JAPAN (APENews) — An international inter-religious conference attended by 87 participants, including Buddhists and Christians from Asia, Europe and North America, pledged on Dec. 7 “to work to abolish nuclear power, to heal the living communities affected by it, and to restore creation as fully as possible.”
Several representatives of The United Methodist Church attended the conference, including Mark Harrison, director of Peace with Justice work area at the General Board of Church & Society.
The pledge was made in a draft declaration entitled, “No to Nuclear Power! Faith Declaration from Fukushima 2012” at the end of the four-day conference held in Fukushima’s western city of Aizuwakamatsu in northeastern Japan.
Jonathan Frerichs, program executive of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches (WCC) attended the conference. He said the conference organizers are sending the declaration to the WCC’s 10th Assembly to be held in Busan, South Korea, from Oct. 30 to Nov. 8 next year.
Tragic nuclear history
Coming as it does from Fukushima, people will certainly be interested to hear the outcome of the conference, according to Frerichs. “This region has suffered a tragic nuclear history,” he said.
The declaration text will be finalized before it is sent to the participants, explained Sister Shizue Hirota of the Catholic Church of Japan. She chaired the conference’s final session on the presentation and discussion of the declaration text.
The people of Fukushima or those people who have been victimized by the radiation have not received any apologies from them.
Participants also adopted a statement urging the Japanese government, the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owns the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and Fukushima Prefectural Government to acknowledge their responsibilities for the nuclear accident at the plant, which has been crippled since March 11, 2011, by the earthquake and tsunami. The statement asks its recipients to offer apologies and compensate for all survivors of the accident.
“Basically, the people of Fukushima or those people who have been victimized by the radiation have not received any apologies from them,” Terumi Kataoka, a proposer of the statement, said during the final session. “Almost two years after the accident, none of the police has entered the reactors to conduct a criminal investigation. It is a very unreasonable thing,” she said.
Aizu Radiation Information Center
Kataoka heads the Aizu Radiation Information Center at her local United Church of Christ, which is located 100 kilometers to the west of the nuclear power plant. “I wrote [a portion of the statement] with my wish that they restore rights of each of us to life in pursuit of happiness,” she explained.
During an interview immediately after the conference, Kataoka said she is glad the conference was held in Aizuwakamatsu. “I am grateful that Aizu was seen as one of the nuclear disaster areas from a global perspective,” she said, adding that she was pleased participants got to see the activities of the Aizu Radiation Information Center.
“I could immediately feel how people from other parts of the world remember us and are in solidarity with us,” Kataoka said. “As some members of the information center took part in some part of the conference, I think it gave them a good impact and encouragement.”
In his concluding remarks, the Rev. Koichi Kobashi, moderator of the National Christian Council in Japan (NCCJ), which co-organized the conference, said, “Our immediate responsibility to be fulfilled is about how to deepen the discussions we have had over the days [during the conference].”
NCCJ organize the conference with Catholic and Buddhist groups that have worked with it on the issue of the war-renouncing clause of the Japanese Constitution.
"Listening to the voices of those in the disaster area with open hearts and finding a way to convey their message to the world is, I believe, our duty as people of faith," Kobashi said.
The Rev. Dr. Henriette Hutabarat-Lebang, general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) said she would share the outcome of the conference, which she attended, within her organization and see how the CCA can put it into its programs.
A consensus among participants seemed to be that holding the Inter-religious Conference on Nuclear Issues in Fukushima awakened them, people of many faiths and nations, to the reality of suffering caused by nuclear power.