Annual Ceremony Commemorates Shakyamuni's Attainment of Buddhahood
On December 8, Shakyamuni's enlightenment was commemorated at the Great Sacred Hall and all churches throughout Japan. December 8 is a date when Buddhists celebrate the historical Shakyamuni's attainment of buddhahood under the Bodhi tree in India some 2,500 years ago. They give thanks for his enlightenment and renew their determination to apply the his teachings in their daily lives.
Some 3,200 members gathered in the Great Sacred Hall at the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and listened a narrative about the Buddha's enlightenment. After that, lighted candles were offered before the image of the Eternal Buddha, and sutra chanting was led by President-designate Kosho Niwano.
A minister of Yatsushiro Church in Kumamoto Prefecture then testified to the faith, and President Nichiko Niwano gave a Dharma talk. Rev. Niwano mentioned the significance of Shakyamuni's enlightenment and explained that the truths to which the Buddha was enlightened are universal. He said, "The truths the Buddha taught are unchanging. The fundamental requisite for world peace is for all of us to live according to the idea that we are all brothers and sisters; that is, we are all members of one big family." He concluded by saying that members should emulate Shakyamuni in steadfast efforts to disseminate the teachings.
New Chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai Inaugurated
On December 1, Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe was inaugurated as Rissho Kosei-kai's fifth chairman while continuing to serve as chief executive of dissemination affairs. His predecessor as chairman, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, has become an advisor to Rissho Kosei-kai.
Rev. Watanabe enrolled in Rissho Kosei-kai's Gakurin seminary in 1969. After serving as a staff member of the headquarters' Youth Division, he became head of the Ibaraki Church in 1979. From 1988 he was a section head of the Education Department at the headquarters. In 1993 Rev. Watanabe became head of the Osaka Church, and from 1999 was also director of the Kansai-Shikoku dissemination district. From 2002, for three years he was director of Tokyo's Tama dissemination district, as well as head of the Toyoda Church. In 2005, he became chief executive of dissemination affairs at the headquarters. He has been a member of Rissho Kosei-kai's executive board since 2002.
Rev. Yamanoi served three two-year terms as chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai's from January 2002, succeeding Rev. Norio Sakai, who now is an honorary executive board member. In 2006, the centenary of the birth of the founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano (1996-1999), Rev. Yamanoi led the planning and staging of a host of events commemorating the centennial. Immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, Rev. Yamanoi appealed for nonviolence in the spirit of Buddhism. He has also filled important posts in organizations engaging in interreligious cooperation, including the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, Shinshuren, the International Association for Religious Freedom, and the Japanese Religious Committee of the World Federalist Movement.
International Youth Committee of WCRP Holds Second Meeting in Japan
During November 22-25, the International Youth Committee (IYC) of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) held its second meeting in Japan, at the Yokohama Church of Rissho Kosei-kai in Kanagawa Prefecture. Twelve IYC members gathered there after their first meeting at Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in New York last February. The participants included Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, assistant secretary-general of the WCRP, and Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, an advisor to the IYC and director of Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Division.
The young people divided into six groups according to region---Europe, the Middle East, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia---and reported on their recent activities and future projects. The Asian group reported on the Post-Assembly Summit of Asian Religious Youth Leaders held at the Raffles Town Club in Singapore in September and the Summit of Religious Youth Leaders in Northeast Asia to be held on Kumgangsan in North Korea next September. The African group reported on its meeting in Tanzania in August to discuss inauguration of a network in African countries and their efforts to help the poor and arrange counseling for former child soldiers in Congo and Liberia. The Middle Eastern group described its support of education for Iraqi children in refugee camps in Jordan. The South American group outlined the results of its conference on violence. The North American group reported on its efforts to eliminate discrimination on the basis of religion and to solve environmental problems. The European group reported on its meeting in the Czech Republic in June and the prospect of organizing a meeting of experts from various social spheres in Europe.
The IYC meeting also proposed setting up an IYC Web site, creation of a manual on establishing national and regional committees of the IYC and their activities, environmental issues, conflict resolution to end violence caused by regional disputes and discrimination, and so on.
On the final day of the meeting, the IYC members joined a gathering of Rissho Kosei-kai youth leaders at Fumon Hall in the Buddhist organization's headquarters complex in Tokyo.
Niwano Peace Foundation Announces Activity Grants in Second Half of Fiscal 2007
In November the Niwano Peace Foundation announced that it had allocated 5 million Japanese yen in grants to nine organizations for the second half of fiscal 2007. The goal of the grants program is, while promoting mutual understanding and cooperation among different religions, to encourage people to build social harmony in the light of religious faith and solidarity among people of various faiths.
The recipients were primarily selected not for the duration of their activities but for concrete activities having a ripple effect in contributing to world peace.
During the application period from July 1 to August 13, the foundation received 63 applications from organizations in Japan and other countries. The recipients and grants are as follows:
1. Arab Children Friends Association (Israel): 250,000 yen to undertake the project under the theme of sixty years of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) and education for human rights and peace in 2008
2. Jumma Net (Japan): 800,000 yen to support monitoring research on the indigenous people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh conducted by ordinary people ten years after the agreement of the peace pact
3. Shapla Neer, Citizens' Committee in Japan for Overseas Support (Japan): 800,000 yen to provide education to girls who work for their parents in domestic service in Dhaka, Bangladesh
4. Christian Coalition for Refugee and Migrant Workers (Japan): 600,000 yen for the management of the national network to interview refugees and prisoners at immigration centers in Japan and for Japanese-language schools for refugees in Japan
5. NCC Center for the Study of Japanese Religions in Kyoto (Japan): 800,000 yen to organize training and dialogue programs among various religions in Japan
6. Institute for Forest of Isehara in Kanagawa Prefecture (Japan): 250,000 yen to prepare settlement in a village in Huga district of the prefecture based on sustainable development to protect the local ecology
7. Community Action Development Organisation (Can Do) in Japan: 800,000 yen for lectures on creating local communities to tackle problems related to HIV/AIDS in the Mwingi District of eastern Kenya
8. Action against Child Exploitation (ACE) in Japan: 500,000 yen to disseminate the Good Practice project to abolish child labor and create social conditions allowing education of children
9. Suan Nguen Mee Ma (Thailand): 200,000 yen to organize the third International Conference on Gross National Happiness under the title "Toward Global Transformation: World Views Make a Difference"
Youth Board of WCRP/Japan Celebrates 35th Anniversary
On November 23 at the Rissho Kosei-kai Yokohama Church in Yokohama, the Youth Board of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) celebrated its 35th anniversary. More than 100 people, including board members; religious youths who served as volunteers at the World Youth Assembly in August 2006 in Hiroshima and Kyoto; members of the International Youth Committee (IYC) of the WCRP; and religious youth leaders from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the throughout the Western Hemisphere. The event included a conference on "Religious Youth for Peace: Choosing Hope and Taking Action," in which the participants, reviewing peace activities promoted by the youth board in the past, discussed the IYC's pilot program to build an effective global network of religious youth leaders called the Global Youth Network.
At the beginning of the celebration, Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Youth Division of Rissho Kosei-kai and chairman of the youth board of WCRP/Japan, gave an opening address. This was followed by a speech by Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, chairman of Myochikai, representing WCRP/Japan as its secretary-general. Pointing out that many Japanese religious youth leaders had pioneered the peace activities of WCRP/Japan, he praised the youth board's accomplishments. He also pointed out that the role of religious youth leaders would become ever more important in halting the spread of violence throughout the world and in defending human rights.
Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, assistant secretary-general of the New York headquarters of the WCRP, and twelve members of the IYC delivered reports on the progress of their mission to promote multireligious cooperation for peace through the future Global Youth Network. Ms. Stellamaris Mulaeh, youth coordinator of the IYC, reported on a new campaign to eradicate starvation in Africa within a hundred years, saying religious youth in Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi are encouraged to work together toward that goal. She said the exploitation of children as soldiers and workers remains a problem in Liberia. She emphasized the need to clarify how people of religion should tackle these issues.
Trainees from Asian Rural Institute Tour Rissho Kosei-kai Headquarters Complex
On November 18, twenty nine people from the Asian Rural Institute (ARI), based in Nasu-shiobara City in Tochigi Prefecture in northern Japan, visited the headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai in Tokyo. The ARI is a Christian international training center founded in 1973 to build an environmentally healthy, just, and peaceful world, in which each person can reach full potential. Every year the ARI invites 25 to 30 grass-roots rural leaders from developing countries in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific to its farming facilities in Nasu-shiobara. There for nine months they study sustainable, organic agricultural techniques, leadership, and community development. The program also stresses hands-on learning in all things. Their visit to Rissho Kosei-kai was planned as part of a ten-day study trip across Japan under the ARI's peace program, in which the participants were encouraged to visit exponents of activities contributing to world peace, environmental protection, and relief of victims of environmental destruction. The places they visited included the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima and Minamata City in Kyushu, where mercury polluted the environment in 1965.
Their visit to the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters included tours of the Great Sacred Hall, the Horin-kaku Guest Hall, and the Nikkyo Niwano Memorial Museum. They also joined a prayer service for foreign residents in Japan held by members of the International Buddhist Congregation of Rissho Kosei-kai in the room for prayer in Fumon Hall. After sutra recitation, Rev. Shuichi Masuda, executive director of Kosei Gakuen, spoke of the meaning of the spirit of the One Buddha Vehicle taught in the Lotus Sutra and how Founder Nikkyo Niwano promoted world peace on the basis of teachings in the Lotus Sutra.
Rissho Kosei-kai Celebrates 101st Anniversary of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's Birth
On November 15, the 101st anniversary of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth was celebrated in the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters complex in Tokyo and at branch churches in Japan and other countries. Some 4,000 people, including invited guests, attended the ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall, which was relayed to all the churches in Japan by satellite TV.
The celebration in the Great Sacred Hall began with everyone singing the Rissho Kosei-kai hymn and a performance by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. Sixteen young women members then placed offerings on the altar before the statue of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni during the singing of a hymn by the Kosei Choir. After that, President-designate Kosho Niwano led the sutra chanting and read out a pledge to the Buddha by President Niwano that all members worldwide would cultivate their hearts and minds as their essential Buddhist practice and, making the founder's wish their own, dedicate themselves to the bodhisattva practice through dissemination.
One member then gave personal testimony to the faith, and President Niwano delivered a Dharma talk. He said Buddhists should look deeply into themselves with repentance and introspection for the sake of harmony and world peace. He said dissemination of the Dharma contributes to personal growth by cultivating compassion and kindness. He added that one's own understanding of the teachings is requisite to imparting them to others and guiding many people to salvation.
Referring to the Lotus Sutra as the principal scripture that members strive to live by, President Niwano pointed out that members live as true Buddhists by not sparing their bodies or minds in dissemination as messengers of the Buddha while practicing the faith for their own attainment of buddhahood. He explained the importance of dissemination by emphasizing that the aim of buddhahood is achieved only with the salvation of all.
Symposium in New York Discusses Buddhist View of Peace
On November 10, 2007, Rissho Kosei-kai of New York held a symposium on the theme "The Buddhist View of Peace in Contemporary Society" at the Japan Society in New York. The symposium was the fourth in a series, and the first was held in 2002. The 2007 symposium was one of the events commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Rissho Kosei-kai of New York. About 90 people attended, including Rissho Kosei-kai members, religious leaders, and New Yorkers.
Dr. Kenneth Kraft, professor of religious studies at Lehigh University, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, moderated the discussion by four panelists: Dr. Christopher S. Queen, lecturer on religious studies and dean of Students and Alumni Relations for Continuing Education in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Ven. Dr. Yifa, chair of the Department of Religious Studies, University of the West; Dr. Gene Reeves, former dean of the Meadville/Lombard Theological School of the University of Chicago and advisor to the International Buddhist Congregation of Rissho Kosei-kai; and Dr. Michio T. Shinozaki, president of Rissho Kosei-kai's Gakurin seminary.
In discussing the Buddhist view of peace from various perspectives, the panelists illuminated peace activities promoted by Engaged Buddhists and teachings on peace in the Lotus Sutra. Dr. Reeves said the teachings of the sutra point to world peace. Dr. Shinozaki described interreligious cooperation as actively promoted by Rissho Kosei-kai's founder, Nikkyo Niwano. Dr. Shinozaki said the founder's approach to peace was based on the spirit of the One Vehicle, paying reverence to the buddha-nature in every individual, and interreligious cooperation.
WCRP Organizes Preparatory Meeting for Religious Youth Conference in Northeast Asia
At a hotel in Seoul, South Korea, during November 5-6 the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) organized a preparatory meeting for the Summit of Religious Youth Leaders in Northeast Asia to be held on Kumgangsan (Mount Diamond) in North Korea next September. Twelve religious youth leaders from China, South Korea, and Japan took part, as well as Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, assistant secretary-general of the WCRP, from the WCRP headquarters in New York. Japan was represented by Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Division, in his capacity as chairman of the Youth Board of WCRP/Japan.
The International Youth Committee (IYC) of WCRP organized its World Youth Assembly in Hiroshima and Kyoto and adopted the Hiroshima Declaration on the occasion of eighth world assembly of WCRP, held in Kyoto in August. To realize the goals of the declaration, religious youths divided into six groups according to region-Europe, the Middle East, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia-and organized an international network of religious youth. The Summit of Religious Youth Leaders in Northeast Asia was one of the means of empowering the regional Interreligious Youth Networks that were adopted at the IYC meeting in February at Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in New York.
The November meeting was attended by religious youth leaders from the China Committee on Religion and Peace (CCRP), the Korean Conference on Religion and Peace (KCRP), and the Youth Board of WCRP/Japan. The participants agreed that the theme of the meeting on Kumgangsan should be "Enhancing Exchange and Mutual Trust for Sustainable Peace," for building trust and strong, harmonious partnerships among the four nations of Northeast Asia. In organizing the summit, the KCRP will play a coordinating role with the Korean Council of Religionists (KCR) of North Korea with the assistance of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP).
Director of Vatican Museums Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On November 5, Mr. Francesco Buranelli, director of the Vatican Museums, and Mrs. Buranelli visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and toured the Nikkyo Niwano Memorial Museum.
The Vatican Museums are a complex of different museums that store the collections amassed by successive popes. They constitute one of the largest art galleries in the world and abut the Sistine Chapel.
Mr. Buranelli came to Japan at the invitation of the Otsuka Museum of Art in Tokushima Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in November. The Otsuka Museum is famous for its collections of reproductions of famous paintings on ceramic boards. In November, the museum showed a special exhibition of reproductions of paintings in the Vatican Museums.
With an introduction from Peter Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, the Buranellis visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters. Rev. Norio Arai, auditor of Rissho Kosei-kai, and Rev. Munehiro Niwano, husband of the president-designate, gave the Buranellis a tour of the Great Sacred Hall, the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle, and the Nikkyo Niwano Memorial Museum. After seeing the museum dedicated to the founder, Mr. Buranelli said he was greatly impressed by its atmosphere, which he said encourages visitors to learn more about the founder's life and character.
Presentation in English 2007 Held in Tokyo
On November 3, the International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) of Rissho Kosei-kai held the "Presentation in English 2007" in the Serenity Hall at Hoju Vocational College in Tokyo. The participants included 200 members from the Kanto District, which comprises prefectures surrounding Tokyo, as well as students from Rissho Kosei-kai Gakurin seminary and Hoju Vocational College.
After the opening address delivered by the master of ceremonies, 67 people in 30 contingents made presentations in English, which included recitations of excerpts from the founder's and president's English publications, religious testimonies, and short dramas. The performers and their audience shared what they had learned from the religious teachings of Rissho Kosei-kai and heartfelt communication with fellow members. Each presentation drew enthusiastic applause. A member of the Fine Apples group, which consisted of Koshigaya Church members in Saitama Prefecture, described her pleasant experience after performing their short play inspired by the "The Parable of the Herbs" in Chapter 5 of the Lotus Sutra. She said, "We made an effort to make a simple, straightforward drama in English. I am truly glad to know that all of the audience enjoyed our drama."
The presentations originated with a special program held in November 2006 as one of the events commemorating the centennial of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth. The program aims to encourage members to study the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and Rissho Kosei-kai in English and to share their knowledge with foreign residents in Japan. A similar program was also held in August in Kinki District in the central region of Japan's main island of Honshu.
WCRP/Japan Board Discusses Summit Meeting on Environmental Issues
On November 2 the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) held a joint meeting at a hall in the Kosei Library in the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters complex in Tokyo. Fifty directors and councilors participated. Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai attended as president of WCRP/Japan. Rissho Kosei-kai was also represented by Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi; Rev. Yoshiko Izumida, a former honorary executive board member; Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of the External Affairs Department; and Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Youth Division.
A prayer for peace was followed by a welcoming address by Rev. Niwano. The meeting considered a proposal to organize a G8 religious summit meeting. During July 7-9, 2008, the annual summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations (G8) will be held near Lake Toya on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Its main focus will be environmental issues. A G8 summit were held in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 2006 and in Heiligendamm, Germany in 2007. And as for a religious summit, the first was held in Moscow in 2006 and the second in Cologne in 2007. The representatives at past religious summits as well as of the WCRP have expressed hope that another religious summit meeting could be held in Japan. The WCRP/Japan joint board meeting on Nov. 2 decided to develop a full agenda for it, centering on environmental issues as well as conflict resolution, anti-terrorist measures, and nuclear nonproliferation.
Rissho Kosei-kai Observes Annual Week of Prayer for World Peace
A Week of Prayer for World Peace (WPWP) was observed around the world October 21-28. Twenty-one years have passed since Rissho Kosei-kai joined the annual event, in which people belonging to forty-one religious organizations pray together for world peace wherever they are. At the Tokyo headquarters and local churches, members of Rissho Kosei-kai recited a Prayer for World Peace to renew their commitment to concrete actions for world peace. During their daily devotions, members also recited the prayer, which consists of petitions based on different themes.
Many local churches also held interreligious prayer meetings in their communities, in cooperation with local members of various faiths. On October 21, members of the Sapporo-kita Church joined a prayer service at a local Catholic church. One hundred sixty-five people took part in the service, which the church has held annually for the last fifteen years. Twenty-three members of the Tanashi Branch of Kodaira Church in Tokyo joined a Buddhist and Shinto prayer service at Tanashi Shrine on October 27, where the observance has been held annually since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. Rissho Kosei-kai members recited a chapter from the Lotus Sutra. Rev. Wataru Kaya, chief priest of the shrine, then addressed the participants. The Hachioji Church held a joint prayer service at the Esoteric Shingon temple Yakuoin on Mount Takao in western Tokyo. In the temple's main hall, 212 Rissho Kosei-kai members participated in a sacred fire-ritual of invocation and listened to a sermon by Chief Abbot Ryugen Oyama.
Multireligious gatherings also took place in many other places, in which Rissho Kosei-kai members actively took part. On October 20, people from such faiths as Buddhism, Shinto, Christianity, and new religions participated in a prayer meeting for world peace at the Himonya Catholic Church in Meguro-ku, Tokyo. Members of the four Rissho Kosei-kai churches in Okayama Prefecture in western Japan took part in the 27th Prefectural Conference of Religionists of the World Federalist Movement, at Rissho Kosei-kai's Okayama Church. Some 500 representatives of Buddhism, Shinto, Christianity, and new religions took part, reciting the Prayer for World Peace. Rev. Norio Sakai, former chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai and an honorary executive board member of the organization, gave a commemorative sermon.
Chinese, South Korean, and Japanese Buddhist Leaders Hold Tenth Conference in Beijing
On October 25 and 26, the tenth China-South Korea-Japan Buddhist Friendly Interaction Conference was held in Beijing. Some 230 Buddhist priests representing various schools and lay followers from the three countries took part in the tripartite Buddhist conference under the theme "Promotion of World Harmony by the Buddha's Wisdom." Rissho Kosei-kai was represented by Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi and Rev. Ken'ichiro Nakamura, head of the Kyoto Church.
On October 25, the liaison commission members of the tripartite conference met and discussed the preparatory meeting for the 11th conference to be held in South Korea next April and a forthcoming conference on religious practice. At the meeting plans were announced for the second World Buddhist Forum in November 2008, to be held under the auspices of the Buddhist Association of China, in the city of Wuxi in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu. The participants adopted a joint declaration by the tripartite Buddhists of China, South Korea, and Japan, saying that all people share an aspiration for world peace and human happiness, which can be accomplished by establishing the ideal Pure Land for which all Buddhists strive. The declaration expresses the hope that the "golden ties" between the three countries will grow stronger than ever, contributing to harmony throughout Asia and to world peace.
On October 26, representatives of each country offered a prayer for peace at a joint religious service. From Japan Rev. Ryusho Kobayashi, chairman of the Japan-China-South Korea International Buddhist Exchange Council led the Japanese representatives, including Chairman Yamanoi, in a recitation from the Heart Sutra.
After the service, keynote addresses were delivered by Ven. Cheng Xue, vice-president of the Buddhist Association of China, Rev. Beob-deung of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, and Rev. Shunei Tsuboi, president of the Japan-China-South Korea International Buddhist Exchange Council in Japan.
Later, six Buddhist representatives from the three countries, including Chairman Yamanoi, visited the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to pay a courtesy call on Mr. Jia Qinglin, chairman of the 10th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China's Central Committee.
New Japanese Ambassador to Turkey Pays Courtesy Call on President Niwano
On October 24, Mr. Nobuaki Tanaka, Japan's new ambassador to Turkey, visited Rissho Kosei-kai and conferred with President Niwano in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo. Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, the Buddhist organization's chairman, and Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of its External Affairs Department, were also present.
Mr. Tanaka joined the Japanese Foreign Service in 1970 and has served as a consul in San Francisco and as an ambassador to Pakistan. He was most recently the U.N. under-secretary-general for disarmament affairs. He called on President Niwano before taking up his post in Ankara on October 30.
Mr. Tanaka explained the current situation in and around Turkey, whose political system since independence has been democratic and secular, thus increasingly integrated with the West. He emphasized the importance of taking into account the feasibility of a "religious approach" in matters relating to Muslim countries along with the promotion of cooperation in such fields as economic and cultural affairs. He said he anticipated Japanese religious leaders' cooperation in working with Turkey to build world peace. President Niwano spoke of his meeting with Professor Ali Bardakoglu, president of the Presidency of Religious Affairs of Turkey, who participated in the eighth world assembly of the World Conference of Religions for Peace last August in Kyoto.
People of Faith Gather in Naples to Pray for a World Without Violence
During October 21-23, the International Meeting of Men and Religions was held in Naples, Italy, hosted by the Italian lay Catholic Community of Saint Egidio. Under the theme "A World without Violence: Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue," some 350 people from more than 70 countries took part, including religious leaders of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and other faiths. Rissho Kosei-kai was represented by Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chief executive of dissemination affairs. It was the 21st such annual meeting held in a European city in the spirit of the Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi in 1986, initiated by Pope John Paul II.
On the morning of October 21, before the plenary assembly, all of the participants were received in audience by Pope Benedict XVI, who visited Naples for the occasion. In his Solemn Eucharistic Celebration conducted in the Piazza del Plebiscito, the pope declared, "In the face of a world torn by conflicts where violence is sometimes justified in the name of God, it is important to reiterate that religions can never become vehicles of hate."
Opening addresses of welcome by various representatives of Naples, such as the archbishop, mayor, and provincial president, were followed by introductory speeches. One was given by U Uttara, a leading Burmese Buddhist monk, who referred to the Myanmar government's recent violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations led by Buddhist monks, saying, "I am here today with you all to pray for freedom and peace throughout this entire world, including our country (Burma), which has recently been through the horrific and traumatic crackdown by the military dictatorship."
In a plenary assembly, Rabbi Yona Metzger, chief rabbi of Israel, spoke as one of the panelists. He proposed the establishment of "a United Nations of the Religions" that would mediate between religions. He said it should include "heads of religious communities that have a profound influence on their congregations . . . especially to facilitate contact between countries that do not have diplomatic relations with one another." Supporting that proposal, Muslim leaders also proposed a standing secretariat of various religions to foster peace among various nation-states and religions, and harmony between human beings and nature.
On October 22 and the morning of the 23rd, the participants divided into 32 groups for separate sessions under various themes, which included "Faiths and Reason," "Faith and Science an Issue for Our Time," and "The Civilization of Coexistence." At one session titled "A World Without Violence: the Task of Japanese Religions," Rev. Watanabe explained the activities of Rissho Kosei-kai and its underlying spirit of Buddhism. In the presence of Naples residents, Rev. Watanabe explained how to realize a world where people live in harmony, referring to President Nichiko Niwano's teaching of Cultivating the Fields in Our Hearts and Minds and Rissho Kosei-kai's peace activities with the Donate-a-Meal Campaign.
After those sessions, participants of the same faith formed their own groups to pray for peace according to their traditions. They marched in peace parades to the Piazza del Plebiscito, where all the participants gathered for the closing ceremony. An appeal for peace was adopted and read out, calling for a peaceful world without violence and quoting the words of Pope Benedict XVI on the first day of the meeting.
Deputy Director of Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division Attends BCY Foundation's General Conference
On October 23, the Bataan Christian Youth Foundation (BCY Foundation), managed by the Bataan Christian Youth Civic Circle (BCYCC), held its annual general conference in Balanga, the capital of the Philippine province of Bataan. It was attended by twenty people, including Ms. Anna Ma. B. Tuazon, chairperson of the BCY Foundation, and some of the foundation's board directors and BCYCC members, along with Rev. Toshimasa Arai, deputy director of Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Division, and Ms. Kumiko Kawamoto, the division's staff member, as special guests.
At the meeting, the BCY Foundation reported on the academic progress of scholarship recipients, and the management of the Bataan Library and Museum. Rissho Kosei-kai regularly contributes to both from its Peace Fund, supported by the Donate-a-Meal Campaign, in which Rissho Kosei-kai members have long participated. Chairperson Tuazon thanked Rissho Kosei-kai for its continuing assistance.
Since the BCYCC will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year, plans for the celebration were discussed at the meeting. There was also discussion of how to promote cultural exchanges between BCYCC members and Rissho Kosei-kai high school student wings as well as with representatives of various Rissho Kosei-kai dissemination districts in Japan.
Rissho Kosei-kai Holds World Youth Meeting in Hawaii
Under the auspices of Kosei-kai International and the Youth Division of Rissho Kosei-kai, the World Youth Meeting 2007 was held October 18-20 at the Kona Retreat Center of Rissho Kosei-kai of Kona, a chapter of the Hawaii Church on the Big Island. It was attended by nineteen youth representatives of fifteen branch churches in Japan, the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, the Philippines, Mongolia, China and South Korea.
In August 2006 the first World Youth Meeting was held in an auditorium of the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo with the participation of Japanese youth members and twelve youth leaders from nine other countries. At that gathering, the participants sought a viable method to contribute to world peace based on reports of their religious activities for world peace through bodhisattva practice and dissemination. The meeting was webcast so that some 300 other young members overseas could also participate. Finally, after incorporating ideas presented through the Internet, the participants unanimously adopted the "Global Youth Mission Statement" for world peace.
The goal of the gathering at Kona this year was to reaffirm the policy described in the statement, and also to draft a concrete action plan for world peace, which is to be shared by Rissho Kosei-kai youth members around the world, centering on the practical programs presented from local members. As in 2006, the meeting was webcast, and some 200 other young members joined the session in real time.
Prior to the webcast meeting of October 20, the youth representatives participated in an orientation session on October 18, at which Rev. Hiroyasu Hosoyama, head of Rissho Kosei-kai of Buddhist Church of Hawaii, spoke of Founder Niwano's first visit to Honolulu and Kona in 1958, saying that visit led to the foundation of Rissho Kosei-kai's first overseas sangha (community of believers). He wished the participants success and emphasized the importance of realizing that they were gathered at a place that is significant in the history of Rissho Kosei-kai, where the founder initiated the organization's worldwide dissemination of the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. On October 19, they joined in a hoza session led by Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Youth Division.
At the beginning of the meeting webcast October 20, Rev. Kotaro Suzuki, director of the Kosei-kai International, delivered a speech of welcome from his office in Tokyo. During the meeting, the participants exchanged views on the proposed draft of an action plan for world peace, and unanimously adopted it as a declaration of the common hope of all members of Rissho Kosei-kai's youth sangha. It includes the annual webcast of a meeting, the promotion of interreligious cooperation at the grass roots, and the practice of a "daily donation of a single coin" by youth members as part of their religious activities for world peace.
Shinshuren Holds Symposium to Mark 55th Anniversary
On October 9, Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) held a symposium in Osaka to commemorate its 55th anniversary. Under the theme "Reviving Religion---Searching for a New Role in Society," some 300 religious representatives from member organizations of Shinshuren took part. Commemoration of the anniversary also included a symposium in February and two workshops this year with the same theme. Anniversary events culminated with the October symposium.
Rev. Nichiko Niwano, chairman of Shinshuren, made an opening address as the representative of the symposium's host organization. He said the starting point for discussion of religious revival should be humble acceptance of the realities around us. He emphasized that the crucial point of the symposium was examining the role of religion in our society from a fresh viewpoint to discern the difference between what should be kept and what should be changed.
After reports on the earlier symposium and workshops, three panelists----Rev. Munemichi Kurozumi, vice patriarch of Kurozumikyo, Ms. Mamiko Okada, a professor at the University of Hyogo, and Mr. Toshihiro Kitamura, a journalist---offered their views. Rev. Kurozumi stressed that what contemporary society requires most is a religious spirit of "indebtedness" to all that sustains us and warm, charitable acts by religious people. Professor Okada explained that many people have little feeling for religion but are not without it entirely. She pointed out that many people have a subconscious religious feeling and that it is important to recognize the role of that feeling in daily life. Mr. Kitamura described the secular image of religion in Japan and expressed his hope in people of religion with a mission to disseminate the truth.
In the subsequent panel discussion chaired by Mr. Takashi Hirohashi, editor of Shinshukyo Shimbun newspaper, the three panelists discussed the importance of empathizing with others' sufferings as if they were their own and the difference between religion and New Age Thought.
Religions for Peace/Japan Issues Statement on Myanmar Crackdown
On September 26, the Myanmar government cracked down on nonviolent pro-democracy demonstrations by Burmese monks and citizens, firing on crowds and raiding monasteries. In the following few days, more than 100 people were reported killed in Yangon and rural towns and villages, and several thousand people, including many Buddhist monks, were arrested.
These reports prompted the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace to issue a statement, under the name of its president, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, urging the Myanmar government to opt for dialogue with its citizens. On October 9, Rev. Takashi Nishida, managing director of Religions for Peace/Japan, visited the Myanmar Embassy in Tokyo and handed the statement to the ambassador, Mr. Hla Myint.
The statement began by expressing deep regret over the use of armed force against the demonstrators and offering condolences for those killed. It condemned all kinds of oppression and violence and urged dialogue to relieve social unrest. "From the religious point of view, all people in the world are brothers and sisters who are given life by God and the Buddha as the supreme being. Violence against one person amounts to an assault on all people," it declared. Referring to actions of Burmese monks and citizens who stood at the forefront of the peaceful demonstrations, the statement went on to state that Religions for Peace/Japan would support them, together with religious communities worldwide. In a show of strong solidarity with Burmese citizens, it urged the Myanmar government to begin dialogue with religious communities and other civic organizations.
Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai, accompanied Rev. Nishida to the embassy and handed the ambassador a statement that Rissho Kosei-kai had made public on October 1.
Members Hold Annual Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival
The Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival was celebrated October 7 at Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters complex and the surrounding neighborhood in Tokyo. The festival's purpose is to keep alive the memory of the thirteenth-century Japanese 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 all members to express veneration of Founder Nikkyo Niwano, who devoted his life to the principle of reforming society by saving people through the practices taught in the Lotus Sutra, and for members to rededicate themselves to application of the bodhisattva practice in daily life.
Under a clear sky, after the opening ceremony in the grounds of Rissho Kosei-kai's birthplace, some 7,000 members, comprising 44 contingents of members from 74 branches throughout Japan, marched in a parade carrying mando (portable lighted pagodas) in a display of traditional pageantry along the streets leading to the Great Sacred Hall. Members of the International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) also joined in the colorful pageantry, including some 60 Vietnamese residents of Japan in national costume.
In the closing ceremony, President Niwano praised the participants for their show of gratitude for the teachings, and encouraged them by saying, "I believe that you, all participants, are already saved, because everyone who shows that gratitude proves the possibility of salvation. Never be satisfied with only your own salvation, but pledge this day that you will devote your lives to dissemination of the Lotus Sutra to as many people as possible."
Chairman Yamanoi Welcomes Executive Secretary of Philippine Committee of ACRP
On October 5, Professor Lilian J. Sison, dean of the Graduate School of the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas at Manila in the Philippines, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo and met Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi and Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of the External Affairs Department.
Professor Sison described preparations for the forthcoming seventh assembly of the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace (ACRP VII) to be held in Manila. She thanked Rev. Yamanoi for Rissho Kosei-kai's assistance with ACRP VII as executive secretary of the host committee for the assembly. During their conversation, Professor Sison said that some 400 religious representatives and observers from 16 Asian countries would attend. She added that the host committee would invite religious representatives from countries that have had fewer opportunities for interreligious dialogue with the ACRP, such as Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq.
Chairman Yamanoi expressed his desire to help organize the seventh assembly as a contribution to world peace, quoting Founder Nikkyo Niwano's saying that religionists should cooperate for peace, since this is the common goal of all religions, despite differences of creeds and rituals.
Founder Nikkyo Niwano's Entrance into Nirvana Commemorated
On October 4, Rissho Kosei-kai observed the eighth anniversary of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's death and his entrance into nirvana, at the headquarters in Tokyo and all churches in Japan. Some 3,500 members attended the ceremony in the hall, which was relayed by satellite television to all Rissho Kosei-kai churches in Japan.
The ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall was preceded by the ritual of opening the door of the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle, which houses the founder's relics. President Nichiko Niwano opened the door as many members stood praying nearby. Then President and Mrs. Niwano and others offered flowers at the altar before the stupa.
In the ceremony at the Great Sacred Hall, to the accompaniment of a lullaby from the Niigata area, where Founder Niwano was born and raised, 16 young women members placed offerings of products from their areas on the altar before the image of the Eternal Buddha.
The hall was then darkened for a brief period to encourage silent communion with the spirit of the founder, as a recording of the serene sounds of stone percussion was played. In these moments, members could also contemplate their gratitude for the Dharma and renew their dedication to practice of its teachings.
Rev. Kosho Niwano, president-designate of Rissho Kosei-kai, then led the assembly in chanting the sutra and read out a tribute to the founder prepared by President Niwano. The tribute described not only the gratitude of all members' for the founder's virtues and compassion but also their devotion to dissemination with a strong sense of mission as Buddhists.
Then Mr. Ikuo Ogawa, former head of the Choshi Church, gave a speech about Founder Niwano's character, recalling episodes in his life.
Next, President Niwano burned incense at the altar and addressed members. He said that thanks to the founder's guidance, all members, including himself, had been able to embrace the teachings of the Lotus Sutra with joyful understanding.
Referring to Zen Master Dogen's interpretation of a phrase in the Nirvana Sutra about the buddha-nature, he said that animals and plants, mountains and rivers, grass and trees, as well as human beings are all endowed with the buddha-nature and originate from one life-source. He added that when people realize that, a world described in the Lotus Sutra where people unite in joining their hands in prayer will manifest itself to us.
After stressing the belief in one life-source, Rev. Niwano expressed gratitude for this Buddhist truth, thus explaining the importance of concentrating our minds on the value of our own lives, free of arrogance or feelings of inferiority.
Further, he emphasized the importance of conveying the joy of the Dharma and an appreciation of the value of all life to many people out of gratitude for the founder's virtues and compassion. He concluded by pointing out that each one of us, here and now, should be a starting point of dissemination.
Rissho Kosei-kai Issues Proclamation on Political Stability in Myanmar
On October 1, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai's board of directors, called on the Myanmar government to respect the human rights of its citizens. Escalating pro-democracy demonstrations led by Buddhist monks resulted in attacks on monks and the death of a Japanese journalist in September. The demonstrations started in mid-August after the junta drastically raised fuel prices. Ninety percent of Myanmar residents are Buddhists, and Buddhist monks wield great influence in the society. The international community has imposed economic sanctions to discourage violent reprisals by the junta.
Rissho Kosei-kai's statement affirms the value of all life according the fundamental Buddhist precepts of not taking life and nonviolence. The statement concluded with the hope that conflicts in Myanmar would be resolved peacefully, without the use of force.
Human Resource Development Program Held at Branches of Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia
During September 15-23 at five branches of Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia, the Youth Division of Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters offered a program of human resource development to prepare future leaders to play a part in worldwide dissemination.
The Youth Division sent seven youth members of Rissho Kosei-kai registered by the division as members of the One Vehicle Global Network and eleven division staff members. In smaller groups they were assigned to the branches in Bangkok, Chittagong, Kathmandu, Colombo, and Kolkata. The program, whose basic aim is to help youth members grow into leaders responsible for worldwide dissemination, has a goal not only of enhancing Japanese youth members' aspirations for worldwide dissemination by assisting the South Asian members' dissemination but also of strengthening their sense of unity with youth in other countries as a community of Buddhist youth beyond national boundaries.
The Japanese youths joined local members in dissemination work, guiding members in practice of the faith, and enshrinements of the focus of devotion in new members' homes. At hoza sessions, they had lively exchanges with local youth members and were asked about such things as their religious practice in Japan.
Although the program is currently centered on the dissemination areas of Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia, the Youth Division is planning to extend the program to other areas as one of its policies in building the One Vehicle Global Network for the achievement of world peace.
Annual NGO Conference Held at U.N. Headquarters
During September 5-7, the sixtieth annual Department of Public Information and Non-Governmental Organization Conference took place at the United Nations' headquarters in New York with a focus on climate change. Some 1,700 representatives of more than 500 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from 62 countries participated. Rissho Kosei-kai was represented by Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, deputy director of its External Affairs Department.
Under the auspices of the Department of Public Information of the United Nations, a NGO conference is convened every year prior to the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September. Participants in the conference commit their organizations to the search for solutions to various global problems, reviewing the results of many previous debates at the United Nations. The theme of this year's conference was "Climate Change: How It Impacts Us All." The participants exchanged views on how to facilitate U.N. action plans pertaining to environmental issues, as well as on the impact of climate change on human well-being at regional and global levels.
At the first session, on September 5, following opening addresses by Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, and Ms. Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa, president at the Sixty-first Session of the General Assembly of United Nations. Mr. Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme, delivered a keynote address. The conference also featured interactive round-table discussions on such topics as "Climate Change: The Scientific Evidence," "Water Security and Climate Change," and "The Economics and Politics of Energy and Climate Change," with the participation of representatives of member states, civil society, the private sector, and U.N. officials. As an integral part of the conference, workshops on 33 topics, called Midday NGO Workshops, were also held during the three-day gathering. These were to underscore the theme of the conference, enhance the context of the round-table topics, and thus foster partnerships across all sectors of civil society.
After the programs, Rev. Kamiya gave his impression of the conference. He emphasized the importance of realizing the interconnectedness between the issues of climate change and the way we now live. He also spoke of how meaningful it is for each and every one of us to see how to live a life as members both of a faith community and as "global citizens," and then act on our own initiative.
Fiftieth Anniversary of Cofounder Naganuma's Death Commemorated
On September 10, the date of Cofounder Myoko Naganuma's death fifty years ago, the anniversary was commemorated in the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters and at all of the organization's churches throughout Japan. About 2,500 members from eighty-nine churches gathered at the hall for the commemoration.
Cofounder Myoko Naganuma and Founder Nikkyo Niwano established Rissho Kosei-kai in 1938 with an initial membership of 30 people. Rev. Naganuma guided members with deep compassion and dedication based on the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. On the fiftieth anniversary of her death, members recalled her spirit of compassion and renewed their determination to be diligent in practice of the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.
During the ceremony at the Great Sacred Hall, the congregation heard a recording of Cofounder Naganuma exhorting members to seek others' happiness before their own. Sixteen young women members brought offerings to the altar, and Rev. Kosho Niwano, president-designate of Rissho Kosei-kai, then led the assembly in sutra chanting. President Nichiko Niwano paid tribute to the cofounder's virtuous achievements.
Then Rev. Eriko Miyoshi, head of the Tsuyama Church of Rissho Kosei-kai, speaking of her own life, said she hoped to follow the example of Cofounder Naganuma by being ready to lend help immediately as a friend in the Dharma to anyone who needed it, growing spiritually into a person who bears others' burdens.
President Niwano then gave a Dharma talk. He began by referring to one of the divine revelations the cofounder received in Rissho Kosei-kai's early days, that Rissho Kosei-kai has the mission to disseminate the universal truth worldwide for the salvation of all human beings.
President Niwano went on to say that the spirit of putting others' salvation first will become a driving force for spreading the Lotus Sutra worldwide when it is firmly instilled in the heart of each Rissho Kosei-kai member. He added that, in their religious practice, members should keep in mind that the organization's success in bringing happiness to many depends on the aspiration of each individual member. He concluded that establishing close ties of fellowship based on respect for all life as a gift from the Buddha brings true peace, and that we should move forward with this idea as the foundation of our daily practice of the faith.
Asian Religious Youth Leaders Gather in Singapore for WCRP Post-Congress
During September 4-7, the Post-Assembly Summit of Asian Religious Youth Leaders was held on the theme "Choosing Hope, Taking Action" at the Raffles Town Club in Singapore. It was cosponsored by the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) and its International Youth Committee (IYC), the Inter-Religious Organisation in Singapore, and the Singapore Ministry of Community Development, Youth, and Sports (MCYS). Some 100 religious youth leaders from 18 countries took part in the post-congress of the IYC's World Youth Assembly held in Hiroshima and Kyoto in 2006. The Youth Board of the Japanese Committee of WCRP organized a youth wing of 19 young people from three member organizations and dispatched it to the post-congress. From Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, special advisor to the WCRP's secretary-general on youth affairs and director of Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Division, joined the congress with other youth members.
At the opening ceremony on September 4, Dr. Vivian Balakrisnan, the MCYS minister, representing the government of Singapore, welcomed the participants and expressed his hope that the national and global networks of young religious leaders would contribute to a world in which everyone is blessed with happiness, peace, fairness, justice, hope, prosperity, and progress.
On September 5, reviewing last year's youth assembly at the outset of the second day of the post-congress, participants listened to reports on interreligious dialogue for peace-building efforts delivered by the special guests from Iraq and Israel. Another special guest, Ms. Ryce Chanchai, a policy associate of the Asian region for the United Nations Millennium Campaign, then gave a speech in which she mentioned that some 10 billion of the world's people subsist on the equivalent of only one U.S. dollar per day, and she urged the youth participants to cooperate with the United Nations in aiding marginalized people. The youths then divided into three regional groups (Northeast, Southeast, and South Asia) to discuss problems in their own region. They conferred on concrete steps toward solutions thorough the joint efforts of the regions' youth.
On the following day, the participants discussed establishment of a religious youth network and cooperation with secular organizations following examples in Cambodia and Indonesia.
On the final day, September 7, the youths adopted the Singapore Declaration, which included an emergency appeal to halt the escalation of armed conflict in Mindanao, the Philippines. It also included multireligious youth's pledge to combat HIV/AIDS in India.
The declaration also included the establishment of the Asian Coordinating Team (ACT). It will serve as the executive body of the Asian Youth Inter-religious Network (AYIN), which has matured since its establishment at the preparatory meeting of the World Youth Assembly, held in Ambon, Indonesia, in 2005.
Niwano Peace Prize Committee's First Symposium Discusses Religion and Peace
On September 6, the Niwano Peace Prize Committee held the first symposium at the International House of Japan, in Roppongi, Tokyo, on the theme "Religions for Peace?" Some 70 people participated. The symposium was paneled mainly by members of the Niwano Peace Prize Committee, which is the selection board for the annual Niwano Peace Prize, comprising multireligious leaders of various nationalities.
In his welcoming address, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of the Niwano Peace Foundation, emphasized the significance of interreligious cooperation as a driving force toward religionists' mutual discovery and improvement. Bishop Gunnar Stalsett, chairman of the committee and bishop emeritus of Oslo of the Church of Norway, then made an opening presentation explaining the symposium's aims. Bishop Stalsett stressed the importance of religionists' seeking to establish true faith by taking a critical, self-reflective look into their own selves and the history of their religions.
The panel discussion followed, coordinated by Mr. Doudou Diene, United Nations special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racial discrimination, xenophobia and other kinds of intolerance. The panelists included five Niwano Peace Committee members: Rev. Dr. Phramaha Boonchuay Doojay, lecturer and vice rector of Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University in Chiang Mai; Dr. Irfan Ahmad Khan, president of the World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations; Ms. Christina Lee, vice director at the International Headquarters of the Focolare Movement; Ms. Roza Otunbayeva, co-leader of the political party Asaba in the Kyrgyz Republic; and Mr. Oh Jae Shik, director of the Asia Institute. They were joined by Rev. Yoshiharu Tomatsu, senior research fellow at the Jodo Shu Research Institute, who participated as a guest panelist.
Following guidelines proposed by the coordinator---that the presentations should focus on the present and recognize that religion can cause problems as well as solve them, and that the role of religion in building peace should be carefully examined---the panelists discussed current problems related to religion from many angles. They then exchanged opinions on religious contributions to peace.
During the following question-and-answer session, the audience asked the panelists such questions as how religion should be practiced in daily life and how peace can be fostered in individuals' hearts.
Rissho Kosei-kai Sends Representative to UN Disarmament Conference in Sapporo
During August 27-29, the nineteenth United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues in Sapporo addressed the theme "New Vision and Required Leadership Towards a World Free from Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction." The conference was held at the Sapporo Convention Center under the auspices of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific. This year's conference was attended by some 70 people from 18 countries, including representatives of governments, academic institutions, nongovernmental organizations and UN agencies. Rissho Kosei-kai was represented by Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, deputy director of its External Affairs Department. The conference was hosted by the Japanese government and the city of Sapporo. A UN conference for the promotion of nuclear disarmament and abolition of weapons of mass destruction has been held each year in a different Japanese city since 1989.
At this year's conference, discussions focused on institutional improvement of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and prevention of terrorists' use of nuclear weapons.
On August 27, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Mr. Rogelio Pfirter, director-general of the Technical Secretariat of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), delivered a keynote address at the special session on terrorism with chemical weapons. In a plenary session on August 28, Rev. Kamiya pointed out the growing number of nuclear powers and emphasized the importance of pursuing the initiatives of earlier conferences aiming at complete disarmament and nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, he referred to the possible role of the UN secretary-general as a mediator between nuclear powers and other nations to promote substantial progress on nuclear disarmament and enforce nonproliferation. Rev. Kamiya concluded that the secretary-general should try to strengthen the activities of the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, and the UN Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament, and Development in Latin America and Caribbean.
In his speech at the closing session on August 29, Rev. Kamiya emphasized that tackling the problem of nuclear weapons is none other than valuing the sacredness of human life.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Gives Emergency Aid to Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
In August the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced the donation of 3 million Japanese yen to a project carried out by the Campaign for the Children of Palestine, a Japanese nongovernmental organization.
The project was to provide counseling to shell-shocked refugees driven in May by fierce fighting between the Lebanese army and Fatah al-Islam militants from the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon to another nearby refugee camp at Beddawi in Tripoli, where 17,000 refugees already were living, according to a report from the Campaign for the Children of Palestine. More than 20,000 Palestinian refugees were displaced.
The report said the conflict destroyed the Nahr el-Bared camp, and to make matters worse, strew it with land mines. The new refugees at Beddawi found shelter in schools and kindergartens, and there was no prospect of better temporary housing.
Youth Division of Rissho Kosei-kai Organizes Its First Study Trip to South Korea for College Students
During August 22-26, the Youth Division of Rissho Kosei-kai dispatched 17 religious youth members to Seoul on their first overseas study trip. The trip was organized as part of this year's annual peace program established by the Youth Division for religious youth studying at universities and colleges throughout Japan.
The program's goal is to encourage students to contribute to world peace by striving to perfect themselves in the light of the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and to deepen their awareness of social problems around the world. The trip aimed to give them an opportunity to encounter a foreign culture and reflect upon themselves as followers of a living religion. Further, it was hoped that what they experienced abroad would encourage them to help disseminate Buddhism in Japan and other countries.
On August 23, they attended a workshop at which Prof. Joon Sik Choi from the Department of Korean Studies at Ewha Women's University made a keynote address on the theme "Interreligious Cooperation and World Peace." The students also met youth members of the Seoul District of Won Buddhism, and their common acknowledgement of disputes arising from past relations between both Koreas and Japan impressed upon them the importance of work for peace.
On August 24, together with members of three Korean religious organizations--Buddhist, Confucian, and Christian--the Japanese youths held a memorial service in Seodaemun Independence Park for those who suffered under Japanese rule. The park was the site of Seodaemun Prison, where many fighters for independence from Japan were held until 1945.
On August 25, the Japanese youths were given a reception by Korean youth members at Korean Rissho Kosei-kai, a sister association of Rissho Kosei-kai in Seoul. The youth members of both countries shared spiritual insights by taking part in hoza sessions and testifying to their faith.
President Niwano Attends Fiftieth Anniversary of Japan Buddhist Federation
August 23, the fiftieth anniversary of the Japan Buddhist Federation was celebrated at Zojoji, the chief temple of Jodo Buddhism in Tokyo. Some 600 people, including representatives from member organizations of the federation and Japanese Association of Religious Organizations (JAORO), as well as invited guests from various circle of Japanese society, took part. In his capacity as a director of JAORO, President Nichiko Niwano attended the ceremony along with Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's external affairs department.
Established in 1900 as Buddhist Interfaith, the group originated as an association of the various lineages of traditional Japanese Buddhism. Then the group developed as the Buddhist Confederation of Japan, and in 1957 it was renamed the Japan Buddhist Federation. The federation consists of major Buddhist denominations and Buddhist associations in all the prefectures of Japan, as well as other Buddhist groups, including 58 main denominations. The federation is one of five organizations constituting JAORO.
The ceremony began in the main hall of Zojoji. In the chancel of the main hall were present the leaders of traditional Japanese Buddhism. Rev. Yukou Narita, chief priest of Zojoji temple officiated at a memorial service to honor the deceased who had contributed to the development of the Japan Buddhist Federation and to commemorate the 50th anniversary. An address of welcome by Rev. Kosen Omichi, head priest of Soto Zen Buddhism, was followed by congratulatory messages from Mr. Phan Wannamethee, president of the World Fellowship of Buddhists; Mr. Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister (read out on his behalf by Mr. Seiji Suzuki, deputy chief cabinet secretary); and Rev. Ichitaro Sugiyama, chairman of JAORO. At the close of the ceremony, Rev. Gyoshin Ikeda, the federation's secretary-general, read out an anniversary resolution, which included a pledge to work for closer ties among the denominations of Japanese Buddhism, the solidarity of Asian Buddhism, and interreligious cooperation between Buddhists and adherents of other religions overseas.
President Niwano Meets WFB President and Honorary Secretary-General
On August 23, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, conferred with Mr. Phan Wannamethee, president of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB), and Mr. Phallop Thaiarry, its honorary secretary-general, at a Tokyo hotel. Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of the External Affairs Department of Rissho Kosei-kai, and Rev. Shin'ichi Noguchi, executive director of the Niwano Peace Foundation, also were present.
The WFB was founded in 1950 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to promote the spread of Buddhism and worldwide solidarity of Buddhists. Its headquarters, now in Bangkok, Thailand, is an interfaith center for the promotion of human happiness and world peace. In October 2006, Mr. Thaiarry visited the headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai in Tokyo and had a talk with President Niwano at the Horin-kaku Guest Hall.
At their recent meeting, they noted the history of friendly relations between the WFB and Rissho Kosei-kai. They recalled Rissho Kosei-kai Founder Rev. Nikkyo Niwano's attendance at the 11th WFB general conference at Bangkok in 1976 at the invitation of the then-WFB president, Princess Poon Pismai Diskul.
ICCI Peace Program in Jerusalem Receives Rissho Kosei-kai Seminarians
On August 19-23, the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), an Israeli nongovernmental organization (NGO) that serves as the Israeli chapter of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP), sponsored a peace program on the theme "Between Memory and Reconciliation: Individual Identity, Collective Memory and Narrative Implications for Conflict Transformation," inviting 18 Israeli youths (nine Jews and nine Palestinians) and 17 members of Rissho Kosei-kai, at the Yitzhak Rabin Guesthouse in Jerusalem.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long been one of the world's most serious problems. In July 2006 an interreligious youth meeting focusing on peace building in Israel/Palestine convened in Jerusalem as one of the regional preparatory meetings for last year's WCRP's World Youth Assembly in Hiroshima and Kyoto, which was co-sponsored by the ICCI and the Palestinian Center for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development (Panorama).
Since Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Division, was also vice-president of WCRP's International Youth Committee (IYC), he and members of his staff participated in that meeting. The ICCI regarded the presence of Rissho Kosei-kai members as helpful at such a meeting and realized the importance of continuing dialogue to further mutual understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. On organizing the peace program, the ICCI arranged for the participation of Rissho Kosei-kai youth members with the idea that the presence of members from a religious organization considered impartial and neutral might help prevent deadlock between Israelis and Palestinians. Thus, at the ICCI's invitation, Rissho Kosei-kai dispatched a group of 17 members headed by Rev. Shigemasa Hironaka, deputy director of Rissho Kosei-kai Gakurin seminary, including ten seminarians.
On August 19, following the formal opening greetings by representatives of the ICCI, Dr. Arik Taib, a professor at Hebrew University, gave an opening lecture on the theme "Change and Resistance: Understanding Our Attitudes and Encountering Those of Others." During the five-day program, the many lectures and meetings included reports on the impacts on Palestinians of the establishment of Israel, as well as testimony by a Holocaust survivor. The program also included sightseeing in the Old City of Jerusalem, travel to a Palestinian village where many Palestinians had been massacred, and a visit to the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem. Rissho Kosei-kai members joined Israeli youths in all of these activities, eating at the same tables and hearing opinions from both sides.
2007 GVL Course Participants Join Asia Support Volunteers Program
The Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division organized the 2007 Global Volunteer Leaders (GVL) course and dispatched its five participants to the Philippine province of Quezon in August. Their visit was part of the Asia Support Volunteers program, one of Rissho Kosei-kai's peace activities. The GVL was established to enable Rissho Kosei-kai youth members to assist local nongovernmental organizations in Asia with volunteer work and encourage Rissho Kosei-kai youth members to study the Buddhist teachings based on the spirit of the One (Buddha) Vehicle.
In Infanta, Quezon, from August 9 to 17 the GVL group took part in the programs promoted by Infanta Integrated Community Development and Assistance, Inc. (ICDAI), a Philippine NGO. The ICDAI, whose goal is general sustainable development in agriculture, fishery, and forestry, has implemented programs to help people in the province become economically self-reliant.
The GVL members took part in agricultural work and afforestation under the direction of ICDAI staff. The GVL members also made a presentation to local children on Japanese culture and assisted with a school lunch program based on the principles of balanced nutrition, preparing meals at three elementary schools. They also visited a clinic and a provincial hospital to learn about the present state of medical treatment at these facilities.
On August 19, they visited Bagac in the province of Bataan to pay their respects at the Friendship Tower, a symbol of friendly ties between Filipinos and Japanese.
Shinshuren Holds Memorial Service for War Dead
On August 14, some 3,800 people from Shinshuren's member organizations, including Rissho Kosei-kai, gathered in Tokyo's Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery for the 42nd annual memorial service for the war dead of all nations and prayers for peace. The ceremony was sponsored by Shinshuren and its Youth League. The annual observance was held in a spirit of interreligious cooperation to mourn the dead of all wars and call for a total renunciation of war. Rev. Nichiko Niwano, Shinshuren's chairman, delivered an opening address in which he underlined the need for religious youths to take a serious look at the future of Japan and the world. He declared, "We should base ourselves upon, and learn from, the wisdom grounded in the history and tradition of Japan, as well as its war experience and other historical realities. It is only then that the true path to the future will open up to us." Young women members of Shinshuren then offered lighted candles at the altar in the hexagonal building where ashes of Japan's war dead are enshrined. Following an offering of paper cranes (symbols of peace in Japan), representatives of religious organizations proceeded to the altar by turns and led prayers according to their own rituals. Rev. Yukihiro Hozumi, president-designate of Taiwa Kyodan and chairman of the Shinshuren's Youth League, then delivered a message for peace, calling on religious youth to raise high the torch of lasting peace and cooperate with one another to work further for peace.
Rissho Kosei-kai Observes 62nd Day of Repose for the Spirits of the War Dead and Prayers for Peace
On August 15, the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and its branch churches throughout Japan observed annual ceremonies on the 62nd anniversary of the end of the Pacific War and for the Day of Repose for the Spirits of the War Dead and Prayers for Peace.
Some 2,000 members from the Tokyo District gathered for the ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall in the Buddhist organization's Tokyo headquarters to mourn and pray for the victims of World War II. They prayed also for an end to all current wars and conflicts throughout the world and for lasting peace.
The ceremony began with the singing of songs, including "Do not stand at my grave and weep" by the Kosei Choir. Eighteen high school and college student members from the Tokyo District offered lighted candles at the Buddhist altar before the image of the Eternal Original Buddha. The subsequent sutra chanting was led by Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chief executive of dissemination affairs. Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, recited a prayer for merit transfer, and at the Buddhist altar he offered a paper crane, a symbol of peace in Japan.
After religious testimony by one member, President Niwano gave a Dharma talk. He said that since every person is endowed with the buddha-nature, or the seed of buddhahood, all people ultimately become one with the Buddha. He added that if we realize that everything in the universe is endowed with the buddha-nature, we will appreciate the true value of all things. He concluded by saying that we can contribute to world peace by cultivating a sense of veneration for the buddha-nature in everything that exists.
English-language Celebration of Lotus Sutra Held in Osaka
Members of the Kinki District of Rissho Kosei-kai demonstrated their faith in Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra through the presentations in English of plays, readings, testimony to the faith, and songs at the Osaka church on August 5. It was the first such event in the Kinki area, and it was cosponsored by the Kinki District, Kosei-kai International, and the International Buddhist Congregation (IBC). The IBC held a similar event in Tokyo in November 2006.
Some 380 members of all ages--from elementary school students to a man eighty-five years old--took part. The event was organized to encourage more Rissho Kosei-kai members to study the Lotus Sutra and the teachings of Founder Nikkyo Niwano in English, enabling them better to share the teachings with non-Japanese. The participants rehearsed diligently for the occasion, and their efforts were amply rewarded by the audience's enthusiastic applause and cheers of encouragement. Members of the Kyoto, Shiga, Nara, and Himeji churches performed dramas they had written themselves, on such themes as a group of high school students' educational trip to south Asia; sutra recitation; and the parable of the Poor Son, one of the seven parables of the Lotus Sutra, adapted to a contemporary setting. Members of the Maizuru, Fukuchiyama, Kobe, Senshu, Toyonaka, and Osaka churches, on the other hand, gave speeches of testimony to their faith, recited the Members' Vow, and outlined Founder Niwano's life and the Law of Dependent Origination.
President of Buddhist Association of China Has Exchanges with Members of Osaka Church
On August 5, Ven. Yicheng, president of the Buddhist Association of China, visited the Osaka Church of Rissho Kosei-kai before returning to China after participating in the celebration of the 20th anniversary in Kyoto and Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, August 3-4 of the Religious Summit Meeting on Mount Hiei. In the church entrance hall, church members welcomed Ven. Yicheng enthusiastically, waving small Chinese and Japanese flags. In the main hall, where a statue of Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni is enshrined, Ven. Yicheng enjoyed choral and dance performances by Osaka members. In his address to Osaka members, Ven. Yicheng spoke of the Three Poisons of greed, anger, and ignorance, saying these hinder relationships between people and between nature and human beings. He said that following the Buddha's teachings and building peace within oneself will surely bring peace to one's family, the community, and the world. When a member asked Ven. Yicheng the secret of his good health, he replied that good health can be attained by eating organic foods, living every day with thanksgiving, showing compassion, and practicing Buddhist discipline in the spirit of "knowing satisfaction with little." He said compassion is rewarded by health and longevity.
Gathering Marks Twentieth Anniversary of Religious Summit Meeting on Mount Hiei
The Interreligious Gathering of Prayer for World Peace was held August 3-4 at the Kyoto International Conference Center (ICC Kyoto) in Kyoto and the temple Enryakuji in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture. The event commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the Religious Summit Meeting on Mount Hiei, held in August 1987. Some 2,000 people from nineteen countries took part, including twenty-six delegates of Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Shinto, Zoroastrian, and indigenous religious organizations. The two-day event was hosted by the Japan Conference of Religious Representatives, comprising five multireligious leagues belonging to the Japanese Association of Religious Organizations. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, President Nichiko Niwano, Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi and other senior officers and staff members from the organization's headquarters, and leaders and members of the local Kinki District, took part.
The opening ceremony took place at the ICC Kyoto on the afternoon of August 3. It began with a display of paintings inspired by the ideals of peace and a peaceful life by children from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Hiroshima. Overseas delegates and honorary advisors and moderators of the conference then delivered messages. Monsignor Felix A. Machado, under secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and H.E. Dr. Abdallah F. Al-Lihadan, assistant vice minister for Islamic affairs at Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Da Wah, Call and Guidance, gave commemorative addresses, both on the theme "Reconciliation and Cooperation." The subsequent symposium on "Reconciliation and Cooperation: Beyond the Boundaries of Religions, Races, and Countries" was paneled by seven religious leaders. They confirmed the importance of religionists' concrete actions for peace and urgently appealed for the release of Korean hostages in Afghanistan. In the evening, a reception was held in a neighboring hotel, at which President Nichiko Niwano made a speech on behalf of the conference organizers.
On the morning of August 4, two forums were held in the ICC Kyoto, in which 300 people participated. Forum 1 discussed "Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation for Building Peace through Reconciliation," and Forum 2 addressed "Harmony and Sustainable Living with Nature: The Role of People of Faith in Preserving the Global Environment." In the afternoon, the participants moved to Enryakuji on Mount Hiei to attend the Ceremony of Prayers for World Peace. Some 1,000 people took part in the outdoor ceremony in front of the Konpon Chudo Hall. A World Peace Bell, which had been presented to Enryakuji by the World Peace Bell Association in Japan before the occasion, was tolled, and all the participants offered silent prayers for peace. Rev. Adam Bunnell, director of the Franciscan International Centre for Dialogue in Assisi, delivered a Message from Assisi. It was followed by prayers for world peace by representatives of ten religious and multireligious organizations. The event ended with the announcement and adoption of a Message from Mount Hiei that urges further efforts for interreligious dialogue and cooperation, stating that peace can be achieved only through "reconciliation and forgiveness" based on compassion.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Donates for Relief of Niigata Earthquake Victims
On August 1-2, the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund donated 27 million Japanese yen to help victims in four municipalities of Niigata Prefecture hit by the devastating earthquake of July 16.
On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Takayo Nihei, minister of the Kashiwazaki Church, and Rev. Kazunori Motomura, head of the Niigata District, along with other two Rissho Kosei-kai officers, visited the City Hall in Kashiwazaki City, the most damaged area in the prefecture, on August 1 and handed Mayor Hiroshi Aida a letter detailing contributions totaling 20 million yen in token of Rissho Kosei-kai members' concern. On the next day, Rev. Nihei also visited Kariwa Village, where the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant is located, and met the village leader, Hiroo Shinada and presented him with 3 million Japanese yen for the relief of earthquake victims after explaining significance of the Donate-a-Meal Campaign, one of Rissho Kosei-kai's peace activities.
On August 1, Rev. Mikio Tahira, minister of the Nagaoka Church, Rev. Yoshie Kawauchi, head of public relations, and five other officers visited Nagaoka city hall and handed a letter with a contribution of 3 million yen to Mayor Tamio Mori. On August 2, Rev. Yoshiko Komano, minister of Teradomari Church presented 1 million yen to Mr. Noriyuki Kobayashi, mayor of Izumozaki Town, for the relief of victims.
On the morning of July 16, a devastating 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck central Niigata Prefecture, on the coast of the Sea of Japan. As of the end of July, the earthquake had killed eleven people and injured at least 1,957, destroying 1,047 houses, partly collapsing 1,719, and causing at least minor damage to 19,925 others.
Immediately after the earthquake, the leaders of the Kashiwazaki Church checked on members living in the devastated city. Other Rissho Kosei-kai members quickly responded to news of the earthquake and organized fund-raising campaigns throughout Japan. Contributions from members and other people were funneled through the Japan Red Cross and a headquarters for disaster countermeasures in Niigata Prefecture for the relief of victims.
Gohonzon Presentation Ceremony Held in Bangkok
In Bangkok, Thailand, on July 29 a Gohonzon presentation ceremony was held at the Thai Rissho Friendship Foundation, which houses the Bangkok branch of Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia. Forty-six people, including members of the 30 recipients' families, took part in the ceremony.
The Gohonzon, a small statue of Shakyamuni Buddha, is a focus of devotion enshrined on members' home altars. At the ceremony, following an offering of flowers by youth members, sutra recitation, and an invocation, Rev. Keiichi Hashimoto, a member of the board of directors of Rissho Kosei-kai, presented Gohonzon to thirty members from Thailand, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. The Gohonzon were entrusted to Rev. Hashimoto's care at the 17th Gohonzon Invocation Ceremony on July 22 in the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo.
WCRP/Japan Urges Action against Global Warming
On July 17, the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) issued a paper suggesting ways to encourage efforts against global warming. Copies were sent to major political parties as well to leading newspapers in Japan. The paper urges leaders of Japanese political parties to make the capping of greenhouse gas emission a top priority.
WCRP/Japan's Environment and Development Committee, chaired by Rev. Tsunehito Tanaka, chairman of Shinseikai, played a leading role in drafting the paper, which was given final form on July 17.
The paper results from a consensus among religious leaders of WCRP/Japan member organizations on the importance of making efforts to stop global warming.
Emphasizing the importance of realizing the threat of climate change to the survival of many species, including human beings, the paper emphasizes the urgent need for steps to stop global warming. The paper includes a study predicting that some 2.94 billion people would die by 2050 unless 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are promptly reduced.
In the paper, the religious leaders appeal not only to every member of their faith communities but also to people at all levels of Japanese society to work together to cap greenhouse gas emissions. To that end, they suggest that everyone should tackle the problem by pondering whether their lifestyle accelerates global warming.
Rissho Kosei-kai Volunteers Plant 6,500 Saplings in Ethiopia
Rissho Kosei-kai dispatched 18 volunteer members to join the Buddhist organization's annual afforestation program in Tigray, Ethiopia's northern province, July 8-20. In cooperation with the Relief Society of Tigray (REST), a local nongovernmental organization based in Tigray's capital, Mekelle, volunteer members took part in afforestation projects. In three days they planted some 6,500 Barbados nut tree saplings in three districts of Samre Saharti County, about two hours' drive from Mekelle. They learned that trees help soil retain water. They also inspected a eucalyptus grove grown from saplings that volunteers planted in 1995. After their afforestation work, the volunteers visited the headquarters of REST in Mekelle and shared their thoughts on reforestation of the province with REST staff members. During their conversation, Mr. Mekonnen Abraha, REST's deputy director, described REST's agricultural and environmental struggles in Tigray and expressed gratitude for the efforts of Rissho Kosei-kai volunteers and the Buddhist organization's Peace Fund's 15 years of assistance. He said Rissho Kosei-kai's contributions improved not only Ethiopia's green environment but also living conditions in the province.
It is said that 40 percent of Ethiopia was once covered with forest. Because of the 17 years of civil war that began in 1975, and conflicts between Ethiopia and Eritrea from 1998 to 2000, frequent severe droughts and deforestation, the area of forest has shrunk to 1 percent. In 1993 Rissho Kosei-kai began supporting an afforestation project that REST was carrying out in Tigray as one of the Buddhist organization's joint projects overseas. By 2006, some 12.4 million saplings had been planted across the province.
Members Observe Ullambana Ceremony
The annual Ullambana ceremony for members to transfer their religious merit to their ancestors through offerings of sutra chanting was held at the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo as well as all the churches across Japan on July 15. The ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall at the Buddhist organization's headquarters was attended by 2,795 members from 58 churches in Japan. Because of the strong wind and heavy rains caused by Typhoon Man-yi approaching the Tokyo area that day, members from 12 churches could not attend, and churches in some areas postponed the ceremony to a later day.
The word ullambana means "hanging upside down," denoting that the hungry spirits in hell feel as much pain as if they were hanging upside down. According to the Ullambana Sutra, the Buddha's disciple Maudgalyayana asked his fellow monks to join a religious service for his mother suffering in the realm of hungry spirits.
In the Great Sacred Hall the sutra chanting, led by Rev. Kosho Niwano, president-designate, was followed by an offering at the altar by sixteen women members. In the subsequent ritual, the president-designate and some 200 representative members, certified as Dharma teachers, read out 14,047 Buddhist posthumous names of the departed. Then President-designate Niwano offered a Buddhist prayer of merit transfer.
Referring to the etymology of the Sanskrit word ullambana, he said that the Buddha's teachings make us understand how we look at things upside down, that is, selfishly pursuing only our own salvation. He said that since we depend on each other and are sustained by the Buddha, by learning about and trying to relieve others' sufferings, we save ourselves. Thus he emphasized the true significance of the Ullambana Ceremony.
Rissho Kosei-kai of Hawaii Opens Retreat Center
On July 15, Rissho Kosei-kai of Hawaii inaugurated the Kona Retreat Center on the Kona chapter's premises. Some 120 members took part in the event, and the special guests included Rev. Keiji Kunitomi, a member of Rissho Kosei-kai's board of directors. The establishment of the center was one of the Hawaii Church's undertakings in commemoration of the centennial in 2006 of the birth of Founder Nikkyo Niwano.
The ceremony began with sutra recitation led by Rev. Kunitomi, followed by religious testimony by a church chapter leader. Rev. Ryokan Ara, the first Buddhist bishop of the Tendai Mission of Hawaii Betsuin, made a congratulatory speech, and Rev. Kunitomi also offered his congratulations on the opening of the retreat center. He said he hoped it would serve as a place of learning for many youths from Japan as well as other countries destined to disseminate the Buddha's teachings worldwide.
The two-story center is on Big Island, and the Kona chapter is part of Rissho Kosei-kai of Hawaii, based on Oahu. On the center's first floor there is a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, and common room accommodating 10 people. The second floor has a suite including a room with twin beds and two dormitories for ten people each, The center is designed for Rissho Kosei-kai members from Japan and other countries as a place for the study of Buddhism and for hoza counseling sessions.
GVL Members Learn More at Second Seminar of Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division
From July 6 to 8 the Youth Division of Rissho Kosei-kai held the second seminar for the 2007 Global Volunteer Leaders (GVL) course at the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo. Six GVL members took part in it.
The seminar consisted of a Current Affairs Session and the Lotus Sutra Session, where GVL members spoke about their studies. At the Current Affairs Session, participants presented papers on the results of a study of the North-South problem, and participants in the Lotus Sutra Session gave their views of peace based on the Lotus Sutra.
GVL members also heard a speech by Ms. Rika Okayasu, student group leader of Ota Church in Tokyo and a participant in a 2004 GVL course, about her experience with one of the Asia Support Volunteers programs coordinated by Rissho Kosei-kai.
During August 7-21, for an Asia Support Volunteers program, the GVL members will be sent to Infanta in the Philippine province of Quezon. There they are to participate in agricultural assistance activities organized by a nongovernmental organization.
WCRP/Japan Holds Meetings of Boards of Directors and Councilors
On July 6 the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) held the 96th meeting of its board of directors as well as the 92nd meeting of its board of councilors, at the headquarters of Gedatsu Church in Tokyo. Forty-nine directors and councilors participated. As president of WCRP/Japan, President Nichiko Niwano took part along with Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi and other Rissho Kosei-kai representatives in their respective capacities with WCRP/Japan.
A welcoming address by Rev. Teruo Okano, chairman of the board of directors of Gedatsu Church, was followed by the opening address by President Niwano. During the subsequent meeting, reports on the organization's activities and finances in fiscal 2006 were given. As for the Japanese Committee's activities, the following topics were reported: the preparations and organization of the eighth assembly of WCRP in Kyoto (August 2006), a fund-raising campaign for earthquake victims in Pakistan (2006), and the 33rd National Interreligious Consultation for Peace in Shiga Prefecture (March 19). After an announcement of personnel changes, the participants discussed a request to help organize the twentieth anniversary celebration of the Religious Summit Meeting on Mount Hiei held in August in Kyoto and Shiga Prefecture. It was announced that the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace would hold its seventh assembly in Manila, the Philippines, in October 2008.
WCRP/Japan Makes Grants to Local NGOs Defending Human Rights of Migrant Workers in Japan
The Human Rights Committee, a subcommittee of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan), held a meeting to make grants to three Japanese nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in efforts to defend the human rights of migrant workers and other foreign residents in Japan. At a meeting on July 6 Rev. Masao Yamada, who chairs the subcommittee and is head of the Hokkaido district of Rissho Kosei-kai, presented grants of 300,000 Japanese yen each to representatives of the three organizations at a vocational training center in Tokyo, where they gave brief reports on their activities.
The three organizations were Tomono-kai, based in Nagoya, which gives counseling by telephone and through interviews; Minato-machi Clinic, based in Yokohama, which provides health care; and Kalabaw-no-kai (Association in Kotobuki for Solidarity with Foreign Migrant Workers), also based in Yokohama, which gives counseling and sponsors a Japanese-language class for foreign residents.
Financial support of Japanese NGOs that defend the rights of migrant workers throughout Japan and raise public awareness of the needs of these workers and their families is part of the Human Rights Committee's peace program. To that end, the committee makes grants to a number of NGOs each year, and this was the eleventh year of awarding such grants.
Niwano Peace Foundation Allocates Activity Grants in First Half of Fiscal 2007
In July the Niwano Peace Foundation announced that it had allocated 5 million Japanese yen in grants to eight organizations for the first half of fiscal 2007. The goal of the grants program is, while promoting mutual understanding and cooperation among different religions, to encourage individuals and groups to build social harmony in the light of religious faith and solidarity of people of various faiths. The recipients were selected primarily for their work in the following four categories: (1) social activities based on a religious spirit, (2) activities for individual and community welfare and peace, (3) activities to empower local communities, and (4) activities to vitalize local communities. During the application period from March 15 to April 30, the foundation received 79 applications from organizations in Japan and abroad. The recipients and grants are as follows:
¥Multi-Ethnic Education Forum 2007 in Tokyo: 800,000 yen to organize a forum on multiethnic education in Tokyo
¥Amnesty International Japan: 800,000 yen for research on refugees living in Japan
¥Peace Depot: 500,000 yen to draft a model treaty to establish a nuclear weapons-free zone in East Asia
¥SOMNEED (Society for Mutual Aid, Networking, Environment, Education, and Development): 700,000 yen for study sessions on world affairs
¥The Study Group for Creative Play Space: 500,000 yen to create play areas for practice in building houses with sandbags instead of bricks
¥Nonviolent Peaceforce: 600,000 yen for workshops on peace and human rights issues in Sri Lanka
¥Asia Muslim Action Network (AMAN): 500,000 yen for lectures on work for peace and conflict resolution
¥The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA): 600,000 yen to hold a conference of Asian religious leaders under the theme "Being Peace Makers in Asia Today."
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Chittagong Members Donate Relief Supplies for Bangladeshi Flood Victims
Heavy rains in Bangladesh June 10-12 inundated Chittagong, the country's second-largest city. Floodwaters rose above the floors in the homes of about 2 million people, or half the city's population. The downpours also caused landslides. As of June 30, it was confirmed that 125 people had died in the floods. At the news of the flood, the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund gave 500,000 yen in emergency aid, with which Rissho Kosei-kai of Chittagong, a chapter of Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia, purchased emergency relief supplies for flood victims. On June 2, Mr. Deshapriya Barua Chowdhury, chairman of the Chittagong chapter, and two other chapter leaders visited the MA Aziz Stadium in the city, where the army had set up a base camp for relief activities, and they presented food and other relief supplies to the commander. The relief supplies included 2,500 kg of rice, 900 kg of sugar, and more than 400 sheets of corrugated iron with which to build shelters. Mr. Chowdhury explained the aims of Rissho Kosei-kai and the Peace Fund and expressed members' hope that the relief supplies would help victims rebuild their lives. The commander pledged effective use of the donated supplies. The Chittagong chapter reported that some 250 member households in the city also had suffered from the flood. The floodwaters rose to heights of 1.5 to 1.8 meters, submerging electrical appliances, furniture, clothes, and books.
Rissho Kosei-kai President Travels in China
At the invitation of the Buddhist Association of China and the China Religious Culture Communication Association (CRCCA), President and Mrs. Nichiko Niwano traveled in China along with officers from Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters during June 18-27. The two Chinese religious organizations invited them to commemorate the achievements of Rev. Zhao Puchu (1907-2000), a past president of the Buddhist Association of China, and to deepen friendship between the two countries, since this year is the centennial of Rev. Zhao's birth as well as the 35th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan.
On June 18, welcomed by the officers of the Buddhist Association of China and the Religion Bureau of the State Council at the Beijing Capital International Airport, President Niwano and his party visited to the home of Mrs. Chen Bangzhi, Rev. Zhao's widow, in Beijing. After worshipping at her Buddhist altar, President Niwano had an informal talk with Mrs. Chen in which he recalled the long friendship between Rev. Zhao and Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, founder of Rissho Kosei-kai. Then President Niwano visited the headquarters of the Buddhist Association of China, in Guangji temple, also in Beijing, where he had a dialogue with Ven. Cheng Xue, vice-president of the association.
On June 19, Rev. Niwano called on Mr. Jiang Jianyong, deputy director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, and later visited the China Religious Culture Communication Association (CRCCA) and met Mr. Ye Xiaowen, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs of China. On June 20 President Niwano and his party visited Lingguang temple in Beijing, where a tooth of the Buddha is housed as a sacred relic. On June 22 they flew to Taihu County in Anhui Province to visit Zhao Puchu's tomb in Zhao Puchu Cultural Park, and Anqing City, Rev. Zhao's birthplace. On June 26 they visited Jade Buddha temple in Shanghai.
Rev. Zhao Puchu died at the age of 92 in Beijing on May 21, 2000, after a long life dedicated to revitalizing the Buddhist spirit in China. He became vice president of the Buddhist Association of China in 1953 and president in 1980. An esteemed calligrapher, he was also active in interreligious dialogue for peace, and led the first Chinese delegation to a WCRP assembly in 1979. He took the initiative in originating the China-South Korea-Japan Buddhist Friendly Interaction Conferences, the largest of their kind. At the tenth anniversary celebration, October 25-27 at Lingguan temple, senior Buddhist leaders of the three countries cemented their friendship, prayed together and exchanged ideas for building peace in East Asia as well as the whole world. Rev. Zhao Puchu was the third recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize, in 1985.
Rissho Kosei-kai Sends Representatives to UUA General Assembly 2007
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) sponsored its 46th annual general assembly June 20-24 at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon, with the participation of some 6,000 members. At the UUA's invitation, Rissho Kosei-kai sent Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, deputy director of its external affairs department, and Rev. Kotaro Suzuki, director of Kosei-kai International, to the assembly as "international guests." Four staff members from Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters also attended.
During the five-day gathering, there were workshops on such topics as environmental justice, racial justice, international human rights and justice, as part of the assembly's programs to enhance UUA members' awareness of social issues. On June 21 Rev. Suzuki was a panelist in a workshop on "The Meaning of Partnership." Referring to the encounter of Founder Nikkyo Niwano with Dr. Dana McLean Greeley, the UUA's first president, in which they cultivated deep mutual understanding, Rev. Suzuki emphasized the importance of realizing that interreligious cooperation depends on mutual understanding and praying for others. He also explained that building a relationship of trust through frequent dialogue can lead to concrete actions for world peace. He also spoke of a peace project in India started by the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF), in which Rissho Kosei-kai and the UUA are member organizations and through which IARF youth members of different faiths from various countries learned to trust and respect one another in the course of rebuilding religious facilities in the western state of Gujarat that were damaged by a severe earthquake in January 2001. Rev. Suzuki pointed out the importance of practical contributions to world peace through dialogue, collaboration, and respecting others' cultural and religious differences.
During their visit to America, Rev. Suzuki and Rissho Kosei-kai staff members also visited the home of an American member of Rissho Kosei-kai in Oregon and the Rissho Kosei-kai Buddhist Church of Los Angeles, where Rev. Suzuki gave religious guidance to members and led a hoza counseling session.
Twelfth International Lotus Sutra Seminar Held on Mount Putuo, China
The 12th International Lotus Sutra Seminar, sponsored by the Chuo Academic Research Institute, affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai, was held June 3-10 on Mount Putuo, an island off the coast of Zhejiang Province, China, under the title "Kuan-yin and the Lotus Sutra." Nineteen scholars of Buddhist studies and theology from Japan, Canada, and the United States participated.
Eleven participants presented papers commenting on 11 chapters of a book by Chun-fang Yu, Kuan-yin: The Chinese Transformation of Avalokiteshvara. The book describes the transformation of the male Indian bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara into the female Chinese bodhisattva Kuan-yin, one of the most popular deities in Chinese religion. Dr. Yu, professor of Buddhism and East Asian and Chinese religions at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, participated as a commentator. Each presentation was followed by comments by another participant, then discussion by all the participants. The other participants were Daniel Boucher (Cornell University), Victor H. Mair (University of Pennsylvania), Koichi Shinohara (Yale University), Dorothy C. Wong (University of Virginia), Maria Reis Habito (Museum of World Religions), Jinhua Chen (University of British Columbia), Miriam Levering (University of Tennessee), Philip Clart (University of Missouri-Columbia), Mark R. Mullins (Sophia University), Michio T. Shinozaki (Rissho Kosei-kai Gakurin seminary), and Jeff Wilson (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). Gene Reeves, advisor to the International Buddhist Congregation, affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai, and a former dean of the Meadville/Lombard Theological School, served as the principal organizer, and Max Johnson (Claremont School of Theology) participated as a reporter
Since 1994 Rissho Kosei-kai has sponsored Lotus Sutra seminars almost annually, inviting international scholars to its facilities and highland hotels in Japan to promote discussion and exploration of the Lotus Sutra. The seminars have aimed to make the sutra's teachings better known among Western scholars. The seminars have been held in China since 2005.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Helps Flood Victims in Bangladesh
In June the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced a donation of 500,000 Japanese yen to aid flood victims in Chittagong, Bangladesh. According to reports, heavy rains in the early monsoon period triggered floods and mudslides in the hilly port city of Chittagong in southeastern Bangladesh.
Many of the city's main roads were submerged, and many hillside houses collapsed. By June 14, mudslides and floods had taken nearly 130 lives. Several people were killed by lightning, and many were buried in mud. Police and the army dug through the mud in search of victims and delivered relief supplies to survivors. The government announced that Bangladesh had suffered its worst damage from monsoon rains in 30 years and estimated that the total cost of the damage would rise to 5 billion Bangladesh Takas (approximately $ 72 million).
The money donated by the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund was utilized for the relief of victims through Rissho Kosei-kai of Chittagong, a subsidiary church of Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Supports WFP's Project in Somalia
In June the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced a donation of 7 million Japanese yen to the operation conducted in the Horn of Africa by the Japan Association for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
The Horn of Africa is a drought-stricken region in the continent's northeast and includes Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Sudan. In Somalia a sixteen-year civil war from 1992 drove some 170,000 people to flee into neighboring Kenya to take refuge in camps. In November 2006, heavy rains caused floods and washed away the refugee camp complex in Dadaab, northeastern Kenya. Some 100,000 people were affected by the flooding, and 20,000 households were damaged. The Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund designated the Japan Association for WFP to use the fund's donation effectively for the relief of Somalis.
JEN's Relief Program to Southern Sudan Begins
JEN, a multiorganizational nonprofit group, of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a member, announced in May that in April it had started its relief program in autonomous Southern Sudan. The south of Sudan has been affected by the First and Second Sudanese Civil Wars. In January 2005 the Naivasha Agreement between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement, which brought an end to the Second Civil War, which lasted 21 years, granted autonomy to the region, leading to the creation of the Government of Southern Sudan, which makes Juba its regional capital.
According to reports from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 4 million people are internally displaced or have become refugees as a result of the civil wars and war-related impacts. They are now starting to return to their homelands: 96,508 people returned last year, and more than 102,000 people also will do so by the end of this year. However, in the lands where they lived, any existing social infrastructures and basic services for security, water supply, hygiene, and education were either damaged or destroyed during the civil war.
Thus, JEN opened its liaison office in Juba in January this year to investigate what the people there needed most. There was a scarcity of safe drinking water and little awareness of hygiene. Local people must depend on the Nile River for water for drinking, washing and cooking. Lack of purification has led to many cases of diarrhea, as well as the spread of cholera. Because of this, JEN initiated a program to teach hygiene to schoolchildren. The program also includes the digging of wells and the building of latrines. The areas to receive JEN's assistance are two counties in the Central Equatoria State, where it is expected that refugees from Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo will be repatriated soon. Three staff members dispatched from JEN's Tokyo headquarters together with 23 locally recruited members will visit 78 local schools. They also will help set up a task force in each village where there are schools to promote the program in cooperation with village leaders and children's parents, in ways that respect local traditions. The program will be in operation until December.
Japan-China Friendship Religious Consultation Organization Celebrates 40th Anniversary
On May 29, the fortieth anniversary of the Japan-China Friendship Religious Consultation Organization was celebrated at a hotel in Tokyo. Fifteen Chinese representatives, including Mr. Xiaowen Ye, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs of China, and Ven. Cheng Xue, vice-president of the Buddhist Association of China, attended. The approximately 120 Japanese Buddhist representatives at the celebration included Rev. Kicho Onozuka, the organization's president; Ven. Kojun Handa, head priest (zasu) of the Tendai Buddhist denomination; and Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai.
After a prayer service for world peace held by the representatives of both countries, an address of welcome by Rev. Onozuka on behalf of the organization was followed by congratulatory speeches by Ven. Cheng, Ven. Handa, and President Niwano. In his address, Rev. Niwano reminisced about his visit to China 30 years ago and several encounters with Mr. Zhao Puchu, a past president of the Buddhist Association of China. He said perfect harmony between China and Japan can be achieved through mutual respect, understanding, and support based on the Buddhist spirit of tolerance.
After the anniversary ceremony, Mr. Ye gave a speech in which he expressed the hope that both countries will communicate sincerely on a basis of equality, cementing solidarity for future generations and a bright future.
The friendly ties between Chinese and Japanese Buddhists began fifty-five years ago, after the Second World War. In 1952 the Buddhist Association of China presented a statue of the Medicine Buddha to Japanese Buddhists as a symbol of peace and friendship. Later, Japanese Buddhists organized a special committee to return the relics of Chinese POWs and war victims to China, irrespective of sectarian or denominational differences. After China's Cultural Revolution, in 1966 the special committee led to the establishment of the Japan-China Friendship Religious Consultation Organization. The statue of the Medicine Buddha presented to Japanese Buddhists was enshrined on the stage at the 40th anniversary ceremony on May 29.
ACRP Executive Committee Meets in Manila
The executive committee of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP) met May 25-26 in Manila, the Philippines. Thirty-seven religionists, including Rev. Sung-Gon Kim, ACRP secretary-general, committee members, and observers, gathered at the Pius XII Catholic Center. Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, deputy director of the external affairs department of Rissho Kosei-kai, represented Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai and a president of ACRP.
The committee members discussed the agenda and venue for the seventh assembly of the ACRP, to be held in 2008. They also agreed to launch a preparatory committee, which immediately started arranging for next year's assembly. Mr. Mir Nawaz Khan Marwat, ACRP moderator, served as a facilitator for the executive committee meeting.
Rissho Kosei-kai Welcomes Goodwill Mission from the Philippines
From May 18 to 26, a goodwill mission of 19 members of the Bataan Christian Youth Civic Circle (BCYCC), a self-help organization based in the Philippine province of Bataan, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo and met President Nichiko Niwano.
At a meeting in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall, Ms. Kristine Carol Quicho Reyes, on behalf of the other members of the goodwill mission, thanked Rev. Niwano for the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund's financial support of scholarships for BCYCC youths. She said also that next year the BCYCC would celebrate its 30th anniversary.
President Niwano recalled his visit to the Philippines thirty-two years ago when young Japanese from Rissho Kosei-kai and local Filipinos built the Friendship Tower in Bataan Province in 1975. He said exchanges between the two organizations at the grass-roots have contributed greatly to the friendship between the Philippines and Japan.
On May 20, the Filipino mission took part in Rissho Kosei-kai's 38th annual Youth Day, a nationwide peace campaign conducted by the organization's young members, and on May 24 they worshipped in the Great Sacred Hall and at the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle.
Nineteen members of the goodwill mission stayed separately in the homes of nine families belonging to Rissho Kosei-kai churches in Kanagawa Prefecture May 19-23.
Young Rissho Kosei-kai Members Work for Peace on Annual Youth Day
On May 20, Rissho Kosei-kai's 38th annual Youth Day was observed throughout the country with the theme "Raising the Winds of Social Change." On this day some 20,000 young members throughout Japan participated in various activities for the betterment of society and the building of world peace. Some 51,000 adult members and members of the general public also joined in the activities. They collaborated on such projects as the beautifying the environment, visiting welfare facilities, raising funds to support UNICEF activities, and collecting blankets for the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa. At noon all the participants joined in a silent prayer for peace.
One of the focuses of this year's activities was exchanges and cooperation with people of local communities. Members of the Maebashi, Saga, and Hagi branches visited homes for the disabled and other welfare facilities and worked as volunteers, taking walks with inmates and weeding flower gardens. Members of the Fukushima Branch participated in the campaign for environmental protection that has been promoted by the prefectural committee of Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan), by visiting temples and homes of local community leaders to appeal for their cooperation. Matsuyama Branch members cleaned up a local beach, picking up empty cans and other litter. Similar cleanup campaigns were also carried out by several other branches, including Kanuma, Tateyama, and Tsu.
The Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa and the UNICEF fund-raising campaign were promoted by many branches. Members of the Chikuho Branch set up a stage in front of a municipal office, where youth members appealed for the cooperation of more citizens in the campaign to send blankets to needy African villagers. The event was joined by a citizens' band and a drum corps from a local high school. Some branches held study sessions on politics, in which youth members had opportunities to learn about Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan and Rissho Kosei-kai's political views.
Rissho Kosei-kai Representative Joins 2007 NPT Review Conference in Vienna
From April 30 to May 11, the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) convened at the Austria Centre in Vienna, Austria. Chaired by Ambassador Yukiya Amano of Japan, it was the first of three sessions of the preparatory committee to be held by 2010. Representatives from 106 nations as well as from 66 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) participated in the meetings during the first session of the preparatory committee. Mr. Yasutomo Sawahata, a Rissho Kosei-kai representative in Geneva, participated as an observer. He actively promoted the Buddhist organization's ideas for peace and exchanged information on disarmament issues with national and NGO representatives.
In one of the workshops held by Middle Power Initiative (MPI), an organization to which the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund has given financial support, the Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C., chairman of MPI as well as a former Canadian senator and former Canadian ambassador for disarmament, explained the long-term assistance of Rissho Kosei-kai with disarmament issues and praised its support of MPI.
President Niwano Welcomes Jewish Religious Leaders
On May 11, Rabbi David Rosen and Mrs. Sharon Rosen visited the Horin-kaku Guest Hall and met President Nichiko Niwano. Rabbi Rosen is president of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), and Mrs. Rosen is a member of Niwano Peace Prize Committee, which selects the annual recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize.
In their conversation, Rabbi Rosen described religious trends in the Middle East since the eighth assembly of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/VIII) in Kyoto last summer. He said that in the Palestinian Territories many more religious leaders than in the past are engaging in interreligious dialogue and cooperation. Mrs. Rosen also noted the increasing frequency of dialogues among Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious leaders in an effort to reach a consensus on the future of Jerusalem. She said religious leader have a very important role to play in promoting religious reconciliation as a basis for peace in the Middle East. President Niwano said he was grateful that WCRP/VIII has helped contribute to peace in the Middle East.
Korean Religious Leaders Visit Rissho Kosei-kai Headquarters
On April 24, four religious leaders from South Korea visited Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo and talked with President Nichiko Niwano. The visiting leaders were Rev. Sung-Gon Kim, secretary-general of Asian Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP); Prof. Jin-Heung Byun, secretary-general of Korean Conference on Religion and Peace (KCRP); Prof. Chan-Su Yi, director of projects by the Center of World Religions for Peace; and Rev. Tae-Sung Kim, assistant secretary-general of ACRP. Also present from Japan were Rev. Keishi Miyamaoto, secretary-general of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan); Rev. Tomokazu Hatakeyama, under-secretary-general of WCRP/Japan; Rev. Katsuji Suzuki, vice secretary-general of ACRP; and Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of the external affairs department of Rissho Kosei-kai.
At the beginning of their conversation, President Niwano thanked Rev. Sung-Gon Kim for attending the ceremony marking the completed renovation of the training hall of Korean Rissho Kosei-kai, a sister organization of Japan's Rissho Kosei-kai. Rev. Kim praised the development of Korean Rissho Kosei-kai in his country. He explained the preparations for the seventh world assembly of the ACRP to be held in 2008 and asked Rev. Niwano, who is a president of ACRP, to help assure the assembly's success. Rev. Kim also described a future project of the Center for World Religions for Peace advocated by the KCRP.
Korean Rissho Kosei-kai's Hall Renovated
On April 22, Korean Rissho Kosei-kai in Seoul, a sister organization of Rissho Kosei-kai in Japan, celebrated the completed renovation of its training hall. About 350 people took part in the event, including Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of the board of directors of Rissho Kosei-kai, and Rev. Kotaro Suzuki, director of Kosei-kai International.
The celebration began with the viewing of a video on the life and teaching of Rissho Kosei-kai's founder, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano. The statue of the Eternal Buddha at the altar was then unveiled, and twelve young women members made an offering of lighted candles and flowers to it. The head of Korean Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Kyoko Lee, led members in chanting the Lotus Sutra. Chairman Yamanoi recited a prayer of dedication composed by President Niwano.
Then, in his speech, Rev. Yamanoi analyzed Founder Niwano's wish for both the salvation of all human beings and the achievement of world peace through interreligious cooperation, thus emphasizing the importance of leading a life of service to humanity as well as for the sake of a better future for the world. Chairman Yamanoi said he hoped to dedicate himself to working hand in hand with others for world peace.
Following that, Rev. Pal-Gun Chun, former co-chairman of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP), and Rev. Sung-Gon Kim, secretary-general of the ACRP, delivered congratulatory speeches.
Chairman Yamanoi Meets Religious Leaders in Seoul
On April 22, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of the board of directors of Rissho Kosei-kai in Japan, and Rev. Kotaro Suzuki, director of Kosei-kai International, conferred with Rev. Sung-Gon Kim, secretary-general of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP), when they visited Korean Rissho Kosei-kai in Seoul, a sister organization of Rissho Kosei-kai, to celebrate the completed renovation of its training hall. The topics they discussed included preparations for the seventh assembly of ACRP to be held in 2008, and the social relationship between politics and religion in the both countries. Rev. Kim introduced a future project advocated for the Center of World Religions for Peace by the Korean Conference on Religion and Peace (KCRP) and described his hope of building world peace through interreligious cooperation.
On the same day, Chairman Yamanoi and Rev. Kotaro Suzuki also met KCRP's president, Rev. Gun-Duk Choi, at a hotel in Seoul. They discussed Confucianism, which is deeply rooted in Asian culture, especially Korea's. Rev. Choi said Confucianism offers a set of practical ethical guidelines and that South Koreans' spiritual outlook is based on Confucianism, though a majority do not call themselves Confucianists.
Rissho Kosei-kai Delegation Visits Philippines for Bataan Day
A three-member Rissho Kosei-kai delegation, including Rev. Toshimasa Arai, deputy director of the Youth Division, visited the Philippine province of Bataan during April 6-10 for the Buddhist organization's annual memorial service for victims of the Second World War and to promote solidarity between Filipinos and Japanese.
On April 8, the delegation, together with the members of the Bataan Christian Youth Civic Circle (BCYCC) visited the Friendship Tower at Bagac in Bataan near the starting point of the Bataan Death March. They held a memorial service for all the war dead and rang the bell of peace. On the following day, the delegation joined in the national celebration of the Bataan Day festival on Mount Samat in Pilar to pray for world peace. During their visit, they paid their respects to Ms. Anna Ma. B. Tuazon, chairperson of the Bataan Christian Youth Foundation, which is affiliated with the BCYCC.
The Friendship Tower was built in 1975 with the support of Rissho Kosei-kai to honor victims of the Bataan Death March in the Second World War. After thousands of American and Filipino soldiers surrendered to the invading Japanese forces, they were forced to walk a great distance in tropical heat to a POW camp, and many perished along the way.
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 3,800 members gathered in the Great Sacred Hall. In his Dharma talk, President Nichiko Niwano explained the significance of Shakyamuni's birth. He stressed the importance of every member gaining a deep understanding of the Buddha's teachings, endeavoring to share them with as many people as possible, and giving thanks for the precious gift of life. On the same day, members of Rissho Kosei-kai churches across Japan celebrated the Buddhist festival in their communities, placing 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 images to express their veneration.
At the former headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai, near the Great Sacred Hall, the International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) of Rissho Kosei-kai held the Flower Festival in celebration of the Buddha's birth. Some 300 people--members of the IBC and people from 19 countries overseas, including the U.S., U.K., Iran, and Bhutan, who live in the Tokyo metropolitan area--joined in the chanting of the Lotus Sutra and listened to a Dharma talk by Dr. Gene Reeves, international advisor to the IBC, on "Togetherness." Following that ceremony, the participants enjoyed dance performances and other cultural events outdoors.
Members of Rissho Kosei-kai churches overseas--in the United States, Brazil, and Southeast Asia--also observed the Buddha's birthday with colorful ceremonies. The churches placed a small pagoda housing an image of the infant Shakyamuni at their entrances and in neighborhood parks to give the community a sense of the significance of the annual Buddhist event.
Rissho Kosei-kai Dispatches Family Volunteer Group to Republic of Azerbaijan
From March 23 through April 3, a volunteer group of young Rissho Kosei-kai members and their parents visited the Republic of Azerbaijan to hand out gifts to children. For three years, since 2005, the Buddhist organization has annually dispatched young members and their parents to Azerbaijan as part of the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign, which is one of Rissho Kosei-kai's peace projects. The bags are distributed among child refugees from neighboring countries such as Chechnya, Iran, Afghanistan, as well as to children whose families were displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. This year twenty seven members led by Rev. Mitsuhiro Kaneda, head of Rissho Kosei-kai's Akita branch, helped with the distribution.
In and around Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, the volunteers visited eight sites, including educational and public institutions, such as schools for the children of refugees and displaced people as well as a refugee center. In cooperation with Hayat, a local nongovernmental organization, they handed out 458 bags to children, including to some who fled ethnic conflicts between Azerbaijani and Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.
For one of Rissho Kosei-kai's independent peace projects, the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign, every year, elementary and secondary school child members throughout Japan collect toys and school supplies and pack them in small bags to donate to other children overseas who have lost their homes or family members because of war or other armed conflicts.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Donates for Relief of Noto Peninsula Earthquake Victims
The executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund (Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, chairman of the fund and director of the Buddhist organization's External Affairs Department) announced that the fund was to donate 3 million Japanese yen to help Ishikawa Prefecture repair damage caused by the Noto Peninsula Earthquake on March 25. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Masae Tomokata, minister of the Kanazawa Church, visited the prefectural office on March 28 and presented Mr. Masanori Tanimoto, governor of the prefecture, with the donation in token of Rissho Kosei-kai members' sympathy.
According to news reports on March 25, a devastating 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit northern Ishikawa Prefecture, on the coast of the Sea of Japan, killing one person and injuring at least 160 others. Immediately after the earthquake, the leaders of the Kanazawa Church checked on members living in the most damaged areas in and around Wajima City. They reported damage to several houses in the city and dislocations to farmland.
On March 31 and April 1, 11 youth members of the church went to the most devastated area of Monzen-machi, Wajima, with the permission of the city's disaster headquarters and participated in volunteer activities to clear homes of debris.
Rissho Kosei-kai South Asia Holds Upbringing Seminars in Bangladesh
Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia held seminars in Bangladesh March 21-23 on the upbringing of children, inviting Rev. Miyoko Maruyama, director of Home Education Research Institute at the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters complex in Tokyo. Some 310 people, including members and ordinary citizens, took part. Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia held the seminars at the request of women's groups in the country. In Bangladesh, recent economic growth has increased the number of households in which both parents work, and one of parents' main concerns has been the upbringing of their children and communicating with them effectively. Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia held a Women's Seminar on March 21 at Institution Diploma Engineers at Dhaka and on March 23 at Hotel Agrabad at Chittagong, and a Men's Seminar for older members in Chittagong at the same hotel.
During the seminars, Rev. Maruyama lectured on such topics as "If the parents change, their children also change" and "A mother is worth 100 teachers."
WCRP/Japan Holds Its First Seminar of Religionists on Peace after Eighth World Assembly
The Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) held its 33rd national interreligious consultation for peace at the Tendai Buddhist Administration Headquarters in Shiga Prefecture on March 19. Some 260 Japanese religious representatives from the member organizations of WCRP/Japan took part. It was Japanese religionists' first consultation for review of the accomplishments of the eighth World Assembly and prospects for world peace.
After video was shown of the assembly's highlights, keynotes addresses were delivered by Prof. Yoshiaki Sanada, director of WCRP/Japan's Peace Research Institute, and Mr. Shunji Morimoto, a member of the editorial board of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in Osaka. In his address, Prof. Sanada mentioned the significance of the world assembly being held in Japan in the light of the current world situation, in which terrorism and various conflicts related to ethnic and religious issues are common.
In the subsequent panel discussion devoted to "A Review of the Assembly," chaired by Rev. Keizo Yamada, professor emeritus at Sophia University, the five panelists included Rev. Eiin Yasuda, chief abbot of Yakushiji and chief priest of the Hosso sect, and Mr. Mimasaka Higuchi, honorary president of the Japan Muslim Association, who summed up the assembly. They said the assembly was the largest in WCRP's history and that the participants discussed not only wars and regional and ethnic conflicts but also a wide range of topics relating to such issues such as the environment and HIV/AIDS.
WCRP/Japan Holds Meetings of Boards of Directors and Councilors in March
On March 19 the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) held the 94th meeting of its board of directors as well as the 91st meeting of its board of councilors, at the Tendai Buddhist Administration Headquarters in Shiga Prefecture. Fifty-three directors and councilors participated. As president of WCRP/Japan, President Nichiko Niwano took part along with Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi and Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of Rissho Kosei-kai's External Affairs Department.
A welcoming address by Ven. Korei Hamanaka, chancellor of Tendai Buddhist administration, was followed by Rev. Nichiko Niwano's opening address. In the subsequent personnel management planning for 2007 and 2008, Rev. Niwano was reelected president of WCRP/Japan.
Newly elected as auditors were Rev. Takahisa Kato, chief priest of Ikuta Shrine, and Mr. Mimasaka Higuchi, honorary president of the Japan Muslim Association. The Japanese committee also elected Rev. Munemichi Kurozumi, vice chief patriarch of Kurozumikyo; Rev. Kenichiro Saito, a member of the board of directors of Myochikai; Prof. Minoru Sonoda, head priest of Chichibu Shrine; and Rev. Taketsugu Hayashi, chief priest-designate of Yumiya Hachiman Shrine, as councilors. Nominated by Rev. Nichiko Niwano, Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, chairman of Myochikai, was elected as secretary-general.
The organization's activities were also reported, and they included emergency aid for victims of the catastrophic earthquake in Pakistan in 2005 and support for the activities of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Announces Grant Recipients for Fiscal 2006
The Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced in March the grant recipients for fiscal 2006. A total of 389,081,652 Japanese yen was allocated to 41 projects in Japan and abroad. The grants were divided into three categories: Rissho Kosei-kai's independent projects, joint projects with other organizations, and aid grants.
The sum of 93,687,626 yen was allotted to Rissho Kosei-kai's six independent projects, such as the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign and the Global Volunteer Leaders (GVL) projects. A total of 137,818,843 yen was allocated for 18 joint projects, among which were the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa and other activities in which Rissho Kosei-kai has been participating for many years, as well as newly selected projects, including helping refugees in Japan to become self-reliant and prevention of the spread of HIV /AIDS in Asia and Africa. The remaining 157,575,183 yen was provided for aid grants subcategorized as support for special grants managed by the Niwano Peace Foundation, interreligious cooperation activities, special grants, UN activities, as well as emergency relief. For emergency relief, 22,176,889 yen was allocated to help victims of natural disasters in Japan and of natural disasters or armed conflict overseas.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Expenditures in Fiscal 2006
IARF International Council Meets in Oxford
On March 14-15 the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) convened its international council at the Friends Meeting House in Oxford, England, in a building owned by the Religious Society of Friends. The eighteen participants included representative religionists and officials of IARF member organizations. Rissho Kosei-kai was represented by Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi and Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, deputy director of the External Affairs Department.
During the meeting, the association announced that it had established three committees--a bylaws committee, a membership committee, and a visioning [planning] committee--to tackle issues related to current social change. The committees were established to review the IARF's main purpose of defending freedom of religion and belief.
The members also heard two reports on the association's activities--one on the Religious Freedom Young Adult Network and the other on the human rights educational program enabled by a grant from the Netherlands to promote freedom of religion and belief.
On March 16 Rev. Yamanoi had an informal talk with four members of Rissho Kosei-kai of the U.K. in London.
Rissho Kosei-kai Sends Young Volunteers to Philippines
From February 19 to March 4 the Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division held its Asia Support Volunteers program in the Philippines and dispatched eight members of the Global Volunteer Leaders to the province of Oriental Mindoro.
The Buddhist organization organized the Asia Support Volunteers program to assist and contribute to educational programs for children in Asian countries. With the peace program, Rissho Kosei-kai is also training its youth members to become active leaders with firm religious faith and a global perspective.
From February 25 through March 1, the eight-member group visited the villages of Banilad and Tubigan of the Mangyan tribe, one of the indigenous peoples of Oriental Mindoro. When Typhoon Durian caused great damage to houses and fields in the villages last December, the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund donated 500,000 Japanese yen in emergency aid for pupils and typhoon victims sheltered at an elementary school in Banilad.
The young volunteer group offered classes in such subjects as gymnastics and arts and crafts and introduced Japanese culture to the children at the school by teaching Japanese songs and origami, the art of folding paper into various figures. They also engaged in the restoration work of removing sand and soil accumulated in the school ground by torrential rains during the typhoon as well as planting coconut seedlings in the devastated agricultural fields.
Rissho Kosei-kai Celebrates 69th Anniversary
The sixty-ninth anniversary of the founding of Rissho Kosei-kai was celebrated on March 5 at the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo and all its churches in Japan. About 3,500 members from across the country gathered in the hall, and the ceremony was relayed to the churches by satellite TV.
At the Great Sacred Hall, the ceremony began with an offering by twenty young women members representing all churches at the altar before the image of the Eternal Buddha. President-designate Kosho Niwano led the sutra chanting and offered a prayer of dedication.
Then Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi greeted members and thanked them for their understanding and cooperation for last year's projects and undertakings in commemoration of the centenary of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth. In honor of Rissho Kosei-kai's centenary in 2038, he announced that the organization will establish a One Vehicle Fund supporting the education of future generations of Rissho Kosei-kai members.
Certificates of appreciation and gifts were then presented to senior members for their contributions to the organization's development. After that one member gave testimony to the faith. Then Professor Emeritus Kiyomi Morioka of the Tokyo University of Education delivered a congratulatory speech. Referring to the situation in Japan when Rissho Kosei-kai was founded in 1938, he spoke about Rissho Kosei-kai's role in postwar Japan's spiritual recovery. He concluded that Founder Niwano strove to overcome a narrow-minded nationalism with the kind of international outlook that was much needed after the war.
In his Dharma talk, President Niwano quoted from the Dhammapada: "Difficult is it to be born as a human being; difficult is the existence of mortals; difficult is the hearing of the Sublime Truth; rare is the appearance of the Buddha's." He said that whatever the world's present state, it is most important for us as human beings to appreciate the life given to us. He added that Buddhism is transmitted by people who have been inspired by its teachings and that the transmission is made possible by the awakening of each one of them to the preciousness of the teachings. He concluded that for dissemination around the world as well as in Japan, they should each wholeheartedly strive to understand and grasp the Buddha's teachings with self-awakening.
Executive Director of Niwano Peace Foundation Speaks in Thailand on Rissho Kosei-kai's Peace Activities
During February 22-26 Rev. Shin'ichi Noguchi, executive director of the Niwano Peace Foundation (NPF), visited Thailand to participate in a workshop on peace studies at Payap University in Chiang Mai under the auspices of the Asia Muslim Action Network (AMAN). AMAN was established in 1990 to grapple with the many challenges Muslim communities in Asia have faced, such as rising ethnic tensions, violence against women and children, and degradation of the environment. It also works for interfaith and intercultural dialogue and cooperation.
The three-week workshop has been held annually, and this year's workshop, titled "School of Peace Studies and Conflict Transformation," was given February 5-26 with 30 participants of various faiths, including Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism, from 15 countries in Asia. The annual program was established in 2004 to foster a new generation of peace workers, peace defenders, and peace negotiators to bring about positive changes, resolve conflicts and keep the peace in multiethnic and multicultural communities in Asia and beyond. This is the third consecutive year AMAN has sponsored the program in Thailand.
On February 23 Rev. Noguchi gave a talk on Rissho Kosei-kai's peace activities. He outlined the work of the peace fund, financed by Rissho Kosei-kai's Donate-a-Meal Campaign, especially NPF's South Asia Program in Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka, which is administered by NPF. He pointed out that the wish of Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, the founder of both Rissho Kosei-kai and NPF, was to promote world peace through interreligious cooperation. He added that Rev. Niwano's worldview based on the teachings of the Lotus Sutra remains the backbone of the peace efforts the Buddhist organization has promoted.
On February 24, Rev. Noguchi had a talk with Dr. Prawate Kidhem, general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, who is planning to hold an Asian religious leaders conference on regional confrontation in Asia, in this November.
International Youth Committee of WCRP Holds First Meeting after World Assembly in 2006
During February 16-18 the International Youth Committee (IYC) of the World Conference of Religions for Peace hosted a meeting of 12 representatives of members at Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in New York. It was the first such meeting since the IYC's World Youth Assembly at Hiroshima and Kyoto in 2006. The representatives were chosen at the youth assembly. They comprised three Europeans, two Africans, four North and South Americans, one Asian, and two Middle Easterners. Also present were Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary-general of Religions for Peace; Mr. Stein Villumstad, its deputy secretary-general; and Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, its assistant secretary-general. At the request of Religions for Peace, Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, former deputy coordinator of the IYC and director of the Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division, also took part.
Chaired by Ms. Stellamaris Mulaeh, a Roman Catholic from Kenya and co-convener of the African Religious Youth Network, the representatives reported on activities and plans in their six regions. During discussions they emphasized the significance of IYC's action-oriented nature and proposed to reach within two years six of the goals set by the five-year plan included in the Hiroshima Declaration, which was adopted at last year's world assembly. The six goals include "building and strengthening regional interreligious networks that are representative and action-oriented in Africa, Asia and Oceania, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and North America," "partnering with existing initiatives to encourage multireligious cooperation," and "enhancing communication throughout our global youth network."
JEN Turns Over Relief Program in Lebanon to Local ResidentsR> JEN, a multiorganizational nonprofit group, of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a member, announced the conclusion of its relief activities in Lebanon.
After the 33-day armed conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon last August, JEN began relief activities for people who returned after seeking refuge in neighboring countries. JEN distributed hygiene kits to people who had lived in tents and houses damaged by shellfire. JEN also started a program of lending equipment free of charge to local residents with which to rebuild their houses. The equipment included wheelbarrows, shovels, pickaxes, handsaws, chainsaws, welding machines, cement mixers, and so on. JEN organized local committees to lend the equipment in 38 villages of southern Lebanon.
The Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund allocated 6 million Japanese yen in support of JEN's activities in Lebanon.
Volunteers Finish Distributing Blankets in Ethiopia
A team of 14 Rissho Kosei-kai volunteers who distributed blankets in Ethiopia returned to Japan on February 17. Leaving Japan on February 5, they went to Tigray Province, and during February 9-12 they distributed 5,266 blankets shipped from Japan to villagers in four areas of the province: Hawzien, Wukro, Samre-Saharti, and Quiha. They carried out the distribution in cooperation with the Relief Society of Tigray (REST), a local NGO in Ethiopia. Many of the blankets were given to the physically disabled, the elderly, and orphans. In the provincial capital of Mekele, the volunteers visited REST's head office, where they were briefed on its rural development and environmental protection programs. Besides distributing blankets, the volunteers also toured an area where Rissho Kosei-kai has conducted afforestation projects with the financial support of its Peace Fund, financed by the Donate-a-Meal Campaign. They also visited the monument built in memory of victims of Ethiopia's civil war and severe drought in the province, and held a memorial service there.
Nationwide, Rissho Kosei-kai members have annually promoted the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa. Last year, Japanese of good will donated 119,030 blankets, which are to be distributed in six other African countries as well, with the cooperation of international agencies and local NGOs.
Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division Organizes Training Program for Youth in Overseas Dissemination of the Faith
During February 8-16 the Youth Division of Rissho Kosei-kai sponsored training in dissemination of Buddhism at five branches of Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia. Japanese youth leaders willing to undertake overseas dissemination attempted to help their South Asian counterparts with local dissemination. The program aimed also to deepen Japanese youth leaders' commitment to dissemination overseas as well as their awareness of being members of Rissho Kosei-kai's world sangha beyond differences of nationality.
The 17-member contingent from Japan comprised Rev. Toshimasa Arai, deputy director of the organization's Youth Division, division staff members, and youth leaders from various churches in Japan. They divided into five groups, which were dispatched to Bangkok, Colombo, Kathmandu, Delhi, and Chittagong. They accompanied local members giving religious guidance to other members and participated in enshrinements of focuses of devotion in new members' houses. The Youth Division staff members also gave talks on Buddhism and held hoza counseling sessions to give guidance to local members.
Prior to this program the Youth Division organized a youth seminar in Bangkok last September in cooperation with Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia. The seminar was mainly designed to train youth novices of Rissho Kosei-kai in South Asia. The Youth Division also sent Japanese youth leaders to the seminar, where they received advice from local members on how to carry out overseas dissemination and learned more about South Asian cultures and religions.
Rissho Kosei-kai Observes Anniversary of Buddha's Entrance into Nirvana
On February 15 Rissho Kosei-kai observed the anniversary of Shakyamuni Buddha's entrance into nirvana with the aim of helping members fully understand the event's significance and rededicate themselves to spiritual progress as Buddhists. As one of the three major annual events of Buddhism, the nirvana ceremony was held at all Rissho Kosei-kai churches throughout Japan as well as the Great Sacred Hall at the headquarters in Tokyo, where about 3,300 members gathered.
At the beginning of the ceremony, members heard a recounting of the legend of Shakyamuni's death. Then sixteen young women members in saris from the Tama District made offerings at the altar before the statue of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni, and Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chief executive of dissemination affairs, led members in chanting the Lotus Sutra.
Following testimony to the faith by the head of a Rissho Kosei-kai church, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, delivered a Dharma talk. He began by emphasizing the significance of our lives as precious opportunities to study and practice the teachings imparted by Shakyamuni Buddha 2,500 years ago. He said acceptance of the Buddha's teaching of the law of impermanence helps us understand life's true value and inspires us with a desire for spiritual progress.
Sri Lankan Ambassador Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On February 12, Mr. Ranjith Uyangoda, the Sri Lankan ambassador to Japan, called at the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and conferred with President Nichiko Niwano in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. Also present were Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, deputy director of the External Affairs Department, and Rev. Teruo Saito, minister of Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia.
During their conversation, Ambassador Uyangoda alluded to the friendly ties between his country and Japan. He expressed hope that international cooperation would help end Sri Lanka's civil war between the majority Buddhist Sinhalese and minority Tamils. He said Sri Lanka is grateful for the support it has received from the Japanese government as well for the various support activities Rissho Kosei-kai has implemented in the country.
President Niwano described his visit to Sri Lanka in 2003 to meet Theravada Buddhist leaders, reciprocating a visit of Sri Lanka's four most senior Buddhist leaders to Tokyo in 2002. At a news conference then, the four leaders asked for Rissho Kosei-kai's cooperation with the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace and the Japan Buddhist Federation to help issue a Tokyo Statement calling for international cooperation to bring about a peaceful settlement.
Rev. Saito also introduced members of Rissho Kosei-kai of Colombo, a subsidiary overseas branch affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai of South Asia, which sponsored a seminar at the British School in Colombo, to which it invited Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, founder and executive director of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, Sri Lanka's largest charitable organization, to speak.
IBC Hosts Public Lecture on Buddhism in English
The Tokyo-based International Buddhist Congregation (IBC), affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai, hosted a lecture in English on Buddhism on February 10 at the temple Joenji of the Nichiren Sect in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Fifty people, including foreign residents in Tokyo and neighboring areas, attended.
Dr. Gene Reeves, IBC's international advisor and religious philosopher, gave a lecture titled "Gaining Confidence: the Parable of the Poor Son." Explaining the parable in chapter 4 of the Lotus Sutra, he said we should, as the father did for his son, constantly support those around us who have lost self-confidence. Dr. Reeves said it is important to help them gradually regain self-confidence a step at a time.
Korean Ecumenical Leader Visits Headquarters
On February 6, Dr. Park Jong Wha, a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and senior pastor of Kyungdong Presbyterian Church in Seoul, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters and conferred with President Nichiko Niwano. Dr. Park visited Rissho Kosei-kai to repay a courtesy visit by President Niwano, who made a call of condolence in Seoul after the death of Dr. Kang Won Yong, a pioneer in the ecumenical movement in South Korea and a moderator of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace. Dr. Kang was also a member of the Niwano Peace Prize Committee. He died in August 2006 at the age of eighty-nine. The visit by Dr. Park also aimed to promote cooperation between the Korea Academy of Dialogue, of which he is the director, and the Niwano Peace Foundation. Also present at the meeting on behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai were Rev. Takeshi Kawabata, director of the External Affairs Department, and Rev. Shin'ichi Noguchi, executive director of the Niwano Peace Foundation. Dr. Park expressed appreciation for President Niwano's call of condolence at the Kyungdong Presbyterian Church, of which Dr. Kang was the first senior pastor. He then reported that the Korea Peace Forum, which Dr. Kang organized, would be dissolved and that its programs would be taken over by the Korea Academy of Dialogue. Dr. Park emphasized the importance of cooperation between the Korea Academy of Dialogue and Rissho Kosei-kai in their common efforts for peace. He said that although economic issues are generally the public's main concern, what Asia needs most now is a clear vision of peaceful coexistence. Religion should take the initiative in fulfilling that new vision, he said.
Setsubun Observed to Proclaim Spring
On February 3 Setsubun, the traditional Japanese bean-throwing ceremony, was observed at the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters and at branch churches throughout Japan. Many churches held the ceremony with members of their children's groups playing a central role. This year the Buddhist organization set "enhanced youth development" as one of its goals for the new year.
It was the first time the ceremony had been held in the Great Sacred Hall since the building's renovation to commemorate the centennial in 2006 of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth. President Nichiko Niwano along with President-designate Kosho Niwano, Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi, and Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chief executive of dissemination affairs, scattered beans on the platform of the main hall and Eijuden hall in the Great Sacred Hall as well as in front of the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle. The ceremony symbolizes the casting out of such demons in our hearts as greed, anger, and ignorance, known in Buddhism as the Three Poisons.
Setsubun fell on February 3, the last day of the Buddhist organization's midwinter religious training sessions, which began January 20. February 3 was formerly considered the first day of spring according to the ancient lunar calendar.
Rissho Kosei-kai Specifies New Countries for Support from Its UNICEF Fund-raising Campaign
In February, the Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division announced changes to the list of countries it would support with its UNICEF fund-raising campaign. Rissho Kosei-kai has held UNICEF campaigns annually since 1979, which the UN General Assembly designated as the International Year of the Child. Members and well-wishers throughout Japan contribute, and the funds are transferred to UNICEF headquarters in New York and utilized for various projects specified by the fund-raiser.
For 2004-06, Rissho Kosei-kai specified support to improve elementary education in the Philippines, India, Myanmar, Laos, Afghanistan, and Cambodia. For 2007-09, Rissho Kosei-kai is asking UNICEF to use its contribution to improve primary education in East Timor, Nepal, the Philippines, and Cambodia. Rissho Kosei-kai decided to refocus its support because of the relatively low rate of school attendance in East Timor and Nepal compared with other Asian countries. The organization concluded that political instability and sporadic armed conflicts had prevented East Timor and Nepal from providing adequate primary education.
Rissho Kosei-kai's Youth Division also announced that it hoped as well to hold a special fund-raising campaign for, or to provide other emergency aid to, children who suffer from sudden armed conflicts and natural disasters, corresponding to UNICEF's emergency aid programs.
Peace Fund Announces Grants for Fiscal 2007
In January the Executive Committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced its plans for grants in fiscal 2007. This year a total of 468.15 million Japanese yen will be appropriated for various peace projects in Japan and abroad. The grants were divided into four categories, including Rissho Kosei-kai's joint projects with other organizations, its own independent projects, financial assistance for other organizations' peace activities, and emergency relief projects.
The executive committee operates the fund in the spirit of the Donate-a-Meal Campaign, following the Buddhist practices of compassion, prayer, and almsgiving. A total of 150,437,000 yen is to be allocated for ten joint projects with other organizations, including the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa and the Reforestation Program in Ethiopia. The sum of 148,713,000 yen will be allotted to Rissho Kosei-kai's seven independent projects, such as the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign and Rissho Kosei-kai Global Volunteer Leaders. Another 169 million yen will be provided for aid grants subcategorized as support for interreligious cooperation activities, special grants, U.N. activities, and special grants managed by the Niwano Peace Foundation, as well as reserve funds.
Grants Plan of Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund for Fiscal 2007
President Gives First Sermon of 2007 in Great Sacred Hall
A ceremony marking President Niwano's first sermon of the year was held in the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo on January 7. About 3,200 members attended to rededicate themselves to spiritual progress this year in the light of the guidance imparted in his sermon.
The ceremony began with sixteen young women members of the Tokyo District offering flowers and lighted candles before the image of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni, the focus of devotion, and President-designate Kosho Niwano led the assembly in sutra chanting.
Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi then offered New Year's greetings. Referring to such domestic issues as a rapidly aging society and the retirement of baby boomers, he said he would encourage and facilitate members' dissemination activities in the spirit of seeking the Way.
After two members testified to their rededication to spiritual progress, President Niwano delivered his sermon. He explained the two key words he had written on hanging scrolls in traditional Japanese calligraphy for the New Year: "Gassho" (joining one's hands in prayer) and "Jikaku" (self-awareness). Quoting the Dhammapada on the preciousness of human life, he said it is important to seek truth and to improve oneself thorough self-awareness.
Members Open New Year with Worship Services
At midnight New Year's Eve at the Great Sacred Hall at the Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters complex in Tokyo as well as at all the branch churches throughout Japan, members took part in a Ceremony of a New Year's Visit for Worship. It was their first act of worship in the New Year of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni, their focus of devotion at the center of their daily religious activities.
In the Great Sacred Hall, some 7,000 members gathered for the ceremony, which started with the beat of Japanese drums after the stroke of midnight. Chanting of the Lotus Sutra was led by Rev. Yasutaka Watanabe, chief executive for dissemination affairs of Rissho Kosei-kai, and President Nichiko Niwano then made a vow to the Buddha for the New Year.
In his sermon, President Niwano explained the Lotus Sutra's teaching of "birth by aspiration" in the light of his New Year's vow based on a passage in the Dhammapada: "Difficult is the attainment of the human state. Difficult the life of mortals." He said Rissho Kosei-kai members' primary mission is to lead others to salvation since Rissho Kosei-kai members themselves are saved through the very teachings of the Lotus Sutra.
After the ceremony, President Niwano moved to the Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle in the garden of the adjacent Horin-kaku Guest Hall to pray and make a New Year's offering of spiced sake in memory of Founder Nikkyo Niwano.
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