Rissho Kosei-kai Members in Sri Lanka Organize Peace Seminar
On December 3 in Sri Lanka, Rissho Kosei-kai of Colombo, one of Rissho Kosei-kai's overseas branches affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia, sponsored a seminar on peace in the auditorium of the British School in Colombo. Some 1,000 people participated, including Sri Lankan Rissho Kosei-kai members; Buddhist monks; Christian and Muslim leaders in Sri Lanka, as well as members of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, the nation's largest charitable organization; and from Japan, Rev. Hiroshi Niwano, an emeritus executive board member of Rissho Kosei-kai.
The seminar opened with prayers by Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim religious leaders. During the seminar the participants viewed a video about Founder Nikkyo Niwano's lifetime dedication to world peace. Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, founder and executive director of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, then gave a speech in which he recalled Founder Niwano and extolled his great achievements. Rev. Hiroshi Niwano shared memories of his father and emphasized the importance of understanding the law of impermanence.
Symposium in New York Commemorates Centennial of Founder Niwano's Birth
On December 14 the World Conference of Religions for Peace and Rissho Kosei-kai's New York Branch held a symposium under the theme "A Life of Compassion and Peace" at the Japan Society in New York to commemorate the centennial of the birth of Founder Nikkyo Niwano, who was a cofounder of Religions for Peace. Some 150 people, including United Nations officials, religious leaders, and people working for NGOs attended the event, which included the Commemorative Ceremony and panel discussions.
During the ceremony, Archbishop Dr. Celestino Migliore, a permanent observer for the Holy See at the United Nations, described Founder Niwano as a pioneer in interfaith dialogue for peace. Explaining that religion has become enormously important in UN spheres, he said international opinion is coalescing around the idea that there is a close connection between faith and culture and, therefore, between cultural dialogue and interreligious dialogue. Then a message from Ambassador Nobuaki Tanaka, UN under-secretary-general for disarmament affairs, was read out by his special assistant Mr. Ioan Tudor. Referring to Founder Niwano's address at the first Special Session of the UN General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament (SSD I) in 1978, in which he urged the superpowers to work for general and complete disarmament, Ambassador Tanaka said, "The vision of Founder Niwano is still alive and continues to inspire people in their work at the United Nations."
The ceremony was followed by two panel discussions, on "Buddhist Approaches to Shared Security" and "Interreligious Cooperation for Peace." Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary-general of Religions for Peace, moderated the first discussion, in which four panelists took part: Dr. Sallie B. King, professor of philosophy and religion at James Madison University; Dr. Christopher S. Queen, lecturer on the study of religion at Harvard University; Dr. Kenneth Kraft, professor of religious studies at Lehigh University; and Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, assistant secretary-general of Religions for Peace.
Dr. King described how the Sri Lankan Engaged Buddhist group the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement has worked to end the civil war in Sri Lanka by looking for ways to "shared security" in the world today. Dr. Queen placed Founder Niwano among the great thinkers and activists who contributed to the rise of Engaged Buddhism in our lifetimes, including the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar of India, and Thich Nhat Hanh of Vietnam. Dr. Kraft, quoted from some of Founder Niwano's writings, saying Engaged Buddhism is rooted in classic Mahayana teachings, and that for Founder Niwano there was no difference between the two. Rev. Sugino analyzed Founder Niwano's interpretation of the Lotus Sutra based on the concept of the One Vehicle and gave an overview of how the Founder's vision of interreligious cooperation has been put into practice in Japan and other countries.
The second panel session was coordinated by Dr. Wesley Ariarajah, professor of ecumenical theology at Drew University School of Theology, who is a former deputy-general-secretary of the World Council of Churches. The panelists included Dr. Donald W. Mitchell, professor of comparative philosophy of religion at Purdue University; Dr. William F. Vendley; and Rev. Kyoichi Sugino.
Dr. Mitchell gave an overview of dialogue and cooperation between the Focolare Movement and Rissho Kosei-kai, which started in 1979 with the encounter of Ms. Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement, and Founder Niwano. Dr. Vendley stated that the vision of Founder Niwano had given birth to Religions for Peace as an instrument of cooperation among religions. He then reported the results of the Eighth World Assembly of Religions for Peace, which was held in Kyoto in August 2006.
Shakyamuni's Attainment of Buddhahood Celebrated
On December 8, a commemoration of Shakyamuni's attainment of buddhahood was held at the Great Sacred Hall and all branch churches throughout Japan. Some 3,800 members gathered at the service in the Great Sacred Hall at the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters complex in Tokyo to renew their vow of gratitude to the Buddha through the practice of his teachings. Following sutra chanting, Rev. Katsue Itazawa, head of the Odate Church, testified to her experience of the teachings. In his address, President Niwano stressed the importance of constant effort for spiritual progress.
Peace Fund Gives Emergency Aid to Filipino Victims of Typhoon Durian
On December 8, the executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced that it was allocating 500,000 Japanese yen in emergency aid to victims of Typhoon Durian, which struck the Philippines on December 1.
According to news reports, the typhoon hit the islands of Luzon and Mindoro, killing more than 400 people and leaving more than 600 missing. Some 150,000 houses were damaged by the strong winds and torrential rain.
After the committee learned that victims on Mindoro were receiving inadequate relief, it decided to donate emergency aid to an elementary school in Banilad that is affiliated with the San Lorenzo Ruiz Formation and Learning Center and was serving as a shelter for displaced typhoon victims. Rissho Kosei-kai has enjoyed close ties with the people of Mindoro, having dispatched youth members to educate them in its peace program for high school wingers. The committee also explained that the refugees sheltered in the school were mainly member of the Mangyan tribe, one of the native peoples of the island who lost their houses and other possessions to Typhoon Durian.
Rissho Kosei-kai Reports Results of Little Bags of Dreams Campaign for 2006
In December, Rissho Kosei-kai's Executive Committee of the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign announced that a total of 58,735 small bags of gifts had been collected in this year's campaign period of June 1 to August 31.
Every year elementary and junior high school pupils belonging to Rissho Kosei-kai prepare handmade cloth bags of gifts such as toys and school supplies with the help of family members and other adult members. The Buddhist organization sends the bags to children overseas who suffer from local conflicts and racial or social discrimination.
In recent years more and more churches of Rissho Kosei-kai have endeavored to make the campaign part of members' family life. This encourages parents and children to discuss the world situation among themselves and deepens their wish for world peace as they prepare the bags.
The bags will be sent to children in Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, Palestine, and Lebanon through various organizations with friendly ties to Rissho Kosei-kai. The Buddhist organization also plans to dispatch volunteer member groups of children and their parents to these countries in March to help hand out bags directly.
Niwano Peace Foundation Allocates Activity Grants in Second Half of Fiscal 2006
In December the Niwano Peace Foundation announced that it had allocated 5,046,000 Japanese yen in activity grants to nine organizations for the second half of fiscal 2006. The goal of the grants program is, while promoting interreligious understanding, to encourage individuals and groups to build social harmony in the light of religious faith.
The recipients were selected primarily from among individuals or groups involved in social and peace activities based on a religious spirit or activities to vitalize local communities through interdisciplinary workshops and meetings for regional empowerment. During the application period of July 1 to August 31, the foundation received 99 applications from organizations in Japan and abroad.
The recipient organizations included: The Ecumenical Institute for Study and Dialogue in Sri Lanka, 630,000 yen to promote reconciliation in a divided society by encouraging interfaith dialogue and mutual understanding and cooperation among the country's various religious groups; Action with Lao Children in Japan, 800,000 yen to help Lao people improve their educational infrastructure and to foster writers, teachers, and publishers; Zen Peacemakers in the United States: 1 million yen to set up educational and training programs for work in hospices for the terminally ill.
Rissho Kosei-kai Dispatches Group for On-site Monitoring of South Asia Program Projects
During November 19-28, the executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund organized a group for on-site monitoring of projects being carried out under the South Asia Program, whose administration the committee entrusted to the Niwano Peace Foundation. Four Rissho Kosei-kai members, including Rev. Koichiro Shimizu, deputy director of the headquarters' General Affairs Department, and Rev. Toshiyuki Yuki, minister of Sakura Church of Chiba Prefecture, joined the tour and visited India. The group's mission was to assess the proper use of funds donated by Rissho Kosei-kai members and study plans to dispatch members to assist the South Asia Program.
On November 22, the party visited Jan Jagriti Kendra (JJK), an Indian nongovernmental organization (NGO) in the state of Chhattisgarh. Guided by JJK members, they visited two villages and inspected a reservoir and a program to help woman in the village become self-reliant. The projects are carried out by JJK with financial support of the South Asia Program under its main theme of "Poverty Alleviation."
On November 24, the group traveled to Bhopal, in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Along with the members of Arushi, another Indian NGO, the group studied Arushi's program of vocational training for physically challenged youths in computer skills and traditional handicrafts. This project, part of the yearly support project of "Marginalized Groups," was limited to 2006.
Prizes Awarded in First TOKWO Composition Competition
On November 26, as one of the commemorative undertakings marking the centennial of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth, the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra (TOKWO) awarded prizes for the First TOKWO Composition Competition. After TOKWO performed the four finalists' compositions in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space, the winners were announced and the awards were presented at the adjacent Hotel Metropolitan.
The competition's aim is to discover, introduce, and promote new compositions for wind instruments by promising young composers in Japan and abroad. The competition also aims to encourage the further development of such music in the twenty-first century through continuing international intercultural exchange.
Chaired by Mr. Akira Miyoshi, a member of the Japan Art Academy, the seven jury members included Mr. Kazushi Ishida, a music critic; Mr. Michio Kitazume, professor at the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music; Mr. Edward Gegson, principal of the Royal Northern College of Music, in Manchester, England; and Mr. Douglas Bostock, principal guest conductor of TOKWO. From among 83 compositions submitted from around the world, eight were short-listed and performed in August at Fumon Hall in Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters complex in Tokyo. Four of these were chosen as finalists: The Chamber Symphony No. 1 for Concert Band, by Suner-Oriola Jose (Spain); Le citta invisibili, by Masami Kimura (Japan); Con Brio, by Barnaby Hollington (U.K.); and Procession, by John Weeks (U.K.). Mr. Paul Meyer, a world-renowned clarinetist and conductor, led TOKWO in the performance of these pieces, which the audience applauded enthusiastically.
At the presentation ceremony afterward, Mr. Kitazume announced the prize winners. After saying that none of the compositions had qualified for the first prize, he said Con Brio had won the second prize, for superior musical merit. The two third prizes went to Le citta invisibili and Procession. Le citta invisibili also received the Jury Special Prize, and the Chamber Symphony No. 1 for Concert Band received the Frederick Fennell Special Prize. TOKWO plans to hold a composition contest every three years.
ACRP Executive Committee Meets in Manila
On November 25, the executive committee of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP) met at a hotel in Manila, the Philippines. Forty-one committee members from thirteen Asian countries, including China and South and North Korea, took part. Rissho Kosei-kai was represented by Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, deputy director of the External Affairs Department.
The committee heard a report on the results of the eighth world assembly of the World Conference of Religions for Peace in Kyoto in August. Reports were also presented by national chapters of the ACRP. The committee discussed the agenda and venue for the seventh assembly of the ACRP, to be held in 2008.
Prior to that meeting, an ACRP youth conference and an ACRP women's meeting were held with a total number of 22 participants on November 24 at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.
Youth Leaders' Conference Meets at Headquarters
On November 25 and 26, a Youth Leaders' Conference was held at the Great Sacred Hall and Fumon Hall, in which 1,500 leaders took part from Rissho Kosei-kai branches across Japan. The annual conference is an opportunity for youth leaders to gather in one place and reflect together on the activities during the year and confirm the dissemination policies for the coming new year. During the plenary session on November 25 held in Fumon Hall, Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Youth Division, announced the theme for 2007, "Aspiration." On November 26, following speeches of religious affirmation by two participants, President-designate Kosho Niwano delivered a speech of guidance. The participants also separated into small hoza groups and took part in shodai training (chanting the title of the Lotus Sutra). Each participant also wrote a brief letter to the Buddha, describing his or her religious goals. The letters were offered to the image of Shakyamuni in the Great Sacred Hall during evening prayers.
Rev. Matsumoto in his speech encouraged the participants to cultivate the aspiration to save all living beings. He then unveiled the One Vehicle Global Network project, which he explained will become part of Rissho Kosei-kai youth's work for peace. He said the project's purpose will be twofold: sharing the One-vehicle teaching of Rissho Kosei-kai with a larger number of youth around the world and to form a global network of religious youth whom Rissho Kosei-kai youth have met and forged friendships through the activities of the World Conference of Religions for Peace.
Rev. Kosho Niwano, in her speech of guidance, the first she has officially delivered to an assembly of members, spoke about the meaning of religious practice. She said that seeing the true nature of all things is essential to bringing out buddha-nature in oneself and in others. Every practice of the faith should be directed toward this fulfillment, she said.
Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division Announces Results of UNICEF Fund-raising Campaign for 2006
In November, the Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division announced that 91,517,128 Japanese yen had been donated for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) by members and well-wishers throughout Japan. The Buddhist organization holds fund-raising campaigns annually for UNICEF, and the latest one began on October 1, 2005, and ended September 30. Members mainly of youth and primary school pupils' groups of Rissho Kosei-kai churches throughout Japan engaged wholeheartedly in the campaign by collecting donations on busy streets or organizing bazaars, especially on the organization's annual Youth Day in May.
Rissho Kosei-kai held its first campaign for UNICEF in 1979, designated by the UN General Assembly as the International Year of the Child. The total amount of private contributions collected by Rissho Kosei-kai in the course of 25 years has reached more than 6 billion yen and has been utilized to support children in more than 60 countries. The amounts are transferred to the UNICEF headquarters in New York for various projects specified by the fund-raiser. Since 2004 Rissho Kosei-kai has designated certain UNICEF projects for improving the education of children in the Philippines, India, Myanmar, Laos, Afghanistan, and Cambodia.
Rissho Kosei-kai believes strongly in the importance of giving every child in the world a primary education.
Faith-based Readings, Personal Experiences Offered in English at IBC Meeting
The International Buddhist Congregation (IBC), a Tokyo-based organization affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai for introducing and promoting the teachings of the Lotus Sutra among foreign residents in Japan, held a program presenting many aspects of members' faith in English on November 12 in Taisei Hall, an annex to the Great Sacred Hall at the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters complex in Tokyo. One hundred thirty people, including members of IBC, Rissho Kosei-kai members from Tokyo and the neighboring areas, and students from Rissho Kosei-kai's Gakurin seminary took part.
The event was organized to encourage more Rissho Kosei-kai members to study the Lotus Sutra in English in order to share its teachings with non-Japanese. Some of the sixty-one participants recited passages from an English translation of the Threefold Lotus Sutra or from English translations of books by Founder Nikkyo Niwano, and others testified in English about their faith.
Ms. Yasuyo Hashimoto of the Tachikawa Church told the gathering that she had discussed interreligious cooperation with her host family when in Australia for a short period of study. She said also that she had been encouraged by a friend's show of interest in the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) when she described its activities in a class report at her school in Japan. Finally, the director of Rissho Kosei-kai's Dissemination Department, Rev. Yuji Numata made a concluding speech.
Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa Announces Recipient Countries in 2006
In November, the executive committee of the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa announced that the approximately 110,000 blankets collected from citizens throughout Japan this year will be sent to seven countries where the need is greatest: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Malawi, Uganda, Djibouti, Mozambique, and Congo.
The blankets were collected during a nationwide drive in April and May. As an organization participating in the campaign, Rissho Kosei-kai members also energetically collected blankets from people of good will. The blankets were assembled in warehouses near Yokohama, one of Japan's largest seaports, and shipment to Africa began in late October. The blankets were to be distributed in Africa by UN-affiliated and NGO volunteer organizations. The first to receive them were to be the elderly, the physically disabled, and disaster victims. In early February, the committee will send a team of volunteers to Africa to monitor distribution and hand out blankets themselves.
WFB Honorary Secretary-general Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On October 31, President Nichiko Niwano conferred with Mr. Phallop Thaiarry, honorary secretary-general of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB), and Mrs. Thaiarry in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo. Also present were Mrs. Yoshie Niwano, the president's wife; Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of the Buddhist organization's External Affairs Department; and Mr. Shin'ichi Noguchi, executive director of the Niwano Peace Foundation.
The topics ranged from President Niwano's visit to Thailand in 2003 to Founder Niwano's visit to Bangkok in 1976 for the WFB's 11th general conference, at the invitation of the WFB's then-president, Princess Poon Pismai Diskul. Mr. Thaiarry offered President Niwano his best wishes for the upcoming memorial service in November in honor of the centennial of the Founder's birth and expressed his hopes for further cooperation between the WFB and Rissho Kosei-kai as well as with the Niwano Peace Foundation. Mr. Thaiarry also described his participation in the Eighth World Assembly of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP VIII) in Kyoto in August. The WFB and Rissho Kosei-kai leaders also noted the development of networking among academic circles since the establishment of the World Buddhist University in 1998 in Bangkok. The World Fellowship of Buddhists, founded in 1950, is the world's largest and most influential international Buddhist organization.
Japanese, Chinese, and South Korean Buddhist Leaders Hold Ninth Conference in Kyoto and Nara
On October 25 and 26, the ninth China-South Korea-Japan Buddhist Friendly Interaction Conference was held at Rissho Kosei-kai's Kyoto Fumon Hall in Kyoto and Yakushiji Temple in Nara under the theme "Toward Peaceful Coexistence for All Humanity: Three Nations' Interreligious Dialogue on the Role of Buddhists." Under the auspices of the Japan-China-South Korea International Buddhist Exchange Council, some 300 Buddhist priests from the three countries, representing various sects and their lay members, took part in the conference to affirm their religious ties and dedication to efforts for world peace. Representing Rissho Kosei-kai were President Nichiko Niwano and Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of the External Affairs Department.
On October 26, at the seminar in Kyoto Fumon Hall, President Nichiko Niwano gave a welcoming address as a vice-president of the council. Then keynote addresses by three speakers representing their countries were followed by nine supplementary addresses.
In the afternoon, the participants moved to Yakushiji, the head temple of the Hosso Sect of Japanese Buddhism. In the Genjo Sanzo-in--a hall dedicated to the Chinese Buddhist priest Xuanzang, who traveled to India to bring the sutras to China--Japanese Buddhists led by Rev. Eiin Yasuda, chief abbot of Yakushiji and chief priest of the Hosso sect, held a religious service during which they chanted the Heart Sutra in prayer for world peace. Chinese and South Korean Buddhists as well held sutra-chanting services according to their own rites, and then representative priests of the three countries prayed for peace.
After the service, a joint statement was read out in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean declaring that wars and other conflicts arise from selfishness, or what the Buddha described as the Three Poisons of greed, anger, and ignorance. The statement expressed hope that Buddhists of the three nations will contribute to world peace by exemplifying a spirit of human harmony based on the Buddhist virtues of compassion and tolerance. The statement also urged that tensions over North Korea's testing of nuclear weapons be resolved through peaceful negotiations in the spirit of Buddhist wisdom.
Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival 2006
The Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival was celebrated October 15 at Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters complex and the surrounding neighborhood in Tokyo. This year's festival included events marking the centennial of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth. The festival's purpose is to keep alive the memory of the thirteenth-century Buddhist priest Nichiren, who devoted his life to dissemination of the Lotus Sutra in the face of severe persecution. The festival is also an opportunity for members to express their veneration of the Founder, who devoted his life to the principle of reforming society by saving others through the practices taught in the Lotus Sutra. With this philosophy in mind, he not only presented Buddhism as a practical living religion but also promoted interreligious cooperation at the local and international levels.
Under a clear sky some 5,700 members, comprising 41 contingents of members from 23 branches of the Tokyo District along with 31 local branches, marched in a parade carrying mando (portable lighted pagodas) in a display of traditional pageantry along the streets leading to the Great Sacred Hall by way of the Haramitsu Bridge. Last year the parade detoured around the bridge because of the renovation in progress at the Great Sacred Hall, which was one of the projects marking the Founder's centennial. The work was completed in May. Some 1,300 Rissho Kosei-kai members from 17 nations in North and South America, Europe, and Asia in their national costumes also joined the parade with a great show of enthusiasm. They had also come to Japan to participate in the Third World Sangha Assembly, which convened October 13 at the Buddhist organization's headquarters complex.
The streets were lined with some 70,000 spectators enjoying the colorful procession. At the closing ceremony, President Nichiko Niwano praised the participants and thanked all those who had cooperated to make the festival a success.
Overseas Members Meet at World Sangha Assembly
From October 13 through October 15, some 1,300 members from 17 nations participated in the Third World Sangha Assembly, which was held at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo. The assembly was a highlight of the group pilgrimages to the headquarters in 2006, the centennial of the birth of Founder Nikkyo Niwano. It gave participants a further opportunity to study the spirit of the Lotus Sutra and the life of the founder while renewing their commitment to worldwide dissemination of the teachings.
The assembly began on October 13 with an orientation session in Fumon Hall. The participants saw a video on the life of the Founder and heard a welcoming address by Rev. Yuji Numata, director of the Dissemination Department. On October 14 the participants gathered in the Great Sacred Hall for the Third World Sangha Assembly Commemoration Ceremony. It began with an offering before the image of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni by 24 members in their national costumes. The multinational participants then joined in the chanting of the Lotus Sutra simultaneously in 13 languages. Following speeches of religious witness by members from Los Angeles and Chittagong, President Nichiko Niwano made a speech of guidance. He spoke of the Buddhist precept on not taking life, saying that abnegation of one's worth as a human being in a sense violates this precept. Emphasizing the importance of a positive outlook, he said we should be willing to serve others and our society by making the best use of our individual abilities. He said that the World Sangha Assembly was a precious opportunity that had brought many overseas members together and had been made possible by Founder Niwano and Cofounder Myoko Naganuma. Practicing the teachings with a full awareness of the debt of gratitude to both teachers is important, he added. On October 15 the overseas members took part in the Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival Parade, showing their enthusiasm for worldwide dissemination of the teachings.
WCRP VIII Holds Closing Ceremony
On August 29, participants in the Eighth World Assembly of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP VIII) adopted the Kyoto Declaration. It promotes a new concept of peace and security grounded in the idea of interdependence. Emphasizing the importance of recommitting religions to the way of peace, the declaration calls on people of religion to be firmly united in their commitment to prevent violence. The declaration also reaffirms the power of multireligious cooperation to advance a common vision of shared security and enunciates the determination of people of religion to mobilize their faith communities to collaborate in strengthening the global network of those working for peace.
At the closing ceremony in the main hall of the Kyoto International Conference Hall in Kyoto, Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary-general of the WCRP, announced the Kyoto Declaration and presented an official copy of its text to the children who were onstage as representatives of future generations. Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, chairman of the board of Myochikai and executive director of the assembly's general secretariat, expressed his thanks to all those who had supported the assembly. Everyone attending the ceremony enjoyed a traditional Okinawan dance performance and then sang the assembly's theme song together. Some 2,000 religious representatives, including 500 official delegates from around the world, participated in the assembly, which was the WCRP's largest since the historic first assembly at the same venue 36 years ago.
Rev. Niwano Leads in Hosting Eighth Assembly of WCRP
As the president of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan), Rev. Nichiko Niwano played a central role in hosting the Eighth World Assembly of the WCRP. While attending the assembly programs, he met many religious leaders and spoke privately with H.E. Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, former president of Iran, and Ms. Ann M. Veneman, executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). He also spoke at a reception and a news conference on behalf of WCRP/Japan, and visited the youth volunteers' quarters to express his appreciation for their efforts.
As voting delegates representing Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Kosho Niwano, president-designate, as well as Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, the Youth Division director, and Rev. Norio Sakai and Rev. Yoshiko Izumida, former executive directors, were present at all assembly programs. Many heads of Rissho Kosei-kai churches across Japan were also present as observers at the opening and closing ceremonies. On August 27, President-designate Kosho Niwano attended the Commission on Peace Building and chaired a subcommission group meeting on peace education.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Allocates Emergency Aid for Middle East
On August 18, the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced that it would allocate 10 million Japanese yen to three Japanese nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), which had contributed to building peace in the Middle East. The armed conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon started on July 12 after Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers. As of August 12, 1,200 people were reported killed in Lebanon and more than 100 in Israel. According to the report of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the armed conflict displaced over 900,000 people, and about 220,000 people fled as refugees to other countries. Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon continued, and Israel violated the cease-fire arranged by the UN Security Council on August 14.
The fund donated 6 million yen to JEN, a multiorganizational nonprofit group, of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a member, for relief projects. It also gave 2 million yen to the Campaign for the Children of Palestine, which has provided support activities for Palestine refugees in Lebanon. Two million yen was also presented to the Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC) to relieve tension in Gaza. The JVC was apprehensive that the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah would spill over into Gaza.
Rissho Kosei-kai Holds World Youth Meeting via the Internet
Under the auspices of the Youth Division and the International Faith Dissemination Group of Rissho Kosei-kai, the World Youth Meeting was held August 12-13. The meeting was in preparation for the World Sangha Assembly in October, one of the events to commemorate the centennial of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth.
The meeting was held in an auditorium of the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo. Under the main theme, "Each Person's One Vehicle, Big-heartedness, and Grand Dream," 12 youth representatives gathered from branches and churches in nine countries: Brazil, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United States, United Kingdom, South Korea, and Japan. The meeting was also broadcast via the Internet, and some 300 other young members from those countries also joined in the events.
On August 12, the participants reported on their religious activities according to such subthemes as contributing to world peace through bodhisattva practice and dissemination. They presented a draft of the "Global Youth Mission Statement" prepared before the meeting. They also gathered ideas from members of their churches and branches via the Internet and incorporated these in the statement, also taking their previous reports into consideration. On the next day, the delegates unanimously adopted the final statement in English and Japanese. After that, Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Youth Division, gave a speech in which he encouraged the participants to guide fellow youth members in disseminating the teachings of Founder Nikkyo Niwano, the Lotus Sutra, and Buddhism throughout the world in this year commemorating the centennial of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth.
Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Members Visit the Philippines
From July 28 to August 6, twenty-six Rissho Kosei-kai members led by Rev. Yoshie Ootomo, a deputy director of its Youth Division, visited the Philippines. The group comprised 21 students and five staff members. As one of its educational programs for youth, Rissho Kosei-kai sends Japanese members who are in high school or college to another Asian country every year. Through cultural exchanges in these countries with local youth of other faiths or with members of organizations receiving aid from the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund, the program aims to strengthen young Japanese members' religious faith and awakening to the truths of Buddhism. The program also aims to help Japanese youth acquire a global outlook and learn the value of world peace
On July 29 the group traveled to Muntinlupa, in the Manila metropolitan area, to visit a cemetery for Japanese war dead and to hold a sutra- chanting service for the repose of the spirits of all victims of war. On the following day they traveled to Bagac City, Bataan Province, with members of the Bataan Christian Youth Civic Circle (BCYCC). There they visited the Bataan Library and Museum, built with financial support from the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund. They also prayed for world peace at the Friendship Tower. On July 31 the Japanese group visited UNICEF's Manila Office, where they heard about UNICEF's program to help street children in the Philippines. In Manila they also studied the office-supported project for the defense of children's human rights and visited some of the children's parents at home. On August 1-5 they stayed at a Focolare Movement center in Tagaytay City, Quezon Province. Through cultural exchanges with Focolare members and by joining in some of their volunteer work, the Japanese youth deepened their understanding of the movement's spirit and strengthened friendly ties with its members.
Rissho Kosei-kai Welcomes U.S. Member Families in Tokyo
During August 4-6, families from branch churches in the U.S.A. made a special pilgrimage to Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo called "The U.S. Family Pilgrimage" to commemorate the centennial of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth. Ninety-nine members of the New York, Los Angeles, and Hawaii churches made the pilgrimage also to deepen their understanding of the spirit of the Lotus Sutra and the founder's life and renew their vows to further disseminate the teachings.
On August 4, the families attended the monthly memorial day service in honor of Founder Niwano in the Great Sacred Hall and heard music performed by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. They toured other facilities and memorials at the headquarters and were briefed on the organization's peace activities by Rev. Waichi Hoshina, a deputy director of the Dissemination Department, in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. That evening Rev. Yuji Numata, director of the Dissemination Department, gave a welcoming speech to the families at a dinner in the Second Group Pilgrimage Hall
On August 5 the families divided into age groups for special programs. Parents attended a program on "home education' presented by a lecturer for Rissho Kosei-kai's Home Education Research Institute. Elementary school children were engaged in religious duties with members of the Nakano Church in the Great Sacred Hall. Young adults shared ideas about the faith with members of the Tokyo District at the Suginami Church. In the afternoon, the families divided into an English-speaking group and a Japanese-speaking group for large hoza group-counseling sessions. Afterward, Chairman. Katsunori Yamanoi addressed all the families on behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai.
President Niwano Attends Conference Marking 19th Anniversary of Religious Summit Meeting on Mount Hiei
On August 4, under the aegis of the Tendai Buddhist Denomination's international religious cooperation association for peace, a service of Interreligious Prayer for World Peace was held at Enryakuji temple on Mount Hiei in Shiga Prefecture to mark the 19th anniversary of the first Religious Summit Meeting on Mount Hiei in 1987, hosted by Ven. Etai Yamada, Enryakuji's 253rd head priest, to commemorate the spirit of the Day of Prayer for World Peace at Assisi held at the initiative of Pope John Paul II in 1986. The Rissho Kosei-kai leaders attending this year's meeting were President Nichiko Niwano; Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of the External Affairs Department; and Rev. Kenichiro Nakamura, head of the Kyoto Church.
The opening address by Ven. Korei Hamanaka, president of the Tendai denomination, was followed by chanting of the Heart Sutra led by Ven. Kojun Handa, head priest of Manshu-in Temple of the Tendai denomination. Then, Ven. Eshin Watanabe, Enryakuji's 255th head priest, offered a prayer for peace. In his invocation, he expressed the hope that the teachings of Buddhism will influence people in conflict to end the vicious circle of violence and bring about world peace.
Rev. Nichiko Niwano, as chairman of Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan), mounted the platform with ten other representatives of Buddhism, Christianity, Shinto, and Sectarian Shinto. They and the other participants prayed in silence as the the peace bell tolled.
International Youth Committee of WCRP Appeals for Halt to Surge of Violence in Middle East
On July 25, considering the tense situation in the Middle East caused by the war between Israel and Hezbollah, the International Youth Committee (IYC) of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) issued a statement titled "An Urgent Appeal to Stop the Spiraling Violence in Lebanon and Across the Middle East."
Signed by Mr. Ziad Moussa, the Lebanese Christian coordinator of the IYC, and Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, the deputy coordinator of the IYC and director of Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Division, the urgent appeal was sent to all member organizations of the WCRP throughout the world. It was also delivered to all participants in regional preparatory meetings for the WCRP's World Youth Assembly, being held in Indonesia, the United States, Argentina, Japan, Tanzania, Georgia, Lebanon, Switzerland, and Israel.
Taking into account the results of the one of the preparatory meetings held in Israel, the appeal affirmed that the IYC should gather messages from religious youth asserting the dignity of human life amid the conflicts raging across the Middle East. The messages were to be compiled and presented to the competent religious and political authorities across the Middle East. On August 21 in the Phoenix Hall in Hiroshima, the opening forum of the World Youth Assembly was held under the title "Voices of Religious Youth from the Middle East," chaired by Mr. Baker al-Hiyari. Mr. Moussa announced that 10,382 messages had been sent from religious youth from around the world. Some of these were displayed on the screen above the hall's platform to a gathering of nearly 2,000 participating religious youths as well as ordinary citizens.
Peace Fund to Give Emergency Aid to Flood-damaged Communities in Japan
In mid-July, torrential rains caused serious damage in many parts of Japan, especially in Nagano Prefecture in central Japan and the San'in and Kyushu districts in western Japan. Heavy rains triggered floods and mudslides. More than twenty people were killed, and others lost their homes or had to evacuate temporarily. On July 22, after receiving news of the extent of the damage, the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund decided to give 2 million Japanese yen in emergency aid to six cities and towns of Nagano Prefecture, and on July 27 it also decided to give 2 million yen to Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu. The funds were presented to the cities and prefectures by leaders of local Rissho Kosei-kai churches. They will be used through the Japan Red Cross Society to rebuild damaged areas.
Interreligious Youth Meetings Held in Geneva and Jerusalem
In July two interreligious youth meetings were held in Switzerland and Israel under the auspices of the International Secretariat of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP). These were two of many regional preparatory meetings for WCRP's World Youth Assembly, to be held in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Kyoto in August shortly before the Eighth World Assembly of the WCRP (WCRP VIII). Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Division and vice-president of WCRP's International Youth Committee (IYC), attended both meetings.
In Switzerland the Summit of West European Religious Youth Leaders convened July 11-13 at a seminar house in a Geneva suburb, affiliated with the Protestant Church of Geneva. Twenty-four youth leaders representing the youth divisions of Europe's major religious communities--Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Sikh, Baha'i, and Buddhist--participated. In an opening address Rev. Matsumoto emphasized that today's youth around the world have the mission and responsibility to work for the resolution of conflicts and other major problems that beset humanity by acting hand in hand. The participants discussed the role of religious youth according to the theme of WCRP VIII, "Religions for Peace: Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security," and reported on their work in general and on their interfaith initiatives in particular. They also confirmed that they should promote further mutual understanding through interreligious dialogue in order to imbue themselves with the spirit of Europe as a continent whose ethnic and religious diversity must be respected.
In Israel the WCRP Religions for Peace Youth Meeting convened July 14-16 at the Ramat Rahel Guest House in Jerusalem. The participants included six Israelis and fifteen Palestinians, in cooperation with the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI) and the Palestinian Center for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development (Panorama). The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians being the most serious issue, the IYC decided to hold the meeting in Jerusalem. At the opening ceremony Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish, director of the ICCI, emphasized the importance of personal encounters between Israeli and Palestinian youths for candid dialogue on the war between Israel and Hezbollah.
During the meeting the participants attended a seminar titled "Human Security," presented by Mr. Walid Salem, a representative of Panorama. At an evening gathering of families that had lost members in Israeli attacks or as suicide bombers, the participants had an opportunity to learn that encounters without mutual understanding and dialogue create fear and a vicious circle of violence, and to appreciate the value of human life and the importance of respect for the human dignity of every individual.
Since last year the IYC has encouraged the participation of religious youths in regional preparatory meetings it has organized in Indonesia, the United States, Argentina, Japan, Tanzania, Georgia, and Lebanon, as well as in Switzerland and Israel. The number of participating religious youths totaled more than 860 from 80 countries.
Niwano Peace Foundation Allocates Grants in First Half of Fiscal 2006
In July the Niwano Peace Foundation announced that eight Japanese organizations would receive grants in the first half of fiscal 2006. The foundation allocated 4,954,000 Japanese yen for grants to support the activities of organizations or individuals that promote interreligious cooperation and work for world peace in the light of religious faith.
The activity grants are as follows: 804,000 yen to the Japan Burkina Faso Friendship Association, which supports the drilling of deep, pump-operated wells in Burkina Faso; 700,000 yen to the Asian Community Center 21 in Japan, which organizes joint symposiums on collaboration between nongovernmental organizations in Japan and the Philippines to eliminate poverty in the Philippines; 800,000 yen to Amnesty International Japan, which conducts a program of health checkups for foreigners detained by the Japanese Bureau of Immigration; 200,000 yen to the Japan Korea Student Forum, which held its 22nd forum Aug. 5-19 under the theme "The Bridge for Brand-new Tomorrow" in South Korea to promote mutual understanding between Japan and South Korea; 800,000 yen to Shapla Neer, Citizens' Committee in Japan for Overseas Support, which conducts public relations activities to provide education for girls who work for their parents in domestic service in Dhaka, Bangladesh; 750,000 yen to the Fukuoka NGO Network in Japan for training in methods of international cooperation and the work of nongovernmental organizations; 300,000 yen to the Waseda University Volunteer Center (WAVOC), which conducts the Rwanda project; and 600,000 yen to KEY: Organization of United Korean Youth in Japan, for its project to build friendly ties between China, Korea, and Japan.
Rissho Kosei-kai Announces Third World Sangha Assembly
In July Rissho Kosei-kai outlined the Third World Sangha Assembly, to be held in Tokyo October 13-15. It will be one of the pilgrimages to Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in commemoration of the centennial of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth. Some 1,500 members from eight churches and from branches in several countries around the world will gather at the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo as the venue of the assembly. The participants will renew their mission to disseminate the teachings of the Lotus Sutra through their study of the sutra's true spirit and the life of the founder.
Rissho Kosei-kai Members Honor Their Ancestors
About 3,600 members gathered on July 15 in the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo for the Ullambana ceremony of offerings to ancestors.
Following the offering at the altar by twenty young women members, Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chief executive of dissemination affairs, led members in chanting the sutra. As they chanted, the posthumous names of the departed were read out by Rev. Watanabe and some 200 representatives of all qualified Dharma teachers in Japan. President Nichiko Niwano offered a Buddhist prayer of merit transference and then burned incense before the altar.
After testimony by a member chosen from those assembled, Rev. Niwano made a speech, which can be summarized as follows. People can suffer physical illness and other troubles even if enlightened to the Dharma. The Dharma has always been omnipresent in the world, even before human enlightenment and the birth of Shakyamuni some 2,500 years ago. We owe our present existence to the past existence of our ancestors. Whatever we suffer, we should be grateful both for our birth as human beings and our ties to the precious teachings of the Buddha.
Rissho Kosei-kai Officers Visit UNRWA Office in Lebanon
Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, vice chairman of the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund, and Rev. Kazumasa Yoshinaga, head of the committee's secretariat, visited the office of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Beirut, Lebanon, on June 26.
Since 1989, UNRWA has received donations from the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund, which have paid for nursing scholarships for Palestine refugees and for job training of other refugees to relieve unemployment. The donations have helped 153 students so far.
Rev. Matsumoto and Rev. Yoshinaga met with four UNRWA officers, including Mr. Richard Cook, director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, and Ms. Afaf Younis, chief of UNRWA's Field Education Program in Lebanon. The UNRWA officers reported on the employment of scholarship recipients after graduation.
Afterward, the two Rissho Kosei-kai officers visited Makassed National College of Nursing (MNCN), also in Beirut, and met 13 scholarship students, and Rev. Matsumoto outlined the Donate-a-Meal Campaign, which raises money for the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund, and explained the spirit of the campaign.
Interreligious Youth Meeting Held in Beirut
On June 23-25 the Middle Eastern Inter-Religious Youth Meeting convened at a Christian retreat center in Saydet al-Jabal in northern Beirut, Lebanon. Under the theme "Religions for Peace: Confronting Violence and Shared Security," 36 Christians and Muslims from six countries of the Middle East and North Africa participated. The meeting was organized under the auspices of the International Secretariat of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) in cooperation with the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF). It was also one of many regional preparatory meetings for religious youths for WCRP's World Youth Assembly, to be held in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Kyoto in August shortly before the Eighth World Assembly of the WCRP (WCRP VIII) in Kyoto. Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Youth Division of Rissho Kosei-kai, participated in the meeting as vice-president of the WCRP's International Youth Committee. The Youth Board of the Japanese Committee of the WCRP (WCRP/Japan) selected 21 religious youths from its member organizations, such as Gedatsu-kai, Shoroku Shinto Yamatoyama, and Rissho Kosei-kai, and dispatched them to Lebanon for the meeting.
The situation in the Middle East remains tense after more than sixty years of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and with the chaos in Iraq since March 2003 under U.S. occupation. The most challenging forms of violence have included terrorism fomented by religious extremists and fundamentalists, and the rebellion of local youth against despots and occupying forces. In the context of this situation, WCRP's International Youth Committee has given the highest priority to the convening of this interreligious youth meeting in Beirut.
During the three-day meeting, the participants discussed ongoing forms of violence they face and how the violence affects people in the Middle East. They also deepened their understanding of the role of religious youth in the region and confirmed the importance of their solidarity and cooperation for peace. Mr. Elias El-Halabi, regional secretary of WSCF Middle East, emphasized the significance of building a partnership between the WCRP and the WSCF during the meeting. He also expressed his belief that members of the WSCF, who have created a worldwide network, would contribute to peace projects carried out by the WCRP.
At the closing ceremony the participants adopted the "Beirut Declaration" as their message to WCRP VIII. In his address, Rev. Matsumoto described the importance of religious youth around the world building solidarity in cooperation for peace.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Announces Grant Recipients for Second Term of Fiscal 2006
The Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced in July the grant recipients for the second term of fiscal 2006. The sum of 10.4 million Japanese yen was allocated to four projects in Japan and abroad.
The fund has supported the Geneva-based International Peace Bureau (IPB). With "disarmament for development" as the focus of its activities, the IPB promotes projects to raise awareness of disarmament issues, affect government policies, and form citizens' international coalitions for disarmament. The fund allotted 1.9 million yen to the IPB. The Peace Fund donated 2 million yen to the United Nations Associations of Japan, as part of the funding for the second Symposium in Ishikawa on International Peace and Environment, to be held in September in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture. The fund donated 5 million yen to the World Food Programme to assist its project to feed an estimated 6.25 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, who have suffered a succession of droughts. The fund also donated 1.5 million yen in emergency aid to Nav Bharat Jagriti Kendra in India, to support its projects to secure safe drinking water in the Indian state of Jharkhand, where a serious drought has hit both people and livestock.
WCRP/Japan Holds Second Seminar for WCRP VIII
On June 23, the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) held a seminar in the Cologne Hall of St. Mary's Cathedral in Tokyo. It was the second preliminary seminar for Japanese participants in the Eighth World Assembly of the WCRP (WCRP VIII), to be held in Kyoto in August. Some 150 people took part, including representative religionists of the member organizations of WCRP/Japan as well as volunteers who will assist at the assembly. Under the theme of WCRP VIII, "Religions for Peace: Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security," the participants deepened their understanding of topics to be discussed at WCRP VIII.
After the opening address delivered by President Nichiko Niwano as president of the WCRP/Japan, Dr. Yoshiaki Sanada, director of WCRP/Japan's Peace Research Institute, outlined the structure of participation in WCRP VIII, comparing it with that of the first assembly held 36 years earlier at the same venue in Kyoto. He said that twice as many countries will be represented at WCRP VIII as at WCRP I.
In the subsequent panel discussion, chaired by Rev. Keizo Yamada, professor emeritus at Sophia University, the four participating institute members were Dr. Yasuaki Nara, professor emeritus at Komazawa University; Rev. Minoru Sonoda, head priest of Chichibu Shrine; Mr. Toshio Kuroda, professor at the International University of Japan; and Rev. Francis Renta Nishihara, associate professor at Rikkyo University. They discussed the importance of interreligious dialogue and cooperation in overcoming violence. A question-and-answer session was followed by the closing address by Rev. Mitsuhiro Fukata, a director of WCRP/Japan.
President Niwano Meets Women Leaders of Rissho Kosei-kai Overseas Branches in Asia
On June 15, President Niwano greeted 21 women leaders of Rissho Kosei-kai churches in South and Southeast Asia in the lobby of the Horin-kaku Guest Hall at the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo. The leaders visited Japan to participate in a special seminar for women held by Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia during June 7-18.
The participants were leaders of churches in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, and Thailand. On their visit to Japan, they participated in various programs at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters, including an intensive seminar on Founder Nikkyo Niwano, Rissho Kosei-kai's mission, and key points of the Lotus Sutra, the organization's basic scripture.
The program also included five days' religious training at local churches in the Tokyo District, where they took part in dissemination activities with Japanese members.
On June 15, after they attended a memorial service at the newly renovated Great Sacred Hall, Rev. Teruo Saito, minister of Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia, led them to the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. There they met with President Niwano, and he praised their spirit of seeking the Way, mentioning the transmission of Buddhism to Japan from overseas by seekers of the Way. When the president asked the women about the practice of respect for one's parents in their countries, a member from Sri Lanka said she had deepened her understanding of this virtue by witnessing the example of members of Rissho Kosei-kai in Japan.
Shinshuren Holds Board Meeting at Shishinkai
On June 13, the twenty-third Board of Directors of Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) held its seventh meeting at the headquarters of Shishinkai in Isehara City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Twenty-five directors participated, including the federation's chairman, Rev. Nichiko Niwano. Before the meeting, all of the participants gathered in the main worship hall of Shishinkai. There they prayed for world peace and offered a silent prayer for the repose of the late Rev. Michio Matsubara, a trustee of Shinshuren and Rissho Kosei-kai's external relations director, who died in March.
At the meeting, the participants deliberated on and adopted various measures, including the election of trustees for a twenty-fourth term, a report on activities in 2005, a financial report for 2005, the reform of nonprofit corporation system, and commemorative events for Shinshuren's fifty-fifth anniversary this year. For the anniversary, it was announced that Shinshuren would hold two conferences and two workshops by the autumn of 2007 and publish a record of them. Participants then heard reports on Shinshuren activities carried out by subsidiary commissions.
Chinese Religious Leaders Visit Rissho Kosei-kai in Tokyo
On June 6, President Nichiko Niwano welcomed nine members of the China Committee on Religion and Peace (CCRP), headed by Mr. Yu Zhengui, its secretary-general, in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo. Also present were Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of the General Secretariat, and Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of the External Affairs Department. Rev. Yoshitaka Hatakeyama also joined the meeting as the acting secretary-general of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP).
The CCRP members visited Japan to cement friendly ties between Chinese and Japanese religionists in preparation for the Eighth World Assembly of the WCRP (WCRP VIII) in August in Kyoto.
In their conversation, President Niwano, as chairman of the WCRP VIII organizing committee, outlined preparations for the assembly. Mr. Yu stressed the importance of solidarity between Japanese and Chinese religionists, which had been promoted by Mr. Zhao Puchu, former president of the Buddhist Association of China, and Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, founder of Rissho Kosei-kai. Mr. Yu also explained the CCRP's structure, saying it comprises members of the Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, and Christian faiths in China.
International Faith Dissemination Group Holds Religious Web Seminar
Rissho Kosei-kai's International Faith Dissemination Group (IFDG) conducted a special religious seminar for East Asian members on June 2-3. The seminar was televised on the Internet, and 112 members of Rissho Kosei-kai of Mongolia and Sakhalin as well as of Korean Rissho Kosei-kai took part. The participants saw one another projected from a computer onto wall screens in their churches, in images streamed from a server equipped for Web conferencing.
The seminar included religious testimony by a Korean member of Korean Rissho Kosei-kai. Members of the participating churches exchanged views on their dissemination activities. Rev. Koichi Kawamoto, deputy director of the IFDG, hosted a special program called "The Founder." Through Web TV, the participants also joined in a memorial service on June 4 in the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo, chanting the Lotus Sutra along with fellow members. Welcoming Rev. Yuji Numata, head of the Dissemination Department, the participants also experienced an online hoza counseling session with members in other countries.
Little Bags of Dreams Campaign for 2006 Commences
On June 1, the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign, a Rissho Kosei-kai annual peace program for juvenile members, started at all churches throughout Japan. Children participate in the three-month campaign, run by the Youth Division and External Affairs Department, by preparing small cloth bags of gifts at home with their parents or at their churches with friends and other members. Each bag contains school supplies, small daily necessities, toys, and cards with messages of friendship to other children overseas who have lost their homes or family members as a result of war or other armed conflicts. One of the project's aims is to help elementary school and junior high school pupils grow spiritually as willing volunteers in this campaign in the light of the spirit of the Donate-a-Meal Campaign.
The Youth Division and the External Affairs Department also developed various public relations materials to promote the campaign in churches as well as members' homes. One of the materials is a DVD showing groups of Rissho Kosei-kai children and their parents handing out small bags of gifts to children overseas with the cooperation of NGOs.
The campaign is being promoted at all churches in Japan. At Ageo Church, for instance, a woman member and her child who visited Azerbaijan in March and April as members of a parent-child volunteer group spoke about their distribution of bags, illustrating their talk with photographs they took.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Announces Grant Recipients for First Term of Fiscal 2006
The Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund's executive committee announced in June the grant recipients for the first term of fiscal 2006. The committee allocates funds for the following four categories: joint projects with other organizations, independent projects, aid grants, and emergency aid. In this first term, the sum of 13,883,100 Japanese yen was allocated to six projects.
In the category of the joint projects with other organizations, the executive committee decided to donate funds to the following five organizations:
(1) 1.5 million yen to the Services for the Health in Asian African Regions (SHARE) for its Primary Health Care Program in Ubonratchathani Province in northeastern Thailand, which aims to prevent HIV/AIDS infection and educates villagers about the disease.
(2) 2 million yen to the Japan Association for Refugees for its project to help foreign refugees in Japan find jobs and educate the Japanese about the plight of refugees.
(3) 2 million yen to the Corrymeela Community, which is the 14th recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize and has promoted reconciliation between the Catholic and Protestant communities of Northern Ireland.
(4) 2 million yen to the Campaign for the Children of Palestine, which provides dental care and health education for children in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
(5) 3,383,100 yen to the Global Security Institute (GSI) which supports the Article VI Forum hosted by the Middle Powers Initiative (MPI) to reduce the nuclear danger and eliminate nuclear weapons.
The fund also allocated 3 million yen to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) for the training of nurses in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Gives Emergency Support to Java Earthquake Victims
In May the executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced the donation of 2 million Japanese yen to the Institute for Inter-faith Dialogue in Indonesia (Interfidei) to help earthquake victims in Indonesia.
According to the report of June 5 by the Indonesian government's department of social services, in the early morning of May 27 a 6.2 magnitude earthquake killed 5,782 people and injured 36,299. More than 87,000 houses were damaged or destroyed. Bantul Province suffered the most damage, with the epicenter near the ancient town of Yogyakarta.
Interfidei is a supporting organization of the 2002 Asian Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP) in Yogyakarta. The organization opened its facilities in the town as shelters for refugees, and the money donated by the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund was to be used to buy food, drinking water, and medicine.
Young Rissho Kosei-kai Members Work for Peace on Annual Youth Day
On May 21, Rissho Kosei-kai's 37th annual Youth Day was observed throughout the country with the motto "Raising the Winds of Social Change," which the Youth Division adopted in 1999. On this day some 21,000 young members throughout Japan united to promote bodhisattva activities contributing to the betterment of society and the building of world peace. Some 55,000 adult members and members of the general public joined in the activities. At noon all the participants joined in a silent prayer for peace. Youth Day serves as an opportunity for young members to learn firsthand about problems in their own communities and to take the lead in tackling them, while promoting interfaith cooperation. In acknowledging the significance of the centennial of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth this year and the convening of the Eighth World Assembly of the World Conference of Religions for Peace and the World Youth Conference in August, the activities were also designed to encourage young people to share the founder's wish for world peace and adopt a global perspective, while at the same time working to solve various problems in their communities. In line with these aims, youth in the Kinki District convened the Kinki Religious Youth Forum, at which some 320 members from 11 religious organizations took part and discussed the roles of people of faith. Members of the Toyama Church visited local temples and shrines and promoted talks with clerics and lay believers, studying basic doctrines of the various denominations and discussing future cooperation. Members of the Itabashi Church in Tokyo cooperated with members of the Konkokyo Church of Tokiwadai in removing litter from city streets, while Miyazaki Church members in Kyushu cleaned public lavatories in the precincts of the Miyazaki Shrine. Other activities included visiting homes for the aged and carrying out fund-raising campaigns for UNICEF, activities that have been conducted at several churches every year. The Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa was also promoted in many places. Tokyo's Chofu Church held a seminar for young members on the peace clause of the Constitution of Japan.
WCRP International Council of Trustees Meets at UN Church Center in New York
The World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) held a meeting of its International Council of Trustees on May 15 at the Church Center at the UN Plaza in New York. About thirty trustees attended, as well as Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, WCRP vice moderator, and Dr. William F. Vendley, WCRP secretary-general. From Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Norio Sakai, an honorary executive board member, took part as one of the trustees.
At the meeting, it was reported that the Iraqi Interreligious Council for Peace, affiliated with the WCRP, held an emergency meeting in London in April, and the participants decided on concrete action for future programs of religionists in Iraq. The meeting also served as the opportunity for the trustees to review the WCRP's recent activities.
Dr. Vendley also reported on the progress of preparations for the Eighth World Assembly of the WCRP, which will be held in Kyoto in August. He urged those attending the meeting to cooperate as fully as possible with one another to ensure the success of WCRP VIII.
Rissho Kosei-kai Holds Ceremony to Mark End of Great Sacred Hall's Renovation
On May 14, Rissho Kosei-kai celebrated the completed renovation of its Great Sacred Hall, one of this year's projects commemorating the centennial of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth. Some 1,000 people took part in the ceremony, including leaders and members of Rissho Kosei-kai and workers on the renovation. The ceremony was broadcast to all the churches in Japan by satellite TV.
The ceremony began with Kuon-shiki (A Musical Offering) performed by Stomu Yamash'ta, a world-renowned percussionist, followed by the playing of a recorded Dharma talk by Founder Niwano. In his greetings, Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi described the significance of the building of the Great Sacred Hall in 1964 and reported on the renovation process and the hall's new facilities. In a congratulatory message, Mr. Seigow Matsuoka, director of the Editorial Engineering Laboratory, who supervised the concept and design of the Nikkyo Niwano Memorial Museum in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall, said one of the functions of sacred buildings for many religions is the safekeeping of historic relics. President Nichiko Niwano encouraged those attending the ceremony to take the occasion to renew their commitment to the faith and self-purification.
Nikkyo Niwano Memorial Museum Dedicated
On May 14 a ceremony was held to dedicate the Nikkyo Niwano Memorial Museum within the Horin-kaku Guest Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters. The museum has been one of the projects commemorating the centennial of the founder's birth. The opening address by the newly appointed director of the museum, Rev. Hiroshi Niwano, was followed by a ribbon cutting by President Nichiko Niwano, Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi, Rev. Hiroshi Niwano, and Mr. Seigow Matsuoka, chief supervisor of planning the museum.
Various articles and documents related to the life of Founder Nikkyo Niwano are displayed in booths throughout the museum. The museum also features a symbolic "base of memories," which projects seasonal scenes of the founder's hometown of Suganuma, Niigata Prefecture, on the ceiling.
The design also depicts key events in the founder's life: his boyhood; encounter with the Lotus Sutra; the construction of the Great Sacred Hall; collaboration with world religious leaders to promote the world assemblies of the WCRP; and his wish to disseminate the Lamp of the Dharma to younger generations. The museum is open to all who desire to deepen their knowledge of the founder's life and work.
IBC Presents Lecture on Buddhism in English
The Tokyo-based International Buddhist Congregation, affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai, presented its seventh English-language lecture on Buddhism on May 13 at the temple Joenji of the Nichiren Sect in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Thirty-six people attended, including foreign residents in Japan from such countries as the United States and Britain. The IBC's international advisor and religious philosopher, Dr. Gene Reeves, gave a lecture titled "The Lotus Sutra: The Stories of the Grand Assembly and Fame Seeker Bodhisattva." He said the study of the Lotus Sutra aids in self-improvement for leading a better life and that his audience of inherent bodhisattvas could attain buddhahood through practice of the sutra's teachings.
IBC's series of lectures on Buddhism in English has been given at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters, Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku, and Joenji since 2004, with Dr. Reeves explaining the essence of Buddhism according to various interpretations of the Lotus Sutra.
23rd Niwano Peace Prize Awarded to Rabbis for Human Rights
The Niwano Peace Foundation presented the 23rd Niwano Peace Prize to Rabbis for Human Rights, a group of ordained rabbis and rabbinical students in Israel working for the defense of human rights of both Jews and Palestinians. The presentation took place in Tokyo on May 11 in the presence of the Israeli ambassador to Japan, H.E. Eli Cohen, and representatives of Japanese political and religious circles. The prize is awarded annually to a living individual or an organization making a significant contribution to world peace through promoting interreligious cooperation. Rev. Nichiko Niwano, the foundation's president, presented a citation, a medal, and an award of 20 million Japanese yen to the representatives of Rabbis for Human Rights. Rabbi Ma'ayan Turner, chairperson of Rabbis for Human Rights, made an acceptance address.
The group's activities focus on four main fields: education, nonviolent fieldwork, legal campaigns, and interfaith activities.
Second Buddhist-Christian Symposium Meets at Rissho Kosei-kai and Enryakuji
The Second Buddhist-Christian Symposium was held at Rissho Kosei-kai's Osaka Church and the temple Enryakuji on Mount Hiei near Kyoto, April 24-27, under the theme "Buddhist Dharma and Compassion--Christian Agape." The Tendai Buddhist Denomination of Japanese Buddhism and Rissho Kosei-kai cosponsored the symposium with the assistance of the Focolare Movement, a worldwide Catholic movement based in Italy. Some 80 people representing Buddhism of both the Theravada and Mahayana traditions and the Focolare Movement took part. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, President Nichiko Niwano; Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, director of the General Secretariat; Dr. Michio T. Shinozaki, president of the Gakurin Seminary; as well as Rev. Koichi Sono, director of the Kinki District; and some Kinki District church heads took part. The participants learned from one another about the basics of their religions and ways of engagement in society, and testified to their faith.
At the opening ceremony, after a message was read out from Ms. Chiara Lubich, president of the Focolare Movement, Ven. Korei Hamanaka, president of the Tendai Denomination, and President Niwano delivered addresses. President Niwano expressed his hope that all participants would learn from one another's religions through the symposium and thereby deepen their understanding of their own religion. In the course of the three-day symposium, six sessions were held, which discussed the themes "Harmony in Christianity and Buddhism--the Interaction between Individual and Society," "The Other in Christianity and Buddhism," "Faith and Social Life," "Revival of Morality in Contemporary Society--Agape and Dharma in Today's World," "Faith and Suffering," and "The Role of Interfaith Dialogue in Today's World." In his presentation on the concept of "the other," Dr. Shinozaki described the meaning of awakening in the Lotus Sutra, declaring that supreme awakening is premised on the awakening of the other and that the awakening of the self should consist of compassion for all living beings. On the evening of the final day, the participants moved to Enryakuji, where they took part in a ceremony of Christian and Buddhist prayers.
Interreligious Youth Meeting Holds in Bakuriani, Georgia
The Central and Eastern European Regional Religious Youth Meeting convened April 16-18 under the theme "Inter-Religious and Inter-Confessional Dialogue: For Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security" in Bakuriani, a resort town in southeastern Georgia. The meeting was organized under the auspices of the International Secretariat of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) with the participation of some 30 young people from 15 countries of central and eastern Europe, some of which are former republics of the Soviet Union. The event was one of many regional preparatory meetings for WCRP's World Youth Assembly, to be held in Hiroshima and Kyoto in August shortly before the Eighth World Assembly of the WCRP (WCRP VIII) in Kyoto. The meeting was one of several interreligious meetings of youth leaders on the regional level-in Asia, North America, South America, and Africa-sponsored by the WCRP since last year. Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Division and vice president of WCRP's International Youth Committee, was present from Japan.
While democracy has come to these areas since the Soviet collapse, various problems concerning religion and human rights remain unsolved. In pointing out the issues Georgia faces, Mr. Sozar Subari, a Georgia state ombudsman, described in his opening address the corruption of public servants and conflicts between the Georgian Orthodox Church and religious minorities, including Muslims. He said Georgia would benefit from religious youth coming from various countries to share beliefs transcending religious and sectarian differences.
During the three-day meeting, the participants discussed some of the most disturbing and challenging forms of violence that they had identified, such as ongoing ethnic conflicts; territorial disputes; violence arising from intolerance, ignorance, and prejudice; and violence against women and children. At the closing ceremony the participants adopted the Bakuriani Declaration as their message to WCRP VIII.
Rissho Kosei-kai Representatives Attends the First World Buddhist Forum in China
The First World Buddhist Forum convened at Hangzhou and Zhoushan in China's Zhejiang Province during April 13-16. More than 1,200 Buddhist clerics and scholars from thirty-seven countries around the world attended the forum, sponsored by the Buddhist Association of China and the China Religious Culture Communication Association. Thirty-eight Japanese Buddhist leaders were present, including Ven. Korei Hamanaka, president of the Tendai sect; Rev. Kozui Suguri, former abbot of the Nakayama-dera branch of the Shingon sect; and Rev. Kansen Mochida, chairman of the Japan-China Friendship Religious Consultation Organization. Rev. Katsumasa Imai, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's Chuo Academic Research Institute, also participated.
The forum was proposed by Chinese Buddhist circles to consider a world in which technological and material advances contrast with moral decline, environmental destruction, and the threat of terrorism. Chinese Buddhists urged that Buddhists around the world should play important roles in helping people purify their hearts and minds and seek positions of leadership in their societies and communities. After the opening session on April 13, seventy-three of the participants exchanged views in panel discussions. On April 16, the forum's venue moved to Putuoshan Temple in the Zhoushan archipelago, one of the four most sacred Buddhist sites in China. Then 108 Buddhists representing all the participants recited a prayer for world peace. The forum concluded with the Putuoshan Declaration emphasizing every Buddhist's duty to work for world peace.
Niwano Peace Foundation Starts its 2006 South Asia Program in India and Sri Lanka
The Niwano Peace Foundation announced in May that it would start new projects in India and Sri Lanka as part of the foundation's South Asia Program. Under the annual theme "Marginalized Groups," the program's advisory committee chose the following three nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in India to assist them with the financial arrangements:
(1) Antyodaya Chetana Mandal (ACM), which supports the Lodha, a tribal minority that lives by hunting and gathering in the Mayurbhanj District in Orissa State. ACM provides education, including hygiene and vocational training, to the Lodha, who have been subjected to social discrimination, and promotes acceptance of the Lodha in administrative organizations as well as local communities. (2) Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives (AALI), a civic group of female lawyers who help oppressed women in the Lucknow District in Uttar Pradesh. The program supports their newly operating Humsafar: Women's Support Centre in Crisis to help women subjected to communal violence and discrimination. (3) Arushi, which supports physically challenged youths in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh State. The organization offers vocational training for youth in computing and traditional handicrafts. It also promotes social awareness of the plight of the handicapped to help them find jobs.
The South Asia Program's advisory committee will also begin supporting NGOs in Sri Lanka this year under the annual theme "IDPs [Internal Displaced Persons] and Human Resource Development." It is said that some 350,000 people were displaced during the twenty years of civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The project supports two NGOs in the country. One of them, Agromart Outreach Foundation (AOF), is a Sinhalese-based organization that provides vocational training for minority Muslim women living in refugee camps 120 kilometers north of Colombo. The other, Trincomalee District Development Centre (TDDC), is a Tamil-based organization that helps displaced people return to their hometowns. The South Asia Program is financed by Rissho Kosei-kai's Peace Fund.
Rissho Kosei-kai Sends Delegates to the Philippines
During April 6-10, five Rissho Kosei-kai members led by Rev. Akitomo Ishiguro, director of the Minami-Kyushu District, visited Bataan Province in the Philippines. Their visit was a part of the Buddhist organization's annual observance of holding memorial services for victims of the Second World War and promoting solidarity between Filipinos and Japanese.
On April 8, they visited the Friendship Tower at Bagac, near the starting point of the Bataan Death March. During Second World War, Japanese invading forces made several hundred thousand American and Filipino prisoners of war walk a great distance to a POW camp, and many perished along the way. At the Friendship Tower, members of Rissho Kosei-kai held a memorial service for all the war dead and joined the Bataan Christian Youth Civic Circle (BCYCC) in a special ceremony of prayers for world peace. The tower was built in 1975 with financial support from the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund as a symbol of friendly ties between Filipinos and Japanese.
On April 9, the visiting Rissho Kosei-kai members joined a celebration of the national Bataan Day festival on Mount Samat in Pilar to pray for world peace. During their visit they also traveled to the Manila area and held a memorial service for the Japanese war dead interred in a cemetery at Muntinlupa.
Rissho Kosei-kai Members Celebrate Shakyamuni's Birth
The anniversary of Shakyamuni's birth was celebrated on April 8 at Rissho Kosei-kai's Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo and all of its churches in Japan. Some 3,600 members gathered in the newly renovated hall.
The ceremony began with an offering at the altar by twenty young women members in saris representing all dissemination areas in Japan, as the Kosei Choir sang a hymn in honor of the Buddha's birth. Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chief executive of dissemination affairs, led the sutra chanting. President Nichiko Niwano then recited a prayer of dedication to the Buddha and poured sweet hydrangea tea over a statue of the infant Buddha on the platform.
After religious testimony by a member, President Niwano gave a Dharma talk, which can be summarized as follows. The Buddha's birthday is an occasion to rededicate ourselves to the spread of his teachings. When we appreciate that we are born human with the capacity to understand the Buddha's teachings, we feel truly fulfilled. We should feel joy and gratitude for the life we are given. We can relieve human suffering only by seeing that all existence is interconnected. Since we are born with the ability to see with the Buddha's eye of wisdom, we can overcome human suffering by opening that eye.
After President Niwano's talk, 133 juvenile members of Rissho Kosei-kai, led by members of the Kosei Gagaku Society, walked in a procession from the Great Sacred Hall to make an offering at the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle, dedicated to Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, the founder of Rissho Kosei-kai. Before the stupa, they scattered petals of paper mandarava flowers symbolizing their joyful encounter with the Buddha's teachings under the founder's guidance.
On or around the same day, Rissho Kosei-kai members of various churches in Japan placed images of the infant Buddha in small pagodas near railway stations, in shopping centers, and in parks, inviting passers-by to pour sweet hydrangea tea over the image to express their veneration.
Rissho Kosei-kai Families Visit Northern Ireland, Lebanon, and Azerbaijan
From March 23 through April 3, three volunteer groups of Rissho Kosei-kai parents and their children visited Northern Ireland, Lebanon, and the Republic of Azerbaijan separately.
The visits were part of the Buddhist organization's peace project called the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign. In this project, juvenile Rissho Kosei-kai members at elementary and secondary schools throughout Japan make small bags and collect toys and school supplies to put in them. Representative children travel to countries of the intended recipients and hand out the bags in a spirit of Buddhist prayer, compassion, and donation to children who have lost their homes and family members through civil war or other armed conflict.
In Northern Ireland, a group visited eleven elementary schools and handed out bags to the children with the assistance of the Corrymeela Community, the 14th recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize in 1997. The group also visited the Peace Wall in West Belfast, which separates Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. At the wall, which is topped with barbed wire, the group held a memorial service for those who died in the conflicts between Protestants and Catholics in the U.K.
In Lebanon, a group visited Palestinian refugee camps and handed out bags to the children. Since Israel's independence in 1948, many Palestinians have lived as refugees under harsh conditions with no civil rights. The group then moved on to the capital, Beirut, and visited the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. On September 16, 1982, thousands of innocent Palestinian refugees including children were slaughtered by Lebanese Christian militiamen in revenge for the assassination of their leader, Bashir Gemayel. The group laid a wreath at the site of the Sabra and Shatila Massacre.
The group in Azerbaijan visited schools for the children of Chechen refugees and other displaced persons. In cooperation with Hayat, a local nongovernmental organization (NGO), they donated bags to schoolchildren who were among the victims of armed conflict between Chechnya and Russia, and Azerbaijan and Armenia, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and their countries' achievement of independence.
During last year's campaign, Rissho Kosei-kai collected 47,669 bags. Some were also presented to children in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and the Gaza Strip with the help of local NGOs with friendly ties to Rissho Kosei-kai in Japan.
WCRP/Japan Holds Seminar of Religionists on Peace
On March 7 the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) held its 32nd seminar for religionists on peace at the Kyoto International Conference Hall in Kyoto. It was the first preliminary seminar for Japanese participants in the Eighth World Assembly of the WCRP (WCRP VIII), to be held in Kyoto in August. Some 300 religious leaders of WCRP/Japan member organizations took part.
In his opening address Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of WCRP/Japan, spoke of the need to recall the selfless efforts many religious leaders have made since the WCRP's early days to promote world peace, and he emphasized that everyone should strive together to fulfill their predecessors' wish for world peace.
Rev. Juan Masia, who heads the Institute of Life Ethics at Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid and is a special fellow of WCRP/Japan's Peace Research Institute, delivered a keynote address, titled "Violence and Religion--Conflicts or Reconciliation: The Human Choice." In his speech he mentioned the Madrid train attacks of March 2004 and emphasized that religionists should not only work together for world peace but recognize the contradictions in their behavior, such as heedless intolerance. He also emphasized the importance of achieving personal spiritual harmony as a basis for widening the circle of harmony in society.
In the following panel discussion, members of WCRP/Japan's Peace Research Institute took up the main theme of WCRP VIII: "Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security." The panelists, chaired by Professor Yoshiaki Sanada of Chuo University, were Rev. Ryumyo Yamazaki, a professor at Musashino University, Rev. Keizo Yamada, a professor emeritus from Sophia University, and Rev. Masia. These three made keynote speeches.
Rev. Yamazaki pointed out the need for fresh approaches to tackling realistically the issues of violence and conflict, promoting peace education in schools, and embodying the spirit of nonviolence and civil disobedience. Rev. Yamada, reflecting on his three years' experience in East Timor where, as a Jesuit priest, he helped found a local community based on self-reliance, stressed the importance of promoting a spirit of mutual aid for living in harmony. Rev. Masia, in further remarks after his keynote address, emphasized the significance of interreligious dialogue, pointing out that in our encounters with people of other faiths, we can learn from one another and realize both the value of our own faith and of beliefs that differ from ours.
Professor Sanada proposed that all participants in WCRP VIII be reminded of the aspirations of the religious leaders who gathered for WCRP I thirty years ago in Kyoto.
WCRP/Japan Holds Meetings of Boards of Directors and Councilors
On March 7 the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) held the 90th meeting of its board of directors as well as the 87th meeting of its board of councilors, at the Kyoto International Conference Hall. Fifty-five people participated. Following an address by Rev. Nichiko Niwano in his capacity as president of WCRP/Japan, the participants discussed WCRP/Japan's financial and personnel management. They agreed that the Most Ven. Eiin Yasuda, chief abbot of the temple Yakushiji in Nara and chief priest of the Hosso sect of Japanese Buddhism, should become managing director of WCRP/Japan. Various committees and other working groups of WCRP/Japan also delivered reports.
President Niwano Addresses Japanese Host Committee for WCRP VIII
On March 7 the first meeting of the Japanese Host Committee for the Eighth World Assembly of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP VIII) was held at the Kyoto International Conference Hall in Kyoto, the historic site of WCRP I in 1970 and the future site of WCRP VIII in August 26-29. This meeting followed the 90th meeting of the board of directors and the 87th meeting of board of councilors of the Japanese Committee of WCRP (WCRP/Japan) in the same hall.
The organizing committee consisted of sixty two members of WCRP/Japan. They included Rev. Nichiko Niwano (chairman), president of Rissho Kosei-kai; Rev. Takeyasu Miyamoto (vice-chairman), president of Myochikai; Rev. Takeshi Nishida (vice-chairman), director of Ittoen; and Rev. Mitsuo Miyake (vice-chairman), chief minister-designate of the Konko Church of Izuo. The executive committee comprises twelve members drawn from the directors and auditors. Forty committee members are councilors and ten are consultants from WCRP/Japan's Peace Research Institute. Under the chairmanship of Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, the chairman of Myochikai, the members of the secretariat for WCRP VIII's Japanese host committee met three times.
The meeting opened with greetings from Rev. Nichiko Niwano, in which he pledged to do his best as chairman, saying, "We would like to greet WCRP VIII with a great show of support from all those who have attended this meeting."
The meeting also included a progress report on preparations for WCRP VIII. The committee discussed the official delegation from Japanese religious circles. It also confirmed various events to be scheduled before and after WCRP VIII.
Rissho Kosei-kai Marks Sixty-eighth Anniversary
On March 5 Rissho Kosei-kai commemorated its sixty-eighth anniversary in the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo and at local churches throughout Japan. Thirty-four hundred members attended the ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall from throughout the country, and the event was relayed to all churches in Japan by satellite TV.
It was the first anniversary celebration in two years to be held in the Great Sacred Hall, since the hall had been closed for renovation. It began with a prelude, Myoongu (Offering of Wonderful Sounds), played by the composer, Kim Shin, on a synthesizer. Then twenty young women members in kimonos representing all the membership districts in Japan brought offerings to the altar. President-designate Kosho Niwano led the sutra chanting, and President Niwano offered a prayer of dedication.
Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi then addressed the gathering, and he said it was especially fitting that the centennial of Founder Niwano's birth coincides with great progress in the renovation of the Great Sacred Hall and with the Eighth World Assembly of the World Conference of Religions for Peace in Kyoto. After that, a member testified to her experience of the teachings of Buddhism. Then Rev. Mimasaka Higuchi, an honorary president of the Japan Muslim Association, delivered a congratulatory address. He said the true significance of Islam is in its devotion to God and world peace and that Islam has much in common with the spirit of the One Vehicle promoted by Rissho Kosei-kai. The Muslim leader said he hoped the Buddhist organization's members would continue their efforts for peace in a world where people so far forget themselves that self-righteousness and intolerance lead to conflict.
Then, in his Dharma talk, affirming the organization's guiding principle for 2006, President Niwano explained the importance of disseminating the teachings in the spirit of Shakyamuni as quoted in the Lotus Sutra: "I have been born into this world so that all living beings may be saved and attain happiness." He pointed out that everyone must strive to understand and apply Shakyamuni's teachings in their own way. Finally, he urged that Rissho Kosei-kai's sixty-eighth anniversary be made an occasion for engraving in the heart of every member the Buddha's final words to his followers: "Make yourself the light, make the Dharma your light."
African Religious Youths Meet for WCRP Youth Preparatory Meeting
On February 24-25, a pan-African regional meeting for religious youth leaders took place at a hotel in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, under the auspices of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP). It was designed as an opportunity for the participants to prepare themselves to take the lead in advocating nonviolence and peaceful coexistence in the continent. Some 70 youth delegates from 15 countries took part, including seven from Japan. Rev. Michito Miyake, president of the Youth Board of the Japanese Committee of WCRP (WCRP/Japan), and Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Division and vice president of WCRP International Youth Committee, joined the meeting as observers.
During the two-day gathering, youth delegates attended presentations with such themes as "Religions for Peace World Assembly and the Unique Role of Religious Youth," "Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security: Role of Religious Youth Leaders," "WCRP Africa Program Reports: Women Mobilization, Conflict Transformation, and Children Advocacy," and "Building an African Inter-Religious Youth Network within the African Council of Religious Leaders (ACRL)."
In the presentation on "Importance and history of Inter-Religious Collaboration in Africa," Mr. Abubakar Francis, special envoy to the WCRP's secretary-general, explained that African villages have a history of religious harmony in which many families of different religious backgrounds live together amicably and decide many things related to their village life.
In the resolutions and the communique adopted on the final day of the meeting, the youth leaders committed themselves to foster collaboration and networking among religious youth structures at national, regional, and pan-African levels; to participate or seek to participate in peace and conflict transformation or reconciliation initiatives in the continent; to develop mechanisms and strategies to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS, poverty, child labor and abuse, small arms proliferation, and illiteracy; and to take active roles as leaders to address challenges that limit the potential of the youth.
The meeting was one of the many preparatory meetings for the World Youth Assembly to be held in Hiroshima and Kyoto shortly before the Eighth World Assembly of the WCRP (WCRP VIII), also in Kyoto, in August. At the meeting, youth leaders elected representative delegates to both the World Youth Assembly and WCRP VIII. Similar youth meetings were held in Tokyo (January 25-26), Cordoba, Argentina (November 4-6, 2005), and New York (November 1, 2005). Before August, similar youth meetings are to be held in the Middle East and Europe. The WCRP established the African Council of Religious Leaders (ACRL), a regional committee, in 2003, as well as 21 national committees in Africa.
Israeli Rabbinic Organization, Rabbis for Human Rights, to Receive 23rd Niwano Peace Prize
The Niwano Peace Foundation has announced it will award the 23rd Niwano Peace Prize to Rabbis for Human Rights, a Jewish rabbinic organization in Israel committed to promoting human rights, justice, and compassion for all people in Israel and Palestine. The announcement was made at a news conference at the Kyoto branch of Rissho Kosei-kai on February 21. The official presentation will take place at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo on May 11. The president of the Niwano Peace Foundation, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, will award a certificate, a medal, and 20 million Japanese yen to representatives of the organization.
Rabbis for Human Rights was founded as a not-for-profit organization in 1988 in response to serious abuses of the human rights of Palestinians by Israel's military authorities in their attempt to suppress the first Intifada. The organization now brings together more than 130 Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, and Reconstructionist rabbis and students in a committed fellowship for justice and reconciliation.
As a rabbinic voice of conscience in Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights is not affiliated with any political party or political ideology. It has many volunteers and its members are Israeli citizens. Basing itself on a central pillar of Judaism--the dignity of every human being--it decries the denial of Palestinian rights to land, freedom of movement, and the lack of adequate access to livelihood, health care and education. Although focusing specifically on Palestinian human rights as a measure of Jewish ethical behavior, it also concerns itself with the rights and dignity of other groups, such as foreign workers and Ethiopian Jews. It is devoted to championing the equal status of women.
Activities of Rabbis for Human Rights are conducted in four main fields: education, nonviolent fieldwork, legal campaigns, and interfaith activities. The organization also serves as an important information outlet on human rights in Israel and the territories and publishes books and articles for the education of the public at large. Through its various programs the organization takes a practical approach to the challenges facing individuals, groups, and the whole state of Israel.
The Niwano Peace Foundation has selected Rabbis for Human Rights as this year's recipient in the hope that at a time when religious fundamentalism and extremism receive so much publicity in the Middle East, Rabbis for Human Rights is to be commended as a unique voice of compassion, care for the other, love and justice that is at the heart of Judaism and indeed of all other religions.
Shinshuren's Youth League Dispatches 20th Peace Mission to Southeast Asia
During February 13-19, the 20th peace mission to Southeast Asia of the Youth League of Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) visited Thailand. The mission comprised 14 religious youths from member organizations of Shinshuren, including three youths from Rissho Kosei-kai.
On February 14, the mission visited Kanchanaburi Province and toured the Hellfire Pass Memorial. During World War II the Japanese army opened the pass to build a strategic railway linking Thailand with Burma. During the construction of the railway, 20,000 to 30,000 people, including Allied prisoners and laborers from Southeast Asian countries, forced by the Japanese army to build the railway, died of overwork in the tropical heat. The mission traveled to Namtok, where a Thai-style cenotaph erected by Shinshuren in 1974 commemorated those who died. The youths held a memorial service for the victims of war and renewed their pledge for world peace.
On February 16, the mission divided into two groups. One visited the Duang Prateep Foundation and studied its new projects for slum children and abused children. The other visited Wat Sunandavanaram temple to train in meditation under the guidance of the abbot, Ven. Ajahn Mitsuo Gavesako. They also had exchanges with students at the College of Religious Studies at Mahidol University and members of Rissho Kosei-kai of Bangkok.
Volunteers Finish Distributing Blankets in Ethiopia
A team of volunteers who distributed blankets in Ethiopia returned to Japan on February 18. Seventeen of the volunteers are members of Rissho Kosei-kai and the Japan Team of Young Human Power, a Japanese nongovernmental organization (NGO). Both are member organizations of the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa. They left Japan on February 6 to present blankets among the elderly, poor or disabled who had suffered from the country's long drought.
The volunteers distributed blankets in four areas of Tigray Province, including the Hawzien district. In cooperation with the Relief Society of Tigray (REST), a local NGO in Ethiopia, they presented a total of 6,903 blankets. Besides distributing blankets, they toured an area where Rissho Kosei-kai has conducted afforestation projects with the financial support of its Peace Fund, financed by the Buddhist organization's Donate-a-Meal Campaign. They also paid a courtesy call on the Japanese ambassador, H.E. Mr. Kenjiro Izumi, at his official residence in Addis Ababa. On the way home, they met members of Rissho Kosei-kai of the U.K. in London and deepened friendship with them.
The Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa collects blankets from ordinary citizens throughout Japan annually in April and May.
Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia Holds Winter Youth Seminars 2006
Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia held Winter Youth Seminars 2006 at four of the organization's branches in South Asia under the joint auspices of the organization's Youth Division. The seminars were designed mainly to train young novices of Rissho Kosei-kai. A total of 198 young members took part.
Rissho Kosei-kai of Colombo held a seminar for 44 members January 27-29 at the Mount Lavinia Hotel near the capital of Sri Lanka. Rissho Kosei-kai of Bangkok held a seminar for 29 members February 3-5 at the Thai Rissho Friendship Foundation in Bangkok, Thailand. Rissho Kosei-kai of Chittagong held a seminar for 83 members February 3-5 at a hotel in Cox's Bazar in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Rissho Kosei-kai of Delhi held a seminar for 42 members, including four Japanese youth members of the Minami-Tama Church in Tokyo, February 10-12 at the Delhi Dharma Center. At these seminars, members took part in hoza, or group counseling, and heard lectures on the role of religion in daily life, the enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha, and chapters 2 and 10 of the Lotus Sutra.
The Youth Division of Rissho Kosei-kai sent two staff members to each seminar to give lectures and, after the seminar, to disseminate the teachings in the surrounding area.
Rissho Kosei-kai Chairman Attends WCC's Assembly in Brazil
During February 15-20 Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai, visited Brazil to attend the Ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Under the main theme, "God, in Your Grace, Transform the World," the assembly convened at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porte Alegre on February 14-23 with the participation of more than 3,800 people, including 691 delegates from the WCC's 348 member churches and other invited guests from Judaic, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist circles.
At a plenary session on February 17 with the theme "Christian Identity and Religious Plurality," a message from H.R.H. Prince El-Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, moderator of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP), was followed by the keynote speech by Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury. Rev. Yamanoi then addressed the gathering, explaining that the founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, followed the Buddhist doctrine of the One Vehicle in promoting interreligious cooperation. Rev. Yamanoi said, "I believe that if all religionists could engage in sincere dialogue with one another and cooperate with one another, world peace would be accomplished step by step." He expressed his hope for further collaboration between the WCC and Rissho Kosei-kai. He also mentioned the Eighth World Assembly of WCRP, to be held in Kyoto in August, saying he hoped WCC members' participation would ensure the conference's success.
On the evening of the 17th, Rev. Yamanoi had an informal talk with Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia; WCC's general secretary, Archbishop Williams; and Mr. Stein Villumstad, deputy secretary-general of WCRP. During the meeting Rev. Yamanoi and Rev. Dr. Kobia confirmed that both Rissho Kosei-kai and WCC would keep up a fruitful dialogue.
WCC was inaugurated in 1948 as a worldwide organization for fostering ecumenicism, and it has so far brought together over 340 churches and denominations, including Protestant, Anglican, and Orthodox, in over 100 countries around the world. It aims for Christian unity by promoting mutual understanding and cooperation. The assembly is defined as its "supreme legislative body," which convenes every seven years, inviting representatives and observers from member churches throughout the world as well as from communities of other faiths. Rissho Kosei-kai has sent delegates to the WCC assemblies, beginning with the sixth, in Vancouver, Canada, in 1983, as a representative Japanese Buddhist organization.
Rissho Kosei-kai Observes Anniversary of Buddha's Entrance into Nirvana
On February 15 Rissho Kosei-kai observed the anniversary of the Buddha's entrance into nirvana in Fumon Hall at the organization's Tokyo headquarters, as well as all churches throughout Japan. The ceremony is an occasion for all Rissho Kosei-kai members to contemplate the significance of Shakyamuni's death and renew their vow to disseminate his teachings. Some 3,800 members took part in the ceremony at Fumon Hall. It began with an offering of flowers and lighted candles before the statue of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni by 40 young women members in saris from churches of the Tokyo District. This was followed by sutra chanting led by Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chief executive of the organization's dissemination affairs. President Niwano then gave a Dharma talk in which he explained the meaning of the Buddhist teaching "nirvana is tranquillity," saying that life's highest purpose is to lead others to salvation. He added that since the Buddha's teachings show the way to relief from suffering, we should disseminate the Dharma in such a way that other people will engrave in their hearts the Buddha's last words, "Make yourself the light, make the Dharma your light." In conclusion, he said the most important point of the teaching "nirvana is tranquillity" is the bodhisattva practice of selfless devotion to imparting this truth.
Expert on Rural Development in Philippines Addresses Rissho Kosei-kai Youth
On February 12, Father Francis Lucas, a representative of Infanta Integrated Community Development and Assistance, Inc. (ICDAI), a nongovernmental organization in the Philippines, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo, where, at the Horin-kaku Guest Hall, he gave a lecture on the spirit of volunteering. Some thirty people, including the Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division director and his staff, Gakurin seminary students, and other young people of the organization attended.
As an expert on community development, Father Lucas has assisted with rural development projects and health and education programs in the town of Infanta in the province of Quezon, the Philippines. The ICDAI, which is active in Infanta, where many of the residents are poor farmers, has been collaborating with the farmers on development projects over the past thirty years. In his lecture, Father Lucas said that devoting oneself to others' well-being adds meaning to life, and Filipinos appreciate the love that must inspire Rissho Kosei-kai members' volunteer work. Referring to the organization's assistance to victims of the torrential rains that caused widespread devastation in the Philippines in 2004, he said volunteer work promotes spiritual development in all who undertake it and sets an example of how human beings can help one another.
Rissho Kosei-kai has enjoyed close ties with the ICDAI through the Buddhist organization's various activities, such as volunteer work undertaken by high school wingers in Asia and by Global Volunteer Leaders (GVL). Since 1996, when Rissho Kosei-kai sent Rissho Kosei-kai Global Volunteer (RGV) members to the Philippines, many other youth members have made annual visits there and taken part in various support activities with the help of the ICDAI. In 2004, when torrential rains fell on Infanta, Rissho Kosei-kai sent GVL members there, and the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund helped finance the area's recovery.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Announces Grant Recipients for Fourth Term of Fiscal 2005
The Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund reported in February the grant recipients for the fourth term of fiscal 2005. The sum of 5,051,850 Japanese yen was allocated to six projects in Japan and abroad. The four categories adopted by the committee are joint projects with other organizations, independent projects, aid grants, and emergency aid.
In this fourth term, two projects were selected from the category of joint projects with other organizations. The fund donated 2,013,650 yen to Cambodia's Buddhist Institute for the reprinting of Pali Buddhist texts and their translation into the Khmer language. It also allocated 500,000 yen to the Dhammarajika Orphanage to assist its human development activities in Bangladesh.
In the category of the independent projects, the fund set up a support program for Rissho Kosei-kai overseas branches with the help of the organization's Donate-a-Meal Campaign. The fund allotted 588,200 yen to Rissho Kosei-kai of Mongolia to provide free medical checkups for residents of Ulaanbaatar who have no access to physicians, and to promote a campaign urging people to sign up for health insurance. It provided 500,000 yen to Rissho Kosei-kai of Chittagong to conduct its rural development project to help victims of typhoons and floods become economically self-reliant. The fund donated 450,000 yen to Rissho Kosei-kai of Kathmandu to assist the peace education program for children of Nepal conducted by Shanti Ban (Peace Forest), a nongovernmental organization. One hundred million yen was allocated to Korean Rissho Kosei-kai, a sister organization of Rissho Kosei-kai, to assist a rehabilitation center that conducts a program for the education of asylum-seekers from North Korea.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Announces Management of Funds in Fiscal 2006
In February, the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund unveiled an operational plan for the management of funds in fiscal 2006. The sum of 471, 500,000 Japanese yen, raised through the organization's Donate-a-Meal Campaign, was to be allocated to programs in four categories chosen by the executive committee: (1) joint projects with other organizations, (2) independent projects, (3) aid grants, and (4) emergency aid.
1. Joint projects with other organizations. The sum of 171, 827,000 yen was allocated to 13 projects, including the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa and Ethiopia's reforestation program, as well as peace activities of JEN, a Japanese multiorganizational NGO, of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a member.
Since 2004, the executive committee has focused its support activities on the solution of global problems. These are prevention of HIV/AIDS in Africa, planning sustainable support of refugees, and promotion of peace-building measures, including new projects for disarmament. Recipients of the funds according to these new goals are to be selected from local NGOs promoting disarmament.
2. Independent projects. The sum of 132,173,000 yen was allocated to eight projects, including the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign and a program conducted by the Rissho Kosei-kai Global Volunteer Leaders (GVL). The eight projects also include independent programs for humanitarian relief work set up by local members of Rissho Kosei-kai's overseas branches.
3. Aid grants. The sum of 167,500,000 yen was allocated according to five sub-categories: (a) grants commissioned by the Niwano Peace Foundation, (b) programs for interreligious cooperation, (c) special assignments, (d) support for the United Nations, and (e) emergency aid following natural disasters. The sum includes a reserve fund of 4 million yen. The amount of 96,500,000 yen was entrusted to the Niwano Peace Foundation for its various support activities, including the South Asia Program, which the foundation launched in India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka under the main theme "Poverty Alleviation."
The executive committee also announced that no funds have been allocated in advance for emergency aid this year, and that the Peace Fund will deal with the impacts of natural disasters both in Japan and abroad by setting up special task forces as the need arises.
Donated Blankets Reach Victims of Pakistan's Earthquake
In February, Japan Blankets for Africa Campaign (JBAC), an executive committee for the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa, of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a member organization, announced that 7,000 donated blankets had been distributed in Pakistan. The recipients were the victims of a strong earthquake that hit the country's northern region on October 8. The earthquake reportedly killed more than 87,000 people and afflicted more than 3.5 million. In wintertime, areas struck by the earthquake were covered with heavy snow, and many survivors in refugee camps or in tents faced a grim struggle with the severe cold, and relief efforts have focused on averting further tragedy.
JBAC decided last November to donate 7,000 blankets in emergency aid, which had been collected ahead of time for just such an emergency. Member organizations of the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa took part in collecting the blankets from people of good will throughout Japan during last year's campaign. JBAC entrusted the Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA) and JEN, a Japanese multiorganizational NGO, of which Rissho Kosei-kai is also a member, with the distribution of the blankets in Pakistan.
Starting on December 28, staff members of JEN, who had already taken part in relief work in and around Bhag, 160 km northwest of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, began distributing 5,000 blankets. After making a survey of which families needed blankets the most, JEN gave ten blankets to each family. Another 2,000 blankets were delivered to staff members of AMDA, who were to start distributing them in early February.
Rissho Kosei-kai Members Train in Midwinter Sutra-chanting
For fifteen days from January 20, Rissho Kosei-kai members trained in chanting the Lotus Sutra at the headquarters in Tokyo and churches throughout Japan. Since the Great Sacred Hall, which is the traditional venue of this special midwinter religious discipline, is under renovation, the training sessions took place in a worship hall at the former headquarters.
This winter, record snows fell in northern Japan and along the Japan Sea coast. In these areas it was difficult for members to attend the training sessions at their local churches because roads were closed by deep snow. Some members gathered for chanting at the houses of nearby leaders. In Asahikawa, on the northern island of Hokkaido, the temperature fell far below zero degrees Celsius every morning. Members gathered for chanting practice at the Asahikawa Church, and some who lived far from the church gathered at local district leaders' houses.
The International Buddhist Congregation (IBC), affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai, also held midwinter training sessions January 20-24 in the chapel of Fumon Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters complex in Tokyo. IBC members chanted the Lotus Sutra in English. Overseas, members of Rissho Kosei-kai practiced chanting the sutra at their churches or meeting places.
WCRP/Japan Holds Early Spring Meetings of Boards of Directors and Councilors
On January 30, the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) held the 89th meeting of its board of directors as well as the 86th meeting of its councilors, at the Horin-kaku Guest Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters complex in Tokyo. Some fifty-five directors and councilors participated. As president of WCRP/Japan, Rev. Nichiko Niwano participated in the meetings along with other councilors, including Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi, Rev. Masao Yamada and Rev. Yoshiko Izumida.
In his opening greetings, President Niwano expressed his hope that the cooperation of those attending the meetings would bring perfection to preparations for the Eighth World Assembly of the WCRP (WCRP VIII) to be held in Kyoto in August. The fiscal 2006 budget and new programs were discussed at length and approved. It was then announced that Ven. Koun Imadegawa, president of Hieizan Enryakuji temple of the Tendai Buddhist Denomination had been elected as a director of WCRP/Japan and that Rev. Genmyo Ono, chief abbot of Horyuji temple, and Rev. Akira Nakamura, guji (chief priest) of Fushimi Inari Shrine, had been elected councilors.
At the meeting, Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary-general of the WCRP, described the significance of Kyoto as the venue for WCRP VIII, saying that Japan has achieved a greater measure of social stability than many other countries and has had many years of experience with interreligious cooperation. He said that the Inter-Religious Councils (IRC, national multireligious organizations affiliated with the WCRP) had grown rapidly and that WCRP VIII would bring IRC members together for the first time.
It was also reported that Japanese religious youths had gathered at the United Nations University, Tokyo, January 25-26 to prepare for the World Youth Assembly to be held in Kyoto and Hiroshima August 21-25, shortly before WCRP VIII.
WCRP/Japan Holds Spring Seminar
On January 30, the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) held a seminar in a conference room of Fumon Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo. Some 190 people, including religionists from member organizations of WCRP/Japan, took part.
Rev. Minoru Sonoda, a member of WCRP/Japan's Peace Research Institute and the head priest of the Chichibu Shrine, delivered opening remarks. Panel members then began discussions based on the main theme of the Eighth World Assembly of the WCRP (WCRP VIII) to be held in Kyoto in August: "Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security." The panelists, chaired by Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, a special assistant to the WCRP secretary-general, were Mr. Yasuo Onuki of the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute; Rev. Norio Sakai, a member of the international council of trustees of the WCRP and an honorary executive board member of Rissho Kosei-kai; and Ms. Yuri Morita of the Empowerment Center, a nongovernmental organization in Japan. Mr. Onuki attributed the rioting in France last November to social problems such as low employment and poverty among Muslim immigrants in Europe. He said the violence was also in reaction to prejudice against different religious and ethnic groups. As a specialist in child abuse and domestic violence, Ms. Morita explained the dangers of intolerance, [I think "intolerance" is the right word here; my dictionary defines "intolerant" as "unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression, especially in religious matters; unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights"] which often leads to violence. She said patterns of domestic violence arise sometimes in international relations. Rev. Sakai emphasized the importance of interreligious dialogue, quoting Dr. Hans Kung, last year's winner of the Niwano Peace Prize.
International Buddhist Congregation of Rissho Kosei-kai Holds Public Seminar on the World according to the Lotus Sutra
On January 28, the International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) of Rissho Kosei-kai held a public seminar in Tokyo at the Joenji temple of the Nichiren sect of Japanese Buddhism. The public seminar was conducted in English, and the IBC invited Dr. Gene Reeves, its international advisor, to give a lecture, which was titled "The Enchanting World of the Lotus Sutra." On the evening of the seminar, some fifty-five people, including foreign residents in Japan, heard the lecture with great interest.
Rissho Kosei-kai Youths Participate in WCRP Youth Preparatory Meeting
Nineteen young Rissho Kosei-kai members along with some 480 Japanese religious youths from 50 religious organizations belonging to WCRP/Japan gathered at the United Nations University, Tokyo, January 25-26. The gathering was in preparation for the World Youth Assembly to be held in Kyoto and Hiroshima August 21-25 shortly before the Eighth World Assembly of the WCRP (WCRP VIII, August 26-29). The delegates from Rissho Kosei-kai included Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of its Youth Division and vice president of the WCRP International Youth Committee; Rev. Masao Shimura, deputy director of the Youth Division; and Ms. Kumiko Kawamoto, a division staff member. Sixteen other members, representing the organization's dissemination areas, took part as observers.
At the gathering they studied measures for building world peace and discussed concrete action plans to be submitted at WCRP VIII. Similar youth gatherings took place in Ambon, Indonesia; New York; and Cordoba, Argentina. More than 200 youths from 29 countries took part in them. Similar meetings are also planned in other cities in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
The youth gathering in Tokyo was cohosted by WCRP and WCRP/Japan in cooperation with UNHCR Japan. The Japan Association for the World Food Programme, Japan Association for UNICEF, and Japan Association for UNHCR facilitated the gathering.
The two-day gathering began with a speech by the president of WCRP/Japan, Rev. Nichiko Niwano. He expressed his hope that the participants would respect the opinions of people of different religious faiths and in many walks of life, and he encouraged them to engage in active discussion as religious youths. Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary-general of the WCRP, then delivered a keynote address with the theme "Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security: Toward Conflict Transformation, Peace Building, and Sustainable Development."
A panel discussion on "The Definition of Violence: Proposals to the People of Faith" followed. Three panelists--Ms. Shoko Egawa, a journalist; Ms. Keiko Kiyama, secretary-general of JEN; and Dr. Shinji Miyadai, assistant professor of Tokyo Metropolitan University--made presentations and exchanged views, moderated by Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, a special assistant to the WCRP secretary-general.
On the second day another panel discussion was held, with the theme "Responses from the People of Faith." Four panelists representing the Focolare Movement, the Association of Shinto Shrines, the Tendai Buddhist Denomination, and Zenrinkyo made presentations and took part in the subsequent discussion, moderated by Rev. Michito Miyake of Konkokyo Church of Tokiwadai. In closing, the participants reflected on the two-day gathering and discussed their plans for the World Youth Assembly. Twenty-seven youth members of Rissho Kosei-kai, who had been registered as volunteers to receive delegates to WCRP VIII, assisted with the gathering as receptionists and guides.
President Niwano Meets Regional Representative of UNHCR in Japan
On January 25, President Nichiko Niwano visited the United Nations University in Tokyo to attend a preparatory meeting for the World Youth Assembly as the president of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP). The youth assembly was scheduled to be held in Hiroshima and Kyoto prior to the Eighth World Assembly of the WCRP in Kyoto next August.
During his visit to the university, Rev. Niwano conferred with Mr. Robert Robinson, regional representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Japan. Also present were Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary-general of WCRP, and Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division. President Niwano expressed his gratitude to the Office of UNHCR in Japan and the Japan Association for UNHCR for making a university facility available for the preparatory meeting of Japanese youths. Mr. Robinson said the UNHCR and religious organizations have a common mission, and that it is especially important for these organizations to help refugees whose welfare is often neglected by their society and to provide them with opportunities to gain self-reliance. In reply to Dr. Vendley's explanation of the WCRP's assistance to refugees, Mr. Robinson said he would pray for the success of the WCRP VIII.
Kosei Gagaku Society Performs Ceremonial Court Music and Dance Before the Physically Challenged
The 22nd special concert for the handicapped and their families was given on January 14 in Tokyo, under the joint auspices of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, and the Nippon Charity Kyokai Foundation. The concerts offer a good opportunity for the handicapped and their families to see performers up close. About 1,200 people attended.
At the invitation of Nippon Charity Kyokai Foundation, the Kosei Gagaku Society performed Ranryoo and Nasori; both are bugaku, or ancient Japanese ceremonial music and dance. The Kosei Gagaku Society performed during the first part of the concert, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra played European dance music and Japanese folk music in the second.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Donates Emergency Support to the Victims of Torrential Rain Disasters in the Philippines
In December Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced that the fund had donated 2 million Japanese yen in emergency aid to the victims of the heavy rains in the Philippines, which caused great devastation in the country's central region with floods and landslides. The fund decided to donate 1 million yen in emergency aid to each of two organizations on the island of Mindoro: the San Lorenzo Ruiz Formation and Learning Center (SLRFLC) and the Apostolic Vicariate. Both are in Calapan, the capital of Oriental Mindoro, in the eastern part of the island. Mindoro suffered great damage from the rains especially on December 7, 17, and 27. It was reported that some 14,000 houses were submerged or swept away by floodwaters and that about 90,000 people were left homeless.
Rissho Kosei-kai has enjoyed close ties with the islanders through its Youth Division's activities, which have included visits from Japan by members of High School Student Wingers and volunteer members. As of last summer, the Buddhist organization had sent some 150 members on visits to Mindoro, who had exchanges with residents through a homestay program under the joint auspices of the SLRFLC, the Apostolic Vicariate of Calapan, and Rissho Kosei-kai.
On January 7-10, Ms. Kumiko Kawamoto, a staff member of the Youth Division, visited Mindoro on behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai and met Ms. Rosalina S. Melendres-Valenton, president of the SLRFLC, and Bishop Warlito I. Cajandig, the apostolic vicar of Calapan. She handed each 1 million yen in emergency aid. The SLRFLC school in Calapan was used as a shelter for the families worst affected, and the Catholic Church provided relief for victims. Rissho Kosei-kai's contribution was meant to boost relief efforts. The SLRFLC was to use the funds to provide food, clothing, and medicine for the victims, and the Catholic Church would use the funds to provide counseling for them, help them redevelop their sources of income, rebuild their houses, and so on.
President Niwano Delivers First Sermon of 2006
On January 7, some 4,000 members took part in a ceremony marking President Nichiko Niwano's first sermon of the year at Fumon Hall in the organization's headquarters complex in Tokyo. It was the first opportunity in 2006 for members to receive his guidance and renew their commitment to spiritual progress throughout the year. The ceremony was relayed to all Rissho Kosei-kai churches throughout Japan by satellite TV.
After an offering of flowers and lighted candles before the image of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni on the stage by 40 young women members of the Tokyo District, Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chief executive of the organization's dissemination affairs, led the assembly in the sutra chanting. Then Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi offered greetings for the New Year. He prayed for the victims of Japan's record snowfalls and discussed current Japanese social issues, including the delay of economic recovery, violent juvenile crime, and the shrinking population. In this year of the centenary of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth, he advised members not to let the celebrations distract them from their efforts for spiritual progress.
President Niwano then gave his first sermon of the year. He pointed to two words he had written in traditional Japanese calligraphy on two hanging scrolls on New Year's Day: "Gassho" (joining one's hands in prayer) and "Waki" (harmonious feelings). He explained that "waki" can mean "serenity" or "warm weather" as well as connote human friendliness or intimacy. He emphasized that the virtue of "waki" would be the most important thing to celebrate during the founder's centenary.
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