A Path towards the Building of Peace
By Osamu Takeuchi, S.J.
True peace commences from within each one of us. As the author of the Imitation of Christ affirms, “First keep yourself in peace and then you will be able to bring others to peace. The peaceable man does more good than one who is very learned” (II, 3, 1).
A Crisis of Peace in Japan
There are several issues that threaten peace within Japan, such as the law of collective self-defense of 2013, the security-related bills of 2015, and the anti-conspiracy bills of 2017. These issues bear close links to one another, and these bills reveal three distinctive breakdowns, namely the breakdown of constitutionalism, democracy, and the commitment to peace.
With reference to the right to collective self-defense, in the view of the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the use of force as a means of self-defense is permitted not merely when the nation of Japan experiences military assault, but also when a nation bearing a close relationship to Japan faces such assault. However, the fact is that an exercise such as this would undeniably surpass the minimum level of self-defense permitted by the Constitution.
The security-related bills are no more than war bills, and in fact over 90 percent of Japan’s constitutional scholars insist that they violate the Constitution. The government can classify information as a state secret under four designated categories, namely defense, diplomacy, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism. Nonetheless however, the definition of what qualifies as a state secret is vague, and alarmingly broad.
Anti-conspiracy bills can erode in name of security the basic freedom of expression of the people, as well as their right to privacy. They would make 277 types of crimes punishable, and besides, they seek to punish crimes in their planning stages.
The Origin of True Peace
True peace does not imply the occurrence of nothing, the maintenance of balance in forces, or control by a dictatorship. Rather, it is suffused with a much more profound significance (cf. Gaudium et spes, 78). Christ uttered the words, “Peace be with you” (Jn. 20:19, 21), where peace or shalom is a familiar word of daily usage that serves as a greeting, and also signifies the fact that God is with us. “Do not fear. You are mine. I will always be with you” (cf. Is 43:1-2) — this is God’s promise, the source of true peace.
The following two individuals present us with a simple understanding of peace, namely Mother Teresa and Fr. Pio of Pietrelcina. When Mother Teresa was alive, she once gave a person she met a note that stated: “The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, and the fruit of service is peace.” In her view, the way to true peace begins with silence. Fr. Pio asserts that peace is simplicity of spirit, the serenity of conscience, the tranquility of the soul, and the bond of love.
Peace as revealed by Jesus
Jesus as the “prince of peace” invites us to true peace (Is 9:5). “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:9). This celebrated phrase forms part of the Beatitudes, the Magna Carta of the Gospels.
While on earth, Jesus is often said to have declared, “do not be afraid.” (Mt 14:27, 17:7, 28:10, Lk 5:10, 12:32), and after his resurrection he said, “Peace be with you,” which also happens to be God’s greeting in the Old Testament. This is an unchanging promise of God, the good news from which true peace originates.