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Japan's bishops oppose efforts to abandon pacifism in nation's constitution

Japanese pilgrims await Pope Francis in St Peters Square before the Wednesday general audience on Oct 22 2014 Credit Daniel Ib  ez CNA CNA 10 22 14 Japanese pilgrims attend the General Audience address in St. Peter's Square, Oct. 22, 2014. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

In the shadow of the 71st anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs and the end of World War II, the Japanese bishops have warned against legislative proposals they believe will cause their nation to become further entangled in world violence.

In a message signed by Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki, president of the Japanese bishops’ conference,  the bishops said that “appropriate steps are required to be taken constantly” in light of issues of violence and discrimination which occur in Japan “on a daily basis.”

“We must not fail to be wary of security-related laws and the movement to change the Constitution which will inevitably involve the Japanese people in the cycle of violence,” the statement reads.

The message was released for the 35th annual Ten Days for Peace event, which runs  Aug. 6-15 and commemorates the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945.

The statement is a response to prime minister Shinzo Abe's call for a revision of Article 9 of Japan's constitution, which outlaws war as a means for settling international disputes.

There is also controversy  regarding security legislation passed in 2015 reinterpreting the language of Article 9 to allow for “collective self-defense,” which would include assisting allies under armed attack, such as the U.S., even if Japan itself were not under threat.

This reinterpretation of the article is Japan’s largest movement away from the pacifist foreign policy adopted in the 1947 constitution, in the light of World War II.

“World peace has been shattered and is constantly threatened by such events as the Syrian War, terrorist activities by fundamentalists and others, armed conflicts involving control of resources and hegemonic shows of force,” the bishops' message states.

Because of terrorist attacks around the world many people, including women and children, have been forced to leave their homes, or have been killed or injured.

“That is why we pray that powers in both Asia and the West will move toward reconciliation rather than a sort of cold war, and that the spirit of peace enshrined in the European Union (EU) will spread globally and tensions in East Asia will be reduced.”

Describing current global events, the bishops’ message calls for peaceful resolution between nations.

“Depending on the power of humanity and the grace of God, we want to realize the high ideal of eliminating not only nuclear weapons but all types of weapons and violence from the world,” the statement says.

“By making efforts to complete the fulfillment and happiness of heart and body, work and private life, and relationships with God and people in particular, we must begin building peace within ourselves,” the bishops’ statement emphasizes.

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