As we enter the new year, we observe that the situation concerning the coronavirus pandemic remains unpredictable. Currently a mutant strain of the new coronavirus, the so-called “Omicron strain,” appears to be widespread. In Japan, 22,045 new cases of individuals infected by the coronavirus have been confirmed (as of January 14). In comparison to other nations this number is indeed low, and the number of deaths (which is 18,424) may not appear to be high. Nevertheless however, the fact remains that the number just exceeded 10,000 on the 12th of this month. The number of people infected is increasing rapidly, while the number of Omicron strains is expanding rapidly. At this time of the New Year I would like to think about peace and pray for peace once more.
Rethinking the Japan-US Status Forces Agreement
It may not perhaps be a misunderstanding on my part to say that the USFJ (United States Forces Japan) is one of the causes for the spread of this new coronavirus infection. As of January 10, there have been a total of 3,638 people linked to the USFJ who have been infected, and of these, 871 happen to be newly infected individuals. The number of people infected with the new coronavirus at the USFJ facilities is increasing significantly. It has doubled within the space of 4 days, that is from 1,784 on January 6, and almost two-thirds of these, namely 2,302 people, are stationed in the Okinawa Prefecture.
The issue of the number of people infected by the new coronavirus at the US military bases in Japan, is due to the adverse effects of the Japan-US Status of Forces Agreement, which is the basis for Japan’s quarantine and behavioral restrictions. Similar arrangements have been made in other countries where the US military is stationed and deployed, but they clearly insist on the application of domestic law, and permit widespread involvement on the part of the host country. There is a big difference here from Japan, which recognizes the privileged status of the US military. For example, in the Philippines, inspections will be carried out if requested by the host country. In Germany, German national law on the prevention and control of infectious diseases applies. In Italy, Italian commanders can intervene in US military actions that pose a danger to public health.
Life and Peace
When we cherish the life of every individual as we do our own—there is true peace, and we, without exception, are invited to that peace. Peace is certainly at its root a grace, and yet at the same time, it is also something we should always build.
True peace does not mean that nothing happens, that the powers of the world are in a dangerous state of equilibrium, or that the dictator controls everything. There is a more positive meaning here, namely, that we are all the more led to true happiness.
“Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19, 21, 26)—Jesus speaks of this “peace” (eirēnē<šālôm), which is a greeting exchanged in everyday life. At the same time however, it also means that God is with us. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. I will be with you.” (cf. Is 43:1-2)—this is God’s promise that has been, is, and will never change. Yes! True peace is born from here.
True peace also begins with an intimate relationship to God. Mother Teresa asserts as follows: “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.” Peace is given to a simpleness of our being. Padre Pio (Pio of Pietrelcina) declares as follows: “Peace is the simplicity of spirit, the serenity of conscience, the tranquility of the soul and the bond of love.” The author of the Imitation of Christ affirms the following:
“Keep yourself at peace first, and then you will be able to bring peace to others. A person who is at peace with himself does more good than someone who is very learned. A person beset by conflicting passions turns even good things into bad, he is quick to believe any malicious gossip that comes his way. Someone who is good and peaceful, on the other hand, sees the good side of everything.” (II-3-1).