New Year Message

Mrs. Yumiko Kaneko
Director General

A Happy New Year to you.
We had a relatively balmy weather in Tokyo this New Year but I learned from TV and newspaper that areas along the Sea of Japan suffered from very heavy snow. Number of climbers was lost in the winter mountains as well. Nature reminds us now and then that it has two sides, its heavenly beauty and its harshness.
This year marks the 70th year from defeat of the World War II. Whether we take an interest in it or not, Japan is beginning to head towards a different direction from the past.
For 70 years, not a single Japanese was killed in war, nor did we kill anyone. However, I fear that there are decreasing number of fellow Japanese who are proud of this reality.
Last year we had a successful 11th International Forum on Lifelong Integrated Education 2014. It was significant in that we embarked this project by reading the times and looking for the most befitting ways of organizing it.
Consequently, we started with an open forum on the first day to share with our members and friends in Japan today's pressing social and global issues. This was followed by four days of Intensive Seminar on Nomura Lifelong Integrated Education organized to respond to the wishes of our foreign members and friends to learn more about how the Nomura Principles were practiced and educationalized in our daily lives.
On the first day at the symposium three panelists were invited to address current challenges that Japan faces: relations with China and other Asian countries, issues regarding nuclear power plants and our Constitution. I was happy to read many comments that said they were pleased to get to know what they did not know or could not be fully understood from media reporting. It was reassuring to feel that our course of action was right.
During the intensive seminar, Miss Laila Takkash from the Palestinian Branch spoke about the Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution a number of times. I seriously took her words to heart as a Japanese all the more because she comes from Gaza that was the place of relentless fighting last year. I read between her words that she very much valued the Article 9, and that she was shocked to learn that the Japanese people could even consider abandoning the precious Article 9.
How precious pacifism must mean to those who are long suffering under constant struggle. At the symposium that took place on the very first day of the Forum, Ms. Nassrine Azimi referred to the Peace Constitution as symbolizing spirituality of Japan. This was exactly the message our Founder kept reminding us, and teaching us to foster and cultivate to treasure this spirit and live by it. I felt strongly that we should take much more seriously that how important this spirit is for those living in the field listening to what Laila had to say.
Also at the symposium, Prof. Takatoshi Imada shared with us facts concerning the so-called "nuclear waste". Considering the importance of knowing the situation in Japan before we debate whether we are for or against nuclear power plants, I ask myself, how can we consider selling those plants to other countries when we have not been able to take the nuclear power plants accidents under control or have concrete ways of safe storage of the disposal of the nuclear waste.
I am not raising this as a political issue. How can we sell plants that we cannot handle properly ourselves? Do we teach our children to do the same? Shouldn't we as parents tell our children not to do that? It is lamentable that our country is doing just that. It is not a political issue at all but one that is deplorable and equal to violation of basic human values.
Another big issue is whether we really understand the consequences of our Internet society. That is to say, today we live in times when everything, from politics, economy and our society, is heavily depended on computers. We should be aware of this and try and understand how they affect our way of living.
There is much talk about ISIL. When such an act of terrorism occurs, we tend to see everything wrong about it without really knowing what Islam is. I believe it is important to understand that in any country of the world there are those who are radical and who are not, as well as those who are good and bad. And this is about Islamic extremists.
In 2011 the world saw the Arab Spring. It sprung from Tunisia and expanded to other Arab societies including Egypt and Libya. The tool used was the Internet. Today it has lost the support of the people. It is said that ISIL is somehow linked to that. PRs are posted on the Internet that captivate young people dissatisfied with their circumstances.
Just yesterday, there was an incident in France where a publishing house was the target. Men with firearms broke into a conference room and shot and killed twelve persons. Not everything is clear because the bandits have not being caught yet, but it is said to be an act of terrorism committed by the Islamic extremists.
We cannot remain passive when we have these events reported daily from the New Year's Day. As I said a while ago, I am not being political. I care about the danger to our societies.
General election took place last December. It was a snap election and many of us wondered why at the end of the year. The voting rate was 52.66% less than the previous election that was the worst voter turnout at 59.32%.
It was said to have been a landslide victory for the Liberal Democratic Party. Prime Minister Abe did recognize that the election results did not show support of the LDP but the lack of support of the opposition parties. It is, however, considered an overwhelming victory of the LDP.
All said, if we look at the election outcome from the perspective of proportional representation, out of 53. 33 million effective votes cast, the LDP received 33.1% and Komeito Party, 13.7%. That is to say, the ruling parties represented 46.8%, or 24.97 million effective votes. These percentages worked into 104.25 million effective voters, the LDP has the support of 16.9% and Komeito Party, 7%, a total of 24%. This means the ruling parties have the support of less than one quarter of a total of eligible voters, including those who abstained from voting.
The question is how we look at these numbers mean.
Political parties supported by less than one quarter of eligible voters have modified its interpretation and are trying to revise the very Constitution that binds the actions of the government, and what's more it is attempting to change the direction of the country by cabinet decision without the sufficient deliberation by the elected representatives of the people. We must ask ourselves how we as common people should think about this.
There is another thing that we should seriously look into, and that is to understand why the voting ratio is this low especially of younger generations in their 20s and 30s. Isn't it because the young people have difficulty in living in the present society and consequently they have little concern over social matters?
What worries me is what ISIL, the worldwide threat, represents. It appears to have enormous source of funds, which it uses to deploy enormous power of public relations. Its PR can be seen on the Internet. I have not seen any of them but according to mass media, it entices people to join them by offering living quarters and remuneration. With its extravagant funds they appear to be mobilizing young people as combatants.
As these threats loom in front of us, I believe we should be more involved about all these developments and try to figure out on our own not only through the media but also by believing in our own senses.
The other day I saw on TV some combatants and a Japanese who were interviewed. Asked why they joined the group, some replied they were there for religious reasons, while others said they wished to escape from the reality or that they found no place in their communities.
We are told behind the recent incident of a publishing house in Paris lies unemployment and social inequalities. These incidents tell us that the widening gap between the rich and the poor throughout the world marginalizes the have-nots who are unable to find their place in society where having more money and material goods are hallmarks of success. They lose meanings of their lives and wish only to escape from the reality.
A Japanese who was interviewed answered, "There is no job for me in Japan and there is nothing left for me but to take my life. It shouldn't matter where I end my life, should it?" In the end this person was banned from leaving the country for legal reasons. This is, however, a reality in our society.
According to what I learn from the news sources concerning the rise of ISIL, it was a result of the chain of revenge caused by the assassination three years ago by the US of Osama Bin Laden who was deemed to have been the mastermind of the 9.11 attack in the USA. It is said that his killing resulted in another phase of the vendetta.
If that were the case, I am afraid what our Founder warned in the full-page opinion in the International Herald Tribune, a month after the 9.11 attack, has become a reality. Let me read part of it.

"The indiscriminate terrorist attack on September 11 that took so many innocent lives must categorically be condemned.
I express my heartfelt condolences to the Americans, my fellow countrymen and those from other countries who were victims of this horrible crime.
There is a rising cry ringing from America and throughout the world to stamp out such unforgivable acts of inhumanity. The United States of America is preparing to use its military power to attack the terrorists and their bases as well as countries that aid or harbor them. The government of Japan has expressed its full backing and cooperation to provide logistic support.
There is no question that terrorism must be eradicated.
But can it be truly eradicated by such means?
Even if we are able to remove the masterminds of the terror and destroy their bases of operation, that would not mean that we have eradicated the future possibility of similar crimes.
This is because while the roots of terrorism can be traced to the interaction of historical, religious, cultural, political, economic, social and other factors, it is conceived each time anew in the minds of its perpetrators.
We must therefore look for the motives that determine the goals and their consequences. Without addressing the inner motives that move men to commit these acts it will never be possible to build a terror-free society.
The uses of arms in the name of retaliation will not only increase the toll of innocent victims beyond the number already felled.
Rather, it will create a situation far more tragic even than which we have today, creating an endless cycle of massacre upon massacre.
In fact, this has been the long story of the folly that mankind has wrought upon itself.
Each of us is called upon today to play our part in putting an end to this deep-rooted evil because no one should ever violate the dignity of human life.
It is all too human to want to retaliate against those who have taken the lives of our family and friends whom we love.
That is why I believe each of us must stop and draw on our wisdom to think hard how we should act now."

This is only a part of the full page printed on the International Herald Tribune, but as the Founder had stated, it is the reality of vicious circle now haunting us taking a different form.
Are the young people satisfied today? Are their homes happy? How about the way we bring up our children?
Home and family ought to be the basic units of our human relationships. If children feel their homes are the places they belong to, they will have no reason to run away to other places no matter whatever the inducement.
Rather than stamping out the wrong parts of the present situation, the only alternative for us to do is to try to draw out what we lack within ourselves. That I believe is the very value we are taught to pursue, and that means we are on the right track not to create groups of people who are discontented. I believe that the low rate of voter turnout can only mean that we are creating young people who cannot place their hopes in government or communities.
Young people receive attractive propaganda that lures them to finding salvation. If any one of us happen to be their friend or a member of their family lets tell them that what appears to be attractive message on the internet is far from the reality that is really cruel.
We must face that we are the ones who have created the society we have today. It is tempting to criticize politicians but remember it is us who have elected them in the first place.
On the other hand, since half of the voters are not supporting the government we have the chance to awaken them to their responsibilities. We who have been learning, as citizens, should be aware of our important innate values. I have listened to what you had to say a while ago and realized that every one of you is struggling with yourself. I believe you can awaken others with what you have learned through your struggle.
Though we recognize that we have created today's society, we should become aware that really feeling the dignity of our own life, that we have long learned, means feeling the sense of the shared dignity of life. That means because I feel the preciousness of my life, I feel the dignity of yours. I believe that has been the history of our Center, advocating irreplaceable value of life.
The last year's forum I believe accomplished certain achievements as the next stage of our forum. That is, we were able to share with a greater number of our Japanese friends the confounding issues of our own country, and with our friends from overseas how the Principles of Nomura Lifelong Integrated Education is practiced in our daily lives and how we learn from our every encounter and experience. I believe sharing these experiences have given us all a great sense of fulfillment.
Though our government declared its hope for this year, to advance every reform that must be made, I believe what we must do is to share the most important value derived out of citizens.
Media often focuses on issues faced by lonely elderly persons. And those elderly utter their heartrending wishes of dying soon. On the other hand, not a few young people in Japan say all they think about is taking their own lives. I feel pervasive sense of desire among people in Japan to end one's lives.
These realities tell me that the values of our present society lie only in success, making lots of money and achieving high social status. The only hopeful step I believe lies in changing our consciousness to valuing our lives and our existences, recognizing their preciousness.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. We tend to think of the anniversary in terms of Japan, but it is the anniversary for the whole world. For Japan it is the 70th year since our defeat in war while it is the 70th year of victory for China.
And it is the 50th year since Japan and Korea have normalized our diplomatic relations. Against this background it is said that the relations between Japan, China and Korea have never been this cold.
However, I heard many people who told me that they have changed their views of China after listening to Prof. Xiu Gang at the symposium during the 11th International Forum last year. It made me convinced of our big role as the private sector.
What have we learned from this International Forum? Based on the Principles of Education, we have changed our self-centered point of view through addressing problems with our children, parents, and with our partners, to see things in dynamics of relationship with them. That is the process of both facing squarely to what and how I feel and think and trying to understand the other's feelings and thoughts. In this process of effort, we have experienced restoration of harmony.
This can be applied to every kind of relations. It applies to individuals as well as to relations between countries. We should not be seeing things only from our own country's perspective but must endeavor to understand other countries from their standpoints. These are lessons that we learn from our micro-relations between husbands and wives and between parents and children.
Our personal experiences of practicing the Principles overcoming enmities and finding harmony between parents and children, between husbands and wives are much needed values in our hostility driven societies and the world.
It is much more than just being nice to each other, but it is about rectifying ourselves in a concrete context of life based on the Principles of Education. And by so doing we should all experience that our families are much happier than ever. Your awareness coupled with your sense of responsibilities should make you encourage the same in your communities.
The generation that has experienced war has not always fully shared their experiences because of their anguish and sorrowfulness. Some of them may have denied the past owing to the first ever defeat in war and thereby not encouraging the young generation to see the truth as they are. I believe strongly that we should grope for the cause of disinterests observed in the young generations in their own lives and their background. When we find those root causes in ourselves, we should hand over to the society what we have learned with the Principles.
We must see hostile feelings within us as they are and try to voice them, grapple squarely with ourselves. And this process itself will open the way to change our society today.
We must understand the enormous power of the changes in people's consciousness. They may not be visible, but we must become ones who can work to change our society with prayers and gratitude in our hearts. It is with these wishes we should start the New Year. I am looking forward very much to working with you side by side.
Thank you.
(From Director General Kaneko's New Year Message on Jan. 8, 2015)
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