Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra Welcomed by an American Audience
From December 14 to 22, 2002, the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra (TOKWO) visited Chicago to perform at the 56th Midwest Clinic, an annual international band and orchestra conference focusing on music education. Some 13,000 people, including school band and orchestra teachers, professional musicians, grade school and high school music students, and representatives from more than 30 countries, participated in this year's clinic, which included 30 concerts. This was the first time TOKWO had participated in the clinic and performed in the United States. On December 18 TOKWO offered five selections in two concerts at the Hilton International Ballroom. Masque for Symphonic Wind Band by Kenneth Hesketh opened the concerts under Principal Conductor Douglas Bostock; Conductor Laureate Maestro Frederick Fennell also conducted Vincent Persichetti's Divertimento for Band, Opus 42. For an encore at the second concert, Maestro Fennell conducted Henry Fillmore's His Honor, which the capacity audience praised with a standing ovation. The next day, TOKWO and Maestro Fennell took part in Tubachristmas 2002, promoted by the Harvey Phillips Foundation, performing His Honor and Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride. The orchestra also enjoyed a joint performance of traditional Christmas music with 335 tuba and euphonium players.
Niwano Peace Foundation Organizes NGO Conferences in India
On December 30 and 31, 2002, the Niwano Peace Foundation convened a conference entitled "Poverty Alleviation" in Hyderabad, India. The foundation organized the conference to promote understanding and cooperation among nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in India. Attending were 23 representatives from 22 NGOs, including Voluntary Agencies Network India, the Association of Voluntary Agencies for Rural Development, and the Bonded Labour Liberation Movement. Conference participants exchanged ideas about defending the human rights of children and minorities, elevating the social status of women, and protecting India's environment.
From January 2 to 7, 2003, the Asian Social Forum (ASF) was also held in Hyderabad, hosted by the World Social Forum (WSF). The forum is a response to the increasing prevalence of "neo-liberal" economic policies around the world as a result of globalization. In one of six workshops, which dealt with peace and security, participants included members of the Niwano Peace Foundation, an atomic-bomb victim from Hiroshima, and members of Japanese NGOs such as Peace Boat and the Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens (ATTAC Japan). Workshop attendees discussed solutions to social conflicts and human rights violations. The Niwano Peace Foundation helped fund the workshop.
New Year's Visit for Worship Held at Great Sacred Hall
At midnight on New Year's Eve, the start of 2003, a ceremony marking the New Year's Visit for Worship took place at the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo. Although it was cold with occasional rain, more than 12,600 members, including pilgrims from local churches, took part. When midnight was announced, President Niwano led the ritual of offering the sutra reading, which was followed by the presentation to the Buddha of the president's New Year's vow. In his annual message to all members, President Niwano emphasized the importance of harmony, which was declared the organization's guiding principle for 2003. He said that in Buddhism the spirit of harmony means the state of being free of all hindrances and in accord with every living thing. He said, "This spirit is very important in our age, when confrontational thinking is influential. Throughout the year, we all must earnestly seek the spirit of harmony and try to disseminate it to the world." After the ceremony, President Niwano prayed before the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle, paying special respect to the memory of Founder Niwano and making an offering of New Year's spiced sake. Near the main entrance of the Great Sacred Hall, worshipers were treated to noodles and zoni (rice cakes boiled in vegetable soup).
Peace Fund Announces Grant Recipients for the Fourth Term of 2002
In December the executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced its grant recipients for the fourth term of fiscal 2002. A total of 16.76 million Japanese yen was allocated to five projects. The Relief Society of Tigre (REST), a non-governmental organization (NGO) that promotes relief activities in the Ethiopian province of Tigre, will receive 5 million Japanese yen to support its emergency food supply for 50,000 villagers suffering from the recent severe drought. The Foundation for International Security in the United Kingdom will receive 3 million Japanese yen to ensure a constant food supply for people experiencing food shortages. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will receive 8 million Japanese yen to support its emergency relief project for refugees in Sierra Leone.
Japanese Religionists Hold Dialogue with Sri Lankan Prime Minister
On December 6, 2002, the Japanese Committee of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP/Japan) sponsored a dialogue with the Sri Lankan prime minister at the Kyoto Museum for World Peace, which is affiliated with Ritsumeikan University. Some 40 religionists, including the members of WCRP/Japan, took part in the three-hour-long dialogue with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. They were joined by Mr. Yasushi Akashi, the Japanese government's representative for peace building, rehabilitation, and reconstruction in Sri Lanka. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, four headquarters staff members took part; they included Rev. Kinjiro Niwano, a member of the Board of the Executive Councilors, and Rev. Michio Matsubara, external relations director. In February 2002, after nearly 20 years of bloody ethnic conflict that claimed some 65,000 lives, the Sri Lankan government under the new primer minister and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) agreed on a permanent cease-fire. The December dialogue was convened at the request of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, to exchange opinions about working toward peace in Sri Lanka. Mr. Akashi reported on recent developments in the peace negotiations and expressed his wish for greater support from Japanese religionists. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe emphasized Sri Lanka's great need for economic assistance to promote national rehabilitation. He declared his hope that the peace-building process in Sri Lanka will serve as a model for similar endeavors in other parts of the world.
Ceremony for the Installation of the Focus of Devotion Held at the Maui Dharma Center
On November 28, as part of his tour of Hawaii to disseminate the teachings of Rissho Kosei-kai, President Nichiko Niwano attended a ceremony for the installation of the focus of devotion at the Maui Dharma Center of Rissho Kosei-kai of Hawaii, located in the Wailuku area. Some 102 members welcomed President Niwano and Rev. Teruhisa Nahata, executive board member. At the ceremony, President Niwano led the unveiling of the focus of devotion. After 19 members of the primary school pupils' group had made offerings, President Niwano led a sutra recitation. Following the personal testimony of a member, President Niwano gave a talk. Summarizing Rissho Kosei-kai's teachings to on paying respect to one's ancestors, filial devotion, and bodhisattva practice, he said that through ancestor veneration and filial devotion we can understand the preciousness of every life and be grateful for being given life. Maintaining the importance of realizing that we create the causes of our own suffering, he also encouraged bodhisattva practice, saying, "Through deep introspection and correcting our ways, our sufferings will be turned into our joy. We should devote ourselves to greater efforts in order to share our joy with others and savor happiness together with others." Rev. Toshio Murakami, minister of the Wailuku Hongwanji temple of the Jodo Shin sect of Japanese Buddhism, then delivered a congratulatory address.
WCRP European Council of Religious Leaders Inaugurated
Religionists from across Europe have established the European Council of Religious Leaders of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP/ECRL), the first multireligious organization of senior religious leaders in Europe. The inaugural meeting took place in the Norwegian capital of Oslo on November 11--12. In its final statement, the ECRL acknowledged "the bloody history of religious conflicts in Europe, as well as current attempts to twist religions to fuel the fires of ethnic conflicts both here and around the world." The 30-member council committed itself to working to end conflicts, to reaffirming the religious rejection of terror, and to promoting justice and peaceful coexistence among the diversity of peoples, religions, and traditions in Europe. Recognizing that Europe is the shared home of diverse cultures and traditions, the ECRL called on European politicians, both national and regional, to engage in a serious, systematic, and ongoing dialogue. The delegates applauded the unanimous strategy agreed upon by the United Nations Security Council in dealing with Iraq, and appealed to the Iraqi political leadership to comply with the Security Council's resolution.
Ceremony Held to Present Fund to UNICEF
On November 23 a ceremony was held at the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters as part of its gathering of youth leaders. At the ceremony Rissho Kosei-kai presented the donations it had raised to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). On behalf of all Rissho Kosei-kai members, Ms. Kayoko Hagita, a member of Utsunomiya Church, presented a letter detailing the total contributions to Mr. Yoshihisa Togo, executive director of the Japan Committee for UNICEF, which is also located in Tokyo. A total of 143,278,627 Japanese yen was collected by members and well-wishers through the UNICEF fund-raising campaign, public charity bazaars, and the Donate a Meal Campaign conducted by Rissho Kosei-kai in public locations throughout Japan in 2002. The fund will be transferred to UNICEF headquarters in New York; it is earmarked to support education programs in Myanmar, Laos, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and the Philippines. In the ceremony, Mr. Togo expressed his gratitude toward all Rissho Kosei-kai members for their 24 years of support for UNICEF's activities.
Little Bags of Dreams Reach Children
In November the Executive Committee of the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign announced the distribution of bags containing toys and stationery items. In 2001 Rissho Kosei-kai members had made and collected 56,870 bags for children throughout the world whose lives were severely affected by war or natural calamities. According to the November report, 9,872 bags were presented to children in the former Yugoslavia; 3,196 bags were handed out in Northern Ireland; 19,675 bags were distributed to Palestinian children in Gaza; 189,822 bags were contributed to children in Lebanon; and 5,305 bags were given to children in Afghanistan. The presentation of the Little Bags of Dreams was conducted in some areas by a United Nations agency and in others by local organizations engaged in relief and reconciliation efforts. In Gaza, for example, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) conducted the presentation at 11 elementary and junior high schools. In Northern Ireland, members of the Corrymeela Community, a private organization promoting reconciliation between the Catholic and Protestant communities there, visited elementary schools in the region and personally delivered the gifts from Japan.
Members Commemorate the Birth of the Founder
On November 15, at the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo, Rissho Kosei-kai solemnly observed the 96th anniversary of the birth of Founder Nikkyo Niwano, who passed away in October 1999 at the age of 92. For Rissho Kosei-kai, the day also marked the 57th anniversary of the 1945 enshrinement of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni as our focus of devotion. Also, on that day in 1991, President Nichiko Niwano inherited the Lamp of the Dharma from the founder, succeeding him as president of Rissho Kosei-kai. On this significant occasion, Rev. Kosho Niwano, eldest daughter of President Niwano and the organization's president-designate, led the chanting of the Lotus Sutra by the 5,000 members who were gathered in the hall. At churches throughout the country, thousands of members participated in the event via satellite TV. The ceremony began with an offering by 20 women members representing the national dissemination districts. Then the participants viewed a video featuring the founder's lifetime dedication to the Lotus Sutra. Representing the members, a leader of the youth division of the Miyazaki Church in Kyushu made a testimonial speech, speaking about her church activities and the support of her family which sustained her. President Nichiko Niwano then explained some of the founder's teachings, emphasizing the importance of mindfulness and compassion, so that every one of us can offer helping hands to the many people around us.
Executive Director of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka Visits Rissho Kosei-kai Headquarters in Tokyo
On November 13 Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, executive director of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka, visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and met with President Nichiko Niwano at the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. In their meeting, Dr. Ariyaratne said that the coming year would mark the 45th anniversary of the founding of the Buddhist Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, which advocates rural development and peace in Sri Lanka. Mentioning that the 20-year antagonism between Sinhalese and Tamil had entered a new phase, Dr. Ariyaratne emphasized that it is important to encourage peace activities, but also to educate people not to commit violence. He announced that his father, Dr. Ahangamage Tudor Ariyaratne, president of the movement and recipient of the ninth Niwano Peace Prize, had built a meditation center to encourage Sri Lankans to pray for peace, and that 650,000 people had simultaneously joined in such prayers. President Niwano gave high praise to the movement for its significant role in peace efforts and expressed his admiration for a number of Sri Lankan people who had sought peace in their country.
Rissho Kosei-/PWelcomes Thai University Students at Tokyo Headquarters
From November 2 through 11, 21 students from the College of Religious Studies of Mahidol University in Thailand visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo as a part of their study tour of Mahayana Buddhism in Japan. The college was established to educate students to better understand and respect the diverse religious traditions in Thailand and Asia, in order to promote peace and cooperation. The students had previously visited Rissho Kosei-kai in May 2001. On November 7 they met with Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi at the organization's administrative building, where he spoke to them about the organization's principles, activities, and history. In the lecture, Rev. Yamanoi said that it was difficult to build a peaceful society without the cooperation of religionists. He expressed his hope that the students' visit would deepen mutual understanding between the students and Rissho Kosei-kai's members. The students also traveled to the organization's branch churches to participate in Rissho Kosei-kai's religious training and hold cultural exchanges with local members.
Rissho Kosei-kai Volunteer Members Distribute Blankets to People in Need in Ethiopia
From October 25 through November 8, 47 volunteers from Rissho Kosei-kai, the Japan Team of Young Human Power, and the African Society of Japan visited Ethiopia to distribute blankets collected through the annual Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa. The volunteers visited Mekele, capital of Tigre Province in Ethiopia. Located near the Eritrean border, the province was damaged by armed conflicts between Ethiopia and Eritrea from 1998 to 2000. During their seven-day visit to this poor mountainous region, the volunteers handed some 10,000 blankets to isolated elderly and handicapped people in cooperation with the Relief Society of Tigre, a local nongovernmental organization (NGO).
The May - June 2002 Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa collected 159,642 blankets throughout Japan. The blankets were shipped to nine African countries, including Angola, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. With the help of local NGOs, the blankets were presented to people who had suffered from disasters such as long drought and armed conflicts. The blankets protect them from the low temperatures the area experiences at night and in the early morning.
Ex-President of Indonesia Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
Haji Abdulrahman Wahid, ex-president of Indonesia, had a talk with President Niwano in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall on November 3. The meeting was arranged through the good offices of Mr. Hitoshi Kato, president of the Sakai International Interchange Association, which sponsored an international symposium in Sakai City at which Haji Wahid spoke. An eminent scholar of Islamic studies, he was the leader of the Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Islamic association in Indonesia, before becoming president in 1999. He gave the keynote speech at the Seventh Assembly of the World Conference on Religion and Peace at Amman in 1999. During his talk at Rissho Kosei-kai, Haji Wahid emphasized that Islam does not approve of violence. He pointed out, however, that it is now difficult to realize nonviolence, because people are inclined to support the use of violence to eliminate terrorism. Saying that a way to resolve problems nonviolently must be found, he asked President Niwano for cooperation. President Niwano replied that Buddhism likewise never supports violence, quoting the precept "Not to kill." Haji Wahid proposed Mahatma Gandhi's doctrine of nonviolence as the guiding principle for religionists, insisting that leaders of the various religious traditions unite to take action while promoting a sense of morality. He said that Founder Niwano was a great leader who embodied an ideal model of interreligious cooperation.
Rissho Kosei-kai Members Support Flood Victims in Thailand
On October 19, at the request of the League of Foundations of Thailand, the Thai Rissho Friendship Foundation in Bangkok sent its 11 members to Tha Wung District in Lop Buri Province to support flood victims there. From August to October, the repeated floods and landslides produced by torrential monsoon rains had caused significant damage. According to the report of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the floods affected 42 of 74 Thai provinces and killed 128 people; some three million people suffered from the damage. The heavy rains lashed much of the country and harmed not only national roads and irrigation systems but also crop and livestock farms . The Thai Rissho Friendship Foundation decided to support the flood victims on October 13, dispatching its members to investigate the damage in the area it was assigned. Using money donated by its members, the foundation bought rice, drinking water, and canned goods for refugees from 238 households. Eleven members delivered the food and water to the flood victims at Tha Wung Temple in Bun Hua Village in Tha Wung on October 19. Mr. Somchai Tirakoon, head of Tha Wung District, thanked the members, saying, "We are grateful to the members of Thai Rissho Friendship Foundation who brought us the relief supplies, driving for two hours from Bangkok in this crucial time of shortage."
The Community of Saint Egidio's Representatives Talk with Chairman Yamanoi
On October 7 two officials from the Community of Saint Egidio, an Italian lay Catholic movement with headquarters in Rome and the recipient of the 16th Niwano Peace Prize, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo. Professor Alberto Quattrucci, secretary general of the International Meetings of People and Religions, and Professor Agostino Giovanoli, director of the Asian Department, spoke with Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai. Also present were Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's External Relations Department, and Rev. Masahiro Nemoto, head of its Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation Group. Rev. Quattrucci reported on the community's project to combat AIDS in Mozambique, an effort supported by the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund. Then Rev. Giovanoli emphasized the importance of promoting further interreligious dialogue, saying that many people of faith worldwide agree that interreligious dialogue and cooperation are indispensable for the realization of world peace. Rev. Yamanoi responded, "There are various kinds of problems in the world, including poverty and disputes, the frequent occurrence of terrorism, and the spread of HIV. Now is the time that we religionists should unite for world peace and tackle these problems." The Community of Saint Egidio has continued to host annual international multireligious meetings in Europe since the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace called by Pope John Paul II . Rissho Kosei-kai, a regular participant in the meetings, has enjoyed an amicable relationship with the community for more than 15 years.
UNICEF Laos Representative Visits Headquarters
On October 28 Mr. Cliff Meyers, section chief of education, child and community development at the Laos office of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), visited the Tokyo headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai and had a talk with Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi. Also present at the talk were Mr. Takeshi Futami, deputy general manager of the Donor Relations and Fund-Raising Division of the Japan Committee for UNICEF, and Rev. Takanori Kumano, assistant director of Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Department. Mr. Meyers expressed his gratitude toward Rissho Kosei-kai for its decades-long assistance to UNICEF, saying that he was especially impressed with its Donate a Meal Campaign, in which many members forgo meals and donate their cost to UNICEF to help less-privileged people. He promised that UNICEF will use the donations effectively for Laotian children in need. Rev. Yamanoi explained that the Donate a Meal Campaign is a pillar of Rissho Kosei-kai's peace activities and that the campaign's foundation is the spirit of donation and prayer and a willingness to share the pains of others. Referring to the assemblies of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace and the International Association for Religious Freedom which were held earlier this year in Indonesia and Hungary, respectively, Rev. Yamanoi emphasized the importance of collaboration by religionists across the globe to help create a world in which children can live in peace.
WCRP/Japan Sends Peace Mission to China
At the invitation of the Chinese Conference on Religion and Peace (CCRP), a national chapter of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP), the Japanese Committee of WCRP (WCRP/Japan) sent a peace mission to China from October 21 through 26, 2002. Headed by Peter Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, president of WCRP/Japan, the group consisted of 12 members, including Rev. Gijun Sugitani, its secretary-general, and Rev. Yoshiko Izumida, director of its Women's Board and dissemination advisor to Rissho Kosei-kai. They visited Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi'an to promote friendly relations among religionists in the year commemorating the 30th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic ties between Japan and China. On October 21 the party visited the Guangji monastery, headquarters of the Buddhist Association of China in Beijing, and met with Rev. Yi Cheng, president of the association, which was inaugurated this September. The members then moved to the general office of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and were welcomed by CCRP members. In their meeting, the members of the group exchanged greetings with 13 representatives from five major religions in China, including Rev. Min Zhiting, vice president of the CCRP and president of the Taoist Association of China; and Rev. Chen Uangyuan, also a CCRP vice president and president of the Islamic Association of China. During their stay in Beijing the group visited the Taoist Association of China and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, and met with Mr. Ye Xiaowen, director-general of China's Administration for Religious Affairs Bureau. The group also traveled to Xi'an and worshiped at the Great Wild Goose Pagoda and at the China Christian Council in Shanghai.
IARF President Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On October 11 Mr. Eimert van Herwijnen, president of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) and Mr. Andrew Clark, its general secretary, had a talk with Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai, at its administration office. The IARF held its 31st World Congress in Budapest, Hungary, from July 28 through August 2, 2002; Rev. Yamanoi led the participants from Rissho Kosei-kai. In a plenary meeting of the congress he was elected a member of the IARF International Council and chairman of its financial committee. Asked by Mr. Herwijnen about his impression of the congress, Rev. Yamanoi replied that he was struck by the members' dedicated pursuit of interreligious cooperation in the face of the current world situation. Mentioning the participation in the congress of Mr. Abdelfattah Amor, the United Nations special rapporteur, Rev. Yamanoi stated that the U.N.'s sending its first representative to the congress was a significant step in the IARF's development. They also discussed plans for future IARF activities.
Cambodian Interreligious Council Inaugurated
On October 10 the inauguration ceremony of the Cambodian Interreligious Council (CIC) was held at a hall in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, under the patronage of His Majesty King Sihanouk. The CIC was initiated as a national chapter of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP); the ceremony marked the first coalition of Cambodia's Muslim, Buddhist, and Christian communities to take joint action in search of peace. The delegates--200 Buddhists, 200 Muslims, and 100 Christians--took part in the ceremony and welcomed representatives from the Cambodian government and the U.N. as well as guests from overseas organizations.
The opening remarks, delivered by His Excellency Mr. Chhorn Iem, secretary of state of the Cambodian Ministry of Religious Affairs, were followed by the introduction of the WCRP by Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary general. Six founding members from Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian communities in Cambodia offered comments on the establishment of the CIC. His Holiness Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong of the Mahanikaya Buddhist Order of Cambodia mentioned that this remarkable day was a historic event. He also said that the ceremony encouraged people of different religions to come together in solidarity and cooperate with the government, the U.N., and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to bring about social stability in Cambodia. Then the royal address of His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk was read by proxy, and the Cambodian religious leaders signed their joint statement. Congratulatory messages were delivered by representatives of the Cambodian government, U.N. organs in Cambodia, and the WCRP.
In his congratulatory address as one of the international presidents of the WCRP, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, said that through his experience with the WCRP's interreligious cooperation he had realized the importance of collaborating with the religious and local communities and, above all, the significance of working together to solve real social problems. He expressed his conviction that the CIC would demonstrate the ability of religions to contribute not only to social development but also to social reconciliation, to bring about peace in Cambodia.
The CIC hopes that Cambodian religious organizations will cooperate with the government, the U.N., and NGOs to help tackle the problems caused by the Pol Pot regime and the ensuing civil war: poverty, violation of human rights, environmental destruction, HIV infection, land mines, and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. To support the establishment of the CIC, the Japanese Committee of the WCRP will allot one million Japanese yen per year for three years from its Fund for Peace and Development. The WCRP also hopes to establish national chapters in Southeast Asian countries such as Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar.
Cambodia's Buddhist Institute Completed
On October 9 a ceremony marking the completion of the National Buddhist Institute of Cambodia took place in front of the institute's building in Phnom Penh. President Niwano delivered a congratulatory address. Construction of the institute began in 1995; the main building was completed in 1998. Subsequent construction has equipped the building with a printing room, a library, waterworks, ventilation systems, a parking lot, and outer walls. The Buddhist Institute, which was originally established in 1921 as Cambodia's major academic and cultural facility, was destroyed in the late 1970s by the Pol Pot regime; some 40,000 books were burned to ashes. At the request of Cambodia's Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA), Rissho Kosei-kai has supported the construction of the institute since 1995 in the belief that reclaiming Cambodia's Buddhist cultural heritage is key to the country's rehabilitation. The organization's Peace Fund contributed the construction cost of 124 million yen. Rissho Kosei-kai, in cooperation with SVA and the Japanese Committee of the WCRP, has also promoted the reprinting of Buddhist scriptures and books for Cambodian clerics and children. In his address, President Niwano said, "I was deeply moved by the Cambodian people's dedication to reviving the Buddhist religion by overcoming the tragic history of their country. The reconstruction of the Buddhist Institute bears testimony to their deep aspiration for reviving this religion. It is truly an honor for Rissho Kosei-kai to be a part of this moving endeavor."
Human Rights Committee of WCRP/Japan Honored by South Korean President
The Human Rights Committee of WCRP/Japan was honored by South Korean President Kim Dae Jung for its humanitarian assistance to Korean atomic bomb survivors living in South Korea and to elderly Koreans living in Sakhalin. The latter were brought by the Japanese army to the island, formerly a Japanese territory, before World War II. Many Koreans transported to Japan as forced labor suffered from the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Korean survivors who returned to the Korean Peninsula after the war did not receive support from the Japanese government and had to endure severe living conditions, made worse by the lingering aftereffects of radiation and the constant fear of cancer.
Since the Third Assembly of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace held in Seoul in 1986, the committee has tackled the human rights issues of the Korean Peninsula with the cooperation of Mr. Kim Yong Sung, president of the Korea Council on Welfare for the Elderly (KCWE). The commendation ceremony was held in Seoul on October 7; in attendance were Rev. Masao Yamada, director of the committee and member of the board of executive directors of Rissho Kosei-kai, and Msgr. Junichi Nomura, deputy director and Catholic bishop of the Nagoya diocese. At the ceremony, the former minister of health and welfare of the Republic of Korea placed President Kim's citation in Rev. Yamada's hand. In his address, Rev. Yamada expressed his contrition as a Japanese religionist about the tragic history between South Korea and Japan, saying, "We would like to accept this honor as encouragement to devote ourselves to making further efforts to become a bridge between South Korea and Japan." The commendation, approved on the recommendation of KCWE, is one of the highest honors officially acknowledged by the South Korean government. Rev. Kaoru Hayashi, former chairperson of the committee and priest of Yumiya Hachiman Shrine, was also honored at the occasion.
Peace Fund Announces Grant Recipients for the Third Term of 2002
In October the executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced its grant recipients for the third term of fiscal 2002. A total of 28.6 million yen was allocated to 16 projects being carried out mainly in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. These activities include Rissho Kosei-kai's joint project with the Community of Saint Egidio, a lay Catholic movement headquartered in Rome, support for the U.N. International Organization for Migration, and financial assistance to 14 private organizations promoting humanitarian initiatives. The joint project with the Community of Saint Egidio aims to prevent HIV transmission from mothers to newborn babies in Matola, Mozambique; the Peace Fund will support this effort with 7 million yen. The International Organization for Migration promotes humane and orderly policies for the movement of persons across borders. It provides Filipino youth who hope to find jobs in Japan with information about labor conditions and risks that foreign workers can face in Japan. The Peace Fund will donate 3 million yen to the organization. Among the 14 private organizations that will receive the grants are 10 new recipients. They include the Integrated Family Welfare Unit, which helps build social infrastructure in the villages of so-called dalits, the most impoverished and socially ostracized people in India (1 million yen); "Peace Begins with Myself," a project fomenting reconciliation and peaceful communication between Israelis and Palestinians led by the Vietnamese Buddhist priest Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh (1 million yen); and the Photo Exhibitions of Hibakusha of the World, an activity of Japanese free-lance photographers promoting photo exhibitions and lectures on the medical and social effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombing, the postwar development of nuclear weapons, and accidents at nuclear power plants (1 million yen). The Peace Fund continues its assistance to four former recipients, including 2.7 million yen to the Asia Arsenic Network, which has been providing medical treatment and consultation in arsenic-contaminated villages in Bangladesh, and 5 million yen to International Alert, a Britain-based NGO committed to the just and peaceful transformation of violent conflicts.
Rissho Kosei-kai Announces Results of Little Bags of Dreams Campaign for 2002
In October, Rissho Kosei-kai announced that, during the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign from April to August, 2002, a total of 54,421 bags containing little gifts were made and donated by the members of all Rissho Kosei-kai churches throughout Japan. The bags will be distributed to children who have suffered the effects of civil wars or discrimination in areas such as the former Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and West Bank, Israel, and Afghanistan. Rissho Kosei-kai will present the gift bags to children in a school operated by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the Atfaluna School for the Deaf in the Gaza Strip. With the help of a Japanese NGO, JEN, of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a member, Rissho Kosei-kai will continue to donate such gift bags to children orphaned or traumatized by the prolonged civil war in the former Yugoslavia. Afghan children who suffered losses caused by the American and British military action will also receive gift bags. Rissho Kosei-kai has been promoting the campaign for four years and has received many letters of gratitude from the children who received the gifts. The organization also plans to dispatch parent-child volunteer groups in March and April 2003 to the countries mentioned above.
Week of Prayer for World Peace Starts
From October 20 through 27, all over the world, a multireligious "Week of Prayer" will take place. This event is promoted by the Week of Prayer for World Peace, an association that was founded in the United Kingdom more than twenty years ago and which currently consists of thirty-seven religious organizations--Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist--and nonreligious groups. For eight days, people in the member organizations offer prayers for the eternal peace of all humankind.
Rissho Kosei-kai has been participating in the "Week of Prayer" for sixteen years. During the week, members attend morning devotional services to pray for world peace at the Tokyo headquarters' Great Sacred Hall, at their respective churches, and at their homes.
The daily recitations will include special "words of prayer for world peace" that refer to current issues such as the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001; the ensuing military action by the United States and the United Kingdom in Afghanistan; armed conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians; and U.S. President George Bush's advocacy of a preemptive military strike against Iraq. On October 24, the anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations, the prayer will include a quotation from Rissho Kosei-kai Founder Rev. Nikkyo Niwano's speech at the 1982 Second Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament: "Instead of taking risks that lead to war, take risks for the sake of peace." The prayer on that day will also incorporate words from the Dhammapada emphasized by Rissho Kosei-kai President Rev. Nichiko Niwano: "Hatred is never conquered by hatred; hatred can only be conquered by nonhatred." Participants will chant the words before the morning devotional service to mourn the victims of the terrorist attacks and the ensuing military campaign, and also offer a prayer for world peace.
Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival Celebrated
The Oeshiki-Ichijo (One Vehicle) Festival was observed on October 5 and 6 at the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters complex in Tokyo. Some 7,800 members from 23 churches in the Tokyo area, and from 29 churches throughout the country, marched in a parade carrying mando (portable lighted pagodas). Every church exhibited creativity reflecting its local cultural traditions. Many amusements were also provided and were open to the public.
One purpose of the festival is to keep alive the memory of the thirteenth-century priest Nichiren, who devoted his life to disseminating the Lotus Sutra. Another objective is for members to demonstrate their respect, affection, and deep admiration for the late founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, identifying themselves as the torchbearers of the sutra's message. This year, for the first time, a program of evening prayer served as the opening ceremony at Fumon Hall, with more than 5,000 members participating. Mrs. Michiko Imai, a physician and alpinist, made a speech entitled "The Preciousness of Human Life." Congratulating the members on the festival's opening, President Niwano said that by participating in the festival they would maintain the spirit of Founder Niwano deep in their minds and promise to apply Buddhist teachings diligently in their daily lives.
Third-Anniversary Ceremony for Founder Niwano's Entrance into Nirvana Observed
On October 4 Rissho Kosei-kai observed a ceremony marking the third anniversary of the demise of Founder Niwano. The events took place at the Great Sacred Hall and the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle at the Tokyo headquarters complex and at the organization's churches throughout Japan. In the ceremony held at the Great Sacred Hall, some 4,400 people participated, including members from 166 churches who had made a group pilgrimage to the headquarters. Prior to the ceremony, the ritual of opening the door of the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle took place. The ceremony began with President Niwano opening the door and then offering to the stupa sacred stone from Enryaku-ji Temple on Mount Hiei. Observed by the members, President Niwano, Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi, and President-Designate Kosho Niwano offered a flower at the stupa.
The ceremony at the Great Sacred Hall began with music played by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. Special products from nineteen districts of Japan were offered at the hall's platform by young women members representing the districts. After President Niwano led a recitation of the Lotus Sutra, he said a prayer to commemorate the founder's virtuous dedication to the welfare of humanity, and offered incense at a special stage displaying a portrait of the founder.
During the ceremony, President Niwano spoke about his memories of Founder Niwano. He described how his father had taught him clearly the essentials of Buddhism. He said, "The Lotus Sutra teaches various means to overcome human suffering. It is the foundation of our happiness to disseminate the Dharma and Truth in the sutra to other people through the bodhisattva way." He also explained, "In Buddhism, every human being is the child of the Buddha; in Christianity, too, it is common to say that every person is a child of God. Irrespective of differences in religious faith and whether or not we have religious faith, each one of us could be called a 'child of life.'" He emphasized that "When we think upon true world peace, the most important thing in the contemporary world is to be a person of generous nature who believes that all people are brothers and sisters, children of life."
After the ceremony, members offered incense at the sacred stage on the fourth floor of the Great Sacred Hall to honor the memory of the late founder.
The Vatican's Third Buddhist-Christian Colloquium Meets at Rissho Kosei-kai
Buddhist and Catholic priests and scholars gathered in the Tokyo headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai from September 29 through October 3 for a Buddhist-Christian colloquium. This event was the third in a series of Buddhist-Christian encounters promoted by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) at the Vatican. The colloquium's theme was "Sangha in Buddhism and Church in Christianity." Participants of both religions explored the dimension of community life in the two traditions. Some thirty attendees, all clergy or lay specialists in religion, came from Singapore, Hong Kong, Macao, Japan, India, Myanmar, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Italy, and the United States. Among the Buddhists were three Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters staff members, including Dr. Michio Shinozaki, director of the general secretariat. Taking part on behalf of the PCID were Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the council, and Msgr. Felix A. Machado, under secretary.
Discussions centered on clarifying and understanding the structure and dynamics of the religious communities in the two traditions. The subsequent conversations, especially at the breakout sessions, did not remain purely theoretical but reached the personal and spiritual levels. Msgr. Machado said that throughout the colloquium "the participants shared their strong desire to do something to transform society, their desire to contribute to peace in the world." He added that the attendees demonstrated their willingness to be engaged in the problems of the world, as members of religious communities "not aloof from the world, but more to be of service to the world, just like the Buddha himself shared his compassion and Jesus Christ told us to love even our enemies."
The colloquium was another important step forward in the history of Buddhist-Christian dialogue. On the last day, the participants adopted a statement that emphasized active participation by all Christians in the life and mission of the Church and the bodhisattva ideal that motivates Buddhists to address suffering in the secular world.
New Tsubaki Grand Shrine Chief Priest Talks with Chairman Yamanoi
Rev. Yukiyasu Yamamoto, chief priest of the Tsubaki Grand Shrine in Mie Prefecture, visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo on September 30 and spoke informally with the organization's Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi. Rev. Yamamoto became the chief priest of the Grand Shrine on September 15 on the death of his father and predecessor, Rev. Yukitaka Yamamoto. Rev. Yamamoto expressed his gratitude for the attendance of President Niwano, Chairman Yamanoi, and many local members of Rissho Kosei-kai at his predecessor's funeral on August 21. He then declared his desire to perform his duties to the fullest of his ability and asked for the continuing support of people of faith at Rissho Kosei-kai. Rev. Yamanoi praised the efforts of the late Rev. Yukitaka Yamamoto, who had dedicated himself to interreligious cooperation through such activities as the World Conference on Religion and Peace and the International Association for Religious Freedom.
Donations from UNICEF Campaign Announced
The Youth Division of Rissho Kosei-kai at Tokyo headquarters announced in September the total amount of donations to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) that Rissho Kosei-kai members throughout Japan collected for the year from July 2001 to June 2002. The exact total of 143,278,627 Japanese yen was raised by the general public through Rissho Kosei-kai's UNICEF fund-raising campaign in public places, as well as through charity bazaars and concerts, and the Donate a Meal Campaign for UNICEF on special days for the organization's annual Youth Day activities in May 2002. The amount collected was to be transferred to UNICEF headquarters in New York and made use of for Rissho Kosei-kai-designated programs to support education in the Philippines, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Bhutan, Bangladesh, and India, continuing from last year. The presentation ceremony was scheduled for the organization's youth leaders meeting in the Great Sacred Hall at its Tokyo headquarters complex on November 24, with representatives from the Japan Committee for UNICEF attending.
Senior Myanmar Priest Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On September 19, Ven. Ashin Kawidhaza from Myanmar met and spoke with Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, Rissho Kosei-kai chairman, at the organization's administration office. As one of Myanmar's senior Buddhist priests, holding the title of "Agga Maha Kanmahtana Sariya" awarded by its government as the highest honor for a meditation master, Ven. Kawidhaza currently conducts spiritual guidance for leading international meditation practitioners. After expressing his appreciation for Rissho Kosei-kai members' activities for world peace, Ven. Kawidhaza described the nature of the meditation that is considered the essence of Buddhist practice in Myanmar and explained that, through this practice, believers can achieve a state of mental tranquillity and pray sincerely for world peace. Rev. Yamanoi responded by saying that as a practice that shares a common purpose with meditation training, Rissho Kosei-kai members perform the offering of Lotus Sutra recitation, through which they reflect in their minds, venerate the spirits of their ancestors, and pray for world peace. The two religious leaders exchanged views on the current circumstances of the Buddhist communities in Myanmar and on Rissho Kosei-kai activities.
Chinese Religion Bureau Officials Visit Headquarters
Eight officials of the Religion Bureau of the State Council of China visited Rissho Kosei-kai Tokyo headquarters on September 10 and held a discussion with President Nichiko Niwano and Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi. The Chinese officials were visiting Japan to study the government's policy toward religions. Prior to their visit to Rissho Kosei-kai, the officials, headed by Mr. Ye Xiaowen, director of the Religion Bureau, paid calls on the main temples of several traditional Buddhist sects, Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs, and the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima. During his informal talk with the Rissho Kosei-kai leaders, Mr. Ye presented the calligraphy of a poem dedicated to President Niwano. He then reported that the office of president of the Buddhist Association of China, vacant since the death of Rev. Zhao Puchu, will soon be assumed by a new appointee.
16th Peoples and Religions Meeting Held in Palermo
From September 1 through 3, the 16th International Meeting: Peoples and Religions took place in Palermo, Italy, under the theme "Faiths and Cultures within Conflict and Dialogue." At this year's meeting, participants examined past efforts for dialogue in different spiritual traditions and agreed to put more emphasis on dialogue among peoples, religions, and other faith traditions ahead of the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. Hosted by the Community of Saint Egidio, an Italian lay Catholic movement headquartered in Rome and the recipient of the 16th Niwano Peace Prize, this year's meeting fell on the sixteenth anniversary of the international meeting first held in 1986 at Assisi as advocated by Pope John Paul II. Some 650 people from 70 countries around the world, including representatives of 12 religions and interreligious organizations, political leaders, and scholars took part, with some 4,000 ordinary citizens also joining. Attending on behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai was Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of its external relations department. As part of the meeting, 24 roundtable discussions were held at various locations in Palermo. In a discussion session entitled "Asia and Peace: The Contribution of Oriental Religions," Rev. Matsubara spoke about Rissho Kosei-kai's efforts in the peace process in Sri Lanka. He explained that it was intended to assist local Buddhist leaders who well understand the hope of Sri Lankans for a conclusion of the conflict and lasting peace, supporting the dialogue between different groups in the country under the guidance of local political leaders, the United Nations, and concerned foreign governments. In the closing ceremony, a Peace Appeal signed by all the religious leaders attending was proclaimed. The appeal said in part, "We know that there are those who invoke God's name to justify hatred and violence. Therefore, even more solemnly than yesterday, we state: religions should never justify hatred and violence. God's name is peace."
Representatives of Japanese Baha'i Community Visit Tokyo Headquarters
On August 30 Ms. Kimiko Schwerin, a representative of the Japanese Baha'i Community, and her husband Mr. John Schwerin, visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and spoke with President Nichiko Niwano at the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. President and Mrs. Yoshie Niwano had met with Ms. Schwerin on a visit to the Baha'i World Center in Haifa, Israel, in 1996. The Schwerins enjoyed a congenial talk with Mrs. Niwano about that visit. When the continued conflict between Israelis and Palestinians came up in conversation, they all agreed that every religion should always take care to impart its teaching correctly. In the meeting, Ms. Schwerin delivered to President Niwano a message that was sent to the leaders of all world religions by the Universal House of Justice of the Baha'i World Center. The message appeals to all people of faith to work together to realize both personal tranquillity and world peace. In reply, President Niwano emphasized the importance of interreligious cooperation, saying that all religions spring from the same source even if they impart their teachings in different ways.
New ACRP Secretary-General Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On August 29 Dr. Kim Sung-Gon, a representative of Won Buddhism in South Korea and the new secretary-general of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP), visited Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo and had a dialogue with President Nichiko Niwano. Also present at the talk were Rev. Kim Tea-Sung, under secretary-general of the Korean Conference on Religion and Peace (KCRP), Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai, and Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of its external relations department. Succeeding Dr. Yoshiaki Iisaka, Dr. Kim was elected ACRP secretary-general in June during ACRP's sixth assembly, which was held in the ancient Indonesian city of Yogyakarta. During the dialogue Rev. Kim expressed his determination to dedicate himself to the further development of ACRP and asked President Niwano for his advice on managing the organization. Saying that world peace should be religionists' prime objective, President Niwano emphasized that before anything else religionists should become friends with each other, even though they may think differently from one another.
South Asian Leaders Seminar Held at Thai Rissho Friendship Foundation
From August 22 to 25, a South Asian Leaders Seminar was held at Thai Rissho Friendship Foundation, Bangkok, to study the Lotus Sutra and develop attendees' leadership skills. Present were twenty members from Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and India.
The seminar opened with a report by representatives of each country on their current work, such as ceremonies, dissemination activities, and donations to people in need. Accepting the report, Rev. Yasuhiro Hasegawa, head of the International Faith Dissemination Group of Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters, gave introductory lessons on the Lotus Sutra. Rev. Masatoshi Shimamura, chief coordinator of the Thai Rissho Friendship Foundation, lectured on "Formation and Transmission of the Lotus Sutra." Participants deepened their understanding at hoza counseling meetings.
At the end of the seminar, Mr. Sumed Shakya, a Nepali member, said, "We are facing several conflicts in the world today. I believe that the concept of the One Vehicle in the Lotus Sutra is the only way to keep peace and harmony in the world. I will practice the teachings to make others happy."
This is the third South Asian Leaders Seminar, following the last seminar in Katmandu and the first one in March 2000 in Bangkok. Because the Rissho Kosei-kai organizations of Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Delhi were formed only in the last seven years, this series of seminars serves leaders of such groups in South Asia.
A Japan-China Friendship and World Peace Memorial Unveiled
With the participation of more than 200 Chinese officials and local people, and 58 members of Rissho Kosei-kai, a memorial to the friendship between Japan and China was unveiled on August 15. Serving also as an appeal for world peace, the memorial is located in the Sino-Japanese Friendship Memorial Park (a Japanese war-victims' cemetery), in Fangzheng County, about 160 kilometers east of Harbin in Heilongjiang Province, where more than 300,000 Japanese immigrants settled between 1931 and 1944. The Soviet invasion and the aftermath of the Japanese surrender in World War II led to harsh conditions for many of the immigrants; it is said that in the cold some 4,500 Japanese died from illness and starvation, leaving a number of war orphans and widows. In 1963 local people began voluntarily to gather from the fields the bones of Japanese who had died; they buried them in the area that later became the memorial park. Responding to this spirit of mercy and generosity, Rissho Kosei-kai members in the Kansai District have visited the cemetery since 1987 to perform religious services and deepen their friendship with the local people, as well as with Japanese who remained there. On the memorial is engraved "Japan-China Friendship and World Peace," in calligraphy by President Niwano. The construction cost was contributed by the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund.
Rissho Kosei-kai Members Join Nisei Week Japanese Festival in Los Angeles
On August 11 the Grand Parade, one of the highlights of the annual Nisei Week Japanese Festival, was held in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. One hundred forty groups marched in the parade, which attracted twenty thousand onlookers. The Los Angeles Church of Rissho Kosei-kai also sent fifty members, including some from San Francisco and Japan, who marched along the streets in traditional festive attire. Adults as well as children shook or twirled the matoi (the traditional Japanese firemen's standard), hoping symbolically to extinguish the flames of anger to bring the world's wars to an end, while other members played traditional instruments like Japanese drums, flutes, and gongs.
Day of Repose for War Dead Observed
The annual ceremony of the Day of Repose for the Spirits of the War Dead and Prayers for Peace was observed on August 15 at the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo, as well as at local churches all over Japan. Some 3,000 members from the Tokyo area took part in the ceremony at the Great Sacred Hall to commemorate the fifty-seventh anniversary of the end of the Pacific War. The participants prayed for the repose of the spirits of all victims of World War II and all other wars and for the realization of world peace. In his address, President Nichiko Niwano explained one of the five precepts lay Buddhists must follow: not to kill. Emphasizing the importance of this precept, he said, "Our lives are sustained by a great benevolent force. As one of many such beings, we must not be heedless to the preciousness of the lives of every other being."
Shinshuren Holds Service for War Dead
On August 14 the thirty-seventh annual memorial service for Japan's war dead and prayer for peace was held at Tokyo's Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery, which is not affiliated with any religion. Some 2,800 people from member organizations of Shinshuren, including Rissho Kosei-kai, participated in the ceremony under the sponsorship of Shinshuren and its Youth League. Following an address by Rev. Mitsuhiro Fukata, Shinshuren chairman, sixty-one young women members of Shinshuren offered lit candles. The representatives of different religious organizations conducted separate prayers at the hexagonal building where the ashes of the war dead are enshrined. Then Rev. Michiomi Rikihisa, chairman of Shinshuren's Youth League, pronounced a message for peace, and a silent appreciation of the war dead was offered. Finally, all the participants presented a floral tribute at the cemetery.
Members Collect 159,642 Blankets for Africa
From May 1 through June 30 members of Rissho Kosei-kai actively took part in the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa. In this annual activity, members all over Japan donated blankets themselves and collected many more from well-wishers. The number of blankets gathered during the campaign period totaled 159,642. Members asked citizens to participate at busy street corners and visited private homes to explain the aims of the campaign. The campaign was widely publicized through newspapers, radio, the Internet, and community bulletins. Many citizens who wanted to contribute telephoned the shipping agency in a suburb of Tokyo, where all the blankets were gathered and packed. The blankets are being shipped to such countries as Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Angola. In late October volunteers from Rissho Kosei-kai will personally hand some 30,000 blankets to Ethiopian recipients. Members also collected the shipping cost of the blankets, which had reached 52.7 million yen as of August 12.
For eighteen years, in the spirit of sharing in suffering, offering prayer, and making donations, Rissho Kosei-kai has been promoting aid to refugees and poor villagers in Africa. These villagers endure severe living conditions brought about by civil wars and prolonged drought. Blankets are essential for their life in highland and desert climates, where daytime and nighttime temperatures differ greatly.
Peace Foundation Announces Grants
In August the Niwano Peace Foundation announced the recipients of grants for research projects and peace activities for the first half of fiscal 2002. The screening committee chose to donate 5.29 million yen to twelve research projects. Dr. Mokbul Morshed Ahmad, assistant professor of the Department of Geography and Environment, Dhaka University, Bangladesh, received 600,000 yen to bridge the gaps between religious NGOs in Bangladesh. Nine different peace activities received 5.97 million yen, including JEN, which received 700,000 yen to support all ethnic groups in raising livestock to help establish peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The foundation makes grants to encourage individuals and organizations that actively participate in research and other activities that aim to realize world peace based on a religious spirit. The types of grants available for research activities are "research on interreligious understanding and cooperation," "research on religious approaches to overcoming impediments to peace," and "research on the relationship of science to religion and ethics." For peace activities the grant categories are "social activities based on a religious spirit" and "activities to empower local communities." The foundation also considers funding requests by organizations and individuals for gatherings and workshops involving deep spirituality and prayer. It promotes not only peace education, public service, and preservation of the environment, but also the independence of communities and cooperation among people.
Global Youth Gathering Held at Rissho Kosei-kai Headquarters in Tokyo
From August 5 through 11 Rissho Kosei-kai held a Global Youth Gathering, welcoming eight youth members from Brazil, Thailand, Bangladesh, China, and Sri Lanka, as well as from a sister organization Korean Rissho Kosei-kai. The gathering was organized by the International Faith Dissemination Group to establish close ties of friendship between members living in remote countries and to deepen their religious faith. On August 5 the young people visited the Great Sacred Hall and the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle at the organization's headquarters in Tokyo. On the following day they met with President Nichiko Niwano and had an informal talk with him at the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. They then joined a study meeting on basic Buddhist teachings. On August 7 and 8 the participants traveled to Hiroshima to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum. During their visit in Tokyo, they stayed in members' houses in Tama District and had cultural exchanges with their host families and Japanese youth members in the district. A participant from Bangladesh expressed his wish to disseminate Rissho Kosei-kai's teachings in his country as well as to convey the importance of peace and hospitality that he had learned during his stay in Japan.
Dharma Youth Seminar Held at Kona Chapter of Rissho Kosei-kai's Hawaii Church
From August 1 through 10 the Youth Division and the overseas churches of Rissho Kosei-kai held a joint Dharma Youth Seminar for the study of Buddhism at the Kona chapter of its Hawaii church. Thirty-two youth members from the United States, and Japan took part. Under the theme "Journey to Discover the Preciousness of Life," the participants attended study meetings such as a daily seminar, group discussions, and hoza counseling sessions. In the daily seminar, Mr. Akio Sasaki, a member of the Youth Division at Tokyo headquarters, lectured on the Lotus Sutra. The participants carried out cultural exchanges with each other, speaking in Chinese, Japanese, and English not only in seminars but also during a program on communing with the nature of Hawaii. In the seminar, participants learned more about Buddhism from Rev. Thich Thong Hai, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist of Chan Khong Buddhist Monastery. On August 8 the young people visited the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor and a site on the shore of the island of Oahu, near where the Ehime Maru fishery training ship was accidentally hit and sunk by the nuclear-powered submarine USS Greenville in February 2001. At each site they prayed for the repose of the victims of the war and the accident.
15th Anniversary of the Religious Summit Meeting on Mount Hiei Observed
From August 3 through 4, the "Interreligious Gathering of Prayer for World Peace: Dialogue between World Religions and Islam" was held on Mount Hiei in Kyoto to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the Religious Summit Meeting on Mount Hiei in 1987. The summit meeting was held to continue the spirit of the Day of Prayer for World Peace held the previous year in Assisi at the initiative of Pope John Paul II. In this year's gathering, some 1,300 religionists of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Shinto, and Buddhism as well as of interreligious organizations from 10 countries all over the world participated. From Rissho Kosei-kai, President Niwano and Chairman Yamanoi took part. During two-day gathering, a symposium and forum were held. People of different faiths deepened their knowledge of other religions and sought for the role religionists should take in order for world peace to be realized. On the afternoon of August 4, some 600 religionists assembled before the Kompon Chudo hall of Enryaku-ji on Mount Hiei to join an "Interreligious Prayer for World Peace." In the ceremony, representatives of seven religious faiths and organizations from Islam, Judaism, the Association of Shinto Shrines, Buddhism, Christianity, Federation of Sectarian Shinto, and Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) offered the prayers. Peter Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, president of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, made the declaration of the "Message from Mount Hiei." In that message, all the participants of the ceremony hoped and called for world peace saying: "We believe in reconfirming the promotion of interreligious dialogue, mutual understanding and respect among all religions, as we have continued during this summit, as the basis for alleviating the problems." The message also asked "the guidance of God and Buddha that we should continue to work and pray together, to have meaningful dialogue, and to raise our spiritual potentiality toward the goal that all beings on earth can coexist peacefully."
IARF's 31st World Congress Held in Hungary
From July 28 through August 2, the 31st World Congress of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) was held in Budapest, Hungary. Some 650 IARF member religionists and scholars of religion from 25 countries took part in the congress held in the Budapest University of Economic Sciences and Public Administration. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, 70 members took part in the congress, headed by Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, the organization's chairman. During the six-day congress, the main theme of which was "Religious Freedom: Europe's Story for Today's World," the participants engaged in insightful discussions on such issues as discrimination against religious minorities, seeking concrete ways to realize and ensure religious freedom. The congress was also an opportunity for the participants from world's religious traditions to work together more deeply in interfaith spirit through such programs as morning demonstrations of respective religious practices and Circle Group discussions, in which some participants shared beliefs and experiences while others discussed ideas presented in the lectures. Some of the facts of ongoing discrimination against religious minorities by the nation states and the larger public affiliated with mainstream religious traditions were reported by participants from different parts of the world. The public suspicion and discrimination against Muslims, which has increased because of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, was one of the pressing concerns among the participants. To work out concrete plans together to promote religious freedom, the participants listened to lectures on such themes as "Teaching Tolerance," "Promoting Voluntary Codes [of conduct for religious and belief communities]," and "Building Strategic Plans." They then participated in workshops to develop project ideas and turn them into more concrete plans.
Korean Youth Join Hiroshima Peace Seminar
Forty three Korean youths participating in the "Hiroshima Peace Tour," a program sponsored by the Korean Conference on Religion and Peace (the national committee of WCRP in the Republic of Korea), visited Hiroshima, August 4--7. The program aimed to have them reiterate their determination to uphold their pledge to work for the total abolition of nuclear weapons and also to foster a realization of world peace through their learning of the damage done by the atomic bomb. It was also aimed at their deepening ties of friendship between South Korea and Japan through an interchange with Japanese youth of the Buddhist faith. Thus, on August 5, following the visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, they joined a seminar organized by the Hiroshima Religious Cooperation and Peace Center, and had a dialogue with 40 youth members from five churches of Rissho Kosei-kai in Hiroshima Prefecture. On August 6, they attended the memorial service for the repose of the spirits of atomic bomb victims in Hiroshima city and prayer for peace, and also paid reverence at the memorial for Korean victims of the atomic bomb, where they performed a religious service following a ritual of Won Buddhism. The participants divided into three groups to experience home-stays in the homes of Rissho Kosei-kai members in Hiroshima, Kita-Hiroshima, and Kure.
Two Officials from the Saint Egidio Community Visit Tokyo Headquarters
Representing the Italian lay Catholic Community of Saint Egidio, with headquarters in Rome, the recipient of the 16th Niwano Peace Prize, Prof. Alberto Quattrucci, secretary general of the International Meetings People and Religions, and Prof. Agostino Giovagnoli, director of the Asian Department, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo and met with President Nichiko Niwano at the Horin-kaku Guest Hall on August 1. The purpose of their visit to Japan was to take part in the Interreligious Gathering of Prayer for World Peace: a Dialogue between World Religions and Islam on the 15th anniversary of the Religious Summit Meeting on Mount Hiei on August 3 and 4 in which a number of the Muslim leaders also participated. In the meeting, referring to the fact that the breach between the West and the Muslim countries has widened after the events in the United States on September 11, 2001, Prof. Quattrucci emphasized the importance of the role taken by religious leaders in the countries on neutral ground, including Japan, for promoting intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Prof. Giovagnoli also pointed out that the importance of interreligious dialogue is still denied the light of recognition in the Western countries and asked President Niwano for further assistance by the organization to facilitate interreligious dialogue.
President Niwano Visits China
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic ties between Japan and China, the Buddhist Association of China invited President Niwano to China July 23--31. In Beijing President Niwano paid a courtesy call to Mr. Ye Xiaowen, director of the Religion Bureau of the State Council of China, and also to the headquarters of the Buddhist Association of China, located in the Guangji temple, where he had a talk with Rev. Dao Shuren, vice-president of the association. Following the journey to Taishan, famous as a holy place for Tao tradition, and Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius, President Niwano also visited the birthplace of the late Rev. Zhao Puchu, ex-president of the Buddhist Association of China, located at Anqing in Anhui Province, which was one of the main purposes of his visit to China. On the way to Anqing, however, he once returned to Shanghai, where he participated in a memorial ceremony for the Venerable Ming Yang--vice-president of the association and head priest of the Tiantong temple--who passed away suddenly on July 23. Reviewing the visit, President Niwano hoped that an interchange of people of Buddhist faith would further promote peace in Asia.
WCRP/Japan Holds Study Meeting on Development and Environment
From July 22 to 24, the Development and Environment Commission of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP/Japan) held a study meeting in Aomori Prefecture. Some 24 people from the member organizations of the WCRP/Japan took part. On July 22, a symposium was held at the headquarters of Shorokushinto-Yamatoyama, a religious organization in Hiranai-machi. Some 200 people, including the participants of the study meeting, members of Shorokushinto-Yamatoyama, and members of Rissho Kosei-kai Aomori Church took part. In the symposium, Mr. Kazuyoshi Chiyo, a representative of Shorokushinto-Yamatoyama, gave a lecture entitled "Forests Nurture the Sea--A Natural System of Coexistence." He explained how the forests purify rain water and how water containing natural minerals is conveyed to sea as a part of water circulation on earth. On the next day, the participants moved to "Ischia in the Forest," a sanctuary for those suffering from depression, located at the foot of Mt. Iwaki. Through friendly conversations with Ms. Hatsume Sato, founder of Ischia, the participants learned how sufferers of depression can be healed through the relaxation gained by living in the forest and eating the natural foods served at the lodge.
2002 Afforestation Project in Ethiopia
From July 7 to 20, twenty-two Rissho Kosei-kai members participated in an afforestation project in Samre, in the northern Ethiopian province of Tigre. In Ethiopia, some 40 percent of the land was covered with greenery sixty years ago. As a result of the seventeen-year-long civil war that began in 1975, the 1998--2000 conflict with the State of Eritrea, frequent severe drought, and deforestation, however, the figure has plummeted today to an appalling 1 percent. Since 1993, Rissho Kosei-kai has granted assistance to an afforestation project promoted by the Relief Society of Tigre (REST), an Ethiopian NGO, through the organization's Peace Fund. The Peace Fund-assisted project has attained so far the planting of nearly 8 million saplings, in which members of Rissho Kosei-kai have participated a total of six times. On July 9, the participants visited the office of REST in the provincial capital of Mekele and heard explanations on the present situation in Tigre, the activities of REST, and the current state of affairs in Ethiopia from Mr. Mulugeta Berhanu, head of the Environmental and Agricultural Development Department. Following the July 11 visit to nurseries for some 165,000 eucalyptus and acacia saplings, the participants joined in the two-day activity to help some 150 local villagers plant nearly 2,000 eucalyptus saplings in Adisalem on July 12 and 13.
Funeral Service of Rev. Kosho Ohtani Observed
On July 18, the funeral service for Rev. Kosho Ohtani, monshu (head priest) emeritus of the Honganji sect of Jodo Shinshu was observed in the Amida Hall of its headquarters in Kyoto. Some 13,000 people, including monks and parishioners of the sect, as well as representatives from various religious, political, and economic circles who were on close terms with the late Rev. Ohtani attended the service. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, President Niwano joined the service and offered incense for the repose of his soul. Rev. Ohtani had served as the monshu of the Honganji sect of Jodo Shinshu, one of the largest Buddhist organizations in Japan, for almost half of a century, and died of multiple organ failure on July 14 at the age of 90. He had served as president of the Japan Buddhist Federation and honorary president of the first assembly of the WCRP in Kyoto in 1970. The late founder Rev. Nikkyo Niwano had been on friendly terms with Rev. Ohtani, who was a judge of the Templeton Prize and gave his hearty recommendation to Founder Niwano as the prize winner of 1979.
The ICLS Opens in Nagano
The eighth International Conference on the Lotus Sutra, sponsored by the Chuo Academic Research Institute, was held July 12--16, 2002, under the theme of "The Lotus Sutra and Zen Buddhism" at a hotel in Shiga Heights, Nagano Prefecture. Twelve scholars on Buddhist studies and theology participated in the conference, which was coordinated and assisted by staff officials both from the institute and the headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai. Based on the papers presented, the scholars presented comparative studies of the bodhisattva practice stressed in the Lotus Sutra and the practice of Zen meditation. Especially, in "Ch'an and Chih-kuan: T'ien-t'ai Chih-i's View of Zen" by Dr. Paul Swanson, professor at Nanzan University, and "The Lotus Sutra and Dogen's Zen Hermeneutics" by Dr. Michiko Yusa, professor at Western Washington University, the practice of meditation in Tendai Buddhism and also its influence upon the meditation of Zen priests were verified. In parallel with the discussion, the Japanese debate about the morality of organ transplant from brain-dead patients was picked up by Dr. William LaFleur, professor at the University of Pennsylvania. The participants also joined in the Bon Festival held by the Nagano Chuo Church of Rissho Kosei-kai on July 14.
The Bon Festival Observed
On July 15, some 3,600 members of Rissho Kosei-kai from 92 churches throughout the nation participated in the Bon Festival at the Great Sacred Hall at the organization's headquarters in Tokyo. The Bon Festival is the annual Japanese Buddhist event during the summer season, in which people pray for the repose of the souls of the ancestors and those who had died during the year. In the ceremony, after twenty members of the young women's groups from all over Japan made offerings, President Nichiko Niwano led the sutra recitation, in which he and 256 representative members who possess the qualification for Dharma Teacher solemnly read nearly 18,000 Buddhist posthumous names for the deceased members. The president read a memorial prayer and offered incense. In his following address, he explained the origin of the Bon Festival--Maudgalyayana, one of the Buddha's ten great disciples, saved his mother from the realm of hungry spirits by making offerings to all the monks and having them pray for her. He also pointed out that we might fall into the trap of self-centeredness through wishing only for our own salvation caused by the affection for our flesh and blood. He continued, saying: "Buddhism teaches us that no one can attain true salvation until all human beings have been saved. If we can realize again Shakyamuni's great compassion and wish that others will be happy, it can lead to the greatest merit transference to our ancestors."
Russian Students from Sakhalin Visit Rissho Kosei-kai
Five students of the Japanese language at the Institute of Economics and Oriental Studies of Sakhalin State University, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, paid a courtesy call on July 15 to the headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai in Tokyo, and had a talk with the chairman, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi. Arriving on July 4, they stayed at Rissho Kosei-kai members' houses in Asahikawa, Sapporo, Hakodate, Otaru, and Tomakomai, where they learned about Japanese culture and history. Following the introduction by each of them in Japanese, Rev. Yamanoi encouraged them, saying that he hoped the promotion of cultural exchange, in which the Russian youth on the island of Sakhalin are playing a pivotal role in cooperation with Japanese youth, would lead to peace between Russia and Japan. Their journey in Japan, for which the Peace Fund provided financial support, lasts until August 2.
Rissho Kosei-kai Awarded for Blood Donation Drives
On July 11, Rissho Kosei-kai received the Emperor Showa Memorial Award for the Promotion of Blood Donation during a national assembly for promoting blood donation held in Miyazaki City under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, Miyazaki Prefecture, and the Japan Red Cross. Representing Rissho Kosei-kai, President Nichiko Niwano participated in the rally and received the certificate of gratitude from H.I.H. Crown Prince Naruhito, who serves as honorary vice-president of the Japan Red Cross. Rissho Kosei-kai was commended for its active cooperation over the past decades for blood donation activities promoted by the Japan Red Cross, in which many members have donated blood themselves and appealed to the general public for their cooperation. The award was established in 1989 in memory of Emperor Showa and has been given annually to an individual or an organization that made a distinguished contribution to raising people's awareness for the need of blood donation, while setting examples to help save the lives of those who await precious blood transfusions.
Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam Leader Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
Representing the Israeli cooperative village of Jewish and Palestinian citizens, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam (NW/WAS), one of the community's leaders, Mr. Robert Mark, visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters on July 10 and had a talk with the organization's chairman, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi. Located midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, NS/WAS has exemplified and promoted peaceful coexistence of Jews and Palestinians since its founding in 1972. In 1993, the 10th Niwano Peace Prize was awarded to NS/WAS for the community's unflagging activities. Mr. Mark visited Rissho Kosei-kai to participate in a preparatory committee meeting for a commemorative forum to be held next year to mark the 20th anniversary of the Niwano Peace Prize. During the meeting with the chairman, Mr. Mark expressed his thanks for Rissho Kosei-kai's support of the village through its Peace Fund, the importance of which, he said, is now even more greatly valued. "Respecting the difference of other people enriches our lives," declared Mr. Mark, who demonstrated his determination to continue his effort so that their experience can be shared by the people all over the world. He then praised Rissho Kosei-kai's Little Bags of Dreams Campaign, saying that the gifts from Japan are received enthusiastically by children in Israel, many of whose families had been torn apart in the course of ethnic confrontation and thus for each child to receive a present individually had only been a dream. Rev. Yamanoi thanked Mr. Mark for his comments, saying that the campaign provides Rissho Kosei-kai members valuable opportunities to increase their awareness of peace. By expressing his joy at being able to take part in NS/WAS's peace building efforts through ongoing assistance activities, Rev. Yamanoi demonstrated his willingness for greater cooperation with NS/WAS.
Historical Multi-Religious Gathering Deals with the Problems of HIV/AIDS in Africa
From June 9 to 12, the "African Religious Leaders Assembly on Children and HIV/AIDS" was organized in Nairobi, Kenya. Some 120 people including African religious leaders and specialists in the issues related to AIDS, from more than 25 countries mainly from African continent, took part. Ambassador Stephen Lewis, special advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General on HIV/AIDS, and Ms. Carol Bellamy, executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), also participated in the assembly, delivering the opening address and a keynote speech, respectively. The assembly, marked as the first-ever pan-African multi-religious gathering, was hosted by the Hope for African Children Initiative (HACI), a multiorganizational NGO which member organizations include CARE, Plan, Save the Children, the Society for Women and AIDS (SWAA), and the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP). On June 12, the final day of the assembly, the participants adopted the "Final Declaration" and a concrete "Plan of Action" that aimed to bring their declaration to effect. In the assembly, under the auspices of the WCRP, an African Religious Leaders Council was established as a pan-African multi-religious organization to carry the "Plan of Action" into effect through the cooperation of the WCRP and HACI, to exert all efforts to meet the needs of the children and their families throughout the African continent.
Delhi Dharma Center Opened in India
On July 7, almost 100 people gathered to celebrate the opening of the newly inaugurated Delhi Dharma Center in New Delhi, India, with the installation ceremony of the focus of devotion. During the ceremony, Mr. Pradeep Saksena, head of Center, spoke about his experience of faith through the practices of Rissho Kosei-kai and also of his wish to spread the humanity of Buddhism throughout India. After ceremony, this memorial day was celebrated with song and dance.
The Sixth Assembly of the ACRP Held in Indonesia
The Sixth Assembly of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP) was held at the historic Indonesian city of Yogyakarta from June 24 through 28, the main theme being, "Asia, the Reconcilor." Participants included some 300 religionists representing Asia's major religious traditions and 20 countries in Asia and the Pacific. The participants discussed issues facing Asia, including such pressing matters as the confrontation between India and Pakistan and the division in the Korean peninsula. The participants had animated discussions through the plenary sessions and the five commission meetings, in the shared hope that they might have some reconciliatory power in spite of differences in nationality, ethnicity, and religious faith.
The ceremony began on June 24 with an opening address by Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and a video message of congratulations from South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, followed by keynote addresses by Dr. Ahmad Syafii Maarif, a Muslim scholar and president of Muhammadiyah, and Swami Agnivesh, a Hindu leader from India.
The shock wave of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, which some claimed was fueled by religious incentives, had deeply worried Asian religious leaders who are now united in their opposition to any act of terror. Such common determination against terrorism was evident throughout the assembly, yet most clearly demonstrated in exchanges of opinions on how religionists should face terrorism in one of the five commission discussions that addressed the theme, "Reconciliation for Common Living--Disarmament and Security." The other four commissions dealt with the topics related to notion of "reconciliation": "Reconciliation for Just and Sustainable Development--Economy and Ecology," "Reconciliation for a Culture of Peace--Education and Service for Peace," "Reconciliation for a Life-Respecting Community--Human Dignity and Human Rights," and ""Reconciliation for a Harmonious Family--Women, Children, and Partnership." The commission discussions were incorporated into the Yogyakarta Declaration, which was adopted by majority vote during the closing plenary on June 28. Referring to the existence of many divisions and conflicts in Asia that divide the people, the Declaration professed that "religionists cannot be neutral" and "people of religion should stand on the side of the poor, the oppressed, and the deprived."
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President Niwano Chairs a Plenary Session at ACRP VI
President Niwano chaired the third plenary session on June 26, 2002, of the Sixth Asian Conference on Religion and Peace, in which the summaries of the five commissions' papers were presented by each of the moderators. In closing the session, he commented that, although there were various problems in Asia, the religious leaders of Asia should band together and make the contributions necessary for their solution. During the fourth plenary session the following day, President Niwano was unanimously reelected president of the ACRP, and at the closing ceremony of the conference he expressed his gratitude to the efforts of the steering committee of ACRP/Indonesia, which had coordinated the conference, with the assistance of Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who also attended the opening session and made an address. During his stay at Yogyakarta, President Niwano exchanged views with religious leaders from Asian countries. He had a talk with Rev. Dao Shuren, vice president of the Buddhist Association of China regarding the plans of the ACRP in the future. He also met with the representatives of Cambodian Buddhists. They expressed their gratitude to Rissho Kosei-kai's contribution, through a donation by its Peace Fund, to the project for the construction of the National Buddhist Institute in Phnom Penh.
Rissho Kosei-kai Members Bid Farewell to Late Special Advisor Naganuma
On June 23, the Farewell Ceremony for late Rev. Motoyuki Naganuma, special advisor to Rissho Kosei-kai and the its former chairman, who died of heart failure on April 7 at the age of 78, was observed at the Great Sacred Hall. Some 8,253 people, including his immediate family, the heads and leaders of all the churches throughout the nation, the officials and retired officials of Rissho Kosei-kai, and guests from various fields, expressed their condolences to him. At the ceremony, the opening address was followed by the ritual offering. After President Nichiko Niwano led the sutra recitation, he read the memorial address to the deceased and offered him flowers. Following a video presentation of Rev. Naganuma's lifetime, the representatives from the participants, including Rev. Takeyasu Miyamoto, leader of Myochikai, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, current chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai, and Ms. Kazuyo Sano, chapter leader of its Suginami Church, read the farewell speech. Then twenty-four participants, including Mrs. Yoshie Niwano and her daughter and the president-designate of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Kosho Niwano, offered carnations to the picture of the late Special Advisor as the representatives of the organization, and the representatives from the family, guests, and the organization's officials. At the end of the ceremony, President Niwano spoke on the memory of late Rev. Naganuma. In his address, referring to the early time when he started working for the organization, he said, "Rev. Naganuma was always at my side and led me properly when I had problems in conducting my duties." He continued, "Rev. Naganuma served in the Tokyo Headquarters everyday supporting late Founder Nikkyo Niwano. He devoted himself to his duties faithfully." After the ceremony, the participants offered flowers together with their feelings of gratitude to him. The ceremony was relayed via satellite broadcast to all the churches throughout Japan. The late Rev. Naganuma served as the organization's chairman for 42 years, from 1952 until his retirement in 1993, continuing to support late Founder, late Cofounder Rev. Myoko Naganuma, and President Niwano all his life. He was also active in promoting activities for interreligious cooperation as well as playing an important role in such interreligious organizations as the Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) and the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP). He also served as chairman of the Niwano Peace Foundation. After his retirement as chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai, he continued to support the organization in diverse ways as its Special Advisor.
The Sixth Assembly of the ACRP Is Being Held in Yogyakarta
The Sixth Assembly of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP) is currently being held at the Sheraton Mustika Hotel in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, from June 24 to 28 under the theme "Asia, the Reconciler." Some 500 religious leaders of 14 religions from 21 Asian countries and regions are participating. During the assembly period, the religious leaders are discussing such issues as disarmament, regional development, environmental protection, and human rights. The assembly, originally scheduled for November of last year, had been postponed due to the tense situation in the world caused by the September 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent military operations in Afghanistan.
Sri Lankan Buddhist Prelates Meet with Japanese Government Officials
To discuss peace in Sri Lanka, the four most senior Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist leaders met with four Japanese government officials, including former foreign minister Masahiko Komura, chairman of the League of Diet Members for the Promotion of Preventive Diplomacy, at the Capitol Tokyu Hotel, Tokyo, on June 5. The Sri Lankan Buddhist prelates submitted to the Japanese political leaders a copy of the joint declaration they had announced on June 3 and asked that the Japanese government help maintain sustained support for the ongoing peace efforts to establish peace in Sri Lanka. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, a member of the Board of Directors, Rev. Masao Yamada, and the external relations director, Rev. Michio Matsubara, also participated in the meeting. Asking for the support of the Japanese government for Sri Lanka's peace process, Ven. Kotugoda Dhammawasa Anunayaka Thera, secretary-general of Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha, referred to UN Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan's address during the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders at the UN headquarters in New York in August 2000, in which Mr. Annan emphasized the need of cooperation between political and religious leaders for genuine peace in the world. Mr. Komura responded by saying it was indispensable that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cease all terrorist activities so that peace in Sri Lanka can be reestablished. At the same time, he went on by saying, it is necessary for the majority [Buddhist] Sinhalese to take the initiative to reconcile themselves with Tamils. In that sense, Mr. Komura continued, he was very pleased that the supreme Buddhist patriarchs had taken the action in order to demonstrate their common aspiration for peace. Mr. Komura expressed his willingness to support their efforts, saying that Japanese people were ready to help the reconciliation both materially and spiritually.
Four Sri Lankan Theravadin Prelates Make a Joint Statement for Peace
On June 3 at a Tokyo hotel, the four most senior Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist leaders held a press conference to declare their joint statement to plead for peace in their country. Their declaration was issued as "The Tokyo Statement," and marked the first time that the leaders of four different sects of the majority Sinhalese Buddhists joined to make a declaration asking for peace in Sri Lanka. It is said that their statement will serve to mold public opinion of their followers and have a good effect on the first peace negotiations after nearly 20 years of bloody ethnic conflict in the country. The negotiations are scheduled in Thailand in June between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the most powerful group in the northern part of the country that aimed to establish the independence of the state for the minority Tamil. The joint conference was organized by Rissho Kosei-kai with the assistance of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, and the Japan Buddhist Federation. Prior to the joint conference, the Theravadin leaders met with President Niwano at the Horin-kaku Guest Hall at the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and expressed their gratitude toward him for helping them to hold their conference. On June 5, they met with Mr. Masahiko Komura, chairman of the League of Diet Members for the Promotion of Preventive Diplomacy (LDMPPD) and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan to hand him their statement and asked the Japanese government to support conflict reconciliation in their country.
The Top Sri Lankan Buddhist Leaders Visit Rissho Kosei-kai
Four high-ranking Buddhist leaders and their assistants had a talk with President Niwano on June 3, 2002, at the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. Dr. Daya Perera, former Sri Lankan ambassador to the United Nations, expressed his gratitude to Rissho Kosei-kai's effort for inviting them to Japan as Ambassadors of Peace, and also for coordinating the issuing of a joint statement, signed by them, in relation to peace and development. He added that it was a great joy beyond all description that they could represent, in the form of the joint statement, the hope of all Sri Lankans for peace. President Niwano replied with a smile saying that it was a great pleasure to make a small contribution to such a "historical event" for the Sri Lankans. He also related his experiences during his stay in Colombo, the last leg of a pilgrimage, made with his father, Founder Niwano, to the homeland of Shakyamuni in 1964, which was his first trip abroad. Responding to this, the Theravadin prelates expressed their hope that better interchange between Buddhist leaders of the two countries would strengthen their good relationship with deeper friendship and trust. They also emphasized the importance of sharing the Buddhist spirit of cooperation in order to help bring about a better society as torch bearers of the Buddha. Then, representing the Sri Lankan Theravada Maha Sangha, they invited President Niwano to Sri Lanka. At last, following Dr. Perera's explanation of the gist of the joint statement, the prelates presented President Niwano with a copy of the statement.
Peace Fund Grants for Second Term of Fiscal 2002
In June, the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced the recipients of its subsidies for the second term of fiscal 2002. A total of about 30 million Japanese yen is to be used for the sustenance of 16 projects in 11 countries all over the world. The Fund has been operated by the donations from Rissho Kosei-kai members through the organization's "Donate a Meal Campaign" throughout Japan. In the category of general grants, the Fund decided to support 12 projects, including 4 ongoing projects continuing from previous years. In that category, the Fund allocated 2 million yen to the Campaign for the Children of Palestine, which provides dental treatment and health education for the children in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, and 4 million yen to the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention, which has participated in the removal of landmines in Afghanistan and Cambodia. The newly designated seven projects that the Fund select to receive grants included the Religious Information and Educational Centre (RIEC) in Hungary, which guards religious freedom in the shelters for the refugees and displaced persons who have fled from some 150 countries (1 million yen), and the Banyan Home Foundation, an orphanage for HIV carriers in Chiang Mai, Thailand (1 million yen). As provisional aid grants, the Fund also donated 5 million yen to support Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salaam (An Oasis of Peace), a cooperative village in Israel to tackle with reconciliation between Jewish and Palestinian citizens.
The Supercongress 2002 in Italy Joined by Rissho Kosei-kai Student Members
From May 24 to 29, four junior and senior high-school student members of Rissho Kosei-kai visited Italy to participate in the Supercongress 2002. The international congress, promoted by the Focolare Movement, a lay Catholic organization with headquarters in Rome, is held every five years for young members, aged from 12 to 17. This year, considering the importance of interreligious dialogue, the congress enlarged its scale. During the event, the Rissho Kosei-kai participants joined in such activities as a musical presentation about activities of the participant organizations with some 9,000 youths at Palaghiaccio di Marino in Rome, in which they introduced the "Little Bags of Dreams Campaign," one of the organization's peace activities. They also took part in a ceremony of offering prayers for peace at the Colosseum, a peace march from the Colosseum to St. Peter's Square, and a study session in which they exchanged their thoughts with other participants and drew up a message for peace, held in Loppiano, a town community of the Focolare Movement. On May 28, in the closing ceremony held at the Salone dei Cinquecento of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, together with other youths from different religions, they received the Youth for Peace Award from Mr. Leonardo Domenici, the mayor of Florence.
Little Bags of Dreams Distributed in Israel
During an interval at the Conference of the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) held in New York on May 12, Mr. Robert Mark from Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salaam (An Oasis of Peace) spoke about the distribution in Israel of the Little Bags of Dreams, gifts of love from Rissho Kosei-kai children. His comment was a response to an interview by Ms. Yukiko Okazaki, a youth representative to the GNRC conference from Rissho Kosei-kai. Mr. Mark said that when the Israeli children received the bags, which contained pencils, notebooks, toys, and other things, "Their joy was exceptionally great. Medicine and food were sent to them for aid, but this kind of gift is very rare." He further mentioned that the bags were given out to the children at both orphanages and institutions in remote villages. The gifts also made Moslem children very happy, because they came right before a special Islamic holiday. Mr. Mark teaches at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salaam, a cooperative village of Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel. It is one of the organizations that helps to distribute the Little Bags of Dreams among children in Israel.
IARF Vice-President Ms. Ellen Campbell Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On June 1, Ms. Ellen Campbell, vice president of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF), visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters and had a dialogue with President Nichiko Niwano and the external relations director, Rev. Michio Matsubara, at the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. Ms. Campbell explained the 31st World Congress of the IARF to be held in Budapest, Hungary, from July 28 through August 2. She also reported on the IARF's ongoing projects: the rebuilding of a Hindu temple and a Muslim mosque in Gujarat, India, which were severely damaged by the major earthquake in 2001, in which IARF member youths from many countries took part; and the creation of guidelines for introducing the idea of "religious freedom" into school education. Ms. Campbell then expressed her hope to extend the continuing interfaith projects, instead of focusing solely on the success of the forthcoming World Congress. President Niwano praised Ms. Campbell for her continued leadership in guiding many people of faith who share in the aims of the IARF. Ms. Campbell, a Canadian citizen, was senior manager and executive director of the Metropolitan YWCA and has been executive director of the Canadian Unitarian Council for five years.
UNHCR Regional Representative Calls on Rissho Kosei-kai
On May 24, 2002, Mr. Kasidis Rochanakorn, regional representative for Japan and the Republic of Korea of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Japan, had a talk with Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai. Mr. Rochanakorn emphasized the importance of the international community's commitment in contributing to the solution of the problems of refugees and displaced persons. Pointing out the changes in the causes of the outbreak of the refugees, in a historical perspective, he explained that the conflicts are intricately interwoven with the international political matters that characterize the issues of today. There is also the issues of ethnicity, including problems caused by a difference in languages. And, in the understanding that Asia is now facing critical moment, he said that it would be very significant if Rissho Kosei-kai would render a pivotal contribution to promote peace by mentioning the Rissho Kosei-kai's support of the peace effort by the four most senior leaders of Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhism and also its commitment to the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace, which is scheduled to be held in Yogyakarta in late June. Agreeing on the strengthening of ties with the United Nations, Rev. Yamanoi said that Founder Niwano often mentioned the need to cooperate with the United Nations for the realization of world peace, and taught that the essential purpose of all religions is to realize peace, for which purpose interreligious cooperation is most important.
WCRP Moderator Declares Statement Calling for the Protection of the Holy Sites
On May 2, H.R.H. Prince El Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan issued a statement asking for the settlement of a peaceful resolution in the Holy Land as the moderator of the World Conference on Religion and Peace. In his statement, he was concerned about the siege around the Church of the Nativity. He called for the believers of the three monotheistic religions around the world and especially the Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Holy Land, to unite in solidarity for peace in the Holy Land.
Theravada Buddhist Leaders Request Japanese Buddhist Organizations to Mediate Sri Lanka Peace Negotiations
From May 30 through June 6, four most senior leaders of Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhism are scheduled to visit Japan and on June 3 they will hold a joint press conference at a Tokyo hotel to appeal to the world for help in building peace in Sri Lanka. Their press conference is not only to attract world attention but also to mold public opinion about the majority Sinhalese Buddhists who have sought peace in that country, before the expected peace negotiations scheduled in Thailand in mid-June between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the most powerful group in the northern part of the country which aims to establish an independent state for the minority Tamils. After nearly 20 years of bloody ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, the peace negotiations will be held at last through the efforts of Norwegian mediators. However, some indigenous people's groups, including the People's Liberation Front (JVP), have demonstrated to denounce the negotiations. To express their neutral position regarding the negotiations, the four Buddhist leaders have hoped that a country which is politically impartial to Sri Lanka and has a deep Buddhist tradition would help them to hold the joint press conference. They asked the assistance of Japanese Buddhist organizations in holding the conference in Japan through the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP). The Japanese Committee of the WCRP will organize the conference with the assistance of the Japan Buddhist Federation of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a member organization. During their visit to Japan, the four Buddhist leaders are to appeal to the Japanese government for humanitarian assistance to achieve peace in Sri Lanka, as well as for regional development in the eastern and northern parts of the country.
Rissho Kosei-kai Joins GNRC Conference
With the participation of more than 100 representatives of religious organizations and NGOs from 36 countries, the Conference of the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) was held from May 12 to 14, 2002, at the Maryknoll Society Center, Maryknoll City, New York, under the auspices of the Arigatou Foundation, presided over by Rev. Takeyasu Miyamoto, leader of Myochikai. The conference investigated the causes of many problems facing children after the Special Session on Children of the U.N. General Assembly. Rev. Norio Sakai, honorary executive board member of Rissho Kosei-kai, presided over the plenary meeting to discuss ways to make a contribution to a solution of the problems, while Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of its Youth Division, led the subcommittee meeting dealing the issues of child abuse and violence, accompanied by six representative youths from the organization's students' groups all over Japan. The participants from countries in South Asia, Central Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Europe confirmed the importance of promoting the eradication of poverty and making contributions in the area of education, including the strengthening of such spiritual values as faith, ethics, and justice.
Children's Conference Held in New York
As one of the side events of the UN Special Session on Children, a Children's Conference was held under the theme "For Our Future" at the United Nations Church Center in New York on May 10. The conference was promoted by the Arigatou Foundation and was a follow-up to the Conference of Children for the Coming Generation (CCG), organized by the Arigatou Foundation in cooperation with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Focolare Movement. It was held at the Myochikai Chiba Holy Land in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, in July 2000.
The purpose of this year's conference was for the children to discuss what they should do to better understand themselves and others, transcending their differences of nationality, ethnicity, and religion, and to realize world peace. Forty-four children, aged from twelve to eighteen, from among five different religions from seventeen nations, took part in the conference. Twelve junior and senior high-school student members from ten local churches of Rissho Kosei-kai in Japan also actively exchanged ideas and deepened their friendships with the other participants.
On the previous day, at the preparatory meeting for the conference held at the Rissho Kosei-kai New York Buddhist Center, the participants confirmed the purpose of CCG and the contents of the CCG message adopted on that occasion and sent to all world leaders. They then drew up an "action plan" that included such guidelines as "Love others first," "Initiate actions ourselves," and "Do not be selfish" through discussions, during which they were divided into seven groups.
On the following day, at a panel discussion held at the Church Center, each separate group of children presented its own plan. Each plan was full of affection, generosity, and the spirit of sharing, and showed the relations of the children themselves with their friends, family, education, environment, and society. UN staff members and members of nongovernmental organizations from several countries who attended the discussion session were moved by the presentations and were left with such impressions as "They should be given the chance to disseminate their thoughts to others" and "We adults should strive to save the children who need our support all over the world." At this session, the children also delivered the CCG message and nearly 320,000 signatures in support of the message to the representative of UNICEF.
WCRP and UNICEF Co-sponsor Symposium on Children
On May 7, prior to the opening of the session, UNICEF and the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) co-sponsored a symposium titled "Commitment of the World's Religions to Children" at the Carriage House Center on Global Issues in New York. The symposium served as an opportunity for world religious leaders to demonstrate their shared commitment to various problems involving children. Some 100 people, including leaders of the world's major religions, senior UN officials, and representatives of UN agencies and NGOs took part. Rev. Norio Sakai, honorary executive board member of Rissho Kosei-kai, participated as a panelist. In her opening remarks, Ms. Carol Bellamy, UNICEF executive director, expressed her high hope that religionists will take the initiative in transforming schemes for children into practice. The WCRP is planning a project to curb the increase of AIDS in African orphans and to save affected children with the help of local religious institutions, including churches and mosques, that have close and extended ties with their communities. The Most Rev. Gunnar Stalsett, Church of Norway bishop of Oslo and a president of the WCRP, reported on the commitment of the WCRP to help AIDS orphans, announcing that the organization was to hold a meeting in Kenya in June, dedicated to the issue. Rev. Sakai, referring to a Lotus Sutra passage about the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara's appearing in the world in various forms, including a child, to save all sentient beings, said children enable us to be aware of the problems the world faces by experiencing suffering themselves. Saving children, continued Rev. Sakai, equals saving the whole world. A multireligious declaration that emphasized the moral duty to make the world fit for children was presented to Dr. Han Seung-soo, president of the General Assembly.
Special Service Held by Rissho Kosei-kai's International Buddhist Congregation
On the evening of May 16, the International Buddhist Congregation of Rissho Kosei-kai (IBC) held a special service at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo. Some 50 people, including foreign residents in Japan, took part in the service. Starting with a recitation ceremony of the Lotus Sutra, the organization's main scripture, the service was highlighted by a sermon delivered by Dr. John B. Cobb, Jr., former professor at Claremont School of Theology in California. In his sermon, Dr. Cobb said that we should not simply seek similarity or commonality among different religious and traditional communities, but rather celebrate the differences among them. He stressed that through communication in a "pluralistic" mode among the different communities, we might learn new lessons from different traditions that will help us to accomplish our goals. His sermon ended with him saying, "This is a world of religious pluralism, and all of us can recognize that there is great wisdom, great virtue, great promise in many other communities besides our own, and live in appreciation and confidence and trust in that larger community."
Niwano Peace Prize Awarded to Mexican Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia
On May 9, the Niwano Peace Foundation awarded the 19th Niwano Peace Prize to Mexican Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia at a presentation ceremony held at a Tokyo hotel. Some 200 people, including representatives of Japan's religious circle and reporters of Japan's mass media, participated. In the presence of His Excellency Mr. Carlos de Icaza, Ambassador of the United Mexican States to Japan, Mr. Motoyuki Ono, Vice Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, and Rev. Kunio Nitta, Chairman of the Japan Religions League, the ceremony started with opening prayer, which was followed by the report on screening of the prize winner read by the foundation's chairman, Rev. Kinjiro Niwano. Rev. Nichiko Niwano, the foundation's president, then, presented the award certificate and subsidiary prizes of a medal and the award of 20 million Japanese yen to Bishop Ruiz. In his acceptance address, Bishop Ruiz said that our task to recognize native people and their rights had yet to be undertaken. He added that the poor people were not the only factors serving to stir our conscience when we are faced with indignity. He emphasized that they are active protagonists and creators of history. The ceremony ended in a silent prayer for world peace observed by all the participants there. The 77-year-old Bishop Ruiz had served as a Roman Catholic bishop for over 40 years in the Mexican state of Chiapas and is the president of the Oscar Romero International Solidarity Secretariat, Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center, and Service and Advice for the Peace in Mexico.
Niwano Peace Foundation Holds Symposium with the 19th Niwano Peace Prize Winner in Kyoto
On May 11, the Niwano Peace Foundation Symposium 2002 was held at the Kyoto branch of Rissho Kosei-kai entitled "From Kyoto: A New Challenge for People of Religion-Living Together in a Globalized World." Some 400 people, including representatives of Japanese religious organizations and ordinary citizens, took part. In the symposium, a keynote address under the title "Living Together in a 'Globalized' World," was delivered by Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, 19th Niwano Peace Prize winner. In his address, Bishop Ruiz mentioned that ethical values could not be drawn from the economy as if they were products of the same globalization; rather, they should be based on the inalienable value of the culture and of human beings. He emphasized that globalization should neither violate the dignity and individuality of human beings nor the freedom and democracy of the nation-states. He continued that globalization should be attentive to the needs of the weakest by solidarity and the participation of the responsible subsidiaries. In the following panel discussion, Rev. Dr. In Ha Lee, minister emeritus of Kawasaki Korean Christian Church, Sr. Haruko Ishikawa, a secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Social Issues of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of Japan, and Professor Jun Nishikawa of Waseda University in Tokyo participated, together with Bishop Ruiz.
The Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa
Members of Rissho Kosei-kai throughout Japan began taking part in the annual Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa on May 1. This year, members of several churches have already engaged in activities to develop the campaign, to inform people of the concept behind the campaign, and to collect blankets before the campaign had begun. The members of the Himeji Church in Hyogo Prefecture joined in the promotional activities for the campaign, in which the members of the youth group have taken the lead. Since March 10, on every Sunday, they have continued to make house-to-house visits to ask citizens for support of the campaign. At some local supermarkets, they also have distributed flyers to customers with the support of the stores. They plan to collect blankets twice on May 12 and May 19, this year's Youth Day of Rissho Kosei-kai, the day on which the young members annually participate in the special peace activities nationwide. They have already obtained good responses from citizens, such as donations of the money for shipping the blankets. The members of the Asaka Church in Saitama Prefecture have set up a place to collect blankets in a member's house in each chapter area, where they have put up a banner. This comes from their consideration for citizens ready to contribute blankets. They also have distributed flyers to citizens on which the addresses of the houses where they are collecting blankets are written. So far they already have received 600 blankets. They plan to continue the activities throughout this year. Based on the theme of the campaign, "Everyone is sustained by the great life-force; therefore, we should be united, and respect and support each other," Rissho Kosei-kai members will actively participate in the various activities at their local churches and in the community until June 28, the last day of the campaign.
WCRP Makes Second Donation to the UN for Afghan Refugees and Displaced Persons
On April 22, four representatives of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) including Secretary General Dr. William F. Vendley, visited the UN headquarters in New York and gave a donation of $500,000 directly to UN Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan. This is the second half of the donation; the rest had already been presented to UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette by Rissho Kosei-kai president Rev. Nichiko Niwano, an international president of the WCRP, at the international symposium entitled "Rejecting Terror, Promoting Peace with Justice: Religions Respond" held in New York on October 23--24, 2001. Total donation of $1 million is to be utilized for relief for the victims of the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, as well as for the Afghan refugees and displaced persons created by the local fighting and the U.S.-U.K. military action. In the succeeding conversation, Mr. Annan told Dr. Vendley that it is significant that interreligious cooperation enabled this donation to the victims, since perversion to religious thought is considered by many to be the cause of the present international situation. Mr. Annan expressed his gratitude especially toward Rissho Kosei-kai members for their contribution to the donation. He also praised last year's symposium, which enabled the WCRP and the UN to strengthen their partnership and also praised and emphasized the importance of the WCRP's mission for interreligious cooperation and the role of the religionist in the efforts for world peace. Rissho Kosei-kai was pleased to receive the messages of gratitude from Dr. William F. Vendley, the Secretary General of the WCRP on April 22 and from the UN Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan on April 25.
Rissho Kosei-kai Members Joined Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco
On April 21, 2002, members of Rissho Kosei-kai participated in the Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco. Almost thirty members from the home church in San Francisco marched in the festival parade. Some of the church's younger members led the contingent, carrying a banner announcing, "Everyday Buddhism for Everyday People." The parade route ran through the center of Japan Town, the cultural center for the many Japanese-Americans living in San Francisco. The Cherry Blossom Festival has steadily gained in popularity in its twenty-plus years of existence, and this Sunday visitors came from all over the region to enjoy the celebration. The day was delightfully sunny and cool. Banners and decorations on the city's streets announced the celebration. A wide variety of Japanese foods was available along the parade route, and there was plenty of beer and sake. Local celebrities, politicians, and television crews added to the grandeur and sense of occasion. The march over the famous San Francisco hills was difficult at times, but the members kept bright smiles on their faces right to the end. Some friends of the church were waiting at the end of the parade route, and there were emotional reunions. Back at the church building, all the participants expressed their renewed friendship, a sense of accomplishment and high hopes for future participation in civic events.
U.S. Members Study the Dharma in New York
Ten American members of Rissho Kosei-kai participated in the first session of the Dharma Seminar Advanced Course, which took place in the New York Church from April 12 through 14. The session was held for English-speaking members belonging to the four U.S. branch churches--New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Hawaii--who finished the seminar's Basic Course last year. For the Advanced Course participants, four sessions are held over two years. At the opening of the three-day session, Rev. Tomokazu Hatakeyama, head of the New York Church, encouraged the participants to make the best use of the seminar as an opportunity to earnestly study, meditate on, and practice the Dharma. The participants used Founder Nikkyo Niwano's commentary on the Lotus Sutra, Buddhism for Today, as the text throughout the seminar. They made summaries of the appropriate chapters of the sutra, which they read before the other participants. They also reported on how they put into practice the teaching described in the Lotus Sutra. Rev. Naomi Nakamura, minister at the Los Angeles Church, then explained the central teachings of the sutra chapter under study. Ms. Karen Fujii, a participant from Hawaii, said the seminar enabled her to begin to understand the true meaning of what her grandmother had used to say: "Be kind to others always." She expressed the hope that she herself would become a person who can plant the seeds of the Dharma in the hearts and minds of those around her. On the last day, the participants visited the Ground Zero of the September 11 terrorist attack in New York, where they offered prayers for the victims.
WCRP Declares Statement against the Conflict between Palestine and Israel
On April 8, the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) issued a statement in the name of its Executive Committee under the title "Religions for Peace in Middle East." In the statement, WCRP expressed its concern against the recent conflict between Israel and Palestine, and called upon the world organizations to tackle with a peaceful solution in the Holy Land. The WCRP also introduced a religious summit meeting held at Alexandria, Egypt, in January, chaired by Dr. George Carey, the retiring archbishop of Canterbury and a WCRP president; the organization appealed to the world, saying that a just and sustainable peace requires not only political contributions but also the mobilization of the civilizational legacies of the three Abrahamic religions in the Holy Land--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The statement bearing the joint signature of 13 members of the executive committee including the WCRP moderator H.R.H. Prince El-Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the vice-moderator, Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, director of Ecumenical Affairs of the Orthodox Church in America. Rissho Kosei-kai President Nichiko Niwano also signed the statement as a president of the WCRP. The statement was to be sent to the world nations' delegations to the United Nations in New York, Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan of the UN, United States President George W. Bush, representatives of the European Union, and the regional chapters of the WCRP.
Peace Fund Supports JVC's Activities in Israel
The Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund has decided to donate 3,000,000 Japanese yen in extra grants to the Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC), which has begun emergency medical support in the area occupied by the current strained situation caused by armed conflicts between the Israelis and Palestinians. It was reported by JVC that the Palestinian regions have been in effect blockaded due to the military activity since the end of March. People there have been severely restricted in their movements, and it is even quite difficult to carry the wounded to hospitals. Medical institutions and supporting organizations from other countries are also subject to restriction concerning entering the country. Innocent citizens who are injured and sick have no way to receive medical treatment and are losing their lives. Considering these aspects well, JVC has commenced emergency medical support there in cooperation with nongovernmental organizations from both Israel and Palestine. The Peace Fund will donate the above-mentioned amount of money to JVC to support its activities for those who need medical care in the area of conflicts.
Blankets for Emergency Relief Sent to Earthquakes Victims in Afghanistan
Under the initiative of JEN, on March 28, some 2,948 blankets were transported to the northeastern Afghanistan area struck by a series of earthquakes on March 25 and 26, which registered between 5.0 and 6.0 on the Richter scale, and were then distributed to the victims. It was reported that the epicenter of the quake was in the district of Nahrin in Baghlan province, in which 90 percent of the houses and buildings were felled, of which 60 percent were completely razed to the ground. The number of victims is supposed to range from 800 to 2,000. The report also said that it had been extremely difficult to operate relief activities in the area because of a long lasting chilly rain, which prevented the rescue party from landing the helicopters carrying the relief items on the muddy ground, and also because of the danger caused by numerous land mines which were laid during the civil war. The members of the Kabul office of JEN decided to send the victims the blankets that were being saved for such an emergency in the organization's storehouse in Baghlan. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan (UNOCHA) and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) undertook the operation. Currently, the Kabul office members are engaging in the garnering of further support. They also plan to continue the support activities around the area in cooperation with UNOCHA.
Rissho Kosei-kai Members Visit Bataan
From April 6 to 11, five Rissho Kosei-kai members, led by Rev. Yoshikazu Ishikawa, director of the Chubu District, visited Bataan in the Philippines. On April 8, they joined the members of the Bataan Christian Youth Civic Circle (BCYCC) in the joint commemoration ceremony for the erection of the Friendship Tower in Bagac city on Bataan peninsula. During the ceremony, they prayed for the repose of the souls of all the war dead and renewed their awareness of the importance of lasting peace and friendship between the Philippines and Japan. Later on the same day, they visited the Bataan Library and Museum in Balanga city, which was built with funds from Rissho Kosei-kai's Donate a Meal Campaign. On April 9, they participated in the Bataan Day memorial service held at the foot of Mount Samat, in the presence of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The service is held annually to remember the victims of the attack by Japanese troops at the time of the fall of Bataan to Japan in the Second World War. After the service, they visited the Munting Tahanan Home for Street Children and the Bataan Catholic Church, and also called on Mayor Albert S. Garcia of Balanga city at the city administration building.
Buddha's Birth Celebrated
On April 8, members of Rissho Kosei-kai celebrated the anniversary of Shakyamuni's birth in the Great Sacred Hall at the headquarters in Tokyo as well as at local branches throughout the country. The ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall, in which some 4,000 members participated, began with a ritual offering by young women members to the statue of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni enshrined in the hall, accompanied by a song praising the Buddha by Kosei Chorus. Two young children dressed especially for the occasion in typical costumes of ancient Japanese court nobles then recited words in praise of the Buddha. Rev. Thich Thong Hai, a Vietnamese Buddhist priest and the president of Chan Khong Monastery in Hawaii, addressed the participants, offering congratulations on the anniversary of the Buddha's birth. He expressed his thanks for the support he and other Vietnamese boat people received from Rissho Kosei-kai while they were accommodated in a refugee camp in Bataan, the Philippines, in 1978. A message from Francis Cardinal Arinze, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, was then read to the participants, in which Cardinal Arinze called on Christians and Buddhists to join hands in order to build a "culture of life" to ensure a future that respects the dignity of life. President Nichiko Niwano then addressed the participants, explaining the meaning of the first utterance of Shakyamuni soon after his birth: "I alone am honored, in heaven and on earth." He said that those who are awakened to the preciousness of their own lives are capable of appreciating the preciousness of the lives of others as well and can revere them from the heart, thereby bringing peace and harmony to the world around them. President Niwano emphasized that Shakyamuni's words represent the most important teaching that must be learned by all of us who are born into the world as human beings.
Special Advisor Naganuma Dies
On April 7, Rev. Motoyuki Naganuma, special advisor to Rissho Kosei-kai and the organization's former chairman, died of heart failure at Kosei Hospital in Tokyo at the age of 78. He had supported the founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, and the co-founder, Rev. Myoko Naganuma, since the earliest days of Rissho Kosei-kai. He served as the organization's chairman for 42 years, from 1952 until his retirement in 1993. "Right Effort" and "Aspire for the Way" were his favorite mottoes. He always enjoyed meeting people to share the Dharma and visited branches throughout Japan and overseas to give guidance to members, who revered Rev. Naganuma for his warm and upright personality. During the ceremony upon his retirement in 1993, Founder Niwano praised him as "his best partner," as someone he trusted completely to manage Rissho Kosei-kai. Rev. Naganuma played an important role in promoting cooperation among religions and worked for peace through the activities of such interreligious organizations as the Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) and the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP). He also served as chairman of the Niwano Peace Foundation. Since his retirement as chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai, he had continued to support the organization in many ways as its special advisor. Upon the news of his death, President and Mrs. Nichiko Niwano, together with Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, current chairman of the organization, attended the wake at the home of the late Rev. Naganuma in Tokyo. They chanted the Lotus Sutra to pray for the repose of his soul. The family will hold a private funeral ceremony, in which President Niwano and the organization's officers will also take part. Rissho Kosei-kai will observe a formal "Farewell Ceremony" at its headquarters on June 23.
Hana Matsuri Observed
The International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) of Rissho Kosei-kai organized on April 7 the Hana Matsuri, a special religious service celebrated on the Buddha's birthday at the former main worship hall. More than 180 people participated, including some foreign guests from the United States, Australia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Hungary, and Bangladesh, as well as members of Rissho Kosei-kai, and 89 Vietnamese Buddhists coming from the U.S. led by Rev. Thich Thong Hai, president of the Chan Khong Monastery in Hawaii. Mr. Atul Razdan, minister of the Indian embassy, and Mr. Mohan Krishna Shrestha, counselor of the Nepalese embassy, were invited to the ceremony, which was opened in the presence of Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman, and Rev. Tomonobu Shinozaki, director of the General Secretariat. Starting from last year, staff members of the IBC attempted to promote Buddhist religious services in English for the sake of foreign residents and Japanese who are interested in English by offering a sutra recitation and giving a series of Dharma lectures on the Lotus Sutra. Dr. Gene Reeves, an international advisor of the IBC and former dean of the Meadville/Lombard Theological School, University of Chicago, gave a lecture on the subject of "The Good News.v Expounding the significance of the birth of Shakyamuni, he emphasized that the buddha-nature already exists in the minds of everyone, and that the bodhisattva practice is the essence of the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.
Representatives of Japan Focolare Movement Meet with President Niwano
On April 2, Ms. Rita Azarian, leader of the Focolare Women's Central House in Japan, visited the Rissho Kosei-kai Tokyo headquarters and met with President Nichiko Niwano. In their meeting, Ms. Azarian explained her retirement as leader and introduced him to Ms. Elisabeth Zimmermann as newly inaugurated leader. In their meeting, mentioning the Israeli military offensive against Palestinian militias, Ms. Zimmermann said that everyone felt that it is impossible to go beyond this stage if both sides continue to fight with each other. She expressed the need to encourage both sides to seek for peace. President Niwano quoted Founder Nikkyo Niwano, speaking of "one vehicle" for all and "many in body but one in spirit," and explained that he tried not to find the differences within us but to single out our commonness. Ms. Zimmermann hoped that the friendly relationship between Focolare and Rissho Kosei-kai would have a good effect on other organizations and stressed that she wishes to continue the good relationship between both our organizations.
WCRP/Japan Discusses the Religionist's Role for World Peace
On March 30 at Nishi Honganji, headquarters of the Jodo Shinshu Honganji sect in Kyoto, the Japanese Committee of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP/Japan) held the 28th study meeting of religionists on peace. The meeting stressed the religionist's role for peace in the tension-filled world following the September 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent military operations in Afghanistan. Some 200 religious leaders of the member organizations of the WCRP/Japan took part, including President Nichiko Niwano of Rissho Kosei-kai. After the opening address delivered by Peter Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, president of the WCRP/Japan, Professor Yoshiaki Sanada of Chuo University, and Rev. GijunSugitani, secretary-general of the WCRP/Japan made keynote speeches. Professor Sanada pointed out our lack of knowledge about Islam and problems of American-centered notions of justice. Rev. Sugitani suggested the opening of a Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in order to ratify and establish an International Criminal Court. In the subsequent panel discussion, in addition to the two keynote speakers, Professor Emeritus Keizo Yamada of Sophia University, former president Yasuaki Nara of Komazawa University, both in Tokyo, and Professor Emeritus Minoru Sonoda of Kyoto University and chief priest of Chichibu Shrine took part. The WCRP/Japan hopes that the results of this study meeting will be further discussed at the sixth assembly of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace to be held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in June.
ACRP Reschedules Sixth Assembly in Indonesia in June
It has been decided that the sixth Assembly of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP) will be held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, from June 24 to 28. The assembly, originally scheduled for November 3 to 7 of last year, had been postponed because of the tense situation in the world caused by the September 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent military operations in Afghanistan launched by the United States and the United Kingdom. Under the theme "Asia, the Reconciler," a total of 450 participants, including some 130 religionists from several member nations of ACRP, observers, and representatives from the areas in conflict, will join the assembly and exchange ideas toward reconciliation and living in harmony.
Distribution of Blankets from Japan Begins
In March the distribution of 10,000 blankets from Japan began among refugees in Afghanistan, where thousands of Afghans still remain in refugee camps and endure the severe winter cold. On March 9, the Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC) and a local Afghan NGO named OMAR cooperated in distributing the first 3,500 blankets at a camp for displaced Afghans near Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. The blankets that were sent as emergency supplies were donated by citizens in Japan through the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa. A JVC staff member recently reported that nighttime temperatures in Afghanistan reach as low as -20 degrees C in mountain areas and below freezing even in the lower plains. Cold rains make the situation even worse. Many refugees are enduring the cold in simple tents, and they need even more blankets to survive.
Peace Fund Reports Aid Grants for First Term of Fiscal 2002
The Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced in March the recipients of its subsidies for the first term of fiscal 2002. A total of about 60 million Japanese yen is to be used for financial assistance to nongovernmental and social-welfare organizations in Japan and abroad that had supported the 31 projects in African and Asian countries. The Fund had been donated by Rissho Kosei-kai members through the organization's Donate a Meal Campaign throughout Japan. In the category of general grants, the Fund decided to support 16 ongoing projects. In addition, it will make grants available to 11 new projects, including the following two: some 2.3 million yen to the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) to support the provision of artificial arms and legs to Laotian victims of unexploded shells and landmines and 3.25 million yen to AMDA, in support of its project to prevent the HIV contagion in the Kibera slum of Nairobi. To support United Nations activities, the Fund will also provide 2 million yen for the holding of the eighth United Nations Symposium on Northeast Asia in Kanazawa, Japan, in June, to allow government officials and staff members of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from Northeast Asian countries to discuss issues related to environmental protection, disarmament, and trust-building among the region's nations. As provisional aid grants, the Fund will support three projects, including a donation of 960,000 yen to the Kansai NGO Council to hold the first Network-NGOs Conference at the Osaka International Centre of Japan International Cooperation Agency on February 24 and 25.
JEN to Launch Relief Activity for Eritrean Refugees
JEN, a Japanese multireligous NGO, of which Rissho Kosei-kai is one of the founding members, has launched a relief activity program for Eritrean returnees from refugee camps in neighboring Sudan. The relationship between Eritrea and Ethiopia deteriorated in 1961--62, when Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie annexed Eritrea, which until then had been an autonomous federal unit of Ethiopia. The annexation spurred a guerrilla war seeking Eritrea's independence in the 1970s. In April 1993, Eritrea won the 30-year war against Ethiopia. The Eritrean people then voted for independence in the U.N.-supported plebiscite. A border dispute over an area called the Hirga Triangle in the subsequent years, however, caused the relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea to deteriorate once again. The border dispute lasted until August 2000, when the two countries finally agreed to a cease-fire. In November 2001, when the five-month-long rainy season was over, Eritrean refugees in Sudan began to return to their homes. Soon after the repatriation began, JEN conducted a survey in Eritrea about the returnees' situation. Based on the report, JEN started preparations to set up offices for the implementation of its relief projects in the Eritrean capital of Asmara, as well as in Teseney, a town near the Sudanese border. JEN is the sole Japanese nongovernmental organization promoting relief activities for Eritreans, who have been affected by the severe drought that has lasted over the past many years.
Shinshuren Supports JEN's Refugee Project
As a part of a humanitarian assistance program for Afghans affected by prolonged war and severe drought, Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) has donated 2 million Japanese yen to JEN, a Japanese multi-organizational NGO, to serve as a fund for promoting its relief activities for refugees and displaced persons in Afghanistan. The sum entrusted to JEN will be used to rebuild the lives of the Afghan refugees. In the war-ravaged country, JEN has been promoting support activities, such as the distribution of relief supplies to help the Afghans survive the severe winter in their country, and the facilitating of education for school children. Shinshuren also plans a long-term assistance program for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Rissho Kosei-kai Solemnly Celebrates Its 64th Anniversary
Rissho Kosei-kai celebrated its 64th anniversary on March 6 at the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo. Some 4,700 members took part in the event, which was relayed by satellite to all branches throughout Japan, each of which conducted its own ceremony simultaneously. The ceremony in the headquarters opened with the offering of candles and flowers before the altar by 20 members of the young women's group. This was followed by a sutra recitation led by President Nichiko Niwano, who then delivered a dedicatory prayer, followed by Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai, who addressed the members. Rev. Seihan Mori, head priest of the temple Kiyomizudera in Kyoto, representing the guests, offered congratulatory comments, saying, "All members of Rissho Kosei-kai, please cultivate the fields in your hearts and minds and sow the seeds of faith, and also help to save this confused world. And please strive for that with the understanding that handing it down to the following generations is most important." President Niwano then addressed the participants. He emphasized the need to humbly reflect on and look within oneself to find solutions to problems, saying that Founder Niwano had always taught us that we ourselves are the ultimate cause of our suffering. Quoting the Dhammapada, "Hatred is never conquered by hatred; hatred can only be conquered by non-hatred," he stressed the importance for both an individual person and a nation to employ "religious wisdom" and learn lessons from the troubles they face instead of only criticizing others based on everyday knowledge. Finally, President Niwano called on members to renew the pledge to rededicate themselves to the founding spirit to save all human beings and to reform society.
Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia to Receive 19th Niwano Peace Prize
The Niwano Peace Foundation (Nichiko Niwano, president; Kinjiro Niwano, chairman) has decided to award the 19th Niwano Peace Prize to Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, president of the Oscar Romero International Solidarity Secretariat, Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center, and Service and Advice for the Peace in Mexico. The 77-year-old Bishop Ruiz has served as a Roman Catholic bishop for over 40 years in the Mexican state of Chiapas. The presentation ceremony will take place in Tokyo on May 9. In addition to the award certificate, Bishop Ruiz will receive subsidiary prizes of a medal and 20 million yen. Bishop Ruiz was selected as recipient of the prize following rigorous screening by a committee of seven members, representing such faiths as Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, from among those nominated by 1,000 persons of recognized stature from 125 countries worldwide.
Rev. Sakai Joins UUA Officers in Observing UUA Projects in India
From February 10 through 19, Rev. Norio Sakai, an emeritus executive board member of Rissho Kosei-kai, and Rev. Yoshiko Izumida, a dissemination advisor to Rissho Kosei-kai, joined the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association in the United States, Rev. William Sinkford, and the organization's former moderator, Ms. Denise Davidoff, in a visit to India to monitor the UUA's assistance projects in that country. Rev. Masahiro Nemoto, head of the Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation Group of Rissho Kosei-kai, also took part in the survey trip on behalf of the organization's Peace Fund. Some 15 percent of India's population are classified as dalits, who, as members of the lowest caste, are marginalized, discriminated against, and forced to endure the hardships of impoverished lives. The UUA assists groups in India that are engaged in improving the lives of the dalits and in protecting their human rights. On February 12, the survey team visited the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) in Ahmadabad in the state of Gujarat, where they learned of a project to promote the social status of women and to support their economic independence. On the following day, they visited Navsarjan Center in the same city and met its founder, Martin Macwan. Under the leadership of Mr. Macwan, a lawyer, Navsarjan Center tackles with social discrimination against dalits through the law, while also strengthening solidarity among dalits. During their stay in India, the survey team also traveled to the state of Maharashtra, where they visited the Vidhayaksansad, a village development movement that aims to deliver the dalits and mountain-tribe people from their virtually outcast state.
Rev. Norio Sakai Attends International Conference on Buddhism and Peace in Thailand
On February 10, an international conference on "Buddhism and World Peace" was held to commemorate the first anniversary of the founding of the World Buddhist University in Bangkok at a hotel there. Some 100 distinguished guests, including Mr. Suwit Khunkitti, Thailand's minister of education; Professor Noranit Setabutr, rector of the university, as well as Theravada Buddhist priests took part in the conference. Rev. Norio Sakai, an emeritus executive board member of Rissho Kosei-kai, also joined the conference on behalf of President Nichiko Niwano. At the conference, Rev. Sakai delivered a lecture entitled "Buddhism and World Peace--Some Thoughts on the Idea and the Practice of Rissho Kosei-kai," in which he introduced a brief history of the organization, its religious activities, and its peace activities of interreligious dialogue and cooperation.
Peace Foundation Announces Grants for Second Half of Fiscal 2001
In February the Niwano Peace Foundation announced the recipients of grants for the second half of last year. Following the selections by the screening committee, the total amount of 7.3 million yen was donated for twelve peace projects, including for the Rosa Mystica Institute of Business and Vocational Training in Uganda, 700,000 yen, to raise women's status and provide them with vocational training; for the Society for Non-Formal Education, Health, and Awareness in India, 800,000 yen, to protect and promote the human rights of minority groups; and for JEN, 1 million yen, to support the raising of livestock by each ethnic group to contribute toward establishing peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Buddha's Entry to Nirvana Observed
On February 15, the anniversary of the Buddha's entrance into nirvana was observed at the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and all churches throughout Japan. This ceremony is one of three major annual Buddhist events and helps all members to think over the Buddha's teachings and to vow anew to devote themselves to greater efforts as a Buddhist. Some 3,600 members, including those visiting Tokyo on group pilgrimages, took part in the ceremony at the Great Sacred Hall. Forty-seven young women members wearing saris joined in the ritual offering of flowers and lighted candles before the statue of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni, followed by the recitation of the Lotus Sutra, led by President Nichiko Niwano. In his subsequent guidance, President Niwano explained the significance of the nirvana that the Buddha attained and pointed out the ultimate Truth, that is, the law of transience, by saying, "It is important for us to understand that being given life here and now is invaluable, and that we realize the preciousness of life."
WCRP/Japan Holds Symposium on Environment
On February 14, the Japanese Committee of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP/Japan) held a symposium on the environment at a Rissho Kosei-kai facility in Tokyo. Some 200 people took part, many of whom were adherents of WCRP/Japan member organizations. Three persons representing finance, the academy, and religion were invited as panelists, each made a keynote presentation and then exchanged opinions under the theme "Global Environment Crises." Mr. Setsuzo Kohsaka, counselor to Kurita Water Industries, Ltd. in Tokyo, warned against the accelerated consumption of nonreproductive natural resources, saying that global warming was one example of nature's retaliation for past acts of environmental destruction by humanity. Professor Ryoichi Yamamoto, director of the Center for Collaborative Research at the University of Tokyo exhibited data on the present situation of the population explosion and global warming. He expressed alarm at our boundless desire for comfort and convenience, which can only be met through the massive consumption of natural resources. He underlined the need for everyone to recognize the limitations on such resources. Rev. Takeshi Nishida, head of Ittoen in Kyoto, a religious community founded in 1904, said that individual persons whose philosophical aim has been the pursuit of life as a true human being must now set a new objective by listening to what nature tells us about how to live.
Rissho Kosei-kai of Hawaii Holds Memorial Service for Ehime Maru Victims
On February 10, Rissho Kosei-kai of Hawaii held a memorial service at its church for the nine victims of the Ehime Maru sinking in 2001. The service was held on the day following the first anniversary of the accident in which the Japanese fishery training ship was rammed by the surfacing nuclear-powered submarine USS Greenville. Some 150 members of the church took part in the ceremony. After all the participants offered flowers at a special platform before the church altar, Rev. Masayuki Idei, minister of the Hawaii Church, led a sutra recitation ceremony. In his subsequent guidance, he said that we should strive to develop the mental attitude of wishing for the repose of the spirits not only of those who died in the accident, but of all those who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces, which led to war between the United States and Japan, and seek closer friendship between the people of Hawaii and Japan. At the close of the ceremony, all the participants offered incense in memory of those who died in the Ehime Maru accident.
WCRP/Japan Women's Committee Celebrates 20th Anniversary
On February 9, the Women's Committee of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP/Japan) observed the 20th anniversary ceremony of its founding in Fumon Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai Tokyo headquarters. Some 100 women religious representatives from member organizations of WCRP/Japan took part. After a congratulatory address by Peter Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, president of WCRP/Japan, Professor Emeritus Keizo Yamada of Sophia University in Tokyo delivered a lecture entitled "Religion and Peace--The Future of East Timor." The Women's Committee of WCRP/Japan was established in 1981 and consists of the women from various Japanese religious organizations. The committee has undertaken various social-action activities, including support for a foster parent program for orphans in Cambodia, the reprinting and distribution of books in the Khmer language in Cambodia, and support for education for Afghan citizens affected by the fighting there.
Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra Gives 72nd Regular Concert
On February 7, the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra (TOKWO) held its 72nd regular concert at a hall in Yokohama, under its principal conductor, Douglas Bostock, and featuring the orchestra's concertmaster, saxophonist Nobuya Sugawa. In the concert, entitled "An Evening for a Pipe Organ and Wind Orchestra Performance," TOKWO offered seven selections, including Percy Aldridge Grainger's The Power of Rome and the Christian Heart in which a pipe organ was featured, an encore by the same composer, and the world premiere of Isao Matsushita's Dance of Flying God. An audience of some 1,600 enjoyed the demonstration of TOKWO's virtuosity.
Setsubun Ceremony Observed
Rissho Kosei-kai members observed Japan's traditional annual ceremony of setsubun on February 3 (the last day of the year by the lunar calendar) at the organization's headquarters in Tokyo and at churches throughout Japan. The ritual of scattering soybeans in this ceremony symbolizes the driving out of demons, or evil accumulated during the past year, to make a fresh start in the lunar New Year and with the coming of spring. About 6,300 members on a group pilgrimage to the headquarters from local churches joined the setsubun observance in the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo. Before the bean-scattering ritual, President Nichiko Niwano led a sutra recitation and addressed the assembled members.
IBC Holds Midwinter Sutra Recitation
The International Buddhist Congregation (IBC), which develops and promotes English-language Buddhist activities and services, held a Rissho Kosei-kai Midwinter Sutra Recitation in English from January 20 to February 3 at the Rissho Kosei-kai's Former Headquarters in Tokyo. The recitation was held for the first time this year. Many foreigners living in Japan and Rissho Kosei-kai members interested in English participated in the special sessions. During the period they started the sutra reading at 6 a.m. every morning and recited the Threefold Lotus Sutra from beginning to end.
JEN Starts Relief Program in Afghanistan
JEN, a Japanese multiorganizational NGO, has started relief activities for refugees and displaced persons in Afghanistan. Last December, JEN inaugurated its liaison office in Kabul, and in mid-January distributed stationery supplies such as pencils and notebooks mainly to elementary-level schoolchildren in the capital. JEN had already undertaken a project of distributing relief supplies to help the Afghans survive the severe winter in their country, in cooperation with United Nations organizations and local NGOs, at camps near Kabul and Peshawar, Pakistan. At this time JEN has expanded its field of activity to include, along with the reconstruction of Afghanistan, a psychological counseling program by opening in the near future community centers for mental rehabilitation and vocational training in the four provinces of Kabul, Ghazni, Lowgar, and Vardak. JEN considers the relief programs part of a long-term commitment by the international community for the rebuilding of Afghanistan and has established an initial five-years scheme to link with it.
Peace Fund Announces Grant Plans for Fiscal 2002
The Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced in January its plans for grants in fiscal 2002. This year a total of 458.9 million Japanese yen will be designated for various projects related to peace activities in Japan and around the world. These include Rissho Kosei-kai's joint projects with other organizations, Rissho Kosei-kai's independent projects, financial assistance for relief activities, and emergency relief projects. The Peace Fund utilizes donations contributed by Rissho Kosei-kai members through the Donate a Meal Campaign. The Executive Committee actively promotes financial and humanitarian support, through which members' wish to share happiness with all people in the world is realized in concrete action. Donations are to be appropriated for projects promoted in cooperation with other groups, including the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa and the Reforestation Program in Ethiopia; for independent projects, such as the Rissho Kosei-kai Global Volunteers, which includes the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign and the Volunteers Supporting Asian Children; and for financial support, including general grants, contributions to interreligious cooperation, special grants, and grants to support UN activities.
Secretary General of WCRP Reports on Recent Activities to President Niwano
On January 29, Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary general of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP), visited Rissho Kosei-kai Tokyo headquarters and met with President Niwano. Dr. Vendley reported on the WCRP's recent activities following the international religious symposium in New York on October 23--24, 2001. In his report, he mentioned attending several meetings of religious and political leaders of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities, one of which was the religious summit meeting at Alexandria, Egypt, on January 20--21, chaired by Dr. George Carey, the archbishop of Canterbury. Dr. Vendley explained that the missions of the WCRP were becoming steadily more important and that one of them is to pursue the implementation of the declaration issued at the end of the summit meeting. He said that the WCRP will work for mediation among the three monotheistic faiths in the Holy Land for the founding of an interreligious council for the Middle East. President Niwano responded that it was significant for the WCRP to react to the world situation following the symposium of October 2001 and he expressed gratitude that UN Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan had placed high hopes on the WCRP's activities. Dr. Vendley revealed that many African orphans are born as HIV carriers and described the difficulty of supporting them scattered over a wide area without the help of religious organizations deeply rooted in the local communities. He emphasized that the meeting of the Governing Board of the WCRP to be held in Nairobi, Kenya in June would be a conference that would have special significance for supporting African religious leaders.
Leaders of China-Japan Friendship Organizations Meet in Beijing
On January 28, some 200 leaders of 53 private organizations promoting friendship between China and Japan joined together in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The event took place to mark the 30th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two nations. Rissho Kosei-kai was invited to attend as one of the 23 private organizations in Japan which had been recognized as having contributed to exchanges between China and Japan. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, the director of the External Affairs Department, Rev. Michio Matsubara, participated in what was the first of a series of commemorative events to be held throughout the year. The participants reaffirmed the importance of promoting friendship and mutual understanding between the two countries despite differences in political systems, in which private organizations have played a major role. In Beijing, they paid a visit to the Chairman of the People's Republic of China, Mr. Jiang Zemin. Chairman Jiang welcomed the participants, saying that China and Japan cherished a long history of exchanges even as both countries established their own cultures. It is important, he said, to increase cooperation based on mutual respect for each other's cultures. He then expressed his hope that the governments and private organizations would complement each other to contribute to the prosperity of both China and Japan and to make the twenty-first century a century of peace.
President Niwano Visits Community of Saint Egidio in Rome
On the morning of January 25, President Niwano called at the headquarters of the Community of Saint Egidio in Rome, headed by Professor Andrea Riccardi, which was the recipient of the Sixteenth Niwano Peace Prize in 1999. In a talk with President Niwano, Professor Riccardi mentioned the continuity of the international multireligious meetings held annually in Europe by the community since the occasion of the "Day of Prayer for World Peace" called by Pope John Paul II in Assisi in 1986. The spirit of Assisi was also passed on to Japan the following year by the "Religious Summit on Mount Hiei." Professor Riccardi praised Rissho Kosei-kai and many other Japanese religionists, saying that their cooperation has made possible the continuation of interreligious gatherings such as the one in Europe that his community has annually sponsored and the summit meeting on Mount Hiei. He also agreed with President Niwano's intention to spread among the people in Asian countries the world religious leaders' wish to pray together again in the spirit of Assisi and their eagerness to promote interfaith dialogue for world peace as expressed on Mount Hiei. In replying to a question about recent Rissho Kosei-kai activity, President Niwano emphasized the importance that not only Rissho Kosei-kai, but world organizations with a religious spirit, including the Community of Saint Egidio and the Focolare Movement, could make joint efforts in a wide range of activities.
Rissho Kosei-kai Geneva Representative Lectures at University of Fribourg in Switzerland
On January 24, Mr. Kazumasa Yoshinaga, representative of Rissho Kosei-kai Geneva, visited the University of Fribourg at the invitation of Dr. Richard Friedli, professor of the Science of Religion. Dr. Friedli had presented a course of two lectures on Rissho Kosei-kai to students at the university on January 10 and 17. He asked Mr. Yoshinaga to deliver a third lecture on "The One Buddha Vehicle and Rissho Kosei-kai's Activities," to the nearly sixty students who attended the course. In his lecture, Mr. Yoshinaga briefly described his activities in Geneva and then introduced Rissho Kosei-kai's history, and its religious and peace activities. He outlined the three main concepts of the organization such as the One Buddha Vehicle, the Eternal Life of Tathagata, and the bodhisattva practice taught by the Lotus Sutra, quoting passages from the writings of the founder and the president.
President Participates in World Day of Prayer in Assisi
Rissho Kosei-kai President Nichiko Niwano participated in a Day of Prayer for Peace in the World held in Assisi, Italy on January 24, as a representative of Japanese Buddhism. Two hundred and fifty representatives of 12 world religions took part in the gathering and offered their prayers for peace in a huge temporary hall that had been set up in Saint Francis Square in Assisi. The participants demonstrated the shared commitment of religions to reject violence and promote a culture of dialogue as the world situation remains tense in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. This was the second occasion--the first was in October 1986--on which world religious leaders met in Assisi at the invitation of Pope John Paul II to pray for peace. He had again invited them to gather to pray for the end of conflict and for the promotion of true peace. During the afternoon plenary session, President Niwano was one of the 12 representatives each of whom proceeded to the lectern to read part of the Common Commitment to Peace in their respective language, pledging the further dedication of religionists to the realization of world peace. Between the plenary sessions in the morning and afternoon, the participants offered prayers separately according to the rituals of each religion. In a room at the Sacred Convent, Japanese Buddhist representatives recited together the Heart Sutra and the "Taking Refuge in the Three Treasures."
President Niwano Delivers Speech at Interfaith Forum in Synod Hall, Vatican
On January 23, in the afternoon of the day preceding the Day of Prayer for Peace, an interreligious forum was hosted by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in the Vatican's Synod Hall. Some 200 religious leaders participated in the forum, held under the theme "Religions' Contribution to the Great Cause of Peace." Along with 30 other designated speakers who represented world religions, President Nichiko Niwano made a presentation at the forum on the need for mutual respect among all people as fellow "children of life."
President Niwano Meets Ms. Chiara Lubich
In the afternoon of January 23, President Niwano, having arrived in Italy to join the Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, called at the headquarters of the Focolare Movement in the suburbs of Rome. The Focolare Movement was founded in 1943 by Ms. Chiara Lubich, born on January 23, 1920 in Italy, as a Catholic lay movement whose spiritual unity has affected millions of people around the world. In 1977 Ms. Lubich was awarded the Templeton Foundation Prize for progress in religion. In a talk with her, President Niwano offered words of hearty congratulations on her birthday and expressed his appreciation for the movement's promotion of close ties with Rissho Kosei-kai members over many years. When Ms. Lubich asked about Rissho Kosei-kai's reactions to the terrorist attacks against the U.S. of last September 11, President Niwano replied by explaining the organization's recent fund-raising activities to assist the families of the victims in the U.S., as well as refugees and displaced persons in Afghanistan. He also mentioned the sending of many letters of sympathy and encouragement from young members in Japan to school students in the New York region, and the offering of prayers for peace. He also expressed his wish to continue close ties with the activities of the Focolare Movement, praising the sibling-like association between it and Rissho Kosei-kai.
WCRP Cohosts Summit Meeting of Religious Leaders of the Holy Land
On January 20 and 21, a religious summit meeting of the three monotheistic faiths of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam was held in Alexandria, Egypt. The meeting was chaired by Dr. George Carey, the retiring archbishop of Canterbury and a president of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP). The leading religious figures who attended included: Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar; the Sephardi Chief Rabbi Bakshi-Doron; Rabbi Michael Melchior, Israeli deputy foreign minister; Rabbi David Rosen, a president of the WCRP; Rabbi David Brodman, the Rabbi of Savyon; the Rabbi of Maalot Dafna, Rabbi Yitzak Ralbag; Sheikh Taisir Tamimi, Palestinian chief justice of the Sharia Courts; Sheikh Tal El Sider, Minister of State for the Palestinian Authority; Archbishop Aristichos, representative of the Greek Patriarch; His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch; Archbishop Boutrous Mu'alem, the Melkite Archbishop; Archbishop Chinchinian, the representative of the Armenian Patriarch; and the Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El Assal, the Bishop of Jerusalem. On the closing day of the summit meeting on January 21, the First Alexandria Declaration of the Religious Leaders of the Holy Land was adopted, including a plan stated to establish a permanent committee of religious leaders from the three religions in the Holy Land to fulfill the intent of the declaration. The WCRP supported the meeting and Dr. William F. Vendley, WCRP secretary general, also attended.
President Niwano Participates in Day of Prayer for Peace at Assisi, Italy
World religious leaders joined together in Assisi, Italy, on January 24 for the Day of Prayer for Peace in the World and offered their prayers for peace. Rissho Kosei-kai President Nichiko Niwano participated as a representative of Japanese Buddhism. At the event the participants demonstrated the shared commitment of religions to reject violence and promote a culture of dialogue as the world situation remains tense in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. This was the second occasion--the first was in October 1986--on which world religious leaders met in Assisi at the invitation of Pope John Paul II to pray for peace. He had again invited them to gather to pray for the end of conflict and for the promotion of true peace. He especially hoped that Christians and Muslims would come together "to declare before the world that religion must never become a cause of conflict, hatred, and violence." All the participants joined in the Testimonials to Peace held in the morning in the city's Lower Saint Francis Square, at which representatives of the various religions delivered addresses. In the afternoon, the non-Christian participants moved to the Sacred Convent and offered prayers separately according to the rituals of each religion. All the participants then met again in Lower Saint Francis Square to read a common commitment to peace in English, Arabic, and Italian. The pope then lighted a symbolic candelabrum, followed by the representatives who lighted candles. On the previous evening of January 23, an interreligous forum was held in Rome under the theme "Religions' Commitment for Peace for the Great Cause of Peace," at which Rev. Niwano delivered a speech on the need for mutual respect among all people as fellow "children of life."
Appreciation Expressed by U.S. for Letters of Sympathy and Encouragement
On January 8 Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Division received a bundle of fifty letters, together with photos and a videotape, from American students of Our Lady of Victory Academy high school near New York, expressing appreciation for the letters of sympathy and encouragement written by senior and junior high school and elementary school members of Rissho Kosei-kai for children in the U.S. whose family members, friends, or neighbors lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Some 4,000 letters, originally written in English, were brought to headquarters in Tokyo by October 15 and later transferred to the United States Conference of Religions for Peace and the United States Fund for UNICEF to be handed to the children and students in certain schools in New York and Boston, and some in New Jersey. Ms. Jessica Ramos, a student at Our Lady of Victory Academy, which has a multiethnic, multiracial student body, wrote, "Thank you for your kindness and compassion during this stressful time. This tragedy both surprised and upset us; your letters were very comforting and helped us to see goodness in a world plagued by hate." A videotape was made of some of the students taking part in a special class to discuss the sentiments of the Japanese children who wrote the letters.
Rissho Kosei-kai Concludes Fund-raising and Letter-writing Campaigns
Rissho Kosei-kai announced the end as of December 31, 2001 of its campaigns to raise funds for the victims of the terrorist attacks in the U.S. of September 11, 2001 and the Afghan victims of the subsequent Allied bombing raids against the Taliban regime, and for child members to write letters of encouragement to American children who lost family members in the attacks. The Special Committee for Rissho Kosei-kai Action Dealing with Terror-related Incidents announced that a total of 165,799,619 Japanese yen was collected as of January 7, 2002 and 5,653 letters of encouragement were written by members of Rissho Kosei-kai's children's and students' groups throughout Japan as of January 10. One million dollars, part of money raised by the campaign, and some 4,000 letters of encouragement have already been turned over to Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary general of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) by President Niwano at the International Symposium of Leaders of the World's Religions in New York on October 23--24, 2001. With the help of WCRP, the letters have already been presented to American children. Rissho Kosei-kai launched the special committee immediately after the September attacks. The committee organized a sustainable relief plan for victims in the U.S. and Afghanistan composed of three aspects: prayers for peace, fund-raising for victims in Afghanistan and the U.S., and letters of encouragement to American children. On last December 24, University Students' Group members of Rissho Kosei-kai voluntarily organized a fund-raising campaign throughout Japan to assist the refugees and war victims in Afghanistan. At the close of the campaign, Rissho Kosei-kai's newly inaugurated chairman, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, expressed his profound gratitude to members in the Kosei Shimbun newspaper on January 18, 2002.
Blankets for Afghanistan Shipped
On December 28, 2001, 10,000 blankets were shipped to Karachi, a Pakistan port as the first shipment to people in need in neighboring Afghanistan. The invasion by Soviet troops in 1979, followed by fighting among local ethnic factions over the past twenty years and a recent serious drought, all badly affected the country's agriculture and social infrastructures. Many of the Afghan people were forced to flee to refugee camps in Pakistan. Moreover, the bombing raids against the former Taliban regime by American and British forces following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the U.S. increased the number of people who became displaced in the country or were forced to flee to Pakistan. Facing these conditions, the Executive Committee of the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa decided to present 20,000 blankets, out of a total of 169,251 collected in Japan during the campaign in 2001 and kept in reserve for emergency use, to the displaced persons and refugees. The shipment was expected to arrive on January 23, 2002. Another 10,000 blankets for the refugees are now in the final process of clearing formalities. The committee will ask Afghan and Pakistani nongovernmental organizations to cooperate in their distribution.
Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Members Join IARF Peace Project in India
Rissho Kosei-kai dispatched two youth members from its headquarters and seminary respectively to participate in an International Interfaith Youth Project in India held by the International Association for Religious Freedom from December 20, 2001 to January 11, 2002. Some 10 youths from countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America, as well as 18 Indian youths, joined in the project that undertook to rebuild the religious facilities in Gujarat State, western India, that were damaged by the severe earthquake in January 2001. Through the reconstruction of a Hindu temple and a Muslim mosque, the youths of different faiths were able to learn mutual understanding and respect for each other.
New Year's Visit for Worship Held at Great Sacred Hall
The Ceremony of a New Year's Visit for Worship, with the specific wish for world peace in 2002 took place at the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo just at midnight on New Year's Eve, the start of 2002. Although it was a bit colder than in most years, more than 14,000 members participated in the ceremony. When the time was announced, the ritual of offering the sutra reading began with President Niwano as chanting leader, followed by the presentation to the Buddha of the president's New Year's vow. In his annual message to all members, Rev. Niwano demonstrated a guiding principle for the resolution of the world-wide issues caused by the terrorist attacks against the United States last September and the realization of the world peace by saying, "It is important for us to reflect on ourselves by considering whether we may be the cause of spiteful conduct by others and if so, to amend our ways. At the same time, it is essential that we be awakened to the knowledge that we are all sustained by one great life-force of the universe." Following the ceremony, Rev. Niwano prayed before the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle, paying special respects to the memory of Founder Niwano and making an offering of New Year's spiced sake.
New Rissho Kosei-kai Chairman Inaugurated
Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi was inaugurated as the new chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai on January 1, 2002. He replaced Rev. Norio Sakai, the former chairman, whose six-year term of office ended on December 31, 2001. Rev. Yamanoi was born in 1941 and became a staff member of Rissho Kosei-kai in 1964. After holding the positions of director of the personnel section, auditor, and director of the general affairs section, he assumed the post of general secretary of the Niwano Peace Foundation in 1977. He became director of the personnel department and at the same time dean of the Rissho Kosei-kai seminary in 1990. He was appointed a member of the Rissho Kosei-kai board of directors in 1991, and director of the organization's finance department in 1994.
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