Fund-raising for Afghans on Christmas Eve
A fund-raising activity for the people of Afghanistan was held by young Rissho Kosei-kai members on December 24, 2001. Young members all over Japan dedicated themselves to assisting the refugees and war victims of Afghanistan. Leaders of the University Students' Group of each church who maintain interactive networks beyond the church organizations, volunteered to prepare the project. Some 800 young members joined in a public collection of contributions in some 100 locations throughout Japan. They offered a prayer for peace at 6 p.m. wherever they happened to be. Noriko Hasegawa, one of the project's originators from the Nagaoka Church in Niigata Prefecture appealed to in front of the JR Nagaoka Station, together with 40 other young members, all of whom prayed that, even in a minor way, it would help the Afghan people to reconstruct their lives.
WCRP/Japan Youth Board Cohosts Panel on Muslim Faith
Some 270 members of the WCRP/Japan Youth Board participated in a symposium on Islam at the Tokyo Camii and Culture Center on December 23, 2001. The Japan Muslim Association, Tokyo Camii and Culture Center, and the WCRP/Japan Youth Board cohosted the symposium, in which Professor Yoshiaki Iisaka, president of Seigakuin University in Saitama Prefecture, coordinated the discussion. The four panelists were Mr. Amin K. Tokumasu, vice president of the Japan Muslim Association; Mr. Selim Yucel Gulec, vice director of the Tokyo Camii and Culture Center; Professor Kenji Ueda of Tokyo's Kokugakuin University; and Professor Yoshiaki Sanada of Chuo University, also in Tokyo. Through presentations and the subsequent question-and-answer session, the panelists discussed the faith and practice of Islam, thereby guiding the young audience to an unprejudiced understanding of the religion. In his closing remarks Mr. Mimasaka Higuchi, president of the Japan Muslim Association, thanked the WCRP/Japan Youth Board for the initiative it took in holding the interreligious symposium, the first of its kind for his association.
"Islam and the Japanese" Symposium Hosted by Japan Religions League
The Japan Religions League hosted a symposium on Islam at the Japan Press Center in Tokyo on December 20, 2001. Some 200 attendees, including representatives of Japan Religions League member organizations, scholars of religion, and local citizens, took part in the symposium under the theme "Islam and the Japanese: Reflections on the Terrorist Attacks in the United States." Professor Yoshiaki Sanada of Chuo University in Tokyo delivered a keynote address entitled "Islam and Fundamentalism," pointing out persisting misconceptions in the media about Islam. He said that Islam, a religion that advocates peace and coexistence, had often been dubbed by the media as fundamentalism or even terrorism. He explained that "fundamentalism" means a movement to return to the basics of the Muslim faith, and pointed out that Islam acknowledges the right to self-defense but strictly prohibits violence. The subsequent panel discussions, in which four panelists including Professor Sanada took part, focused on the history and basic teachings of Islam with Professor Nobutaka Inoue of Tokyo's Kokugakuin University coordinating.
Anglican Clergyman Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
Rev. Fergus Capie, an Anglican church clergyman from England, visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters on December 12, 2001 and held a talk with President Nichiko Niwano at the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. As the director of the London Interfaith Centre and president of the U.K. Chapter of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, Rev. Capie called on Rissho Kosei-kai as part of his travels to the United States, South Korea, and Japan to visit a number of local religious organizations and learn firsthand about the present situation of interfaith dialogue. During his talk with President Niwano, Rev. Capie asked how Rissho Kosei-kai promoted interreligious cooperation in Asia. President Niwano responded by explaining the activities of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace and the China-South Korea-Japan Buddhist Friendly Interaction Conference, in both of which Rissho Kosei-kai has been actively involved. Responding to the clergyman's question about Rissho Kosei-kai's stance against terrorism, President Niwano referred to a WCRP symposium held in New York last October following the September 11 attacks and asserted his determination to support WCRP's efforts for peace through the promotion of dialogue.
Rissho Kosei-kai Representatives Join Japanese Religious Committee for World Federalist Movement to Honor Victims of Ehime Maru and Pacific War
From December 5 to 11, the Japanese Religious Committee for the World Federalist Movement sent the 20th Peace Mission to Hawaii consisting of 21 Japanese religionists to join and hold religious services for the victims of the Ehime Maru fishery training ship disaster and of the Pacific War. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of the External Relations Department, and Rev. Tadao Amaya, director of the Chuo Academic Research Institute joined the mission. On December 5, the party visited a site on the shore of the island of Oahu, near where the Ehime Maru was rammed by the surfacing nuclear-powered submarine USS Greenville in February 2001, for a memorial service for the victims. On December 7, the party joined the memorial service hosted by the U.S. government at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. The party then went to the U.S. Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay and to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific to hold religious services for the repose of the war dead.
JEN to Start Relief Project for Afghanistan
Later in December, JEN, a Japanese multiorganizational NGO, will inaugurate its project for distributing relief supplies to help Afghan refugees and displaced persons to survive the severe Afghanistan winter. The JEN project will be promoted with the cooperation of 34 local Afghan NGOs at a refugee camp near Pashawar, Pakistan, and at the four Afghan provinces of Kabul, Ghazni, Lowgar, and Vardak. In winter, the nighttime temperature in many parts of the country falls to 20 to 30 degrees below 0 Celsius, which many refugees are forced to endure. Furthermore, ongoing food shortages increase the risk that many undernourished people will perish from starvation or the freezing cold. The relief goods that are to be distributed through the project, some 150,000 items in total, include blankets, mattresses, and plastic sheets as protection against the nighttime cold, as well as daily supplies and equipment like stoves and water buckets. Based on an assessment made by the UNHCR and Afghan NGOs, JEN decided to focus its project on refugees and displaced Afghans who fled their homes to escape the military attacks by U.S. and U.K. forces against Taliban strongholds--especially women, children, and the elderly. JEN is a leading member of the Japan Platform, the host of the NGO Conference in Tokyo on the Reconstruction of Afghanistan held December 11-13.
NGO Conference in Tokyo on Reconstruction of Afghanistan Held
The NGO Conference in Tokyo on the Reconstruction of Afghanistan was held December 11-13, with more than two hundred participants. Representatives of 27 Afghan NGOs and 37 Japanese NGOs, as well as of the Japanese, United States, British, German, Russian, and Canadian governments, took part in the three-day conference. European Union and US Agency for International Development (USAID) officials acted as observers and United Nation agencies and the World Bank sent Tokyo-based representatives as monitors, reflecting the high degree of global attention paid to the conference. Members of NGOs from Japan and Afghanistan met to draft an appeal concerning the needs and opinions of local people for the reconstruction process in Afghanistan. They drew up specific proposals for the war-torn country ahead of a ministerial-level meeting on the reconstruction of Afghanistan by donor countries that is to be held in Tokyo in mid-January 2002. The Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund, chaired by Rev. Michio Matsubara, decided to assist the Japan Platform, the host of the conference, with a contribution of two million Japanese yen with the understanding that it is most important to lay a solid foundation as the first step in a comprehensive and inclusive reconstruction plan.
Shakyamuni's Attainment of Buddhahood Celebrated
On December 8 Rissho Kosei-kai held a ceremony to commemorate the significance of the day when Shakyamuni attained enlightenment some twenty centuries ago. Nearly 4,800 members gathered in the Great Sacred Hall at the headquarters in Tokyo and others met at churches throughout Japan, and overseas as well. They renewed not only their feelings of gratitude to the Buddha, but also their pledge to practice his teachings in daily life. In his address at the ceremony, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, Rissho Kosei-kai president, placed special emphasis on the following statement: "The second birth of human beings occurs when we are awakened to the truth. Shakyamuni was born again in the religious sense upon his attainment of buddhahood and thus became a genuine human being. There is nothing we should celebrate as much and be gratified by as the second birth we were granted when we acted to take refuge in the truth to which Shakyamuni had been awakened."
Sri Lankan Ambassador Visits Rissho Kosei-kai Headquarters
On December 6, Chairman Norio Sakai and Rev. Tomonobu Shinozaki, director of the Planning Department, welcomed Mr. Karunatilaka Amunugama, the ambassador of Sri Lanka to Japan, and his wife at the administration building of Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo. At their meeting, Mr. Amunugama expressed his favorable impression of Rissho Kosei-kai, which is tolerant of other religious faiths. He also praised the organization's continuous efforts at interreligious dialogue as offering hope for the building of peace in the world. Chairman Sakai explained that Rissho Kosei-kai has actively joined and supported interreligious cooperation and dialogue among the religious organizations in Asian countries. He expressed the hope that Rissho Kosei-kai would promote exchanges not only with followers of the Theravada Buddhist tradition, but also with Sri Lankan citizens in many fields of work to ensure lasting friendly relations between two countries.
Rissho Kosei-kai to Distribute Blankets to Afghan Refugees Against the Severe Cold of Winter
In early December, the Executive Committee of the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa announced plans to distribute 20,000 blankets to Afghan refugees who had fled to Pakistan and to displaced persons in Afghanistan as emergency aid between late December 2001 and early January 2002. The blankets were collected during the campaign conducted in 2001 and kept in reserve for emergency use. The Executive Committee decided to present 10,000 blankets to people in need in Afghanistan with the cooperation of the Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation (OMAR), which was introduced by a member organization of the committee, the Japan International Volunteer Center. In Pakistan, at the suggestion of JEN, the committee asked the Pakistani nongovernmental organization Sayyed Jamaluddin Afghan Welfare Organization (SJAWO) to present another 10,000 blankets to Afghan refugees in Pakistan. According to a report from the United Nations of High Commissioner for Refugees, Afghanistan had some 3.7 million refugees in other countries and about 960,000 displaced persons in the country itself as a result of two decades that included an invasion by Soviet troops, followed by fighting between local ethnic factions and a recent drought before the recent American and British military action. Following the bombing raids against the Taliban regime, an increased number of Afghans was said to have been forced to flee to refugee camps at the national border with or in neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Allots Donation for Fourth Term of Fiscal 2001
In early December, the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced the recipients of its subsidies for the fourth term of fiscal year 2001. In that term the committee decided to contribute to two ongoing projects. The sum of 2.95 million Japanese yen was donated to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East which undertook nursing education for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to help them to find employment. One million Japanese yen was presented to the Pacific Asia Resource Center, which undertook an education program for the reconstruction of East Timor. In fiscal 2001 a total of 81.85 million Japanese yen was allocated from the fund and the money was allotted to 46 projects in such categories as education, health care, and prevention of regional conflicts in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
Ceremony Held to Donate Funds to UNICEF
On November 24, Rissho Kosei-kai held a ceremony to donate 130 million Japanese yen to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in the Great Sacred Hall at the Tokyo headquarters complex on the occasion of the organization's youth leaders meeting. On behalf of all Rissho Kosei-kai members, two youth members presented a detailed breakdown of the contribution, with the names of donors and the amounts they gave, to Mr. Yoshihisa Togo, executive director of the Japan Committee for UNICEF in Tokyo, and Ms. Agnes Chan Miling, national ambassador of the Japan Committee for UNICEF and a well-known local television personality. The donated amount was raised through Rissho Kosei-kai's UNICEF fund-raising campaign from early July 2000 to early June 2001 and through its Donate a Meal Campaign on its annual Youth Day in May, both events conducted in public locations throughout Japan. The contribution was transferred to UNICEF headquarters in New York and was to be applied to support elementary education programs in the six Asian countries of Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and the Philippines, according to the designation of the fund-raiser.
WCRP/Japan Makes Donation to the UNHCR
On November 19, Rev. Gijun Sugitani, secretary-general of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP/Japan) visited the United Nation's High Commissioner for Refugees regional office for Japan and the Republic of Korea, which is located in Tokyo, to confirm its contribution of 10 million Japanese yen for relief of Afghan refugees and displaced persons. He met with Mr. Kasidis Rochanakorn, the UNHCR regional representative for Japan and the Republic of Korea and presented him a breakdown of the contribution, with the names of donors and the amounts they gave. At their meeting, Rev. Sugitani as a religionist expressed his concern about developments such as the American and British military action in Afghanistan following the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States. He also explained WCRP/Japan's three-year commitment to educational assistance for the children of Afghan refugees. He expressed the hope that the contribution would be used to educate children who would contribute to the future of Afghanistan. Mr. Rochanakorn expressed his gratitude for the WCRP/Japan contribution and agreed on the importance of the education of children to secure the future peace of Afghanistan.
Rissho Kosei-kai Celebrates Late Founder's Birthday
Rissho Kosei-kai held a ceremony to celebrate the late Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birthday on November 15 in the Great Sacred Hall at its Tokyo headquarters complex. Some 4,800 people attended the event to renew their appreciation of the late founder's spirit. Similar ceremonies also were held at all Rissho Kosei-kai churches throughout Japan as well as overseas. November 15 is not only the date of the late founder's birth but also the date in 1945 when he enshrined a plaque bearing the name of the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha, Great Benevolent Teacher, the World-honored One as the organization's focus of devotion. The date is also significant because on that day ten years ago Rev. Nichiko Niwano was inaugurated as the second president at the ceremony of the Inheritance of the Lamp of the Dharma. After the offering of flowers by twenty young women members at the founder's birthday ceremony, President Niwano recited the Lotus Sutra as the chief officiator for all those assembled. In his address, he spoke on the essence of the Founder's teachings and added that members should strive in their faith in the full awareness that they are all sustained by the eternal life-force.
UUA Staff Member Visits Rissho Kosei-kai Tokyo Headquarters
Mr. Joey Lyons, campus and field coordinator of the Young Adult and Campus Ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) in the United States visited Rissho Kosei-kai Tokyo headquarters and had a talk with Chairman Norio Sakai and the headquarters staff members on November 13. Mr. Lyons asked about the activities for youth members conducted by Rissho Kosei-kai. Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of the Youth Division, explained that the organization holds peace study meetings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the sites of the world's first atomic bombings late in World War II. Rev. Kunitomi also mentioned the dispatch of youth members to other Asian countries to hold mutual friendship exchange meetings. Rev. Sakai emphasized the 30-year history of such friendly exchanges with young Christians in the Philippines. Rev. Sakai stressed that it is important for religious people to keep their prayer to the gods or the Buddha in their hearts, as well as to show compassion for others, with the goal of achieving world peace. During their meeting, Mr. Lyons expressed the hope for a future project involving exchange programs between young members of the UUA and Rissho Kosei-kai.
Rissho Kosei-kai Announces Results of Little Bags of Dreams Campaign for 2001
In November, Rissho Kosei-kai announced that through the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign from April 22 to August 31, 2001, a total of 56,870 bags of little gifts were donated from all Rissho Kosei-kai churches throughout Japan. The organization explained that the collected bags were to be distributed to children who had suffered the effect of civil wars or discrimination in the areas and countries mentioned below with the cooperation of United Nations organs and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Rissho Kosei-kai was to present the little gift bags to local children in former Yugoslavia with the help of a Japanese NGO, JEN, of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a member organization; in Lebanon with the cooperation of the National Institute of Social Care and Vocational Training (NISCVT) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); in Northern Ireland with the assistance of the Corrymeela Community; and in the Gaza Strip in Palestine in collaboration with the Campaign for the Children of Palestine. Rissho Kosei-kai also planned to dispatch parent-child member volunteer groups in March and April 2002, to some of those locations which were to be decided after discussion with the named local organizations. Rissho Kosei-kai also explained that a plan to send such gift bags to children in Afghanistan who suffered losses from the American and British military action there was under consideration.
UN Secretary-General Expresses Gratitude for WCRP's Donation for Afghan Refugees and Displaced Persons
Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary general of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP), announced that he received a letter of gratitude from UN Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan on October 26 for the WCRP's contribution of $1 million to be utilized for relief for Afghan refugees and displaced persons. The Executive Committee of the WCRP had decided to contribute that amount to the UN for relief for the victims of the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11 as well as for the Afghan refugees and displaced persons created by the local fighting and the American and British military action. The first contribution of $500,000 has already been presented to UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette by President Nichiko Niwano, an international president of the WCRP, at the international symposium on "Religions Working Together Against Terror and Violence and for Peace with Justice" held in New York on October 23--24. The first contribution included donations from Rissho Kosei-kai members and the money collected in the members' fund-raising campaign. Mr. Annan highly praised the recent WCRP symposium and expressed his wish to extend his gratitude to all its members.
Rissho Kosei-kai Expands Action Plan for Peace
Soon after the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, Rissho Kosei-kai began a program to mourn the deaths of so many innocent civilians and to facilitate its members taking concrete action to help the people affected by the assaults. Members were also united in opposition to reciprocal military action to prevent many more lives from being sacrificed. In the face of the increase in Afghan refugees and displaced persons following the start of military action against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan by the American and British forces, Rissho Kosei-kai reviewed its action plan earlier this month to extend the scope of its activities. The new action plan comprises three aspects: 1) prayer, 2) dialogue and cooperation among religions, and 3) humanitarian assistance. In the course of the threefold program, Rissho Kosei-kai will continue its fund-raising campaign to help Afghan refugees as well as people affected by the terrorist attacks. Various study programs also are planned for members and nonmembers to promote increased knowledge about the teachings of Islam and the Japanese government's participation in the international campaign against terrorism.
World Religious Leaders Gather for Symposium Against Terrorism in New York
On October 23 and 24, world religious leaders gathered at the Millennium Hotel New York UN Plaza to take part in an international symposium entitled "Religions Working Together Against Terror and Violence and for Peace with Justice" to discuss their commitment to meet the increasing threat of terrorism that surfaced on September 11 in the United States and to express their views concerning the American and British bombing raids on Afghanistan. The symposium was hosted by the Executive Committee of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP). Some 150 religious leaders of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other faiths from over 30 countries around the world took part. Not only religious leaders but also the ambassadors from the United States, Pakistan, Norway, and Islamic countries to the United Nations, as well as U.N. officials, took part in the symposium. Joining from the Japanese Committee of the WCRP were Peter Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, its president, and Rev. Gijun Sugitani, its secretary-general and the secretary-general of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism. From Rissho Kosei-kai, President Nichiko Niwano and Chairman Norio Sakai took part as an international president of the WCRP and a member of the international board of trustees, respectively. At the symposium the participants discussed the importance of cooperation among foreign governments, U.N. organizations, and religious organizations; contributions and cooperation needed for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestine issue; and the necessity to provide humanitarian aid for Afghan refugees. On October 24, a statement was adopted in the name of the Executive Committee of the WCRP under the title "Rejecting Terrorism, Promoting Peace with Justice: Religions Respond."
Week of Prayer for World Peace Marked
A multireligious "Week of Prayer" promoted by the Week of Prayer for World Peace (founded in the United Kingdom more than 20 years ago and currently continued by Rev. Jonathan Blake) began on October 21. People of all faiths all over the world are encouraged to offer prayers together during the week wherever they are for the eternal peace of all humankind. This year, however, the ceremonies and gatherings were held in a situation of uneasiness caused by the violent acts of terrorism against the United States on September 11 and the tension resulting from the military action by the U.S. and the U.K. in Afghanistan, which have created worldwide concern. Under these circumstances, members of Rissho Kosei-kai, devout supporters of the peace movement since its early stage, mourned the victims of the tragic events, and also offered a prayer that the belligerency in Afghanistan would end as soon as possible, by reading during the week the messages of President Nichiko Niwano for a realization of eternal peace specially prepared for the Week of Prayer, before taking part in morning devotional services at the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo, or their respective churches, or at their homes. Moreover, some churches took the initiative to hold "interreligious prayer gatherings" in their communities, in cooperation with local members of different faiths. In the Tokyo area, for example, the Setagaya Interreligious Association, consisting of 21 organizations of people of the Islamic, Christian, Shinto, and Buddhist faiths, as well as members of the Setagaya church of Rissho Kosei-kai, on October 21 held an assembly of the tenth "Gathering to Pray for World Peace" at Hitomi Memorial Hall, Showa Women's University, with more than 1,000 participants. After dedicating the ceremonies of a Prayer for Peace based on the rituals of each religion, Mr. Khalid Kiba, member of the board of directors of the Islamic Center, Japan read to the assembly a "manifesto of peace" representing the hope of people of all faiths who aspire to world peace. The Week of Prayer ended on October 28.
Rissho Kosei-kai of Brazil Offers Free Treatment for Asthma Patients
On October 21, Rissho Kosei-kai of Brazil offered free treatment for young asthma patients in Sao Paulo. Some 200 children were treated in this final session of the current year. The treatment session was organized and managed by some 50 people, including members of the Brazil Church's Youth Group and nonmember volunteers. At all the sessions, the children receive chiropractic treatment, and an average of 70 percent of them have reported improvements in their conditions. Rissho Kosei-kai of Brazil holds such sessions several times a year, providing opportunities to inform Brazilians about the teachings and activities of Rissho Kosei-kai. The free treatments also served to unite the members of the church in a feeling of gratitude and joy from serving others as one of the Buddhist practices of donation.
Rissho Kosei-kai Koto Music Club's Holds 22nd Concert
The Kosei Koto Music Club, a Rissho Kosei-kai musical group featuring Japanese harp-like koto instruments, held its 22nd concert sponsored by the Kosei Cultural Association on October 21 in the Taisei Hall, an annex of the Great Sacred Hall in the Rissho Kosei-kai Tokyo headquarters complex. The concert began with the club members' performance of "Fantasia from the Kuroda Melody," followed by an arrangement from "El Cumbanchero," a Buddhist hymn "The Buddha Ever Abiding," and other pieces. In addition, the group also played an ensemble work "A Day in Winter: Part II" with such instruments as koto, samisen, shakuhachi, Japanese drums, and piccolo. The musical performance delighted the audience of about 100 that attended.
Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra Presents 70th Regular Concert
On October 19, the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra (TOKWO) held its 70th regular concert at a concert hall in Katushika Ward, Tokyo, under its conductor laureate, Maestro Frederick Fennell, and featuring the orchestra's concertmaster, saxophonist Nobuya Sugawa. TOKWO performed five selections, including Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue for Symphonic Band and Suite from the Opera Merry Mount, Op. 31, composed by Howard Hanson. In response to the applause from the audience of nearly 1,000, the orchestra performed three encores, including Franko Edwin Goldman's Bugles and Drums.
Shinshuren Marks 50th Anniversary
On October 17, Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) celebrated its 50th anniversary at a hotel in Tokyo. Some 450 people took part, including representatives of its member organizations and guests from various circles. From Rissho Kosei-kai, President Nichiko Niwano as Shinshuren vice-chairman, Chairman Norio Sakai, and other principal members of the organization attended. Rev. Mitsuhiro Fukata, chairman of Shinshuren and patriarch of the member organization Enno-kyo, delivered an address looking back on the 50-year history of Shinshuren's development and expressing a prayer to realize the welfare of all of humanity and world peace together with its member organizations. After congratulatory addresses by Rev. Seiichi Cardinal Shirayanagi, chairman of the Japan Religions League and Mr. Fujio Ikado, professor emeritus of the University of Tsukuba, Rev. Michio Arai, vice-chairman of Shinshuren and president of the member organization Kyusei-shinkyo, announced the future plans of Shinshuren, which are based on five guiding principles. At a reception following the ceremony Rev. Niwano tendered his thanks to the participants, saying that all present should keep in mind the message delivered by the speakers and to move forward to achieve the organization's goal in the same spirit that guided the earlier officers and members of Shinshuren.
President Niwano Participates in New York Symposium of Leaders of World's Religious Leaders
The World Conference on Religion and Peace held an International Symposium of Leaders of the World's Religions in New York on October 23 and 24 to discuss the commitment of the leaders to meet the increasing threat of terrorism that surfaced with the September 11 attacks against the United States by hijacked airliners. Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai and one of the international presidents of the WCRP, took part in the two-day symposium. Under the theme "Religions Working Together Against Terror and Violence and for Peace and Justice," the Governing Board members and honorary presidents of the WCRP and the members of the U.S. chapter of the world's largest interreligious organization, discussed their moral proscriptions against terrorism and the promotion of dialogue among civilizations and religions. Chairman Norio Sakai of Rissho Kosei-kai also took part as a member of the international board of trustees of the WCRP.
ACRP VI Postponed
It has been announced that the sixth Assembly of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace originally scheduled for November 3 to 7 at Yogyakarta, Indonesia has been postponed. The ACRP Secretariat and the WCRP/ACRP national committees of the Asian countries struggled to develop measures for ensuring the Assembly could be held despite the unpredictable situation caused by the tragic terrorist acts against the United States in September. The military action launched in Afghanistan by the U.S. and the U.K. made it difficult, however, for official delegates and staff members of the national committees of countries near Afghanistan to travel to Indonesia. Under these circumstances, the ACRP Secretariat felt obliged to postpone the event. The dates for a possible rescheduled Assembly have not yet been decided.
Unveiling Ceremony of Monument to Rev. Zhao Puchu Observed
On October 11, a ceremony in honor of the late Rev. Zhao Puchu, the former president of the Buddhist Association of China who died in May 2000, was observed at the temple Toshodai-ji in Nara. Some 70 representatives of Chinese and Japanese Buddhism participated, including Mrs. Chen Bangzhi, Rev. Zhao's widow. Chairman Norio Sakai took part on behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai. During the ceremony, the monument to Rev. Zhao was unveiled by Mrs. Chen; Rev. Dao Shuren, a vice president of the Buddhist Association of China; Rev. Kaihan Masuda, the head priest of Toshodai-ji; and Rev. Ryusho Kobayashi, chairman of the China--South Korea--Japan Buddhist Friendly Interaction Conference. A Buddhist service led by Rev. Masuda was then conducted. Rev. Zhao had promoted close ties between China and Japan through interreligious cooperation, especially between Buddhist priests of both countries. He was the recipient of the third Niwano Peace Prize in 1985.
Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival Celebrated
The Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival was held on October 7 at the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters complex in Tokyo. This was the second occasion since its name was changed to Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival, which literally means "One-vehicle" Festival. A parade of mando (portable shrines) by specially appointed members was followed by processions of members from 23 churches in the Tokyo area, of members from churches in the Tama area and also of members from seven churches (Sapporo, Sendai, Mito, Kawaguchi, Matsudo, Ofuna, and Kurashiki) throughout Japan, together with some 360 members from overseas. In rejoicing the colorful procession, more than 7,000 members in total demonstrated their respect, affection, and deep admiration for the late founder and great teacher Nikkyo Niwano and honored the memory of Nichiren (1222--82), founder of the Nichiren sect, identifying themselves as torchbearers to spread the message of Lotus Sutra.
Rissho Kosei-kai Starts Distribution of Blankets to African Countries
From May 1 to June 30, Rissho Kosei-kai conducted its peace project of the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa throughout Japan. A total of 169,251 blankets were collected and were shipped in late September from Yokohama to seven African countries. Some 39,250 blankets were to be distributed in Ethiopia; 20,000 were destined for Eritrea, Malawi, Uganda, Djibouti, Mozambique, respectively ; and 10,000 were to be given to people in Angola. Another 20,000 blankets were to be kept as an emergency supply. From late October to early November, the blankets were to be presented to people who had suffered the effects of natural disasters and civil wars in the above countries, in cooperation with local nongovernmental organizations. Japanese citizens contributed 61,326,684 Japanese yen by October 12 to cover the shipping costs of the blankets. This marked the highest level for such donations in the last five years.
400 Overseas Members Participate in Ichijo Global Gathering
On October 5, some 400 members of Rissho Kosei-kai overseas churches gathered in the Great Sacred Hall at headquarters in Tokyo to take part in the Ichijo (One Vehicle) Global Gathering. They came from the United States, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and Switzerland. Members of Korean Rissho Kosei-kai also participated. The gathering opened with a silent meditation for the repose of the spirits of the victims of the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11. Following a ritual offering before the image of the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha, seven church representatives recited "Taking Refuge in the Three Treasures" in their respective languages. Two members from Hawaii and South Korea represented all the participants in delivering their religious testimony. President Nichiko Niwano warmly welcomed the overseas members and spoke to them about the joys of practice. Following a vigorous performance of Japanese taiko drums by Japanese members, Rev. Kinzo Takemura, advisor to Kosei Publishing Company, delivered a lecture on basic Buddhist teachings.
Ceremony Marks Founder Niwano's Entrance into Nirvana
On October 4, the second anniversary of the demise of the late founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, the organization held a ceremony to commemorate his virtuous dedication to the welfare of humanity and to world peace at the Great Sacred Hall and the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle at its Tokyo headquarters complex. Some 6,000 members and guests participated, including the founder's relatives and members from Japan and overseas. The ceremony began with the offering of flowers at the stupa by President Nichiko Niwano and representative members. In the ceremony at the Great Sacred Hall, the recitation from the Lotus Sutra was followed by a silent tribute from all participants to the victims of the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11. Honored guests included Peter Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, president of WCRP/Japan; Rev. Mitsuhiro Fukata, chairman of the Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan; and Rev. Eshin Watanabe, head priest of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism. After an address by President Niwano, Rev. Norio Sakai, chairman of the board of directors, delivered a message of thanks to the participants.
Statement on the Missile Attacks in Afghanistan
The United States of America and the United Kingdom on October 8 launched military strikes in Afghanistan. Rissho Kosei-kai seriously considers that the beginning of a new stage of military action affecting all the Afghan peoples could lead to an escalation of the horrors of war. As of now, the committee, following "Programs on Religious Service for the Victims" opened by Rissho Kosei-kai on September 28, will move as swiftly as possible to responsibly tackle the various issues raised by the violent acts of terrorism that occurred in the United States on September 11 and their aftermatch. The committee also calls on all members everywhere to respectfully offer a sincere prayer in the wish that the current situation will be settled peacefully.
Brazil Church Celebrates Thirtieth Anniversary
On September 23, Rissho Kosei-kai of Brazil observed its thirtieth anniversary ceremony at the church. Some 800 members and guests took part. The ceremony began with a flower offering before the church's focus of devotion, by 20 members of the young women's group, followed by a recitation from the Lotus Sutra, the organization's basic scripture. Deserving members then were honored for their dedication to the church's activities, and this was followed by the delivering of religious testimony by a church member. Rev. Hiroshi Hasegawa, director of the Dissemination Department at Tokyo headquarters, then delivered an address in which he noted that Brazil, as a multiracial country with citizens of many cultural and ethnic backgrounds, is one of the most appropriate places to study, practice, and transmit the teaching of the One Vehicle, which goes beyond any distinctions or discrimination.
$20,000-plus Donated to U.S. Red Cross by Four U.S. Churches
From September 16, members of the four churches (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Hawaii) of Rissho Kosei-kai of the United States started a joint fund-raising campaign to assist the victims of the violent acts of terrorism against the United States that were carried out simultaneously on September 11. At a presentation ceremony on October 2 at American Red Cross headquarters in New York, a contribution of $20,518.12 (approximately 2,500,000 Japanese yen) was presented by Mr. Masayoshi Iimura, Director of General Affairs, Rissho Kosei-kai of New York, representing all members in the United States, to Mr. Mark Silvestein, American Red Cross Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations. The contribution will be used to assist the most vulnerable victims of the tragic events and their families.
Rissho Kosei-kai President Issues Plea Against Terrorist Actions in the U.S.
On September 15, President Nichiko Niwano issued a message extending his sincere condolences to all those who were victims of the simultaneous terrorist attacks against the United States in New York and Washington, D.C. on September 11. In his message, entitled "Some Thoughts about the Terrorist Actions against the United States," as one of the presidents of the WCRP he acceded to the previously announced message sent by the WCRP on September 12, entitled "Religious Leaders Worldwide Condemn Terrorist Actions against U.S.--Plea for Understanding among People of All Faiths." He expressed his view that the terrorist actions "have far too facilely crushed the dignity of human life into the dirt." He stressed that "as we move ahead in the new century we must transcend the desire for revenge and retaliation and grope toward measures that call for religious wisdom."
Rissho Kosei-kai Announces Results of Its UNICEF Fund-raising Campaign
In September, the Youth Division of Rissho Kosei-kai at Tokyo headquarters announced that from July 2000 to June 2001, Rissho Kosei-kai had collected 128,828,073 Japanese yen through the organization's fund-raising campaign for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The money from private citizens was donated through the organization's activities in public places throughout Japan, such as the charity bazaars and fund-raising campaign mainly conducted in May as one of the organization's annual Youth Day events, as well as a special fund-raising campaign for UNICEF. The funds were to be transferred to UNICEF headquarters in New York and utilized for various projects in countries specified by the fund-raiser. Rissho Kosei-kai designates programs to support education in the Philippines, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Bhutan, Bangladesh, and India. The organization also indicated support for the program conducted by UNICEF and the World Health Organization in Afghanistan and Bangladesh for preventive injections against poliomyelitis.
Rissho Kosei-kai Observes Annual Ceremony of Prayers for World Peace and Repose of Spirits of War Dead throughout the World
On September 23, Rissho Kosei-kai observed the 43rd annual Ceremony of Prayers for World Peace and for the Repose of the Spirits of the War Dead throughout the World at Tokyo's Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery. Some 1,500 people, including members from Tokyo District and guests, took part. After the offering of flowers to the altar on the platform there by the 24 members of young women's groups in the Tokyo area, Rev. Kunio Kurosawa, Tokyo district director, led the sutra recitation ceremony from the organization's basic scripture, the Lotus Sutra. At the ceremony, all participants paid a silent tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Norio Sakai, chairman of the board of directors, delivered an address. He introduced the message conveyed by President Nichiko Niwano on September 15 about the attitude of religionists toward the terrorist actions. He vowed that people of religion would have to deepen their faith at this time to contribute toward world peace through nonviolence.
Remembrance Ceremony Observed for Rissho Kosei-kai Cofounder
On September 10, a remembrance ceremony for Cofounder Myoko Naganuma (1889--1957) was held at the Great Sacred Hall in the organization's Tokyo headquarters complex. Similar ceremonies were held at its churches throughout Japan. The ceremonies were conducted to praise her dedication to the establishment of Rissho Kosei-kai. Some 4,500 members gathered for the event at the hall in Tokyo. After the offering of flowers to the altar on the platform there by Young Women's Group members, President Nichiko Niwano led the sutra recitation from the organization's basic scripture, the Lotus Sutra. A video presentation describing the cofounder's life and personality was followed by an address by Rev. Motoyuki Naganuma, special advisor. President Niwano also spoke to the participants. He described the cofounder as a person of compassion and explained that Buddhist compassion contains the essence of the wisdom and truth to which Shakyamuni Buddha was enlightened. He stressed that it is important to convey this wisdom to the people around us. The Tokyo ceremony was broadcast by satellite television to all Rissho Kosei-kai churches in Japan.
Fifteenth International Meeting: Men and Religions Held in Barcelona
From September 2 to 4, the International Meeting: Men and Religions took place in Barcelona under the theme "On the Frontiers of Dialogue: Religions and Civilizations in the New Century." The meeting was hosted by the Italian lay Catholic Community of Saint Egidio headquartered in Rome. This year's meeting fell on the fifteenth anniversary of the international prayer meeting first held in 1986 at Assisi as advocated by Pope John Paul II. Some 1,000 people from more than 40 countries, including not only religionists but also politicians, social activists, and scholars, took part. On September 2 at the Grand Theater of Liceu, President Nichiko Niwano of Rissho Kosei-kai delivered an address entitled "Dialogue Builds a Civilization of Coexistence" as one of nine keynote speakers at the opening assembly, who also included the Archbishop of Barcelona, Spain's Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Chief Rabbi of Israel. On both September 3 and 4, round table sessions were held in several parts of the city on themes that ranged from globalization, interreligious dialogue, and conflict resolution to coexistence among different cultures. On the evening of September 4, Prayer for Peace ceremonies were observed by the different religions, and were followed by a peace march to the plaza of St. Jaume in which the meeting participants joined. The closing ceremony on the same day featured the introduction of a message from Pope John Paul II and the signing of a peace appeal by representatives of all the religions that had attended.
Dharma Youth Seminar Held at Kona Chapter of Rissho Kosei-kai Hawaii Church
The Youth Division of Rissho Kosei-kai in Japan and Rissho Kosei-kai in the U.S. held their first joint Dharma Youth Seminar at the Kona Chapter of the Rissho Kosei-kai Hawaii Church from August 24 to August 29. Nearly 30 Rissho Kosei-kai youth members from the U.S. and Japan participated. They learned the basic teachings of Buddhism, had the experience of awakening their senses through the beauty of nature on the Big Island of Hawaii, and created new Dharma Sangha friendships.
Record Number of Blankets for Africa Donated
From May 1 through June 30, citizens throughout Japan contributed a record total of 169,251 blankets in Rissho Kosei-kai's annual Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa. The amount of some US$475,000 also was contributed for shipping the blankets. Some of the donated blankets will be shipped in September. According to the campaign committee, the number of donated blankets is the largest since the campaign began in 1986 for the purpose of providing relief for people suffering from the effects of a drought in Africa at that time. According to Mr. Masahiro Nemoto, under-secretary general of the campaign committee, "People manifested their compassion by extending the campaign far and wide and thus increasing the number of donated blankets. The act of contributing a blanket reminds us of the spirit of 'sharing' and 'common living' that is too often forgotten in today's affluent, competitive society. We are certain that this awareness has caused more and more people to give their support to the campaign."
Volunteers Offer Varied Assistance in Former Yugoslavia
A party of three teams of volunteers consisting of 48 Rissho Kosei-kai members led by Rev. Yamanoi Katsunori, director of the organization's Financial Department, visited Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in former Yugoslavia from August 18 to 31. This was the first instance in which members of Rissho Kosei-kai had been scheduled to participate in volunteer activities chiefly by engaging in work service. The Belgrade group (two teams) had made plans to visit refugee reception centers and the like throughout Serbia. While inspecting the living conditions of the refugees, they took part in such activities as painting the wards in the facilities, putting the playgrounds in good condition, extending the vegetable gardens, and so on. They also visited the various facilities organized by members of JEN (Japan's multiorganizational NGO). The Sarajevo group (one team) stationed themselves in towns and villages, where they were actively involved in constructing a recreation ground and assisting in the task of wood-chopping. Both groups held a memorial service for the dead from the civil wars. Their voluntary assistance in work service and the performance of the religious services were sometimes featured in TV broadcasts and in newspaper reports.
UN Hosts Conference on Disarmament Issues
The United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues in Ishikawa-Kanazawa, convened by the United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs and the United Nations Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, was held in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture from August 28 to 31. Among the 70 participants were government officials, scholars, and specialists on questions of armament reduction. Taking part on behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai was Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of the External Relations Department. The participants discussed the theme "The Asia-Pacific Region: Evolution of the Scope of Security and Disarmament in the Twenty-first Century" from the standpoint of avoiding concern about the interests of their own nations. They also exchanged ideas about the topics "Stability and Prosperity in Northeast Asia," "Multifaceted Dimensions of Security," "Weapons of Mass Destruction," "Institutions and Actors for the Promotion of Peace and Disarmament," and "UN Conference on Illicit Trafficking in Small Arms Light Weapons in All Its Aspects."
Study Session on Ainu Held on Hokkaido
From August 28 to 30 the Japan Liaison Committee (JLC) of the International Association for Religious Freedom held a study session about the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan, in Sapporo, Hokkaido. Nine members of the JLC and Rev. Norio Sakai, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai, took part. Since the integration policy promoted by the government in the Meiji era, the Ainu have lost many elements of their original language, culture, and customs, but recently an active campaign has been undertaken for their preservation. The study session was the first to examine the history and present situation of such indigenous people as the Ainu to deepen understanding about them. The participants visited the Ainu Association of Hokkaido, and after a video presentation about Ainu history and culture, Mr. Yukio Sato, deputy secretary general of the association, spoke on "The Aim of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido." The participants also visited local museums to learn more about the culture and religious rituals of the Ainu.
UNHCR Officer Visits Rissho Kosei-kai Headquarters
On August 27, Mr. Pierre Bernard Le Bas, Head of the Private Sector and Public Affairs Service of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), visited the Tokyo headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai. At the administration building of the headquarters complex, he met and spoke with Rev. Norio Sakai, chairman of the board of directors. In their meeting, Rev. Sakai described one of the organization's peace activities, the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign, and mentioned that he is to participate in the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children at UN headquarters in New York from September 18 to 21. Mr. Le Bas, who has had a long career with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), expressed his hope to work for the human rights of adult refugees as well as of refugee children.
Rissho Kosei-kai Criticizes Prime Minister's Visit to Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 13
Rissho Kosei-kai reacted promptly to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, dedicated to the nation's war dead, on August 13, two days earlier than he had previously promised. Amid growing criticism from both domestic and foreign sources, the organization issued a "Statement against the Prime Minister's Visit to Yasukuni Shrine" in the name of Rev. Norio Sakai, chairman of its board of directors, on the day of the visit. Copies of the statement were sent not only to the Prime Minister's Office, but also to members of both houses of the Diet recommended by Rissho Kosei-kai, as well as to Japan's mass media. The statement expressed deep regret over Mr. Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine for the reason that it may well have violated the constitutional principle of separation of religion and state. The statement also warned that the prime minister's visit could damage Japan's relationships with foreign countries, especially its Asian neighbors, despite the fact that Japanese religious circles have worked to foster good relations with international society through such national and international religious organizations as Shinshuren, WCRP, and ACRP. Rissho Kosei-kai had issued an earlier statement on July 9 objecting to the prime minister's proposed visit to the shrine on August 15, the anniversary of the end of World War II. (Click here for the text of the August 13 statement)
Day of Repose for Spirits of War Dead and Prayers for Peace Observed
On August 15 the annual ceremony of the Day of Repose for the Spirits of the War Dead and Prayers for Peace was observed at the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo, as well as at local churches all over Japan. The day marked the 56th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War. Almost 3,500 members from the Tokyo area took part and prayed for the repose of the spirits of all victims of World War II and all other wars and for the realization of lasting world peace. In his address, President Nichiko Niwano emphasized the role to be played by religion. "With religious faith and a deep sense of morality, each of us should be fully aware of the dignity of life and honor others with a prayerful attitude. That is the way to reach inner peace in the Buddhist spirit, and it is the single most basic element for achieving lasting world peace," he said.
Shinshuren Holds Service for War Dead at Chidorigafuchi in Tokyo
On August 14, the 36th annual memorial service for Japan's war dead and prayers for peace were held at Tokyo's Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery, which is not affiliated with any religion. Some 3,000 people from member organizations of Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan), including Rissho Kosei-kai, participated in the ceremony under the sponsorship of Shinshuren and its Youth Association. In the address delivered by Rev. Mitsuhiro Fukata, Shinshuren chairman, he described the widely held suspicion that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine might violate the constitutional principle of separation of religion and state. He emphasized that Shinshuren's activities would be for the repose of the spirit of the war dead, as well as to encourage those people who are suffering as victims of wars in various part of the world. The representatives of different religious organizations conducted separate prayers at the hexagonal building where the ashes of the war dead are enshrined. The offering of lighted candles by 63 young women members of Shinshuren at the cemetery was followed by an address by Rev. Michiomi Rikihisa, chairman of its Youth Association. Many members of the Japanese Diet, including Mr. Yukio Hatoyama, president of the Democratic Party of Japan, laid wreaths at the cemetery.
Rissho Kosei-kai Dispatches Volunteers to Former Yugoslavia
From August 18 to 31, Rissho Kosei-kai was to send three teams of volunteers consisting of 47 members to Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The volunteers were to visit those countries and join with the members of JEN, Japan's multiorganizational NGO of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a member. Together with the local JEN members the volunteers were to participate in various activities to assist refugees and victims of the civil war. The members also were to take part in such activities to promote mental healing as the cleaning of refugee camps and joining in cultural exchange meetings with local children, as well as visiting a home for the solitary elderly and recipients of the Little Bags of Dreams, a campaign that is one Rissho Kosei-kai's peace activities. After nearly ten years of civil wars in the former Yugoslavia, it is said that some 200,000 people lost their lives and two million of people were forced to live as refugees. Many people are still suffering from the effects of the wars, including fears that the fighting may break out again and the loss of beloved family members.
Ceremonies Commemorating 56th Anniversary of End of World War II Held at Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Okinawa
From August 1 to 5, the Hiroshima Religious Cooperation and Peace Center, organized by five Rissho Kosei-kai churches in Hiroshima Prefecture, conducted religious services before the cenotaphs for the atomic bomb victims and the war dead of the prefecture. On August 8, a 29th-anniversary memorial service for the repose of the spirits of atomic bomb victims was observed at Nagasaki's Hypocenter Park under the supervision of the Nagasaki prefectural Brighter Society Movement. Some 400 Rissho Kosei-kai members from three churches in the prefecture took part. In the service, some 5,000 candles were offered around the peace monument in the park. On August 15, the eleventh Interfaith Prayer for Peace ceremony on Okinawa was observed at the Peace Memorial Park at Itoman city. The members of the Rissho Kosei-kai Okinawa Church joined in the ceremony.
Rissho Kosei-kai Welcomes Comparative Culture Students from Sophia University
On August 8, a party of 80 students from the Faculty of Comparative Culture of Sophia University in Tokyo visited Rissho Kosei-kai Tokyo headquarters as part of the faculty's summer session. Led by Professor Richard Gardner, the party consisted of Japanese students and students studying at the university from abroad. The party received an explanation of the general history and background of Rissho Kosei-kai and its religious activities. The group also visited the organization's headquarters facilities, such as the Great Sacred Hall and Horin-kaku Guest Hall, as well as the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle. For twenty years Rissho Kosei-kai has welcomed similar groups of students from Sophia University to help them understand the organization's principles, activities, and the basis of its religious faith.
Rissho Kosei-kai Holds Global Youth Gathering 2001
The Youth Division and Overseas Mission Section of Rissho Kosei-kai, headquartered in Tokyo, conducted the Global Youth Gathering 2001 in Japan from July 30 to August 7. Forty-eight Rissho Kosei-kai youth members from the U.S., Brazil, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, as well as youth members from Korean Rissho Kosei-kai, a sister organization, participated. During this program, they had sessions about the teachings of Rissho Kosei-kai at its Tokyo headquarters and cultural exchanges with Japanese youth members at a training center located in a Tokyo suburb. On August 5, the young people traveled to Hiroshima to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and joined the memorial service held at the Rissho Kosei-kai Hiroshima Church on August 6. The gathering helped the youths to deepen their religious faith and to establish close ties of friendship with fellow members from around the world.
JEN Holds Project Briefing Session
On July 18, JEN, a Japanese multiorganizational NGO, held a briefing session to report on the organization's emergency relief projects in India and the Mongolian People's Republic at the Waseda Hoshien Student Christian Center in Tokyo. Some 15 people, including citizens, students, and staff members of the JEN organizations, took part. A JEN staff member described its activity of providing temporary tent shelters in February for victims at Bhuj city in western India, where a devastating earthquake struck on January 26. Another member reported on the relief activity in March for the repair of heating equipment in Mongolian elementary schools. The equipment was damaged by the heavy snows that occurred during last winter's severe cold spell. Rissho Kosei-kai is an active member organization of JEN.
Lotus Sutra Conference Discusses Pure Land Buddhism
Rissho Kosei-kai hosted the Seventh International Conference on the Lotus Sutra at its lodge on the outskirts of Mount Bandai on July 13-17. The conference has been held annually since 1994 with the aim of encouraging scholars to develop an interest in and awareness of the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. This year twelve scholars from the United States and Japan and representatives of Rissho Kosei-kai took part in the conference and held discussions on the theme "The Lotus Sutra and Pure Land Buddhism." On July 15, the participants also visited the Rissho Kosei-kai Aizu Church in Fukushima Prefecture and observed ceremonies connected with the Bon Festival.
Shinshuren and Rissho Kosei-kai Present Statements to Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
On July 9, Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) adopted a resolution to present a statement to Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who has repeatedly stated his intention to visit Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on August 15, the anniversary of the end of World War II. As a member organization of Shinshuren, Rissho Kosei-kai supports the Shinshuren statement and also prepared its own. On the afternoon of the same day, Rev. Mitsuhiro Fukata, chairman of Shinshuren and president of Enno-kyo, together with Rev. Norio Sakai, chairman of the board of directors of Rissho Kosei-kai, visited the official residence of the prime minister in Tokyo and handed the statements to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, as the respective representatives of their organizations. Since Japan's postwar Constitution declares the separation of religion and the state, the two statements both expressed the hope that Mr. Koizumi would reconsider his plan to visit Yasukuni Shrine in his official capacity.
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American Religious Leaders Welcome President Niwano
At noon on July 2, President Niwano joined a luncheon meeting in Chicago with more than ten religious representatives from the Roman Catholic church, the Greek Orthodox church, the Focolare Movement, Judaism, and other faiths. The luncheon was hosted by the United States Chapter of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP), at the Union League Club of Chicago. Rev. Niwano held a friendly talk with Imam Wallace Deen Mohammed, president of the Muslim American Society and a member of the governing board of WCRP, who acted as host of the luncheon. At the luncheon, Rev. Niwano expressed the hope of deepening future relationships between members of the Japanese Committee of WCRP and the United States Chapter.
Rissho Kosei-kai Youths Join Youth Forum 2001
On July 7 and 8, the Youth League of Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) held its Youth Forum 2001 at the headquarters of Shoroku Shinto Yamatoyama in Hiranai-machi, Aomori Prefecture. Some 180 religious youths from 12 Shinshuren member organizations, including Rissho Kosei-kai, took part. In the annual forum, youths of different religions achieve a better understanding of the activities of the league and its goal of world peace. The forum also encouraged the youths of different faiths to work for better mutual understanding among themselves.
Rissho Kosei-kai of Oklahoma Celebrates Enshrinement of Its Focus of Devotion
On July 4, a ceremony marking the completion of its new building and the enshrinement of its focus of devotion was conducted at Rissho Kosei-kai of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. Some 90 people, including the members of the church and their guests, took part. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters, President Nichiko Niwano and Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, one of the organization's directors, attended. After a commemorative message read by Rev. Niwano, one of the local members reported on the progress in construction of the church and Rev. Yamanoi presented letters of appreciation and commemorative gifts to those who contributed to making the construction possible.
Rissho Kosei-kai of Chicago Celebrates Enshrinement of Its Focus of Devotion
On July 1, Rissho Kosei-kai of Chicago held a ceremony marking the enshrinement of the church's focus of devotion. Some 90 people, including members of the church and their guests, participated in the ceremony. On behalf of organization's Tokyo headquarters, President Nichiko Niwano and Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, one of its directors, also attended. Following the unveiling of the focus of devotion by Rev. Niwano, a recitation of the Lotus Sutra was conducted. Rev. Niwano offered religious guidance at the ceremony to all those attending. As the special guests, Rissho Kosei-kai of Chicago welcomed Rev. Asayo Horibe, president of the Buddhist Council of the Midwest in the U.S., and Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary-general of WCRP.
President Visits U.S. Theological School
On June 29, President Niwano visited the Meadville/Lombard Theological School affiliated with the University of Chicago. He presented a donation of $50,000 to the school in appreciation of its continuing efforts in educating students, including those from the Rissho Kosei-kai seminary, to contribute to interreligious cooperation. At a reception marking the occasion, President Niwano said to William Murry, Meadville/Lombard president, that dialogue with students of other religions is vital for the education of religious youth because interreligious cooperation is absolutely essential for the building of world peace.
Rissho Kosei-kai Plans to Dispatch Members to Former Yugoslavia
Rissho Kosei-kai announced plans to send a volunteer party consisting of some 50 members to former Yugoslavia from August 18 to 31. The party will be divided into three groups and will visit Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to participate in volunteer activities such as cleaning of refugee camps, preparing playgrounds for local children, and tending the gardens at local orphanages and homes for the aged with the cooperation of JEN, a Japanese nonprofit organization. The participants also will work on a special program for local schoolchildren as a mental health project. Taking part will be members from various dissemination districts, members of Rissho Kosei-kai's Global Volunteer Leaders, nurses from Kosei Hospital in Tokyo, and some members from the organization's Tokyo headquarters.
ACRP Plans Sixth Assembly in Indonesia in November
From June 10 to 13, the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP) held its Executive Committee Meeting and the Preparatory Committee Meeting for the Sixth Assembly at a hotel in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Some forty representatives participated in the meetings and were joined on behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai by Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of the External Relations Department and Rev. Yoshiko Izumida. At the preparatory meeting it was confirmed that the sixth assembly would be held under the theme "Asia, the Reconciler" in Yogyakarta from November 3 to 7. Some 130 religionists from 16 Asian countries, including representatives of Rissho Kosei-kai, are expected to participate in the assembly.
23rd Pan-Pacific Festival Promotes Cultural Exchanges in Hawaii
The 23rd annual Pan-Pacific Festival--Matsuri in Hawaii was held from June 7 to 10 at Honolulu's Waikiki beach area. The festival originated as a cultural exchange between Japan and Hawaii and has now grown to include other cultures of the Pacific Rim. On June 10, a total of 31 local organizations, including Rissho Kosei-kai of Hawaii, and others from countries in the area including Japan, took part in the Festival Parade on Kalakaua Avenue. Nearly 300,000 spectators viewed the parade, in which 100 members of Rissho Kosei-kai of Hawaii and 37 representative members of the Kyushu District of Rissho Kosei-kai participated. Each year the Pan-Pacific Festival features a variety of activities, including street entertainers, ethnic food booths, folk dancing and traditional crafts.
UN Symposium Again Provides Opportunities to Discuss Northeast Asian Issues
The Seventh United Nations Symposium on Northeast Asia, convened by the United Nations Association of Japan, was held in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture from June 6 to 8. Thirty-seven participants, including government officials and scholars from seven countries in the Asia-Pacific region, discussed the theme "The 'Kanazawa' Process as a Community-Building Measure." Taking part on behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai were Mr. Tadashi Takatani, under secretary-general of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund, and Ms. Kiyoko Koga, a staff member of the organization's External Relations Section, as an observer. The Peace Fund provided two million yen in financial support for the holding of the symposium.
Peace Fund Reports Aid Grants for Second Term of Fiscal 2001
In June, the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced the recipients of its subsidies for the second term of fiscal year 2001. The fund allocated a total of 19.9 million yen for 12 projects in nine countries all over the world in such categories as education, health care, and prevention of regional conflicts. In this term, the peace fund decided to support seven new projects. The fund also continued to assist the five long-term projects, including "Bridge Asia Japan" to help in securing water for daily life in the dry zone of central Myanmar. The Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund's allocations are supported by contributions from the organization's members throughout Japan made through the Donate a Meal Campaign.
Foreign Speakers Address IBC Meeting
The International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) held a Buddhist Service meeting for non-Japanese at Rissho Kosei-kai's former headquarters in Tokyo on June 3. Rev. George Mullins, an Episcopal minister from Australia, gave a talk as personal religious testimony. He showed a picture of a tree near the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle, where Founder Nikkyo Niwano's remains are resting. The tree's central trunk looks dead, but it is surrounded by many new branches with green leaves. Referring to this tree, Rev. Mullins said that even though the lifetime of a human being is limited and not eternal, as we see from the passing of the Founder in 1999, the Dharma taught by the Founder has been enthusiastically inherited by his disciples, and thus will flourish eternally. At the meeting, Dr. Gene Reeves, former dean of the Meadville/Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago, delivered a Dharma Talk entitled "Generosity."
Meditation Explained at IBC Meeting
The International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) held a Buddhist Service meeting for non-Japanese at Rissho Kosei-kai's former headquarters in Tokyo on May 27. Before the service, Venerable Biku Narathevo, a Japanese monk at Wat Pa Sukato, Thamafaiwan Village, Thailand, gave a talk about meditation in the Theravada tradition. He explained that meditation means to gaze at one's self. "Although we can hear the sounds of our external world, it is sometimes difficult to hear the voice of our own hearts," he said. "In order to hear that voice, wisdom is needed, not knowledge. A release from the state of slavish adherence can be achieved through introspection with the eye of wisdom." This was followed by a lesson on the practice of meditation. At the meeting, Dr. Gene Reeves, former dean of the Meadville/Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago, delivered a Dharma Talk entitled "Doing Good."
Sydney Liaison Office Marks Fifth Anniversary
Between May 19 and 20, Sydney liaison office observed a training session at its office to commemorate fifth anniversary of the founding. Several local members took part in the session at which the theme of the discussion was the significance of applying the teachings of the Lotus Sutra in our daily lives.
Rissho Kosei-kai Holds Seminar at Nepal
The Overseas Mission Section of Rissho Kosei-kai, headquartered in Tokyo, conducted a seminar at a hotel in Kathmandu, Nepal from May 3 to 7. Some thirty-three Rissho Kosei-kai members from Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and India participated. At the seminar, they studied not only the essential teachings of Buddhism but also the basic daily practice of Rissho Kosei-kai. They also exchanged information about activities in their own countries. A friendship party was held and some 100 members mainly from Nepal and above countries joined it to exchange their culture.
WCRP Issues Appeal to U.S. to Ratify Kyoto Protocol
On May 19, 2001, the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) sent an appeal to the U.S. government for early ratification of the Kyoto Protocol adopted at the Third Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP3) in Kyoto in 1997. In the appeal, the WCRP declared its eager hope that the American government would revive its support for the protocol for the sake of the future of our planet. Rissho Kosei-kai has been a member organization of the WCRP since its founding in 1970.
Thai University Students Visit Rissho Kosei-kai Tokyo Headquarters
On May 15, Rissho Kosei-kai welcomed at its Tokyo headquarters a group of twenty-three university students from the college of religious studies of Mahidol University in Thailand. On the same day, the students conducted a Thai Buddhist religious service at Rissho Kosei-kai's Great Sacred Hall and were greeted by Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president. The group, headed by Dr. Pinit Ratanakul, then traveled to Nara, Kyoto, and Osaka to learn more about Japanese religion. Rissho Kosei-kai assisted the group's activities throughout their seven-day stay in Japan.
Rissho Kosei-kai Sends 8th Peace and Friendship Mission to Sakhalin
Twenty-five members from Rissho Kosei-kai's Hokkaido Dissemination Area visited the Russian island of Sakhalin off Japan's northern coast for four days from April 27, 2001. The visit, the 8th Peace and Friendship Mission for better understanding between Japan and Russia, was organized by the Students' Group of the dissemination area. After holding an event for mutual understanding with Sakhalin State University students, mission participants conducted memorial services for Japanese and Korean victims of the fighting on the island in the closing days of World War II, together with Russian students and members of the Japan-Sakhalin Fraternal Exchange Association.
Rissho Kosei-kai in the U.S. Holds Third Advanced English Leader Seminar
The 3rd Advanced English Leader Seminar was held at the Oklahoma chapter of Rissho Kosei-kai of Los Angeles in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for two days from April 21. Twelve English-speaking leaders from Hawaii, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco gathered at Rissho Kosei-kai of Oklahoma to take part in the seminar, which allowed the participants to deepen their knowledge of the Lotus Sutra, the organization's basic scripture, focusing especially on chapter 12 to chapter 19.
Rissho Kosei-kai of Bangladesh Inaugurates Youth Group
On April 20, Rissho Kosei-kai of Bangladesh held an inauguration ceremony for its youth group at a public hall in Chittagong. Over 300 members, including 100 youths, took part in the ceremony. After the offering to the focus of the devotion of the dharma center by 25 youth members, five young men and women delivered their religious testimonies before the assembled members. At the ceremony, the appointments of heads were announced, such as of the Youth Group, Young Men's Group, Young Women's Group, Young Wives Group, and Student's Group.
Rissho Kosei-kai of Bangkok Holds Ceremony with Theravada Monks
Rissho Kosei-kai of Bangkok held a ceremony at its chapter on April 8 to offer donations to Thai Theravada monks. Fifteen monks were invited to the Bangkok chapter where its members offered food and other donations to them. After the offerings, one of the monks delivered Dharma teachings to about 40 members who were present at the chapter.
Rissho Kosei-kai of Sri Lanka Holds Sports Festival
Rissho Kosei-kai of Sri Lanka held a Sports Festival on April 8 at Jayasingha Sports Complex in Colombo and at Rissho Kosei-kai of Sri Lanka in that city. More than 100 members and their friends participated in the festival. The aim was to serve as a reunion for the members of Rissho Kosei-kai of Sri Lanka and to strengthen youth activities. The festival was organized and staffed by youth members. Following the various sports activities, a closing ceremony took place at Rissho Kosei-kai of Sri Lanka.
IBC Marks Shakyamuni's Birthday
Nearly fifty non-Japanese participated in the Buddha's Birthday Celebration held on April 8, 2001 at Rissho Kosei-kai's former headquarters in Tokyo. Sponsor of the event was the International Buddhist Congregation (IBC), recently inaugurated by Rissho Kosei-kai. Rev. Norio Sakai, chairman of the organization's Board of Directors, commented, "I hope many foreign residents will become familiar with Buddhism through these opportunities created by the IBC." Dr. Gene Reeves, former dean of the Meadville/Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago, presented a Dharma Talk whose theme was "You too can be a Buddha!" after recitation of the Lotus Sutra and personal testimony by Mr. Ken Nagata, a staff member of the Overseas Mission Section.
Palestinian Christian Educator Selected for the 18th Niwano Peace Prize
The Niwano Peace Foundation chose as the recipient of the 18th Niwano Peace Prize an ordained Palestinian Christian priest and educator, Rev. Abuna Elias Chacour of Israel. Sixty-one-year-old Rev. Chacour is a Melkite Catholic priest and the president of Mar Elias Educational Institutions at Ibillin.
Rissho Kosei-kai Solemnly Celebrates Sixty-third Anniversary
On March 5, a ceremony marking the sixty-third anniversary of the founding of Rissho Kosei-kai was held in the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo in which nearly 5,700 members took part. Members at all churches throughout Japan also joined in the celebration. The participants renewed their awareness that Rev. Nikkyo Niwano had founded the organization with the wish to save all human beings and reform society, as well as their dedication to Buddhist practice and the dissemination of the Buddha's teaching.
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