Christians in Japan challenge 'patriotic' law

By staff writers
December 21, 2006

Christians in Japan say the government has debased the country's peace-seeking constitution after the upper chamber of parliament approved the promotion of patriotism in the classroom by changing the country's education law - writes Hisashi Yukimoto for Ecumenical News International.

"The governing parties should know that this amendment violates the Constitution of Japan, the supreme law of the country. It also violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child that Japan promised the international community it would comply with," said Kaori Oshima, general secretary of the education division of the National Christian Council in Japan.

The lawmakers on 15 December 2006 revised Japan's 1947 Fundamental Law of Education, which had been drafted during the allied occupation and sought to avoid encouraging patriotism, so as to prevent a revival of the nationalism that triggered Japan's entry into the Second World War.

The new law stresses the values of "love of country", "public spirit" and "tradition" and it allows politicians greater control over schools.

"The passing of this bill will make it possible to review relevant laws and systems. It will enable the promotion of discriminatory and selective education as well as mind-control and patriotic education that many children and adults have already suffered from," Oshima said in a statement co-signed by the division's chairperson, Oh Soo Hae. "The amended Fundamental Law on Education should be abolished immediately."

Masataka Nagasawa, secretary general of the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace said, "The amendment, for the worse, to the Fundamental Law on Education will long be remembered as a turning point when, in the future, Japan has an armed conflict with other countries."

The church and state committee of the Japan Alliance Christ Church, one of the largest evangelical Protestant denominations in Japan, expressed "deep concern" about the amendment and held an urgent prayer meeting at its Tokyo chapel on 18 December 2006.

The upper chamber of the parliament, controlled by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, also approved a law that enables the Defence Agency to be transformed into a full ministry and allows more easily for overseas missions by Japanese military personnel.

[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

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