2013 New Year’s Message
Rev. Masazumi Shojun Okano
President – Kodo Kyodan Buddhist Fellowship
In November of last year, the Executive and Advisory Board Meeting of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) was held for the first time in Japan. In Japanese, the term “engaged Buddhism” can be translated as “Buddhists who are involved in society.” Engaged Buddhism is a movement of Buddhists who have taken on various social problems, such as discrimination, prejudice, poverty, social inequities, social alienation, armed conflict, environmental degradation, and so forth. INEB was founded in 1989 in Thailand by a group of individuals and organizations from over 20 countries in Asia, Europe, North America, and Oceana.
One of the purposes of hosting the INEB Board Meeting in Japan was to learn from the tragedy of the Fukushima nuclear incident and to develop INEB activities in response. In this way, a study tour was organized to experience the situation in Fukushima. INEB board members from all over the world visited areas of high radiation within Fukushima including the special restricted zone within 20 kilometers of the nuclear plants. They were also able to hear from local Buddhist priests and citizens of the various kinds of suffering brought about by radioactive contamination.
Sulak Sivaraksa, the leading founder of INEB, has for many years emphasized how Buddhists must decisively confront the forms of structural violence created by the nation state and society. This time, INEB members deepened their awareness of such structural violence as clearly represented in the nuclear energy problem in Japan. INEB members are actively working in a number of countries where nuclear energy is being strongly promoted as national policy and the problems facing Japan now are a future possibility. After the study tour, the INEB Board adopted a Public Statement on Nuclear Energy, which states, “Nuclear energy endangers not only those presently alive but future generations;” and appeals for “education and greater understanding of nuclear energy.” Furthermore, INEB has vowed to promote the construction of sustainable societies based on a Buddhist spirituality.
As one of the hosts of this event last November, I have the sincere feeling of the need to continue creating such experiences and to communicate to the world the irrevocable tragedy that has been created by the nuclear incident in Fukushima.