Letter from Tokyo: Okinawa and Jubilee 2000

 A Catholic journalist in Tokyo sent this to ICN this week: Dear Friends I was surprised by your news dispatches from Okinawa. Probably some fringe Japanese Catholics took part in Jubilee 2000 Okinawa events. But I'm afraid all the others did not know about it. On the one hand, Japan is one of the biggest creditor countries but, on the other, the idea of 'jubilee' rooted in the Hebrew Bible carries little meaning here. Christians are less than one per cent of the population of Japan. Among the 480 plus 300 parliamentarians you can find only a few Christians. The Catholic Bishops' Conference in Japan is virtually nobody in the wider social context, and the bishops and their committees did not release a statement on the G8 meeting, although they had made lip service on debt cancellation. For most Japanese, the significance of the summit was that it took place precisely in Okinawa (with its historical significance). So, they were naturally concerned with the heavy US military presence there, and international issues including poor countries' debt were less important. But there is another perception gap between Europe and Japan. For you, Africa is just down there. For us, it is an alien continent. We see only as far as the Gulf, where our industrial blood, oil, lies. To tell you the truth, the US bases in Japan are tacitly used to safeguard the Gulf. Most Japanese would not understand the call for debt remission. The significance of the Jubilee year is lost on them. Although Jubilee 2000 events were held 'all over the world', they have misfired in Japan, especially in connection with the Okinawa summit. AKT In a further e-mail he comments: I also think Japan could help develop poor countries by inviting immigrant workers from those countries. But the government would not allow such moves, in spite of the fact that Japanese labour force is decreasing rapidly. Immigration to Japan would mean not only the emigration of a strong Yen, but also the transference of high technologies.

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