a long history of militaristic nationalism based on the
Shinto Emperor system, under which Christians suffered persecution. At
the end of World War 2 (WW2), Japan surrendered unconditionally on 15
August 1945 and was given a democratic constitution. This included an
article renouncing war and arming for aggression.

Japan's Yasukuni Shrine, founded in 1869 by Emperor Meiji, has long
been a spiritual centre for the militaristic regime. It is dedicated to
the 'souls' of all those who have fallen in Japanese conquests since
1869. After the war, the Allied Command stripped the Shrine of its
national identity and it became just another of Japan's religious
institutions. This has been a bone of contention with Japan's

The Shrine is controversial because it venerates and deifies not only
all of Japan's war dead, but also war-time Prime Minister General
Hideki Tojo and six other convicted war criminals whose remains are
enshrined there. In 1996, nationalist Prime Minister Hashimoto made
what he said was a private visit to the Shrine on his birthday.

Japan's new Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, recently declared that
he will make an official visit to the Shrine on 15 August, the
anniversary of the Japanese surrender. This will have immense political
nationalist significance. As a right wing nationalist, PM Koizumi is
actively behind the rewriting of Japanese history books and is seeking
to change the constitution so that the 'Self Defence Force' can become
an Army with an offensive capability.

All this comes on top of growing Japanese nationalism. Combined with
Japan's desperate desire to find its identity in the modern world, the
death of war time emperor Hirohito and the enthronement of the new
emperor Akihito in 1990 fed this nationalist zeal. On 9 August 1999, a
bill was passed that moved Japan away from its 1946 Constitution and
back towards its former system of Emperor worship. This legislation
recognised the 'Kimigayo' anthem, honouring the Emperor's rule, and the
'Hinomaru' flag, honouring the sun goddess and emperor of the sun. (It
still symbolises Japanese aggression.)

Local governments in Japan have tightened their demands for teachers
and students to participate in flag and anthem ceremonies -
 something that amounts to idol worship for a Christian. Teachers
refusing to co-operate have suffered pay cuts, been transferred to
isolated locations or fired. The lines between the Japanese State and
the Shinto religion are becoming increasingly blurred. On 2 May 2001,
evangelical leaders met in Tokyo to discuss the situation. Only 0.8% of
Japan is Catholic or Protestant Christian.


* God's guidance for Japan's Christian leaders as they advocate
  for freedom of conscience and religious practice, as well as for
  the separation of the Shinto religion and the Japanese State.

* wisdom for all Japanese Christians as they face the increasing
  threat of nationalism and its demands to venerate the emperor
  through the anthem and the flag.

* international religious liberty and rights observers to be
  vigilant and for successful international advocacy to guarantee
  freedoms in Japan.

* any publicity regarding the witness of Christians to be used
  for God's glory and the expansion of his Kingdom.

Joseph to his brothers: 'You intended to harm me, but God intended it
for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many
lives.' Genesis 50:20

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