Rissho Kosei-kai Offers Support for Tsunami Victims
To aid relief efforts in countries affected by
the giant tsunami generated by the massive earthquake that took place
on December 26 off Indonesia's Sumatran coast, Rissho Kosei-kai donated
from its Peace Fund a total of 52
million Japanese yen (approximately US$500,000) to nine government and
international agencies as well as nongovernmental organizations. The
recipients of the financial assistance included the Embassy of Sri Lanka,
JEN, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the
World Food Program, the Japan International Volunteer Center, the Shanti
Volunteer Association, and the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention.
On December 28, Rev. Michio Matsubara, chairman of the Executive Committee
of the Peace Fund, visited the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Tokyo and presented
5 million yen to H.E. Mr. Karunatilaka Amunugama, Sri Lankan ambassador
to Japan. On January 12, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of the board
of directors of Rissho Kosei-kai, visited the Regional Office for Japan
and the Republic of Korea of the UNHCR and donated 10 million yen to
the regional representative, Ms. Pirkko Kourula. Because of the enormity
of the tsunami disaster, and given its decades of experience in responding
to global calamities, the UNHCR launched a six-month, $75-million emergency
relief operation for tsunami victims in the Indonesian province of Aceh,
in Sri Lanka, and in Somalia. Its humanitarian assistance focuses on
providing shelter, non-food relief supplies, and logistical support.
Rissho Kosei-kai was the first private organization in Japan that donated
to the UNHCR's relief operation for tsunami victims. On presenting the
donation, Rev. Yamanoi explained that the Peace Fund is supported by
the Donate-a-Meal Campaign, one of
Rissho Kosei-kai's peace activities in which members forgo a few meals
a month and donate the equivalent sum to the fund to be used for the
promotion of peace and the relief of suffering people.
JEN, a Japanese NGO engaged in international
relief and rehabilitation work, of which Rissho Kosei-kai is a founding
member, began its relief operations in Sri Lanka soon after the disaster.
JEN has chosen Sri Lanka as the site of its emergency relief operation,
in view of the country's circumstances, which are conducive for the
group to make quick and effective operations, in addition to the enormity
of the damage there. Ms. Keiko Kiyama, secretary-general of JEN, visited
the northeastern towns of Trincomalee and Mullaittivu and the southern
town of Hambantota from December 30 to January 8, surveying the damage
in the areas. In cooperation with local NGOs, JEN began assistance with
food, water, and daily necessities, mainly at Hambantota, one of the
worst hit areas in the country. Ms. Kiyama stressed the need to offer
mental care to the tsunami survivors who had experienced immense suffering
through the loss of their families, homes, and jobs, along with all
other means to rehabilitate their lives.
From January 5 to 8, Rissho Kosei-kai sent two headquarters staff members, Mr. Yukimasa Hagiwara and Mr. Lee Saho of the International Faith Dissemination Group, to Sri Lanka. They visited Rissho Kosei-kai of Sri Lanka in Colombo and learned about the effects of the disaster among members from its director, Mr. Edward Gamini Chandrasekera. They visited a member's house, 60 kilometers south of Colombo, which had been damaged by the tsunami, together with eight members of the youth division. Two more members also had their houses damaged, but there were no casualties among members. The youth members had helped the first affected member by removing debris soon after the disaster. Mr. Hagiwara and Mr. Lee also visited a Buddhist temple south of Colombo that had served as a shelter for victims as well as a national broadcasting station that had been promoting relief assistance, to which they donated medicine.
In Japan, during the midwinter sutra-chanting training, which was held from January 20 through February 3 at the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo and at local branches as an annual early morning discipline for Rissho Kosei-kai members, participants prayed for the repose of the souls of the tsunami victims and for an early return to normal lives for the people in the affected areas. Young members at local branches took the initiative in developing fund-raising campaigns, appealing for cooperation within their branches as well as in busy streets and in front of railway stations. Mr. Norihisa Kobayakawa, a Chiba branch member who led the fund-raising campaign, said, "Although it is important to try to support the affected people through a fund-raising campaign, it is no less important for people of faith to direct our loving care to those who suffer and to deepen our prayers."
President Niwano visits Brazil
On December 11--12, President Nichiko Niwano visited Rissho Kosei-kai of Brazil, Sao Paulo, as a part of his dissemination tour in preparation for the centenary of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's birth in 2006 and as an opportunity to confer with the organization's members directly about "awakening in the faith" and "disseminating the teachings." It was his fifth visit to Brazil since 1987.
Rissho Kosei-kai of Brazil was founded in 1971 as a community of Buddhist believers who mainly comprised Japanese immigrants. With the birth of new Japanese-Brazilian generations, it has disseminated the teachings of Buddhism more widely among Portuguese-speaking people in their own language.
On December 11, President Niwano gave special guidance to 10 leaders of Rissho Kosei-kai of Brazil at a hotel in Sao Paulo. When asked about how to spread the teachings in a society with such a wide gap between rich and poor, he replied that poverty does not necessarily cause unhappiness, nor does prosperity guarantee it. Happiness is possible if family members help one another rise above their poverty. If we lead sober lives and are thankful for the gift of life, we can find true happiness and salvation, President Niwano said.
On December 12, he attended a ceremony with 255 participants at Rissho Kosei-kai of Brazil. Following an offering of flowers by nine families, there were speeches of testimony to the faith by two members and a speech by Dr. Michio T. Shinozaki, president of the organization's Gakurin Seminary in the Tokyo headquarters. President Niwano then delivered a sermon in which he stressed that our mission as Buddhists is to make every effort to improve ourselves by endeavoring to study and practice the Buddha's teachings all our lives.
Following his visit to Brazil, President Niwano was to undertake a nationwide dissemination tour in Japan throughout 2005 starting in January in preparation for the centenary of Founder Niwano's birth.
Rissho Kosei-kai Representatives Join Japanese Religious Committee for World Federalist Movement to Honor Victims of Pacific War
From December 5 to 10, the Japanese Religious
Committee for the World Federalist Movement and its Commission of Japanese
Buddhists sent their 23d Peace Mission to Hawaii, comprising 19 Japanese
religionists, to join and hold religious services for victims of the
Pacific war. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Masatoshi Abe, deputy
director of the External Affairs Department joined the mission. On December
7, the party joined the memorial service held by the U.S. government
at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. They placed wreaths of
flowers before a stone memorial wall bearing the names of U.S. military
personnel killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December
7, 1941. The party then went to the National Memorial Cemetery of the
Pacific, Honolulu, to hold a memorial service for the war dead. In Honolulu,
they also visited the memorial cenotaph for those who died when the
Ehime Maru, a Japanese fishery training ship, was accidentally rammed
and sunk off Oahu by the nuclear submarine USS Greenville as it surfaced
in February 2001. At the cenotaph, the party held a memorial service
for the nine high school teachers and students who perished.
Shakyamuni's Attainment of Buddhahood Celebrated
On December 8 the ceremony for Shakyamuni's attainment of buddhahood was held at Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo and all its churches throughout Japan. The event is significant for reminding us Buddhists of Shakyamuni's attaining enlightenment under the bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya, India, after long ascetic practice about 2,500 years ago. On this day we appreciate the Buddha and renew our vow to practice his teachings. Some 3,800 members gathered at a service in the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters.
After sacred music performed by the Rissho Kosei-kai Chorus and an offering by Rissho Kosei-kai Gakurin seminary students to the statue of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni, the organization's focus of devotion, Rev. Kosho Niwano, president-designate, led the sutra chanting. Then a video titled "A Great Dawn-the Attainment of Shakyamuni" was shown, and Rev. Yasuo Kusakabe, head of the Matsue Church, testified to his feelings and experience of the Buddha's teachings.
After that, President Niwano delivered a speech, saying, "All people have the buddha-nature, and everyone's character is unique. Some people are stubborn, others are flexible. Shakyamuni Buddha taught the fundamental truth that all people are originally one although they are different. If people think about this and accept it, conflicts will disappear." He added, "Repeating the o-daimoku [the title of the Lotus Sutra] every day is apt to become mere habit and close us off to impressions and emotions. While repetition is important, repeating the o-daimoku will not reflect our sincerity and integrity if we do it only as a ritual. Some people may come to believe that merely chanting the sutra or reciting the o-daimoku alone can save them. But Shakyamuni's teaching is utterly different. When we recognize the teaching of impermanence, we will come to see life as a gift and try to make the most of it. What matters is understanding and awakening oneself to the truth. Here we find the true meaning of human awakening."
International Executive Committee of WCRP Convened in Amman, Jordan
On December 1--3 a meeting of the International
Executive Committee of the World Conference
of Religions for Peace (WCRP) was held in Amman, Jordan. Some thirty
people, including the committee members from Europe, the United States,
and the Middle East, and members of the United Nations Children's Fund
(UNICEF), took part. Rev. Norio Sakai, an honorary executive board member
of Rissho Kosei-kai, also took part in the meeting.
The participants studied the current state of various projects organized by the WCRP. They focused especially on the plight of Palestinian refugees in Jordan and the peace process in Iraq. They made an onsite inspection of Jordan's largest Palestinian refugee camp, in Al-Baqa'a, and visited an elementary school built with the support of the Japanese government. They also heard a report on the current situation in Iraq from Dr. Hayder Abdul Amir, coordinator of the Iraqi Interreligious Council for Peace (Iq-IRC). Dr. Amir explained the activities conducted by the Iq-IRC, which was established by the WCRP. During the meeting, Prince Rashid El-Hassan, a son of H.R.H. Prince El-Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, moderator of the WCRP, addressed the theme of the humanitarian aid.
Ceremony Held to Present Funds to UNICEF
On November 20 a ceremony for presenting the donations Rissho Kosei-kai collected in 2004 for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) was held at the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters during a gathering of youth leaders. A letter detailing the total contributions was handed by a youth member representing Rissho Kosei-kai members to Mr. Yoshihisa Togo, executive director of the Japan Committee for UNICEF in Tokyo.
A total of 107,033,660 Japanese yen was donated by members and well-wishers from July 2003 through September 2004, during an annual campaign which this year was extended to the end of September. The total includes donations received during a special fund-raising effort for children in Afghanistan. The private contributions are to be transferred to UNICEF headquarters in New York for various projects specified by the fund-raiser. For years Rissho Kosei-kai has designated programs to improve education for children in Asian countries. Cambodia, the Philippines, India, Myanmar, and Laos have been chosen as recipients for this year's funds, and the funds for Afghan children will also be utilized in UN projects to support them.
Mr. Togo remarked on the significance of Rissho Kosei-kai youth members' special fund-raising campaign throughout Japan for children in Afghanistan. He emphasized the importance of improving education for children, especially for girls in Afghanistan, since reforming the country's education system, which in the past excluded girls, would awaken Afghan women to the importance of education, thus creating through the family a new generation of human resources for building harmony in Afghanistan and throughout the world. Mr. Togo also expressed his gratitude for Rissho Kosei-kai's continuing assistance to UNICEF.
Rissho Kosei-kai Celebrates Founder's Birthday
On November 15 the 98th anniversary of the birth of Rissho Kosei-kai's founder, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, was solemnly observed at the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo and churches throughout the nation. The date had immense significance for Rissho Kosei-kai as it was also the 59th anniversary of the enshrinement of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni as members' focus of devotion and was the 14th anniversary of the Inheritance of the Lamp of the Dharma, when Rev. Nichiko Niwano succeeded the founder as president.
In the Great Sacred Hall, some 5,200 members, including those present on group pilgrimages, gathered for the ceremony, which was relayed to churches across Japan by satellite TV. The ceremony began with an offering by 20 women members representing the national dissemination districts, followed by chanting of the Lotus Sutra led by President-designate Kosho Niwano. Then the participants viewed a video documenting the founder's lifetime dedication to world peace through the salvation of individuals as well as interreligious cooperation.
The members welcomed Ms. Paola Stradi, artistic director of Gen Verde, an Italian multiartistic performing group affiliated with the Focolare Movement, a worldwide Catholic lay movement based in Italy. On behalf of Ms. Chiara Lubich, president of the movement, Ms. Stradi read out a message of praise for Founder Niwano, saying his smiling face radiated his warm spirit of religious faith and dedication to human happiness and well-being. The message said the founder's spirit is reflected in the smile of every Rissho Kosei-kai member. Referring to President Nichiko Niwano's acceptance of the 2004 Luminosa Award for Unity from the Focolare Movement in July, Ms. Lubich said she looked forward to further development of friendship between her organization and Rissho Kosei-kai.
President Niwano then gave a Dharma talk, in which he described the lifelong dedication of Ms. Lubich and the late founder and expressed the hope that every member would emulate the founder's selflessness in putting others' welfare ahead of their own. In this, he said, the founder is a supreme role model. President Niwano expressed his own gratitude to the founder and said Rissho Kosei-kai members owe the spiritual foundation of their lives to the founder's establishment of Rissho Kosei-kai.
After the ceremony, members of Gen Verde gave a concert accompanied by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra.
Gen Verde Performs Musical at Rissho Kosei-kai
On November 14, Gen Verde, the Italian multiartistic performing group affiliated with the Focolare Movement, a worldwide Catholic lay movement based in Italy, performed a musical called "First Pages" in Rissho Kosei-kai's Fumon Hall in Tokyo. The show was attended by 3,700 members.
Before the curtain rose, Seiichi Cardinal Shirayanagi and Rev. Kosho Niwano, president-designate of Rissho Kosei-kai, addressed the audience. Cardinal Shirayanagi introduced Gen Verde, saying, "They have given public performances around the world in the spirit that overcoming all kinds of differences and showing respect for others is the path to peace." President-designate Niwano described not only the first meeting between Founder Niwano and Ms. Chiara Lubich, the president of the Focolare Movement, but also the president-designate's own meetings with Focolare members when she studied in Italy. The president-designate then asked the audience to engrave in their hearts and minds the meaning of each word the performers would sing.
Also present were His Excellency Archbishop Ambrose B. de Paoli, papal nuncio to Japan; Rev. Seiho Okano, Dharma successor of Gedatsu-kai; Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai; and Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai's board of directors.
After the performance, a Tokyo member of Rissho Kosei-kai said, "I was really impressed with Gen Verde's staging. Their performance brought home to me the truths Founder Niwano taught us: that religious faith is one and universal, even if religions differ."
International Buddhist Congregation Holds Special Lecture on Lotus Sutra
On November 13 the
International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) of Rissho Kosei-kai invited
foreign residents in Japan to learn about Buddhism at the organization's
First Pilgrimage Hall in Tokyo. Some 40 people took part, including
At the gathering, Dr. Gene Reeves, IBC's international advisor, gave a Dharma talk titled "Core Teachings of the Lotus Sutra" and described his study of the sutra. He referred to the six core teachings on fulfilling the sutra's ideals: (1) savoring the context of the sutra, (2) doing good, (3) heeding the law of cause and condition, (4) encouraging everyone to practice the teachings, (5) applying the teachings in everyday life, and (6) tackling social issues.
Dr. Reeves emphasized that an appreciation of the sutra's significance requires not only study of the sutra itself but also the practical application of its teachings in daily life.
Results of UNICEF Fund-Raising Campaign for 2004
The Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division announced that a total of 107,033,360 Japanese yen has been donated by members and well-wishers through the organization's fund-raising campaign throughout Japan in 2004 to benefit the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). This includes money donated in a special fund-raising campaign to help children in Afghanistan by extending this year's annual campaign to the end of September. Rissho Kosei-kai's fund-raising campaign for UNICEF began in 1979, which the U.N. General Assembly declared the International Year of the Child. The total amount of private contributions collected by Rissho Kosei-kai over 25 years has already reached more than 6 billion Japanese yen and has been utilized to support children in more than 60 countries. Every year the donations collected during the yearly term from July through June are transferred to UNICEF headquarters in New York to be used for the various projects specified by the fund-raiser to improve education for children around the world. For years Rissho Kosei-kai has designated certain UN projects with this aim in Asian countries. This year Afghanistan was added to the list of Asian countries receiving funds; the others are the Philippines, India, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia. Rissho Kosei-kai realizes that priority must go to educating the children of Afghanistan as reconstruction projects continue. The Youth Division said the ceremony of presenting the donations would be held on November 20 in the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters at a gathering of youth leaders to which a representative of the Japanese committee for UNICEF in Tokyo was invited.
Sri Lanka's Buddhist Leaders Visit Rissho Kosei-kai
On November 11, three Buddhist prelates of Sri Lanka's Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters of the Siam Sect visited Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters and had a dialogue with Rissho Kosei-kai's Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi and External Relations Director Michio Matsubara. The prelates included the Most Ven. Warakawe Dhammaloka Nayaka Thero, secretary-general of Asgiriya Maha Viharaya; Ven. Arambegama Saranankara Thero, a committee member of the Sangha Council of Asgiri Maha Viharaya; and Ven. Kulugammana Dhammarakkitha Thero, a committee member of the Sangha Council of Malwathu Maha Viharaya. Mr. Karunatilaka Amunugama, Sri Lanka's ambassador to Japan, and Ven. Deltota Dhammajothi Thero, an advisor to the Ministry of Buddhasasana of Sri Lanka, accompanied the prelates. The conversation touched on the news conference that the four supreme Theravada prelates held in Tokyo in June 2002 and the joint statement they issued during the conference, in which they urged conflict resolution in Sri Lanka, which had been ravaged by 20 years of ethnic conflict between the majority Buddhist Sinhalese and minority Tamils. They also discussed President Nichiko Niwano's visit to Sri Lanka in December 2003, when he met with prelates of the Siam Sect, the Ramanna Sect, and the Amarapura Sect and promoted dialogues with the leaders of these sects. The Most Ven. Dhammaloka said the promotion of exchanges among Buddhists all over the world was the foremost wish of Buddhists in Sri Lanka and that he highly valued the friendship between Sri Lankan Buddhists and Rissho Kosei-kai. Chairman Yamanoi responded by saying that Rissho Kosei-kai, as a Buddhist organization actively engaged in interreligious cooperation, would pray with the Buddhists of Sri Lanka for world peace. Ven. Dhammajothi reported that a facility for elderly monks is being constructed in Sri Lanka.
Volunteer Members Distribute Blankets in Ethiopia
From October 25 through November 6 a team of
volunteer members was dispatched to Ethiopia to distribute blankets
to the needy. A total of 123,018 blankets were donated by Japanese citizens
during the annual Campaign for Sharing
Blankets with People in Africa, conducted from April through May
2004. Rissho Kosei-kai has taken part in these annual campaigns since
they began. Some 30,000 blankets were shipped to Ethiopia and transported
to the Relief Society of Tigray (REST), a local nongovernmental organization
in Ethiopia, which is responsible for their delivery. The purpose of
this volunteer mission was to hand over some 6,000 blankets directly
to the needy. Rev. Kei'ichi Nakayama, minister of Rissho Kosei-kai's
Isahaya Church, led the team, which consisted of 33 of the organization's
youth members and the Japan Team of Young Human Power, one of Japan's
nongovernmental organizations. The members paid a courtesy call on H.E.
Mr. Kenjiro Izumi, the Japanese ambassador to Ethiopia, at his official
residence in Addis Ababa before traveling to the province of Tigray,
where they were scheduled to carry out their mission. Assisted by members
of REST, they visited 11 districts, starting with Gulo Mekheda, to present
blankets to the elderly, orphans with HIV, and people who had suffered
from the long drought. They also toured the area where Rissho Kosei-kai
has conducted an afforestation project in cooperation with REST as one
of the organization's joint projects overseas.
Rissho Kosei-kai Organizes Assistance for Victims of Niigata Earthquake
At 5:56 p.m. on October 23 a devastating earthquake of 6.8 magnitude hit central Niigata Prefecture, on the northwestern coast of Japan's main island of Honshu. Several strong aftershocks and many weak ones followed throughout the night and over the next two weeks. According to the report of November 1 by Niigata Prefecture's headquarters for disaster countermeasures, 36 people were killed and about 2,400 injured. Social infrastructures were also damaged, including national highways and water supply, and a bullet train was derailed. More than 100,000 people took refuge in temporary shelters.
Taking these facts into consideration, on October 24 Rissho Kosei-kai
organized a headquarters in Tokyo for disaster countermeasures and relief
activities in cooperation with Rissho Kosei-kai's local offices for
disaster relief in Niigata. The Buddhist organization made its local
churches available as shelters and sent 13,000 meals to victims. The
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund decided to donate 26 million Japanese
yen (as of November 10) in emergency aid to nine towns one village that
were damaged, including the towns of Ojiya, Tokamachi, Nagaoka, Kashiwazaki,
Kawaguchi, Oguni, Koshiji, Kawanishi, and Matsudai and the village of
On October 25 Rissho Kosei-kai dispatched five volunteer members to local churches in Niigata for onsite inspections. On October 28 President Nichiko Niwano issued a message of encouragement to victims not only of the earthquake but of typhoons, which struck the Japan between August and October. On October 30 Rissho Kosei-kai also sent Rev. Hiroshi Hasegawa, one of its directors, to conduct a further survey of earthquake damage.
On November 4--5 Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai and director of its headquarters for disaster countermeasures, made onsite inspections in the cities of Ojiya, Tokamachi, and Echigo Kawaguchi, and visited local churches to encourage members who had taken refuge in church buildings. He was accompanied by Rev. Keiichi Hashimoto, director of the General Affairs Department, and Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, director of the Youth Division.
During his visit to Tokamachi, Rev. Yamanoi visited the Suganuma area, where Rissho Kosei-kai Founder Nikkyo Niwano was born, and confirmed the extent of damage to the visitors' center at the Founder's birthplace and to the house of his birth. Rev. Yamanoi also called on Mr. Shinichi Takizawa, mayor of Tokamachi, and presented him with a gift of money in token of Rissho Kosei-kai members' sympathy. Rissho Kosei-kai also decided to conduct a fund-raising campaign for the victims of the earthquake and typhoon No. 23. It opened a bank account accepting donations from well-wishers throughout Japan from November 14 to January 31.
Rissho Kosei-kai Observes Annual Week of Prayer for World Peace
A multireligious Week of Prayer for World Peace was observed October 17--24, during which people of all faiths throughout the world were encouraged to pray wherever they were for world peace. The event is promoted by an association called the Week of Prayer for World Peace, founded in the United Kingdom and consisting of thirty-seven religious organizations--including Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist--and other nonreligious groups. Rissho Kosei-kai has been a devoted supporter of the event from the beginning.
In previous years, Rissho Kosei-kai members recited a "Prayer for World Peace" each day of the week quoting the writings of President Nichiko Niwano. This year, to mark the peace movement's 30th anniversary, on each day of the week, before their morning devotions, whether in the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo, their local church or at home, Rissho Kosei-kai members recited special invocations for world peace submitted by members across the country.
Moreover, some churches held interreligious prayer meetings in their communities, in cooperation with local members of various faiths. In Nara, some 30 members of the Nara Church joined in services held at Todai-ji, where a leader of the temple emphasized the importance of each member of the various faiths pondering what he or she could do for world peace. In Fukuoka some 200 people gathered at Munakata Shrine, where a Shinto priest emphasized the importance of taking initiatives for world peace, especially with regard to the current situation in Iraq.
Members Active in Areas Devastated by Typhoon No. 23
On October 20--21, typhoon No. 23 hit the Kinki area and the island of Shikoku in western Japan, causing landslides, destroying riverbanks, and killing 88 people. The houses of many residents, including those of Rissho Kosei-kai members, were damaged by floods. Leaders and members of local Rissho Kosei-kai churches immediately surveyed casualties and property damage and began relief activities. For relief and assistance, the executive committee of the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund donated 8 million Japanese yen, allocated to nine local governments through the Buddhist organization's local churches.
The Maruyama River flooded the Tajima region, including Toyooka, Izushi, and Hidaka. On October 23 the Himeji Church of Rissho Kosei-kai serving the region established a relief headquarters at the church and the Tajima training hall. Members began relief activities at suffering members' houses on October 24.
In the cities of Maizuru and Miyatsu, leaders of the Maizuru Church visited suffering members' houses and checked the safety of other fellow members on October 22. The Yura River flowing through Maizuru flooded the entire city. On the same day, only two days before the Maizuru Church was to celebrate its 30th anniversary, the church held an emergency meeting to decide whether to proceed with the celebration. Members living in the devastated areas decided that under the circumstances they needed the teachings of the Dharma more than ever to unite in overcoming their hardships, so the church held the celebration as planned. From October 25, members visited the houses of those members that had been flooded and helped remove the muddy water and carry out furniture.
Members of the Fukuchiyama Church started relief activities on October 23. According to a report from the church, 45 houses in the area were damaged by the flood, and some had broken roofs. The church members conducted a further survey of the devastation. In the Kobe region, Rev. Hiroshi Shiina, head of the Kobe Church, and other leaders called on members in neighboring towns to check on their safety.
Ceremonies Mark Fifth Anniversary of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's Entrance into Nirvana
On October 4, at the Tokyo headquarters
and churches throughout Japan, Rissho Kosei-kai observed the fifth anniversary
of Founder Nikkyo Niwano's entrance into nirvana. In Tokyo, ceremonies
took place in the Great Sacred Hall and at the
Precious Stupa of the One Vehicle dedicated to the founder. From
44 churches 2,818 members took part in the ceremony in the Great Sacred
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.
President Nichiko Niwano opened the door, and President and Mrs. Niwano,
Chairperson Katsunori Yamanoi, and President-designate Kosho Niwano
offered flowers in the stupa.
The ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall began with traditional Japanese music performed by the Kosei koto ensemble. Noted products from many parts of the nation were offered on the sacred platform by 20 young women members representing their dissemination districts. A recording of the founder chanting the Lotus Sutra was then played from loudspeakers. During these minutes of "conversation with the founder" and at 10:34 a.m., the exact time of the founder's passing, members meditated on his virtues and renewed their vow to dedicate themselves to practice of the teachings. The chanting of the sutra led by the president-designate was followed by the president's reading out of a message of gratitude and praise for the founder's lifelong devotion to the welfare of humanity.
In his speech, Chairperson Yamanoi referred to a recently published book by the popular Japanese philosopher and author Takeshi Umehara, in which Professor Umehara wrote that two of the founder's most noted achievements were his presentation of Buddhism in a way that ordinary people could easily understand and his contribution to world peace through the promotion of interreligious cooperation. Rev. Yamanoi then called on members to spend the day reflecting on the founder's achievements and renewing devotion to the Law.
Then Mr. Kojiro Miyasaka, who was a secretary to the founder for 16 years, shared his memories of the founder. He praised Founder Niwano for his kindness and compassion to everyone. He said he has always treasured the founder's remarks, and recalled the founder's saying he had been born to serve and that meeting people to relieve their suffering was his greatest joy.
In his guidance, President Niwano said that "a smile of compassion and loving words" symbolize the spirit of Founder Niwano and that all who emulate him will always wear a smile of compassion and speak loving words, aspiring fully to understand and accept the Buddha's teachings until they themselves embody the teachings.
After the ceremony, participants offered incense in memory of the late founder on tables before the sacred platform.
The Oeshiki-Ichijo Festival was observed October 2--3 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 priest Nichiren who, in the face of severe persecution, devoted his life to the dissemination of the Lotus Sutra. The festival is also an opportunity for members to show their respect, affection, and deep admiration for the late founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, identifying themselves as the torchbearers of the sutra's message.
On October 2 the festival began with an evening prayer service in Fumon Hall. After an offering of flowers to the statue of the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha, members of Gen Verde, an Italian multiartistic performing group--23 women from 13 countries--affiliated with the Focolare Movement, was introduced to the gathering. They sang the song "Amore e Unita" (Love and Unity), a plea for world peace, accompanied by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. On October 3 some 8,000 members, comprising 47 contingents from Rissho Kosei-kai churches in Tokyo, across Japan and overseas marched in a parade carrying mando (portable lighted pagodas). Heavy rain falling from early morning could not dampen their enthusiasm in displaying traditional pageantry in the streets leading to the Great Sacred Hall. The streets were lined with some 55,000 spectators enjoying the colorful procession.
In the closing ceremony in Fumon Hall, President Nichiko Niwano praised the participants for their fine performance despite the bad weather and encouraged them to advance spiritually with the same enthusiasm they had shown in the parade.
Fuyu Center Serves Patients from the Community
Half a year has passed since Kosei General Hospital, affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai, opened its Fuyu Center in April beside the main building. The center has three facilities: a kidney center, an intermediate care unit for the elderly, and a terminal care unit.
The kidney center, on the first floor (with 40 beds), mainly serves dialysis outpatients. The hospital has expanded the number of beds there from 12 to 40 and has put 25 into service, making it possible to treat about 30 patients. The patients are generally in their sixties and seventies. The center treats not only kidney disease but also diabetic renal disease and complications from long-term dialysis. The staff of 13 includes doctors, nurses, and clinical engineers.
The intermediate care unit for the elderly (with 32 beds on the second and third floors) serves patients as a kind of bridge between the postoperative recovery and home care. It provides nursing care both for the elderly who have finished a course of treatment and for patients with chronic diseases. The staff of 19 includes doctors, nurses, and orderlies. There are currently 29 patients, most of whom are over the age of eighty.
The terminal care unit (12 beds on the fourth floor), called Kosei Vihara, is for patients and their families. The staff of 14 includes doctors, nurses, and orderlies, who seek to relieve the physical and mental stress of cancer patients and their families. The number of patients being treated at the Vihara is 44 so far. The period of stay ranges from two days to four months.
UNICEF Fund-Raising Campaign for 2004
Rissho Kosei-kai's fund-raising campaign for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) by the organization's youth members throughout Japan for the year 2004 ended in September. Rissho Kosei-kai has promoted the campaign for 25 years, and private contributions during the yearly term from July 2003 through June 2004 were to be transferred to UNICEF headquarters in New York for various projects specified by the fund-raiser.
For years Rissho Kosei-kai has designated programs to improve education
for children in Asian countries. To help children in Afghanistan, who
have long been afflicted by civil war and natural disasters, a special
fund-raising effort was made part of the annual campaign for UNICEF,
by extending the campaign to the end of September. Five Asian countries
have been chosen as recipients for this year's funds, and the funds
for Afghan children will be utilized for UN projects to support them.
To raise funds for Afghan children, it was thought necessary for youth members to learn in detail about their plight and the difficult challenges of reconstruction facing Afghanistan, so that they could in turn inform the public. Youth members participated in seminars on Afghanistan organized by their churches, in which they saw videos or studied reports prepared by the Japan Committee of UNICEF and the Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division. Through these activities they demonstrated their devotion to carrying out the fund-raising campaign in public places throughout Japan, including through the Donate a Meal Campaign for UNICEF, conducted mainly around the time of the annual Youth Day activities in May, and at charity bazaars.
WCRP/Japan Holds Meetings of Board of Directors and Councilors
On September 16 the Japanese Committee
of the World Conference of Religions for
Peace (WCRP/Japan) held the 84th meeting of its board of directors
as well as the 81st meeting of its councilors, at Yakushi-ji, the head
temple of the Hosso Sect of Japanese Buddhism, in Nara Prefecture. Forty-nine
directors and councilors participated. From Rissho Kosei-kai, President
Nichiko Niwano, Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi, and Rev. Michio Matsubara,
director of the External Affairs Department, took part.
After an address by the Most Ven. Eiin Yasuda, chief abbot of the temple
and chief priest of the sect, the board members discussed the eighth
world assembly of the WCRP. At a news conference after the WCRP symposium
with Iraqi religious leaders on July 22 in Kyoto, it was announced that
WCRP VIII would be held in Kyoto in August 2006. The board members decided
to establish a preparatory committee for WCRP VIII and confirmed a resolution
adopted by the WCRP's governing board on the selection of its members,
the committee's objectives, and plans for WCRP VIII subcommittees. There
were also reports on WCRP/Japan's recent activities, including the July
22 symposium in Kyoto and onsite inspection of damage from the earthquake
in southeastern Iran in August. WCRP/Japan subcommittees also reported
on their activities.
BNN Opens Its Fourth Seminar
On September 14 the Buddhist NGO Network
of Japan (BNN), which is sponsored by the
Niwano Peace Foundation, held its fourth seminar at Jibo Hall in
Tokyo. Twenty five people, including religionists and members of some
nongovernmental organizations (NGO) in Japan, joined the seminar. Immediately
after a strong earthquake on December 26, 2003, in the city of Bam,
Province of Kerman, in southeastern Iran in December 2003, the Shanti
Volunteer Association (SVA), one of Japan's NGOs, sent staff members
to begin emergency support for the victims and investigate the need
of education assistance for local children.
At the seminar, the BNN arranged for the SVA to report on its support
for the victims of the earthquake. Mr. Shoji Seki, chief coordinator
for the relief campaign, reported that the official death toll had risen
to 26,000, or 22 percent of the city's total population, and the number
of orphans had increased. He said the SVA realized the importance of
assisting children and would strive to help orphanages and kindergartens
by distributing essential commodities, restoring facilities, and training
teachers. He also reported on the implementation of SVA's program to
relieve the stress of children and teachers suffering from the earthquake's
aftermath. He explained, however, that such a program would be less
successful without the understanding and collaboration of local people
who could fully realize that the victims' mental health is also the
primary aim of humanitarian support. Rev. Toshiyuki Chino, SVA's secretary-general,
commented that pinpointing a target of support was essential in the
activity of any nongovernmental organization, whose budget and human
resources were limited.
Rissho Kosei-kai's Director Attends UN's 57th DPI/NGO Conference in New York
From September 5 to 11 Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of Rissho Kosei-kai External Affairs Department, visited the United States and attended the 57th annual conference of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), entitled "Millennium Development Goals; Civil Society Takes Action," organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) in partnership with the NGO/DPI Executive Committee, at the UN headquarters in New York September 8--10. Over 1,800 representatives of 540 NGOs in 93 countries participated. The conference focused on the role and plans of social organizations to help implement the resolution of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) adopted at the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religions and Spiritual Leaders at the UN headquarters in 2000.
Rev. Matsubara attended a workshop on "Economic Security and Achieving the Millennium Development Goals" and workshops with the theme "Effective Partnerships for Youth Action." He also attended the plenary sessions of September 9--10.
Before the conference Rev. Matsubara visited the Unitarian Universalist Association's headquarters in Boston and conferred with Rev. William Sinkford, the organization's president, and Rev. Olivia Holmes, its director of international relations.
During the conference Rev. Matsubara also visited the international
secretariat of the World Conference of
Religions for Peace in New York and met with Dr. William F. Vendley,
its secretary-general, and other staff members.
Ceremony Held in Remembrance of Rissho Kosei-kai's Cofounder
On September 10, to commemorate the forty-seventh
anniversary of the death of Cofounder
Myoko Naganuma (1889--1957), Rissho Kosei-kai members recalled her
virtues. During her lifetime she was venerated as a "compassionate mother"
and helped many people renew their dedication to spreading the teachings
of the Lotus Sutra ever more widely. The memorial was held at Rissho
Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters and at its churches throughout Japan.
At the beginning of the memorial in the Great Sacred Hall, in which some 3,000 members took part, twenty women members made an offering to the portrait of Rev. Naganuma and her posthumous Dharma title. Rev. Kosho Niwano, president-designate, led the sutra chanting and then read out a tribute to the cofounder's virtuous dedication. A video presentation of the cofounder's life and character ensued, followed by a testimonial from Rev. Koichi Omoto, head of the Nagano Chuo Church, who described the guidance he had received from the cofounder as a youth.
After a hymn sung by all members present in praise of the cofounder, President Nichiko Niwano gave an address. He recalled an event in the organization's early days when Cofounder Naganuma had a divine revelation that Rissho Kosei-kai would disseminate the teachings of the Lotus Sutra worldwide. He said the event was significant in making members more aware of their mission as people of faith. The mission of Rissho Kosei-kai, he went on, is to build peace: beginning at home, then in the neighborhood, the nation, and the world. Referring to works by Kenji Miyazawa, a famous Japanese poet and author of children's books as well as a devout follower of the Lotus Sutra, Rev. Niwano said it is important to aspire to the realization underlying Miyazawa's works that all people on earth are brothers and sisters, and that this realization is the path to true happiness. Rev. Niwano explained that this is the truth by which we should live, as people given life by Mother Earth. Our religious practice should be based on a sober view of the world, bearing in mind what our country, society, and homes should become. That is how we can repay the cofounder for her compassionate guidance, President Niwano declared.
Chairman of Tokyo Turk Diyanet Camii Visits Rissho Kosei-kai Headquarters
On September 7 Imam Cemil Ayaz, chairman of Tokyo Turk Diyanet Camii, and Mr. Mimasaka Higuchi, honorary president of the Japan Muslim Association, called on Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai, in the administration building at the organization's headquarters in Tokyo.
During their meeting, Imam Ayaz said he would soon return to Turkey
at the end of his term in Tokyo. In mentioning his experience in Japan,
he said it is important for people of different faiths to pray together
for peace and collaborate on their common goal, world peace, beyond
religious differences. Rev. Yamanoi responded that while many Japanese
are not well informed about the history and activities of Islam, through
the efforts of representative Islamic figures, including Mr. Higuchi's,
mutual understanding between Muslims in Japan and other people in Japanese
religious circles has gradually increased. Mr. Higuchi said there are
few Muslims in Japan, but through the activities of the
World Conference of Religions for Peace, Muslims can work together
with members of other religious organizations. Imam Ayaz concluded by
saying he would report on the religious cooperation undertaken in Japan
to the department of religious affairs affiliated with Turkey's prime
minister and devote himself to promoting friendship between people in
his country and Japan.
Tokyo Turk Diyanet Camii is affiliated with Tokyo Camii and the Turkish
Cultural Center, which was founded in Tokyo in June 2000 to offer Turkish
Muslims in Japan a place of worship. The center also serves as a place
not only for mutual exchange among Turks but also for the promotion
of their culture in Japan. Tokyo Turk Diyanet Camii was also established
as a religious corporation in April 2003.
18th Peoples and Religions Meeting Held in Milan
On September 5--7 the 18th International Meeting: "Peoples and Religions" took place in Milan, Italy, under the theme "Religions and Cultures: The Courage to Forge a New Spiritual Humanism." Some 350 people from 70 countries took part, including religious leaders, politicians, and other civic leaders. Rissho Kosei-kai sent a delegation including Rev. Keiichi Hashimoto, director of its General Affairs Department; Mr. Yasutomo Sawahata of Rissho Kosei-kai of Geneva; and Ms. Tomoko Hirota of Rissho Kosei-kai of the UK. In the context of the current trend of globalization and the frequent acts of terrorism around the world, as in Iraq, Madrid, and the Russian town of Beslan, participants exchanged opinions in forums and round-table discussions, prayed for peace and marched in a peace procession in the course of the three-day meeting.
In the opening ceremony, Russian Orthodox Bishop Feofan Achourkov, bishop of northern Ossezia in Russia, where Beslan is located, said terrorists in Beslan rejected his efforts to mediate the hostage crisis. Referring to the massacre of Russian schoolchildren, he said the only way to eliminate terrorism is to remove its causes.
On September 6--7 the participants divided into groups for 36 round-table
discussions of such themes as "The Civilization of Coexistence," "Disarming
Terror: A Role for Believers," "Interreligious Dialogue in a World at
War," and "Religions--the Sources of Conflicts?" In one round-table
discussion at a Milan hotel on September 6, Rev. Hashimoto gave a keynote
speech titled "Japanese Religious Humanism." In his speech, Rev. Hashimoto
explained Rissho Kosei-kai's peace activities, including
the Donate-a-Meal Campaign, from a humanitarian viewpoint. He explained
how Rissho Kosei-kai's principal aim of the peaceful resolution of conflicts
applies to conditions throughout the world since the September 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks in the United States, quoting the words of President
On the final day of the meeting, an appeal for peace was adopted. It says, "From the depth of our respective religious traditions, we understand more profoundly how fear, terrorism and war put humanity at risk of self-destruction and how human beings end up surrendering to that very evil they aim to oppose." The appeal emphasizes that "dialogue is the path which gives a future to the world, making it possible for all to live together." The appeal concludes, "From Milan, we ask first ourselves, and then all men and women of goodwill, to live the courage of a new humanism, founded on our respective faiths. This is the only way we see to build a world of peace." On September 7, after a prayer service for peace and a peace procession, the closing ceremony was held in the Piazza del Duomo.
Sponsored by the Italian lay Catholic Community of Saint Egidio, headquartered in Rome, the international meeting is held annually in different European cities to carry on the spirit of the 1986 Day of Prayer for Peace called for by Pope John Paul II in Assisi.
Shipment of Blankets Begins
On August 18 the first consignment of
blankets for people in Africa was shipped to Ethiopia from Yokohama.
From April 1 through May 31 members of Rissho Kosei-kai actively took
part in the Campaign of Sharing Blankets
with People in Africa. This year the campaign marked its 20th anniversary,
and members throughout Japan donated blankets themselves and collected
them from well-wishers, standing at busy street corners or visiting
private homes to appeal for blankets.
The number of blankets gathered during the campaign totaled 123,018. The first consignment of 30,000 blankets left Yokohama that day on a freighter for Djibouti, one of Ethiopia's neighboring countries. The freighter was expected at Djibouti by mid-September, and from there the blankets were to be trucked to Ethiopia. They are to be distributed directly to victims of disasters by members of volunteer groups from Rissho Kosei-kai, scheduled to arrive in Ethiopia by the end of October. The rest of the blankets collected in Japan are to be shipped soon to Eritrea, Malawi, Uganda, and other countries in Africa. In each of these countries the blankets will be handed over to local nongovernmental organizations for distribution.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Decides Emergency Support for Sudanese Refugees
In the Darfur region of western Sudan, ethnic
conflict between nomadic Arabs and settled agriculture-oriented African
villagers continues unabated since it broke out in early 2003. Because
of violent raids on villages by Arab militia known as the Janjaweed,
who are believed to be supported by the Sudanese government, tens of
thousands of Sudanese civilians have lost their lives and some 200,000
have fled the fighting and attacks into neighboring Chad. In August,
at the request of the UNHCR, the Rissho
Kosei-kai Peace Fund decided to donate 5 million Japanese yen in
emergency humanitarian aid for the relief of displaced Sudanese civilians.
At present, in cooperation with the Chad government and local and international
nongovernmental organizations, the UNHCR operates 10 refugee camps near
the Chad-Sudanese border. The influx of new refugees, especially women
and children, increases the need for more refugee camps. Heavy rains
often interrupt smooth transportation of refugee relief goods. The need
for aid is increasing as well, day by day.
Blankets Shipped to Africa
In August the executive committee of the
Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa announced that
Japanese citizens had donated 123,018 blankets during this year's national
campaign, from April 1 to May 31.
Rissho Kosei-kai has been a member organization of the campaign since it began in 1984. During this year's drive, Rissho Kosei-kai members handed out fliers to citizens in the streets and visited private homes to explain the campaign, and it was promoted in local newspapers.
The first consignment of blankets will be shipped in August and delivered to the needy in such African countries as Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, and Malawi in cooperation with local nongovernmental organizations. Rissho Kosei-kai will dispatch volunteer members to distribute blankets in Ethiopia from October through November.
WCRP Holds Symposium in Kyoto with Iraqi Religious Leaders
The World Conference
of Religions for Peace (WCRP) held a symposium titled "Peace Building
in Iraq: The Role of Multi-Religious Cooperation" cosponsored by the
Japanese Committee (WCRP/Japan) in a hotel in Kyoto on July 22. Some
180 religious representatives from Japan and abroad as well as religious
scholars took part, including representative members of the WCRP and
WCRP/Japan. The Japanese participants included, from Rissho Kosei-kai,
President Nichiko Niwano, as a president of the WCRP, and Chairman Katsunori
Yamanoi; and executive committee members of the Awake to World Peace
The WCRP invited six religious leaders from Iraq to participate: Dr. Fuad Muhsin Hamash, senior representative of the Iraqi Islamic Party; Sheikh Hayder Abdulzahraa Ereebi, special representative of Ayatollah Seyed Hussein Al-Sader in Alkhdimiya Hawza; Majid Ismail Mohammad, director of Foreign Affairs of the Kurdish Ulama Committee; Dr. Abdul Salam Al-Kubeisy, director of Foreign Affairs for the Ulama Committee; Archbishop Gabriel Hana Kassab, a representative of Patriarch Emanuel Dely (Chaldean Community); and Seyed Hassan Bahralulom, a representative of Grand Ayatollah Seyed Mohammad Saeed Al-Hakim in Najaf.
After addresses by Peter Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, president of WCRP/Japan, and Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, vice moderator of the WCRP, Dr. William F. Vendley, secretary-general of the WCRP, led the panel discussion, with the invited Iraqi religious leaders as panelists. From the discussion the participants learned about the importance of the interreligious cooperation among the various religious communities in Iraq as well as with religious communities abroad for the country's reconstruction.
WCRP Announces Eighth Assembly to Be Held in Kyoto in 2006
At a news conference after the July 22
symposium in Kyoto with Iraqi religious leaders, Rev. Gijun Sugitani,
secretary-general of the Japanese Committee of
the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP), announced that
the WCRP will hold its eighth world assembly August 26--29, 2006. The
WCRP plans to convene the assembly at the Kyoto International Conference
Hall as the main venue. That hall is where the historic first assembly
of the WCRP convened.
Iraqi Religious Leaders Visit Rissho Kosei-kai
On July 25 eight leaders of religious communities
in Iraq had a talk with President Nichiko Niwano in the Horin-kaku Guest
Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters. Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi,
the organization's chairman, and Dr. William Vendley, secretary-general
of the World Conference of Religions for
Peace (WCRP), were also present. The Iraqi religious leaders had
been invited to the Kyoto Symposium on July 22, which the WCRP and its
Japanese Committee jointly sponsored. Referring to the symposium, which
he also attended, President Niwano told them he felt it would be very
significant and helpful for him to deepen his understanding of the current
situations in Iraq. Rev. Seyed Hassan Bahralulom said that he and the
other Iraqi religious leaders had come to Japan as messengers of peace,
and although his nation was still overwhelmed by hardship after the
war, Iraqis hoped to achieve world peace in cooperation with people
in Japan. During the meeting he also expressed his hope that Rissho
Kosei-kai would undertake relief activities in his country, especially
for children. He emphasized that promotion of interreligious dialogue
could be a foundation for peace and stability in the world. He concluded
by expressing his anticipation of the further development of cooperation
with members of Rissho Kosei-kai.
Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Meet Iraqi Religious Leaders
Rissho Kosei-kai invited eight Iraqi religious leaders to visit its headquarters in Tokyo on July 25, and more than 300 of the organization's youth members gathered to hear firsthand their opinions about the mission of religious people and their expectations of religious youth.
Archbishop Gabriel Hana Kassab, a member of the Executive Committee
of the Interreligious Council of Iraq, which is a subsidiary organization
of the WCRP, said that youth's passion
and action based on true love has given Iraqi leaders courage and helped
sustain their efforts. Dr. Abdul Salam Al-Kubeisy, director of Foreign
Affairs for the Ulama Committee in Iraq, said that religious people
should continue efforts to build peace even if the results are not immediately
obvious. According to Sheikh Hayder Abdulzahraa Ereebi, a special representative
of Ayatollah Seyed Hussein Al-Sader in Alkhdimiya Hawza and a member
of the Executive Committee of the Interreligious Council of Iraq, religions
teach that though our lives are beset with difficulties, we should do
our best to overcome them and never succumb to evil or take any action
we will come to regret.
In a question-and-answer session, Dr. Al-Kubeisy explained that one of the most important aims of religious education in Iraq is to teach the young that we should befriend people of other faiths and opinions. Dr. Fuad Muhsin Hamash, senior representative of the Iraqi Islamic Party, emphasized that the mission of people of religion is instilling a sense of right and wrong in the young. Finally, Dr. Hamash told the gathering that since young people have many talents and the capacity to persevere, they can contribute to world peace.
Rissho Kosei-kai Sends Delegate to 2004 Parliament of the World's Religions in Barcelona
On July 7--13, 2004, the Parliament of
the World's Religions, an international interreligious assembly, was
held in Barcelona with some 7,400 participants from 75 countries. The
assembly was sponsored by the Council for a Parliament of the World's
Religions (CPWR), which had organized an assembly in Chicago in 1993,
called the Parliament of the World's Religion, as a centennial celebration
of the 1893 World Parliament of Religion in Chicago. It also hosted
the second modern assembly of Parliament of the World's Religions in
Cape Town in 1999. At the invitation of the CPWR, Rissho Kosei-kai and
the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) sent delegations
to the parliament. At a preparatory gathering July 4--7 at Montserrat,
near Barcelona, Mr. Yasutomo Sawahata of Rissho Kosei-kai Geneva described
Rissho Kosei-kai's hoza counseling sessions as an example of
settling local conflicts at the grass-roots level and cited Rissho Kosei-kai's
Donate a Meal Campaign as an example
of sustainable peace activities. Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, director of the
World Wide Service of the WCRP, gave a presentation on the WCRP's history
and activities around the world in a symposium held on July 9 and discussed
its Interreligious Council of Uganda, which tackles the problems of
HIV/AIDS. Ms. Tomoko Hirota of Rissho Kosei-kai of the UK assisted at
a workshop held on July 10 and gave a presentation on the Buddhist concept
President Niwano Receives Luminosa Award
Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, was presented the 2004 Luminosa Award for Unity by the Focolare Movement at its Mariapolis Luminosa in Hyde Park, New York, on July 7. More than two hundred people from the Focolare Movement, other Christian denominations and different religions attended the presentation ceremony. This was the first award received by President Niwano in his own right rather than on behalf of his father, the founder of Rissho Kosei-kai.
The Focolare Movement established its Luminosa Award in 1988 to honor any individual or organization that has made a distinguished contribution to the achievement of a spirit of unity. Seventeen people have so far been given the award, including Cardinal Pio Laghi, a former Vatican Pro-nuncio to the United States, and Bishop Henrik Svenungsson, a Lutheran pioneer of ecumenism in Sweden. Rev. Niwano is the second Japanese to receive the award, after Professor Masao Abe, who was honored for his work in the field of Christian-Buddhist dialogue. The award to Rev. Niwano primarily recognizes his longstanding, fruitful efforts to promote peace through interreligious cooperation.
At the award ceremony, after Ms. Marcella Ferrari, co-director of the
Mariapolis Luminosa, explained the award's history and significance,
she read out a message of congratulations from Ms. Chiara Lubich, the
Focolare Movement's founder and president. "We share the commitment
to work for a better world," Ms. Lubich said, "and to overcome with
love the many religious, cultural, and political obstacles that still
block the spreading of fraternity and peace on our planet." Following
that, Dr. William Vendley, secretary-general of the
World Conference of Religions for Peace, introduced Rev. Niwano,
describing his contributions to peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sri
Lanka, and Cambodia.
Rev. Niwano was presented with a memorial plaque and a ceramic symbolizing
the award by Ms. Ferrari and Rev. William New, co-director of the Mariapolis
Luminosa. President Niwano then offered his
acceptance speech and later delivered an address titled
"The Spirituality of the Lotus Sutra." In a concluding speech, Donald
Mitchell, professor of comparative philosophy and chair of the religious
studies program at Purdue University, said that the Lotus Sutra's philosophy
of harmony between human beings and all other existences not only gives
people deeper, broader insight into the realm of unity but also presents
a new viewpoint on religions in the world.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Announces Grant Recipients for Second Term of Fiscal 2004
In July the Executive Committee of
the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced the grant recipients for
the second term of fiscal 2004. Some 7.9 million Japanese yen was allocated
to five recipients. In January the committee had adopted four new programs
in the category of joint projects with other organizations: support
for prevention of AIDS in Asia and Africa; aid for refugees and peace-building
projects; support for socially engaged Buddhist organizations; and partnership
with other religious organizations. For this term, the committee chose
five joint projects from three of the four above-mentioned programs.
For the program for prevention of AIDS in Asia and Africa, the fund donated 1,364,000 yen to the Banyan Home Foundation for its assistance of orphans of HIV carriers in Thailand and 2 million yen to the Italian Catholic lay Community of Saint Egidio, the 16th recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize, for its activities for AIDS prevention and food supply in cooperation with the health department of the government of Guinea.
In connection with refugees and peace-building projects, the fund allocated 2 million yen to the Corrymeela Community, the 14th recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize, for its activities of promoting reconciliation between the Catholic and Protestant communities of Northern Ireland, and 2 million yen to the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention to support its vocational training of discharged soldiers in Afghanistan.
To support socially engaged Buddhist organizations, the fund presented 500,000 yen to Dhammarajika Orphanage in Bangladesh to repair its well and maintain a water supply for daily use.
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund Assists Meeting of Christian and Buddhist Leaders Organized by WCC
Cosponsored by the World Council of Churches
(WCC) and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), a meeting titled "Consultation
of Christian-Theravada Buddhist Leaders" was held July 3--6 at the Tao
Fung Shan Center, Shatin, Hong Kong. Forty-three Christian and Theravada
Buddhist leaders from such Southeast Asian nations as Bangladesh, Cambodia,
Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand took part. At the invitation
of the WCC, Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, deputy director of the Rissho Kosei-kai's
External Affairs Department, joined the meeting. The
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund allocated 1.25 million Japanese yen
to assist with the meeting's expenses.
In Southeast Asian countries there have been instances of religious conflict between adherents of such faiths as Theravada Buddhism, which is deeply rooted in the region, and of Catholicism and other Christian denominations carrying out missionary work. The meeting aimed to encourage dialogue between Christians and Buddhists and seek ways for them to cooperate for the well-being of future generations, while sharing common concerns and seeking common ground for peace, reconciliation, and harmonious coexistence. Through the keynote addresses, general meetings, and group discussions, participants learned and deepened their knowledge of specific incidents in the history of religious conflict in their countries.
The WCC is one of the leading organizations of the worldwide ecumenical movement, representing some 400 million Christians, including Orthodox Christians. Since the founding of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, Rissho Kosei-kai has had ties of friendship with the WCC for many years. The CCA is the regional ecumenical organization, with headquarters in Hong Kong.
President Niwano Visits Chiapas, Mexico
President Nichiko Niwano toured Mexico
from June 29 to July 3 at the invitation of the Most Rev. Samuel Ruiz
Garcia, the former Roman Catholic bishop of San Cristobal de Las Casas,
in the state of Chiapas. Bishop Ruiz is the 19th recipient of the
Niwano Peace Prize, for his years of human rights advocacy in Latin
America, especially the enhancement of the social standing of indigenous
people who have been oppressed by the Mexican authorities. He also served
as the mediator in a cease-fire between the Chiapas-based Zapatista
National Liberation Army and the Mexican army.
On June 29 Bishop Ruiz met Rev. Niwano at the Mexico City airport and
hosted him at a dinner party at one of the city's hotels. On June 30
Rev. Niwano accompanied the bishop to the diocese he had served for
40 years. In San Cristobal de Las Casas Rev. Niwano spoke with local
leaders of various religious communities, including Bishop Felipe Arizmendi,
who took over the diocese after Bishop Ruiz's retirement in 2002. Bishop
Arizmendi mentioned that the presentation of the Niwano Peace Prize
to Bishop Ruiz contributed to elevating the dignity of indigenous people
in their country, not only in their own eyes, but in the eyes of many
people in the nation. On the same day, Rev. Niwano toured a vocational
school for indigenous people, where he met leaders of six local nongovernmental
organizations that work in cooperation with Bishop Ruiz. Some 100 trainees
were also present. On July 1 Rev. Niwano visited the village of Nuevo
Jerusalen, a community established by the indigenous people in Ocosingo,
about 90 km from San Cristobal de Las Casas. After a welcome by some
400 villagers, Rev. Niwano and Bishop Ruiz spoke with their leaders.
Ninth ICLS Discusses Buddhist and Christian Practices
The ninth International Conference on
the Lotus Sutra, sponsored by the Chuo Academic Research Institute,
was held June 27--July 2 under the theme "Buddhist and Christian Practices"
at a Rissho Kosei-kai facility in Tokyo and a hotel in Shiga Heights,
Nagano Prefecture. Twelve scholars of Buddhist studies, theology, and
philosophy participated, from the United States, Canada, China, and
Japan. The conference was coordinated by Dr. Gene Reeves, international
advisor to the International
Buddhist Congregation, and Dr. Michio T. Shinozaki, president of
Gakurin Seminary, both affiliated with Rissho Kosei-kai.
On the basis of the papers each scholar presented before the conference, the participants had lively discussions, mainly about comparative studies of practices in both the Buddhist (the Lotus Sutra, especially) and Christian traditions. The papers that discussed such topics included "The Comparative Study of Religious Practices: Mantra, Nembutsu, Litanies, the Kyrie, and the Jesus Prayer," by Professor Thomas Kasulis of Ohio State University; and "Jesus Prayer and Odaimoku," by Professor Kang-nam Oh of the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Faith in the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Kannon, Guanyin) was another major topic that aroused the participants' interest, and it was addressed in papers by Dr. Reeves, Dr. Shinozaki, and Professor Elizabeth Galbraith of St. Olaf College, Minnesota. Professor Dedong Wei of Renmin University, Beijing, discussed Buddhist ecological ideas and practices. On July 1 the participants joined in a ceremony at the Nagano Chuo Church of Rissho Kosei-kai and visited Zenko-ji temple, both in the city of Nagano.
of Seattle Opens New Center
On July 3 Rissho Kosei-kai of Seattle inaugurated its new training hall,
called Rissho Kosei-kai of Seattle's Buddhist Learning Center, at Federal
Way, Washington. Fifty people took part in the ceremony, including members
from Oregon and Vancouver, Canada. Rev. Hiroshi Hasegawa, one of Rissho
Kosei-kai's directors, attended the ceremony on behalf of the organization's
Rissho Kosei-kai of Seattle was originally formed as a local Sangha
(community of Buddhist believers) around 1960 by Rissho Kosei-kai members
who moved to Seattle from Japan. With the growth of membership, it became
a liaison center of Rissho Kosei-kai of Los Angeles in 1969, and was
incorporated in 1973. After Rissho Kosei-kai of San Francisco was founded
in 1979, the Seattle chapter developed further under its auspices.
At the inauguration ceremony, following sutra chanting led by Rev. Koichi
Nagata, minister of Rissho Kosei-kai of San Francisco, and a speech
of testimony to the faith by Mrs. Nam Sook Yu, Rev. Hasegawa offered
religious guidance. He reminded those gathered of the value of all life
and emphasized the need to create a home filled with human warmth and
ease, and to make the Sangha such a place as well.
Chairman Yamanoi Attends Meeting of Executive Committee of ACRP in Sri Lanka
The executive committee of the Asian
Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP) met June 27--29 at a hotel
in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Some 60 religious representatives from the Asian
region took part, including 31 executive committee members. Rev. Katsunori
Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho Kosei-kai, joined the meeting as a proxy
for President Nichiko Niwano, one of the ACRP's presidents.
The executive committee approved the implementation of the Functional Cooperation of Interfaith Youth for Peace Building in Indonesia, proposed by the Interfaith Forum for Peace in Asia organized after the sixth assembly of the ACRP in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in 2002.
Every year the ACRP focuses on strengthening one of its four standing commissions. This year the committee decided to give priority to projects of the Commission on Reconciliation and Security. The other three commissions are the Commission on Human Rights and Welfare, the Commission on Peace Education and Peace Research, and the Commission on Development and Environment.
On June 28 a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the reconstruction
of a rain-fed reservoir in the village of Namalwatta, in northeastern
Sri Lanka, attended by members of the executive committee. The project
was implemented by the Mahayanakes Peace and Development Trust. Before
the reservoir was destroyed in the civil war, it had served as an important
social infrastructure. The rebuilding will ensure a water supply for
local residents' daily use. The Japan Buddhist Federation, Rissho Kosei-kai,
and the Japanese Committee of the World
Conference of Religions for Peace declared they would assist with
the project. At the groundbreaking ceremony, Dr. Daya Perera, vice-chairman
of the fund, reported on the project and thanked other countries, including
Japan, for their assistance.
President Niwano Speaks at UUA General Assembly
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) invited Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, to attend its 43rd general assembly. About 4,500 UUA ministers and members of various congregations gathered at the annual assembly June 24--28 at Long Beach, California. President Niwano delivered a speech at a plenary session on June 25. It was the first time for him to attend a UUA general assembly.
Cooperation between Rissho Kosei-kai and the UUA has grown on the foundation
of trust that developed between Dr. Dana M. Greeley, the UUA's first
president, and Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, the founder of Rissho Kosei-kai.
Both organizations have enjoyed friendly relations for more than thirty
years through the WCRP and IARF.
Last year Rev. William Sinkford, the current UUA president, visited
Rissho Kosei-kai and spoke at the celebration of its 65th anniversary.
In his speech at the
UUA plenary session, President Niwano expressed deep appreciation for
the first meeting of Founder Niwano, Dr. Greeley, and Dr. Homer A. Jack,
a Unitarian clergyman and disarmament expert, which brought about the
first World Conference of Religions for Peace in 1970.
Emphasizing the wisdom of religion, he said, "Although our countries, races, religions, and cultures may differ, all of us live on this earth as 'children of life.' This common sympathy is itself the invaluable spirit of living in a world of coexistence. I believe that the 'religious wisdom' sorely needed today is none other than this realization that life is precious."
Rev. Niwano Confers with UUA President
On June 25 at Long Beach, California, Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, talked with leaders of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), including Rev. William Sinkford, president; Ms. Gini Courter, interim moderator; Rev. Olivia Holmes, director of international relations; and nine members of the board of trustees.
Referring to Rev. Niwano's speech at the 43rd general assembly, Rev. Sinkford said he was impressed by President Niwano's mention of the friendship that developed between Dr. Greeley and Rev. Nikkyo Niwano from their first meeting. He added that he understood the mention of that meeting as a message that people today should strive to fulfill both leaders' hopes by forging unity among the world's many religions.
Ms. Courter said that she was greatly impressed to learn of the efforts
of UUA's partner, Rissho Kosei-kai, because the world is becoming ever
more vulnerable. When Rev. Sinkford asked about Rissho Kosei-kai's practice
of hoza counseling sessions, Rev. Niwano answered that hoza's
main focus is cultivating gratitude for life.
Rev. Sinkford also mentioned Rissho Kosei-kai's plan to celebrate the centennial of Founder Niwano's birth in 2006. When he said he wished UUA youth members to take part in the event, Rev. Niwano said the idea would have greatly delighted Founder Niwano.
Malawi's Ambassador to Japan Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On June 22 Mr. J. John Chikago, Malawi's ambassador
to Japan, visited Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo and had a talk
with the organization's chairman, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, and the director
of the External Affairs Department, Rev. Michio Matsubara. Mr. Chikago
expressed appreciation for the Campaign
for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa, which Rissho Kosei-kai
has joined and supported for many years, saying that the movement's
finest aspect is the spirit of donation among ordinary people. In describing
the spirit of the campaign, he also praised its origins in prayer based
on a willingness to share in others' suffering rather than on political
considerations. In response, Rev. Yamanoi said that the best kind of
relationship among countries is not material but spiritual, leading
to a meeting of hearts and minds. He said also that he hoped to continue
to taking part in the campaign to give Africans and Japanese opportunities
for mutual exchange on both the material and spiritual levels.
President Niwano Takes Office as Chairman of Shinshuren
On June 17, Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) held meetings of the board of directors and trustees at the headquarters of the Church of Perfect Liberty (PL) in Osaka Prefecture. Some 110 members of Shinshuren took part, including 25 directors and auditors. From Rissho Kosei-kai, President Nichiko Niwano and Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi joined the meetings. Shinshuren organized the meetings because the terms of office of all members of the board of directors and trustees had expired.
As Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, chairman of Myochi-kai, presided, Shinshuren appointed 26 new members of the board of directors and two auditors for the next term. Both Rev. Niwano and Rev. Yamanoi were appointed to the board. Following their selection, the first meeting of new members was held, and the selection committee's recommendation of Rev. Niwano as the fifth chairman of Shinshuren was unanimously approved. He will hold the office for two years. At the meeting Rev. Takeyasu Miyamoto, leader of Myochi-kai, Rev. Takahito Miki, third founder of the PL, and Rev. Mitsuhiro Fukata, patriarch of Enno-kyo, were also elected vice chairmen.
In his inaugural address Rev. Niwano said he would enhance the spirit of harmony that characterizes Shinshuren by following with reverence in the footsteps of the former chairmen: Rev. Tokuchika Miki, second founder of the PL organization; Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, founder of Rissho Kosei-kai; Rev. Yasusaburo Tazawa, patriarch of Shoroku Shinto Yamatoyama; and Rev. Mitsuhiro Fukata. Because the rotating chairmanship of Nihon Shukyo Renmei (Japanese Association of Religious Organizations) falls to a chairman of Shinshuren this year, Rev. Niwano will also hold the additional post of that chairmanship.
Overseas Leaders' Seminar Held in Tokyo
On June 17--21, an Overseas Leaders' Seminar was held at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters with 40 participants from the United States, Brazil, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, and Mongolia. Its purpose was to provide an opportunity for the overseas leaders to interact personally and to improve their qualifications as dissemination leaders.
During the seminar, lectures were given on religious leadership and the management of local churches by Rissho Kosei-kai's directors and ministers. The lectures included "Merit Through Having Faith," by Rev. Kinjiro Niwano, and "Embracing the Lotus Sutra and Practicing Its Teachings," by Norio Sakai, both honorary executive board members of Rissho Kosei-kai. On June 20 in Fumon Hall the participants attended the 2004 Rissho Kosei-kai Leaders Convention, at which President Nichiko Niwano delivered a sermon. They deepened their understanding of Buddhism through the sermon, lectures and hoza counseling sessions.
At the closing ceremony, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of Rissho
Kosei-kai's board of directors, explained that the teachings of the
Buddha constantly apply, to everyone, anywhere, and on any occasion.
Mentioning the 100th anniversary
of Founder Niwano's birth in 2006, he encouraged the participants
to work together for world peace.
Rissho Kosei-kai Representative Joins Multifaith Consultation in Geneva
On June 8--13, cosponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and its Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, a multifaith consultation titled "Religion, Power, and Violence--A Consultation for Inter-religious Peace Building" was held in Celigny, Switzerland.
Some 37 people of various faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, and members from nongovernmental organizations as well as scholars from 16 countries took part. As a representative of Rissho Kosei-kai of Geneva, Mr. Yasutomo Sawahata also joined the consultation. The participants explored the interrelationship of religion, power, and violence and discussed peace activities through their actual contributions to peace at the grass-roots level.
Mr. Sawahata explained the religious background of Rissho Kosei-kai's hoza counseling sessions through a video presentation and proposed hoza as a discussion model for the peace-building process. In response to his presentation, Rev. Dr. Hans Ucko, program executive of Inter-Religious Relations and Dialogue of the WCC, praised the proposal, saying hoza helps people solve their personal problems by discussing them with other people under the guidance of a hoza leader. Mr. Yehuda Stolov, director of the Israel Interfaith Association, suggested holding classes in hoza in Israel to train leaders in promoting interreligious dialogue.
The WCC is one of the leading organizations of the modern ecumenical
movement and has a membership of more than 340 churches, denominations
and fellowships in over 100 countries representing some 400 million
Christians, including Orthodox Christians. Through the founding of the
World Conference of Religions for Peace, Rissho Kosei-kai has had ties
of friendship with the organization for many years. Rissho Kosei-kai
made a grant from its Peace Fund
to facilitate the consultation.
WCRP/Japan Holds Meetings of Board of Directors and Councilors
The Japanese Committee of the
World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP/Japan) held the 83rd
meeting of its board of directors as well as the 80th meeting of its
councilors at Hanazono University in Kyoto on June 14. Forty-nine directors
and councilors participated. From Rissho Kosei-kai, President Nichiko
Niwano, Chairman Katsunori Yamanoi, and Rev. Yoshiko Izumida, an advisor
to Rissho Kosei-kai, joined the meetings.
After an address of welcome delivered by Dr. Eshin Nishimura, president of Hanazono University, the activities of the committee in fiscal 2003 were reported, and the annual financial report was approved unanimously. The committee also announced that on July 21 it would hold the first preparatory meeting for the eighth world assembly of the WCRP in Kyoto in 2006. Changes in the committee membership were also discussed, and WCRP/Japan appointed Rev. Masami Yatabe, president of Jinja Honcho (Association of Shinto Shrines) as a director. The committee also appointed Dr. Yoshiaki Sanada, president of the Hoju Vocational College and a professor at Chuo University's School of Law, as director of the Peace Research Institute of WCRP/Japan.
Other reports focused on WCRP/Japan's Fund for Peace and Development's financial support of earthquake victims in Iran and official participation in the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi, Japan.
Tenth UN Symposium on Northeast Asia Held in Kanazawa
On June 7--9 the United Nations Association
of Japan held the tenth United Nations Symposium on Northeast Asia in
Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture. Thirty-six participants, including government
officials and scholars from nine Asian-Pacific countries, as well as
United Nations officials, were present. The participants reviewed the
results of past symposia and discussed current problems in Northeast
Asia. Attending on behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai was Rev. Masamichi Kamiya,
deputy director of the organization's External Affairs Department. During
a plenary session, Prof. James Cotton of the Australian Defense Force
Academy said that the annual symposia have served as important opportunities
for continued dialogue on peace and security in Northeast Asia. During
the subsequent question-and-answer session, Rev. Kamiya commented that
the symposia's policy allowing government officials, journalists, and
representatives of NGOs to participate in individual capacities had
kept discussions fair and balanced. The participants also discussed
such topics as "The Role of Military Today," "The Korean Peninsula,"
and "Food, Energy, and Ecological Security." Rev. Gijun Sugitani, secretary-general
of the Japanese Committee of the WCRP,
made a presentation during one of the plenary sessions, emphasizing
the importance of intercultural and interreligious dialogue, in which
participants respect mutual differences, as means of promoting peace
and human security. During the symposium Mr. Yoshikazu Shimizu, a member
of the board of directors of the United Nations Association of Japan,
and Mr. Tsutomu Ishiguri, director of the United Nations Regional Center
for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, expressed appreciation
for Rissho Kosei-kai's long-standing support of the United Nations through
its Peace Fund.
Rissho Kosei-kai of Mongolia Opens
On June 6 an opening ceremony for Rissho
Kosei-kai's Ulaanbaatar liaison office was held in the presence of some
90 participants, including Mongolian members. Rev. Hiroshi Hasegawa,
one of Rissho Kosei-kai's directors, attended the ceremony on behalf
of the organization's Tokyo headquarters. Following an offering of flowers
by eight members, Rev. Hasegawa led the sutra chanting in front of the
Gohonzon enshrined on the Buddhist altar in the new office. In a talk
to members, he emphasized the importance of "cultivating
the heart" and striving to see things in the light of the "three
principles of thought" as taught by President Nichiko Niwano.
about President Niwano's teaching on "cultivating the heart," please
Since June 2003 the new liaison office's Gohonzon, the small statue
of Shakyamuni Buddha intended for enshrinement as a focus of devotion,
had been kept temporarily in the house of Mrs. Shugeru Zorigmaa, a local
leader of some 250 Mongolian members. Since she joined the Shibuya Church
while in Tokyo, Rissho Kosei-kai's dissemination in Mongolia has developed
in cooperation with members of the Shibuya Church. She opened her house
for Mongolian members to gather there daily for sutra chanting and hoza
counseling sessions based on the teachings of the Buddha. In March,
after Mrs. Zorigmaa had received her focus of devotion, Gohonzons for
enshrinement on members' Buddhist home altars were bestowed on two families.
JEN Transfers Relief Activities in Serbia and Montenegro to Local Nongovernmental Organization
On May 31 JEN,
a multiorganizational nonprofit group, of which Rissho Kosei-kai
is a member, announced the conclusion of its activities in the Serbia-Montenegro
region of the former Yugoslavia. After its founding in 1994, JEN started
relief activities as emergency aid in the region after the outbreak
of ethnic conflicts and other civil disturbances. JEN continued supporting
the reconstruction process in the region for about 10 years. It expanded
its activities of contributing food and medical equipment to refugees
from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and held workshops emphasizing
the need for counseling services. In cooperation with JEN, Rissho Kosei-kai
organized and sent volunteer groups to distribute bags of toys, stationery
items, and daily necessities through the organization's
Little Bags Dream Campaign. In recent years, JEN's support activities
aimed at helping refugees become self-reliant. After the close of its
offices in Belgrade and Nis, JEN's various activities were to be taken
over by a local nongovernmental organization whose establishment JEN
supported. JEN also announced it would continue its activities in Bosnia
and Herzegovina in the former Yugoslavia.
Rissho Kosei-kai Announces Plans for the 100th Anniversary of Founder Niwano's Birth
A variety of events and projects will
take place concerning the centennial of Founder Niwano's birth around
the year of 2006. This May, Rissho Kosei-kai released the "Outline of
the Plan for the Centennial of Founder Niwano's Birth." The outline
includes the anniversary's theme, basic principles,
plans, and background. The organization also
issued comments of Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman
of Rissho Kosei-kai's board of directors, about its announcement
of the plans.
According to the outline, the most important element in making concrete
plans and developing projects is founding all ideas on two basic principles--
Showing Honor to the Founder, and Awakening in
Faith. These principles are translated into one action: Each member
of Rissho Kosei-kai, with the founder's wish as his or her own, practices
the teachings and shares joy with others, as expressed in the theme
of the anniversary, Each Person's One Vehicle, Big-heartedness, and
With these thoughts as our foundation, Rissho Kosei-kai not only will accomplish such memorial projects as a compilation of the founder's teachings and the renovation of the Great Sacred Hall but also will put into effect such plans for Awakening in Faith as President Niwano's national dissemination tour.
BCYCC Youth Goodwill Mission to Japan
Rissho Kosei-kai hosted seven young people
from the Bataan Christian Youth Civic Circle (BCYCC) of the Philippines
visiting Japan May 24--31 on a goodwill mission. On May 25 they met
President Nichiko Niwano in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. Later they toured
Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters, learned about the teachings of Buddhism
and witnessed the religious practices and rituals of Rissho Kosei-kai.
On May 28 they were welcomed at a reception at the Yokohama Church given
by members of the five churches of the Kanagawa District. They interacted
with the district's youth members and experienced a Buddhist lifestyle
through two-day homestays at members' homes. Last year the BCYCC celebrated
its 25th anniversary, and next year Rissho Kosei-kai will join the BCYCC
in celebrating the 30th anniversary of the building of
the Friendship Tower in Bagac City in the Philippine province of
Bataan. The tower symbolizes the hope of restored friendship between
the Philippines and Japan. Rissho Kosei-kai has kept close ties with
BCYCC members through reciprocal goodwill missions.
UNICEF Regional Director Visits Headquarters
On May 24, Mr. Philip O'Brien, regional
director of the UNICEF Regional Office for Geneva, visited Rissho Kosei-kai's
Tokyo headquarters and had a talk with the organization's chairman,
Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi. Mr. Yoshihisa Togo, executive director of the
Japan Committee for UNICEF, and Mr. Ken Hayami, the secretary general,
were also present at the meeting. Mr. O'Brien expressed appreciation
for Rissho Kosei-kai's long-standing assistance to UNICEF. In describing
the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and the plight of child soldiers in
Uganda, Mr. O'Brien appealed for further cooperation and assistance
from Rissho Kosei-kai to enable UNICEF to tackle the many challenges
facing children around the world. Rev. Yamanoi explained Rissho Kosei-kai's
peace activities, including the annual campaign in support of UNICEF
on Youth Day in May. Describing the willingness of both Rissho Kosei-kai
headquarters and its members to work for world peace, he pledged the
organization's continued assistance to UNICEF activities.
Religious Forum Meets to Help World's Children
Representatives of the world's religious
people who are working to improve the lives of children gathered in
Geneva May 17-19 for the second Forum of the Global Network of Religions
for Children (GNRC). The GNRC was established in 2000 by the Arigatou
Foundation, affiliated with Myochi-kai, a Buddhist organization and
a member of the Japanese Committee of WCRP.
Some 350 people from 68 countries, representing such faiths as Buddhism,
Shinto, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Baha'i, took part. They discussed
concrete ways to improve the lot of children around the world, who suffer
from civil conflicts, poverty, disease, violence, and human rights violations.
Among the participants were 38 children from 24 countries. Three children,
from Switzerland, Uganda, and Ecuador, each made a presentation during
a plenary session-on the importance of education, on AIDS and its effects
on people's lives, and on poverty, respectively. On behalf of Rissho
Kosei-kai, Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairman of the Board of Directors,
presided at one of the plenary sessions. Rissho Kosei-kai was also represented
by several headquarters staff members and by students from the affiliated
Kosei-gakuen High School. During the forum, the GNRC and UNICEF signed
an agreement to study the teachings on children in the scriptures of
the world's major religions. It was also announced that the GNRC will
establish an Interfaith Council on Ethics Education for Children.
Iraqi and Japanese Religious Youth Discuss Peace in Iraq
On May 16--17 the Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division organized an emergency meeting at a hotel in Amman, Jordan, under the theme "Religious Youth for Peace in Iraq and Beyond--A Consultation Between Youth Religious Leaders from Japan and Iraq." Before the transition of sovereignty in Iraq, set for June 30, a historic meeting between religious Iraqi and Japanese young people took place, and Rissho Kosei-kai designated it as a special program for its 35th Youth Day, one of the organization's peace activities.
The participants in the meeting included eight religionists of Iraq: Suhaib Muhsin from the Iraqi Islamic Party, Fidhil Hassan Farajallah from the Aldawa Islamic Party, Mahmoud Khgalaf Jarad from the Ulama Committee, Mohammad Hussein from the Ulama Kurdish Committee, Hayder Alnasrawi and Hashimalshammaa from Seyed Hussein Alsader, and Firas Toma from Patriarch Dely. The 10 participants from Japanese religious organizations included Mr. Takanori Kumano, deputy director of the Rissho Kosei-kai Youth Division, and Rev. Koichi Matsumoto, its director, as well as Rev. Michiomi Rikihisa, chairman of the Youth League of Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan).
At the meeting, participants learned about the suffering of Iraqis in the aftermath of the war and the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime. The participants heard not only about damage to the nation's social infrastructure, the high unemployment rate, and the lack of social welfare service caused by the war, but also about the importance of the religious values sustaining Iraqis as guiding principles in their daily lives.
At the end of the meeting, a joint statement was adopted and read out.
In it, the religious youth raise questions about a range of problems-political,
economic, and cultural-that have affected them since the war. The statement
expresses their hopes, and calls for the establishment of a network
of religious youth in Iraq, support for education, and acquiring the
necessary technology for their country's reconstruction. It also calls
for an understanding of and respect for Iraq's history, human rights,
and spirituality, as well as efforts to meet the acute need to improve
their country's relations with the rest of the world through the international
network of the World Conference of Religions
Youth Day Observed at All Churches
On May 16, Rissho Kosei-kai's 35th annual Youth
Day was observed throughout the country with the motto "Raising the
Winds of Social Change," which the Youth Division adopted in 1999. Youth
Day is an occasion for young members to unite their strength in taking
part in a variety of social activities with local people. Young members
are also encouraged to take initiatives to help build world peace. Although
it rained throughout Japan on Youth Day, some 23,000 young people from
all the churches went out into their local communities to do volunteer
work, and their enthusiasm encouraged about 45,000 adult members and
members of the general public also to take part in the event. Volunteers
cleared away garbage illegally dumped in public areas; removed litter
from beaches; assisted local governments in planting trees; and visited
homes for the aged. They also turned up in various public places and
charity bazaars to promote fund-raising campaigns for UNICEF and for
the reconstruction of Afghanistan, as well as for
the Campaign for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa. At noon
they offered a silent prayer for world peace. In parallel with such
activities in Japan, Japanese and Iraqi youth gathered May 16--17 in
Amman for a Youth Day event with the theme "Religious Youth for Peace
in Iraq and Beyond."
Niwano Peace Foundation Holds Symposium with 21st Peace Prize Winner in Kyoto
On May 14 the
Niwano Peace Foundation Symposium 2004 was held in the Kyoto Fumon
Hall of Rissho Kosei-kai. Since 1994 the foundation has held an annual
symposium to welcome the current year's winner of the Niwano Peace Prize.
Under the main theme, "From Kyoto: A New Challenge for People of Religion,"
adopted in 2001, the foundation invited the 2004 prize winner, the Acholi
Religious Leaders' Peace Initiative (ARLPI). The Acholi are a people
living in northern Uganda and southern Sudan. The representatives present
were Archbishop John Baptist Odama of the Gulu Catholic Diocese, Anglican
Bishop Nelson Onono-Onweng of Northern Uganda, the Acholi Khadi Shiek
Musa Khalil, and Fr. Julius Orach, head of the Orthodox Church in Acholi.
Some 300 people, including representatives of Japanese religious organizations
and ordinary citizens, took part in the 2004 symposium under the year's
subtheme, "Conflict Resolution and the Role of Religious People."
The opening address, by Rev. Kinjiro Niwano, chairman of the foundation, was followed by a video presentation on the ARLPI's activities. Then Archbishop Odama, in his keynote address, titled "Conflict Resolution and Role of Religious People: Experiences of the Acholi Religious Leaders' Peace Initiative (ARLPI)," described the regional conflict in northern Uganda and explained the reconciliation activities of the ARLPI. He described the role of religionists in mediating conflicts, quoting passages from the sacred texts of Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity and commenting, "When you deeply analyze the golden rule articulated in each religion of the world, you will find a lot of similarities in their principles and value systems." He added, "If all religions of the world follow the values and beliefs system as earlier outlined in the golden rule, there would be no such suffering. God's people would be able to coexist and celebrate the diversity of human creation. There would be love, mercy, forgiveness, peace, tolerance and, above all, reconciliation." He concluded by saying, "If even sometimes we fail to do this, as religious people we should not abandon the commitment to serve God's people. Service with hope should always remain the cornerstone of all our religious practices."
The ARLPI representatives held a panel discussion, chaired by Rev. Toshimasa Yamamoto, general secretary of the National Christian Council in Japan, of their concrete activities for reconciliation in their country of Uganda.
Niwano Peace Prize Awarded to Acholi Religious Leaders' Peace Initiative
On May 11 the
Niwano Peace Foundation presented the 21st Niwano Peace Prize to
the Acholi Religious Leaders' Peace Initiative (ARLPI) at the Tokyo
International Forum. Some 200 people, including representatives of Japan's
political and religious circles, took part in the ceremony. The Niwano
Peace Foundation established the Niwano Peace Prize Committee in 2003
to choose recipients of the annual prize. Chaired by H.E. Bishop Gunnar
Stalsett, head of the Diocese of Oslo of the Church of Norway, the ARLPI
is the first organization selected by the committee as well as in the
continent of Africa to receive the prize.
At the presentation ceremony, Bishop Stalsett described the screening process for the prize, and Rev. Nichiko Niwano, the foundation's president, presented the citation, a medal, and 20 million Japanese yen to Archbishop John Baptist Odama of the Gulu Catholic Diocese, who is current chairman of the ARLPI, in the presence of three other representatives of the organization: Anglican Bishop Nelson Onono-Onweng of Northern Uganda, the Acholi Khadi Shiek Musa Khalil, and Fr. Julius Orach, head of the Orthodox Church in Acholi.
Rev. Niwano delivered an address,
followed by congratulatory speeches by three guests: Mr. Yasushi Mitarai,
Japan's administrative vice minister of education, culture, sports,
science, and technology; Mr. James Boliba Baba, the Ugandan ambassador
to Japan; and Rev. Mitsuhiro Fukata, chairman of the Japanese Association
of Religious Organizations (JAORO). After Archbishop Odama's acceptance
speech, titled "The Reconciliation Process Among the Acholi Tribe in
Northern Uganda," the participants moved to the Foreign Correspondents'
Club of Japan to attend a reception.
The ARLPI works to end conflict and promote social justice, human rights, and peaceful coexistence among the peoples of the East African country of Uganda. It is an organization in northern Uganda in which adherents of various religions and sects, including Islam and Christianity (Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican), work together. Since its establishment in 1998, it has followed the path of nonviolence to end armed conflict, nurture human resources for the task of creating peace, and provide assistance to war victims through the work of over 400 volunteers, including its core membership of religious leaders, as well as individual staff members, peace committees in various districts, and peace supporters.
Rissho Kosei-kai Aids Victims of Fire in Thailand
On April 23 the
Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund decided to donate four million Japanese
yen in emergency aid to victims of a fire in the densely populated area
of Suan Plu, a neighborhood in the Sathorn district of Bangkok. The
Japanese nongovernmental organization Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA)
will use the money to help the victims. According to the SVA's report
on the fire occurred on the same day, some 8,000 people in 750 households
lost their homes. SVA actively participated in providing emergency food
supplies to the victims and is considering repairing a library and kindergarten
in the area.
First Gohonzon Presentation Ceremony Held in Bangkok
On April 25, Rissho Kosei-kai held its first overseas Gohonzon Presentation Ceremony in Bangkok, at the Thai Rissho Friendship Foundation. Seventy people took part in the ceremony received Gohonzon, or small statues of Shakyamuni Buddha, as focuses of devotion to be enshrined on their Buddhist home altars. The statues, assigned on March 30 at the 10th Gohonzon Invocation Ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo, were bestowed on 27 member families living in Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and India by Rev. Hiroshi Hasegawa, a member of the board of directors of Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo.
At the ceremony, following an offering of flowers by 19 Thai youth members, sutra recitation, and an invocation, Rev. Hasegawa presented the statues of Shakyamuni Buddha. In offering his guidance, Rev. Hasegawa explained the four aspects of the Buddha-knowledge mentioned in the Lotus Sutra: Opening the door to Buddha-wisdom, revealing it, and enabling all beings to know it and enter into it. To gain merit for themselves and teach the value of all life, he encouraged the recipients to share the teachings of the Buddha with others. Lastly, on behalf of all the recipients, Mr. Amrit Raj Shakya of Rissho Kosei-kai of Nepal expressed his pleasure in receiving the teachings and his gratitude for the Gohonzon.
Buddhist-Christian Symposium Discusses Compassion and Love
The Focolare Movement, a worldwide Catholic lay movement based in Italy, held a symposium April 23--28 at its Mariapoli Center in Castel Gandolfo in a suburb of Rome, under the theme "The Dharma and Buddhist Compassion--Christian Agape." Some 120 people took part, including Buddhists of the Theravada and Mahayana traditions, and Catholic representatives, including the leaders of the Focolare Movement all over the world. The symposium provided an opportunity for both Buddhists and Christians to reconfirm the shared values of both religious traditions: compassion and love. The participants also sought ways to apply these values to contemporary lifestyles at home and in the community, as well as in such fields as science, politics, and economics.
On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, President Nichiko Niwano gave a keynote
address titled "Compassion in Everyday Buddhist Life." The symposium was also addressed by Ms. Chiara
Lubich, founder and president of the Focolare Movement; Archbishop Michael
Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
at the Vatican; Great Master Ajahn Thong Sirimangalo, abbot of Wat Phratat
Si Chom Tong Voravihan in Thailand; H.E. Ms. Prateep Ungsongtham Hata,
a Thai senator and a pioneer in education for the poor; and Rev. Ryoko
Nishioka, secretary-general of the Tendai Buddhist denomination.
President Niwano Has Audience with Pope
On April 22, before participating in
the Focolare's symposium in Rome April 23--26, President Niwano visited
the Rome headquarters of the Community of Saint Egidio, which was the
16th recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize, in 1998. Dr. Andrea Riccardi,
president of the community, expressed his thanks for Rissho Kosei-kai's
financial support, through its Peace
Fund, of the community's HIV/AIDS prevention program in Mozambique.
On April 27 President Niwano paid a courtesy call on Archbishop Michael
L. Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious
Dialogue, and Msgr. Felix A. Machado, the council's undersecretary,
at the Curia Romana in Rome, and had talks with them. Archbishop Fitzgerald
greeted President Niwano by reading out his message celebrating Shakyamuni
Buddha's birthday. On the morning of April 28 President Niwano was presented
to Pope John Paul II and received his greeting during the weekly general
audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican. On the same day President
Niwano visited Loppiano, near Florence, where the Focolare Movement
has a training center. On April 30 President Niwano returned to Rome
and visited the Pontifical Salesian University, where he toured the
newly opened Don Bosco Library, accompanied by Chancellor Very Rev.
Flower Festival Celebrated at Pure Land Temple
On April 11 a special service in observance of the Flower Festival (Hana Matsuri) celebrating the birthday of Shakyamuni Buddha was held at the Pure Land temple Denzuin in central Tokyo. Some 210 people--including foreign residents of the Tokyo Metropolitan area as well as Japanese Buddhists--took part.
The event was sponsored by the Pure Land Sect of Japanese Buddhism and
the International Buddhist
Congregation (IBC) of Rissho Kosei-kai. They had organized an International
Hana Matsuri Committee to give foreign residents the opportunity to
learn about the teachings of Buddhism at the Flower Festival. The IBC
has celebrated the festival since 2001 at Rissho Kosei-kai's former
headquarters, and this year it decided to hold the event in cooperation
with the Pure Land Sect.
The ceremony took place in the main hall of Denzuin according to Pure Land ritual. It began with the rite of purifying the hall with water and ended with recitation of the nembutsu, or homage to Amida Buddha. A small shrine housing a statue of the infant Shakyamuni stood before the altar. At the beginning of the ceremony, the officiating priest poured sweet hydrangea tea over the statue, a ritual originating in the legend that just after Shakyamuni was born, a dragon descended from heaven and reverently anointed him with fragrant water. Then, led by two women members of Rissho Kosei-kai wearing saris, ten special guests--including H.E. Mr. Karunatilaka Amunugama, the Sri Lanka's ambassador to Japan, and H.E. Mr. J. John Chikago, Malawi's ambassador to Japan--performed the ritual of pouring sweet tea over the statue. The Cherokee singer Rattlesnake Annie sang "Prayer in the Early Morning" and "Comanche Tears."
Dr. Gene Reeves, IBC's international advisor and a former dean of the Meadville/Lombard Theological School in Chicago, spoke of the significance of the Buddha's birth. He said the Buddha, born as a human being in India 2,500 years ago, became enlightened to the causes of human suffering and made it his mission to save humanity by teaching others how to transcend suffering. Dr. Reeves said that all people share the buddha-nature and can help others find happiness at the same time they pursue it for themselves.
One of the participants, a British member of the IBC, said he was impressed by the wonderful unity of the traditional Buddhist ritual and songs. "I felt very close to Buddhism," he said. A Japanese participant expressed his joy at celebrating the Buddha's birthday with so many people of different countries and religions.
Rissho Kosei-kai Sends Special Delegation to Bataan
On April 5--10 eight Rissho Kosei-kai
members led by Rev. Kazunori Motomura, director of the Niigata District,
visited Bataan Province in the Philippines to hold memorial services
for the victims of World War II and promote friendship and solidarity
between Filipinos and Japanese, in cooperation with members of the Bataan
Christian Youth Civic Circle (BCYCC). On April 5 the eight members traveled
to Muntinlupa, in the Manila area, to visit a cemetery for Japan's war
dead and hold a memorial service. On April 7 they participated in observances
of the Bataan Day celebration on Mount Samat in Pilar, with prayers
for world peace. On April 8 they held a memorial service for victims
of the Bataan Death March at its starting point. Many American and Filipino
soldiers who surrendered to the invading Japanese forces were forced
to walk a great distance to a POW camp, and some perished along the
Also on April 8, Rissho Kosei-kai joined BYCCC members in a ceremony
to commemorate the building of the Friendship
Tower in Bagac. They also visited the tomb of Mrs. Agripina C. Banzon
to pray for the repose of her soul. Mrs. Banzon promoted the friendship
between the youth members of Rissho Kosei-kai and Filipinos that eventually
led to the founding of the BCYCC.
Rissho Kosei-kai Observes Buddha's Birthday Throughout Japan
On April 8, a ceremony celebrating the birthday of Shakyamuni Buddha, also known as the Flower Festival (Hana Matsuri), was held in the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters as well as at churches throughout Japan.
In the Great Sacred Hall, the 4,200 participants included members on group pilgrimages to the headquarters. After an offering of flowers and lighted candles by 20 members of young women's groups, President-designate Kosho Niwano led the sutra chanting and poured sweet hydrangea tea over the standing image of the newborn Buddha in a small shrine decorated with flowers.
A small boy and girl recited words of homage to Shakyamuni Buddha, and
Mr. Teklewoini Assefa, executive director of the Relief Society of Tigray
(REST), gave an address. He was visiting Rissho Kosei-kai in Japan for
the 20th anniversary of the Campaign
for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa, of which Rissho Kosei-kai
is an active promoter. REST is a cooperative nongovernmental organization
in Ethiopia that helps distribute blankets there and supports an afforestation
program that has been undertaken by Rissho Kosei-kai as one of its independent
peace activities. In offering his guidance as president, Rev. Nichiko
Niwano said that in the current world situation Rissho Kosei-kai members
should act as bodhisattvas, who seek happiness for others before seeking
it for themselves. He emphasized the true spirit of the bodhisattva,
which is to help people in need and walk with them toward happiness.
To enhance the popularity of the Flower Festival, members of Rissho Kosei-kai churches across Japan joined in various events on or about April 4, in cooperation with local organizations.
Three Volunteer Groups Participate in Distribution of Little Bags of Dreams
From March 23 to April 3, 57 members of three volunteer groups of children
and their parents, together with staff members of Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters
in Tokyo, participated in the distribution of small bags of gifts to
children in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, and Lebanon, who
had lost their homes and family members as a result of local conflicts.
The bags contained toys and stationery items made and collected by Rissho
Kosei-kai members throughout the country in the
Little Bags of Dreams campaign. Twenty members visiting Bosnia and
Herzegovina handed out more than 500 bags to children at 19 elementary
schools in cooperation with JEN, Japan's
first multiorganizational NGO, which has carried out the distribution
in that country. Nineteen members visiting Northern Ireland delivered
bags to children at 12 elementary schools according to a schedule set
up by the Corrymeela Community, a private organization promoting reconciliation
between the Catholic and Protestant communities in the area. Eighteen
members visiting Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon handed bags to
kindergarten and elementary school pupils in cooperation with the National
Institute of Social Care and Vocational Training and the United Nations
Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
Kyoto Chosen as Venue for WCRP VIII
Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) has decided to convene
its eighth general assembly in 2006 in Kyoto, the site of the historic
first assembly in 1970. The WCRP's International Governing Board and
the Japanese Committee announced the decision on March 27. The return
to Kyoto is expected to affirm strongly the founding spirit of the conference,
which has inspired many religionists' concerted efforts for peace. After
the seventh assembly in Amman, Jordan, in 1999, the WCRP, guided by
its International Governing Board, began deliberating the venue of the
eighth assembly. Two years later, in 2001, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
took place, followed by the invasion of Afghanistan by U.S. and U.K.
forces, the terrorist bombing of a nightclub in Bali, and the U.S preemptive
war against Iraq. Retaliations by violence against violence, which have
made the world cruelly unsafe, are often blamed on religious animosities,
and many people have condemned religion for fueling violence. Under
such circumstances, the WCRP has demonstrated its determination to work
harder for peace, to regain people's trust in religion. The choice of
the Kyoto venue was also made after careful consideration of security
at various sites in the aftermath of Sept. 11.
Members Start 2004 Campaign of Collecting Blankets for Africa
The annual Campaign
of Sharing Blankets with People in Africa began on April 1, a month
earlier than in past years, at Rissho Kosei-kai's local churches throughout
the country. This year the campaign marks its twentieth anniversary.
Members began visiting homes in their neighborhoods to explain the aims
of the campaign. They are also making appeals in the streets and on
local TV and radio. The campaign will last for two months, until May
The first campaign was launched in 1984, to relieve suffering from serious drought in Africa. Since then, in the spirit of shared suffering, prayer, and donations, Rissho Kosei-kai has promoted aid to refugees and poor villagers in Africa. Villagers endure harsh living conditions brought about by civil wars and prolonged drought. Blankets are essential to life in the high desert, where the days are hot and the nights cold. In the campaign's 20 years, 3.25 million blankets have been collected and sent to Africa.
Niwano Peace Foundation Holds Inaugural Meeting of South Asia Program
On March 29 the
Niwano Peace Foundation convened an inaugural meeting of its South
Asia Program at the India International Center in Delhi. The program
aims to help nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in South Asia, regarded
as one of the world's poorest regions, and improve living conditions
there. The 50 people attending the meeting included representatives
of three partner organizations in the program: Mr. Mohamad N. Amin,
president of ADHIKAR; Mr. Khirod Chandra Malick, chairman of the Bharat
Integrated Social Welfare Agency (BISWA); and Mr. Sharmanand Gardia,
director of Jan Jagriti Kendra (JJK). Also present were invited guests
of Mr. Yasukuni Enoki, Japan's ambassador to India; and Dr. K. D. Gangrade,
vice-chairman of Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti. On behalf of Rissho
Kosei-kai, Rev. Michio Matsubara, a member of the executive committee
of the organization's Peace Fund, took part.
The inaugural meeting began with an opening address by Rev. Kinjiro
Niwano, the foundation's chairman. He introduced three partner organizations
that the foundation would support in the program. He also reported that
the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund had made grants to the foundation this
year to enhance its program. He explained that the program's main theme,
"Poverty Alleviation," is based on the spirit of the
Donate a Meal Campaign, one of Rissho Kosei-kai's peace activities,
and that donations from members and nonmembers had sustained the organization's
After an exchange of contracts with each partner organization, congratulatory addresses were delivered by Mr. Enoki and Dr. Gangrade. Mr. Enoki described the relationship between India and Japan as based on the historical and cultural influence of Buddhism, and said India is a second motherland for the Japanese. He hoped that through the South Asia Program, mutual understanding on a grass-roots level would help develop a more concrete relationship between both countries. Dr. Gangrade praised three partner NGOs that had helped poor people in the region to become self-reliant, as well as the South Asia Program, for providing support services. He expressed the hope that the program would enhance various activities meeting the needs of local people.
The South Asia Program was begun in July 2000 to help people in the region become self-reliant. The Niwano Peace Foundation organized a consultative committee meeting for the program in the summer of 2003 and invited many people, including scholars, social activists, and representatives of NGOs to plan the program in detail.
After a full discussion, it was decided that the program's main theme
would be "Poverty Alleviation," and that there would be an annual subtheme
based on advice by the consultative committee. This year's subtheme
is "Food Security." Each year the committee will select a subtheme based
on the immediate issues of the region, such as women and gender, environmental
protection, globalization, and so on.
The program covers Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and India. In India, the target area is limited to the seven states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgargh, Orissa, and West Bengal.
The first three partner organizations in the program selected by the committee are as follows:
ADHIKAR, which has helped the needy in Jagatsinghpur, Khurda, Nayagarh, and Cuttack and Nawaranghpur in Orissa through such programs as the establishment of farmers' organizations and the development of a grain bank
The Bharat Integrated Social Welfare Agency (BISWA), which has
been assisting rural people, tribes, and urban slum dwellers living
in Western Orissa through its programs to form a Village Water-Management
Committee and a workshop on local government for community leaders
Jan Jagriti Kendra (JJK), which had been working with tribes in the process of shifting their lifestyles from forest-dwellers to farmers through its programs of income generation and livelihood security for the landless poor.
IARF International Council Meets in Oxford
On March 26--28 the International Council
of the International Association for Religious
Freedom (IARF) met at Oxford University. Thirty-four people, including
members of the International Council and staff members, took part. Rissho
Kosei-kai was represented by Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, chairperson of the
organization, and Mr. Masamichi Kamiya, deputy director of the External
Affairs Department. The general secretary of the IARF, Mr. Andrew Clark,
reported on the results of the IARF's main activities from April 2003
to March 2004. An interim report on the IARF's ongoing international
projects for religious freedom that are projected to continue until
2007 was also made. It was followed by discussion of ways to improve
the projects. During the Council meeting, Mr. Eimert van Herwijnen retired
as IARF president, and Ms. Ellen Campbell, former executive director
of the Canadian Unitarian Council and vice-president of the IARF, took
office as the new president.
President Niwano Attends 50th Anniversary of Japan Muslim Association
At a hotel in Tokyo on March 28, the Japan Muslim Association (JMA) celebrated its 50th anniversary. Nearly a hundred people, including association members, diplomats from Muslim countries stationed in Japan, and representatives of Japanese religious circles participated in the celebration. Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of Rissho Kosei-kai, was present to congratulate JMA's president, Mr. Kimiaki Tokumasu.
After reciting from the Qur'an, Mr. Tokumasu said in his opening address,
"We would like to strive to disseminate appropriate knowledge of Islam
in Japan and develop mutual understanding between Japanese and Muslims,
who number well over 1 billion worldwide." After a congratulatory message
from Dr. Abdallah al-Turki, secretary-general of the World Muslim League,
was read out by proxy, Mr. Rachad Farah, ambassador of the Republic
of Djibouti in Japan, and Rev. Gijun Sugitani, secretary-general of
the Japanese Committee of the World Conference
of Religions for Peace (WCRP), also delivered congratulatory addresses.
The JMA was established in 1952 as the first Muslim organization in Japan. Its various activities have included cooperation with Muslim countries and with other religious organizations in Japan. The association joined the Japanese Committee of the WCRP in 2002 and has maintained friendly relations with Rissho Kosei-kai.
Iraqi Religious Leaders Gather in Amman
From March 10 to 12, the
World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP) convened a consultation
of some 20 senior Iraqi religious leaders at a hotel in Amman, Jordan,
hosted by H.R.H. Prince El-Hassan bin Talal of Jordan. The consultation
was organized in response to situations exacerbated by simultaneous
attacks in Baghdad and the holy city of Karbala on March 2, the holiest
day of the year for Shiite Muslims. The participants sought ways to
ease tensions in their religious communities.
They included Dr. Humam M. Baqer Hammoudi, representing Ayatollah Seyed Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a prominent Shi'ia leader and the current chairman of Iraq's Interim Governing Council; Dr. Mahmoud Khalaf Jarad al-Isawi, from the Council of Islamic Ulama; and Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Gabriel Kassab of the southern Iraqi city of Basra. The participants divided into groups according to religion or sect to discuss the causes of antagonism among Iraqi religious communities and how to mitigate sectarianism. Later they gathered again to report the results of their discussions.
In their discussions they explained that sectarianism in Iraqi religious communities has resulted from prejudices fomented since the rule of the former "Sultan." They affirmed there had been a time of peaceful coexistence among the ethnic and religious communities in the country, but that political manipulation and ignorance has led to the current critical tensions of sectarianism.
At the end of the consultation, they issued a statement and decided to establish a subcommittee under the Interreligious Council of Iraq, affiliated with the WCRP, to address the rising risk of sectarianism and fulfill the aims of the statement. The subcommittee will consist of seven members of three Shi'ias, three Sunnis, and one Christian.
The aims set out in the statement include (1) finding mechanisms of cooperation between the adherents of various sects and religions in order to prevent the horrors of sectarianism; (2) rejecting the ideology of "takfir" (apostasy) as well as terrorism, and preventing their spread; (3) encouraging patriotism as well as freedom of religion; (4) urging the media to refrain from inflaming sectarian passions; and (5) working towards building a harmonious and stable society by focusing on behavioral and cultural dimensions, while paying special attention to the educational and cultural needs of women and children, as well as reviewing educational curricula.
Fund for Peace Announces Grant Recipients for First Term of 2004
In March, the Executive Committee of
the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced grant recipients for the
first term of fiscal 2004. A total of 18.5 million Japanese yen was
allocated to eight recipients (listed below). In January, the committee
had adopted four new programs in a category of its joint projects with
other organizations: support for prevention of AIDS in Asia and Africa;
aid for refugees and peace building projects; support for socially engaged
Buddhist organizations; and partnership with other religious organizations.
The eight grant recipients are as follow:
1. African Development and Emergency Organization (ADEO), 2 million yen for preventing AIDS among youth in the Busia District of Kenya
2. Services for Health in Asian and African Regions (SHARE), 1.5 million yen for promoting knowledge of AIDS and its prevention in Thailand in the program supporting prevention of AIDS in Asia and Africa
3. Campaign for the Children of Palestine, 2 million yen for dental treatment and health education for children in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon
4. Japan Association for Refugees (JAR), 2 million yen, for supporting legal and social assistance to foreign refugees in Japan
5. Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, the tenth recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize for 1992, 2 million yen for operating its primary school in Israel featuring bilingual and multicultural educational programs in aid for refugees and peace building projects
In an independent category, grants to support UN activities:
6. International Organization for Migration (IOM), 3 million yen
7. United Nations Association of Japan, 3 million yen
8. United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), 3 million yen
The Chuo Academic Research Institute Presents Lecture on Terminal Care
On March 12, the Chuo Academic Research Institute of Rissho Kosei-kai presented a lecture on terminal care by Professor Masashi Tamiya of Iida Women's Junior College in Nagano Prefecture, in Rissho Kosei-kai's Serenity Hall in Tokyo. The event commemorated the opening of the Kosei Vihara terminal care unit at Kosei General Hospital in April. "Vihara," a Buddhist term for hospice, derives from the Sanskrit word meaning "monastery" or "place of rest." Hospices for terminal care established by Buddhist sects or groups and operated in the spirit of Buddhism are commonly called "viharas."
Some 280 people, including doctors and nurses from Kosei General Hospital, senior officers from Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters, and members of the organization's Tokyo District, attended the lecture. Professor Tamiya is a pioneer in the Buddhist vihara movement. Describing the relations between Buddhism and medicine in Japanese history, Professor Tamiya explained that from the sixth century, when Buddhism was transmitted to Japan, through the Edo period (1603--1867), Buddhist temples served also as facilities providing medical care and welfare, and that Buddhist sects had their own manuals for the care of patients with terminal diseases. He defined the vihara as a place where patients who have realized the transience of their own lives can calmly reflect on themselves under the warm care of people around them. He said that Buddhism abounds with wisdom that should be integrated more into the care of patients, but warned that the vihara movement must avoid proselytization and transcend sectarian differences.
Italian Performing Artist Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On March 10, President Nichiko Niwano
welcomed Ms. Silvana Tresoldi, the road manager of Gen Verde, at the
Horin-kaku Guest Hall at the organization's headquarters in Tokyo. Gen
Verde is an Italian multi-artistic performing group of 23 women from
13 countries. Based in Loppiano, where the Catholic lay organization
the Focolare Movement
also has its headquarters, members of Gen Verde have given performances
throughout the world inspired by the philosophy of Focolare's founder,
Ms. Chiara Lubich. Gen Verde's message has touched millions of people
around the world.
Rissho Kosei-kai has formed an executive committee to arrange Gen Verde's performance and scheduled nine charity concerts this autumn across Japan, including one in Fumon Hall in the organization's headquarters complex in Tokyo.
At her meeting with President Niwano, Ms. Tresoldi said of the coming concerts in Japan, "We would like to perform our musical in Japanese. And we are looking forward to disseminating a message of peace." President Niwano expressed appreciation of Gen Verde's plan to perform in Japan and recalled the long history of mutual understanding between the Focolare Movement and Rissho Kosei-kai. He also praised Ms. Lubich's contributions to world peace and recalled her friendship with Founder Nikkyo Niwano.
Sudanese Government Expert on Humanitarian Affairs Visits Rissho Kosei-kai
On March 6, Dr. Sulafeldeen Salih Mohamed, commissioner general of the Humanitarian Aid Commission, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs of the Republic of the Sudan, paid a courtesy call at the headquarters of Rissho Kosei-kai and had a talk with President Niwano in the Horin-kaku Guest Hall. The Sudanese ambassador to Japan, Dr. Musa Mohamed Omer Saeed, was also present. Ambassador Musa explained to President Niwano that the Sudanese (Muslims, Christians, and adherents of other faiths) would steer a course to peace despite the problems of civil war, drought, famine, and an influx of refugees from neighboring countries. Dr. Sulafeldeen expressed appreciation of Rissho Kosei-kai's work for peace through interreligious cooperation. He emphasized the need of continued assistance from the international community to help Sudan overcome its problems. He asserted the feasibility of revamping Sudan as a supporter for the development of other African countries by making good use of its human resources, putting its land to sufficient use, and developing its natural resources.
President Niwano spoke of Rissho Kosei-kai's cooperation for peace with
the Islamic world, mentioning his visit in 1999 to H.E. Grand Sheik
Tantawi of Al-Azhal University, the oldest Islamic institution of higher
learning, in Cairo. He spoke also of Rissho Kosei-kai's commitment to
help solve the problems faced by other countries in Africa, describing
Rissho Kosei-kai's humanitarian work in Africa, such as the dispatch
of a medical unit to Sudan in 1985 to provide treatment to refugees
from Ethiopia; participation in the 20-year Campaign
for Sharing Blankets with People in Africa; and the award of the
21st Niwano Peace Prize for 2004 to the Acholi Religious Leaders' Peace
Initiative of Uganda.
Rissho Kosei-kai Celebrates 66th Anniversary
On March 5, Rissho Kosei-kai celebrated its 66th anniversary with a ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall in the organization's headquarters complex in Tokyo. Some 4,500 members took part in the event, which was relayed by satellite to all the organization's churches throughout Japan, where similar ceremonies were held simultaneously.
In the Great Sacred Hall, 20 members of young women's groups offered lighted candles and flowers, and President-designate Kosho Niwano led sutra chanting. A video showed the organization's religious practices in its early years. Chairperson Katsunori Yamanoi gave an address on behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai. Referring to the 40th anniversary of the completion of the Great Sacred Hall and the enshrinement there of Rissho Kosei-kai's focus of devotion, the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni, Rev. Yamanoi emphasized the need to recognize the anonymous efforts of ordinary members in the organization's activities. Then, in a commendation ceremony, President Nichiko Niwano handed letters of appreciation and gifts to senior members who had contributed remarkably to the organization's development for many years.
After a representative of the members gave a speech of testimony to the faith, the Most Ven. Eiin Yasuda, chief abbot of Yakushi-ji temple and chief priest of the Hosso Sect of Japanese Buddhism, made a congratulatory speech. He explained the relationship between Yakushi-ji and Rissho Kosei-kai, describing President Niwano as a brother in the Dharma and praising Rissho Kosei-kai members' daily practice as a model of living Buddhism. Then President Niwano, in his speech of guidance, referred to a principle mentioned in his first sermon of the year: the home is the fundamental training hall for building character. He emphasized the need to create a happy home in which family members cultivate compassion and learn to place a high value on the lives of others.
Ugandan Religious Leaders' Group to Receive 21st Niwano Peace Prize
Niwano Peace Foundation (Nichiko Niwano, president; Kinjiro Niwano,
chairman) has decided to award the 21st Niwano Peace Prize to the Acholi
Religious Leaders' Peace Initiative (ARLPI), which works to end conflict
and promote social justice, human rights, and peaceful coexistence among
the peoples of the East African country of Uganda.
The ARLPI is the first organization in the continent of Africa to receive the prize. The presentation ceremony is to take place in Tokyo on May 11. The ARLPI is an organization in northern Uganda in which adherents of various religions and sects, including Islam and Christianity (Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican), work together. Since its establishment in 1998, it has followed the path of nonviolence to end armed conflict, nurture human resources for the task of creating peace, and provide assistance to war victims through the work of over 400 volunteers, including its core membership of religious leaders, as well as individual staff members, peace committees in various districts, and peace supporters.
The Acholi tribe of northern Uganda has dominated the country's military establishment from the time of British colonial rule to the most recent former government. The present government's military, however, is dominated by people belonging to tribes in the south. Guerrilla war in northern Uganda has been intensifying, centering on the dissatisfied remnants of the former military elite. In particular, in the midst of civil war with government troops, an anti-government group called the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has repeatedly committed grave human-rights abuses against ordinary citizens. They have destroyed homes, schools, clinics, and other village infrastructures and have unceasingly committed acts of murder, violence, and plunder. Kidnapping of small children and young people by the group has become a daily menace; so far the number of kidnapped is said to be as high as 20,000. Fearing murder, pillage, and kidnapping, people have fled their homes to seek safe refuge elsewhere, and many have unavoidably ended up living in camps. The war intensified in June 2002, spreading the conflict from the districts of Gulu, Kitgum, and Pader in northern Uganda. Deteriorating security has undermined economic activity, prolonging a situation in which food can neither be grown nor purchased freely.
In the midst of this situation, this year's prize recipient, the ARLPI, has been building up its campaign to promote dialogue between the Ugandan government and the LRA. The ARLPI also sets up peace committees in areas that have suffered from the conflict, and nurtures those who can cooperate in the pursuit of peace. It carries out training programs for volunteers that teach them to deal with conflict (through negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and the peace process), heal trauma, and enhance their communication and leadership abilities. The ARLPI also places great importance on the education of small children and young people in the refugee camps. How the coming generation of young people is educated will determine the basic nature of the country in future. Outside the refugee camps as well, there are growing numbers of children who cannot pay their school fees due to the disruption of the economy, so ARLPI offers a school-fee support program.
Rissho Kosei-kai Observes Anniversary of the Buddha's Entrance into Nirvana
On February 15 the anniversary of the Buddha's entrance into nirvana was observed in the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's Tokyo headquarters as well as at all its churches throughout Japan. This ceremony is one of the three major annual Buddhist events and is an occasion for all Rissho Kosei-kai members to contemplate the significance of Shakyamuni's death and renew their vows to disseminate his teachings. Some 6,000 members attended the ceremony in the Great Sacred Hall, including those on a pilgrimage to the organization's headquarters.
The ceremony began with an offering of flowers and lighted candles before the statue of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni by 22 young women members in saris. This was followed by sutra chanting led by Rev. Katsunori Yamanoi, Rissho Kosei-kai's chairperson. President Nichiko Niwano then gave a Dharma talk in which he explained the significance of the Buddha's entrance into nirvana. He emphasized the importance of devoting one's life to contemplating, in the light of the Buddha's teachings, what it means to grow old and die.
WCRP/Japan Holds Meetings of Board of Directors and Councilors
On January 29, the Japanese Committee
of the World Conference of Religions for
Peace (WCRP/Japan) held the 80th meeting of its board of directors
as well as the 78th meeting of its councilors, at the Horin-kaku Guest
Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai's headquarters in Tokyo. Ten directors and
37 councilors participated, including, from Rissho Kosei-kai, President
Nichiko Niwano; Chairperson Katsunori Yamanoi; Rev. Masao Yamada, the
organization's director; and Rev. Michio Matsubara, director of the
External Affairs Department.
Following approval, after careful deliberation, of the fiscal 2004 budget and new programs and committee personnel, it was reported that WCRP/Japan's Fund for Peace and Development had allocated 1 million Japanese yen in emergency aid to earthquake victims in Iran through the Japan Red Cross and for possible participation in the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi, Japan.
At the meeting, Rev. Matsubara said that Rev. Nichiko Niwano had visited
Sri Lanka in December 2003 to meet Theravada Buddhist leaders in order
to promote interfaith dialogue for world peace between religionists
in Sri Lanka and Japan. In cooperation with Rissho Kosei-kai, the committee
held a news conference in Tokyo for the four most senior Sri Lankan
Theravada Buddhist leaders, at which they issued "The
Tokyo Statement" urging conflict resolution in Sri Lanka.
Members of WCRP/Japan Focus on Iran
On January 26, the Disarmament and Reconciliation
Committee of the Japanese Committee of the
World Conference of Religions for Peace held a conference in the
Horin-kaku Guest Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo on how
religionists might contribute to peace in Iran and Iraq. Fourteen people,
including the committee members, took part. Mr. Ukeru Magosaki, Japan's
former ambassador to Iran, was invited to share his concerns about the
U.S. government's use of force to solve the problems of the international
community, including those of Muslim countries. Stressing the significance
of religionists' commitment to develop their own countries and promote
global harmony, he emphasized the need to promote interreligious dialogue
in Japan and Iran. Mr. Magosaki's talk was followed by a lively question-and-answer
Peace Fund Announces Grants for Fiscal 2004
In January the Executive Committee of
the Rissho Kosei-kai Peace Fund announced
its plans for grants in fiscal 2004. This year a total of 471.783 million
Japanese yen will be appropriated for various peace projects in Japan
and abroad, 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 grants are funded by the Donate a
Meal Campaign, one of the organization's peace activities. 153 million
yen is to be allocated for thirteen joint projects with other organizations,
including the Campaign for Sharing Blankets
with People in Africa and the Reforestation Program in Ethiopia.
In this category, there are four new programs: support for prevention
of AIDS in Asia and Africa; aid for refugees and peace building projects;
support for socially engaged Buddhist organizations; and partnership
with other religious organizations. As for the programs, the selection
of the organizations and the concrete details will be decided in discussions
by the committee twice a year.
In regard to ten independent projects, such as the
Little Bags of Dreams Campaign and the Rissho Kosei-kai Global Volunteers,
154.343 million yen will be allotted. Another 6 million yen will be
provided for other activities, such as humanitarian work in poor areas
where the organization's churches and the centers carry out their religious
activities. The remaining 164.44 million yen will be used for financial
assistance for interreligious cooperation; special assignments, grants to support UN activities; emergency aid for natural disasters; grants
commissioned by the
Niwano Peace Foundation, which will make the Peace Fund's general
grants starting this year; and a reserve fund. The committee will also
deal with various emergency relief projects both in Japan and overseas.
International Buddhist Congregation Inaugurates New Center
On January 18, the
International Buddhist Congregation (IBC) of Rissho Kosei-kai inaugurated
its new center in Fumon Hall at the organization's headquarters complex
in Tokyo. Some thirty members, including foreign residents in Japan
who had participated in the IBC's activities as well as volunteer members
and the organization's headquarters' members, took part.
An address by Rev. Koichi Kawamoto, deputy director of the International
Dissemination Group of Rissho Kosei-kai, was followed by sutra chanting
in English. In a speech titled "Beginnings," Dr. Gene Reeves,
international advisor to IBC, said he hoped "IBC will develop more
new activities after this inauguration of its new center." He emphasized
that "it is important to disseminate the Buddhist teachings with
the hope and enthusiasm of a beginner, as suggested in Lifetime Beginner,"
the autobiography of Rissho Kosei-kai's founder, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano.
Rissho Kosei-kai established the IBC in 2001, and it has actively spread
the teachings of Buddhism, especially those based on the Lotus Sutra,
not only among foreign residents in Japan but also among others interested
in learning about Buddhism in English. The IBC has regularly held various
English Buddhist services, including the Hana Matsuri (Buddhist Flower
Festival), Midwinter Practice, hoza counseling sessions, and Sunday
President Delivers His First Sermon of 2004
On January 7, Rissho Kosei-kai members took part in a ceremony to mark President Nichiko Niwano's first sermon of the year, in the Great Sacred Hall at Rissho Kosei-kai headquarters in Tokyo. Some 4,700 members gathered to receive the president's guidance and renew their devotion to the teachings of Buddhism throughout the year.
An offering of flowers and lighted candles by young women members of the Tokyo District was followed by chanting of the sutra led by President-designate Kosho Niwano. Chairperson Katsunori Yamanoi delivered an address welcoming the new year. Then, during his sermon, President Niwano pointed to two hanging scrolls, one bearing the word gassho (placing one's palms together in a prayerful attitude) and the other bearing the word seika (regulating the family), written by himself in traditional Japanese calligraphy. He explained that regulating the family means "contributing to world peace through family guidance." Since adults set children an example, he said, "it is important to establish a home where the Buddha's teachings and the family Buddhist altar play a central role."