On Friday, February 22, Pax Christi USA and the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker held a vigil outside the White House, while President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met inside for lunch. The Japanese prime minister is from a political party calling for the repeal of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution which renounces war and prevents Japan from becoming a nuclear power. The U.S. appears to support this move to rearm Japan, viewing Japan as a key player in its Asia-Pacific strategy to counter such nuclear powers as China and North Korea.
The historic Article 9 was put in place after the conclusion of World War II, and reads:
“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes. To accomplish this aim, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”
Akihiko Kimijima, a Japanese international law professor and one of the country’s leading experts on Article 9 issues, spoke at the vigil. “Article 9 is not only for Japan. It is for the entire world. The author of Article 9 is humanity.” Professor Kimijima is teaching international law at American University for the next several months, and is a board member of the Non-Violent Peace Force.
Pax Christi USA responded to an appeal from the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace to join them in protecting Article 9 of Japan’s peace constitution. Catholic bishop Marcellinus Daiji Tani, the chairman of the council, publicly thanked those gathered in his letter:
“We are informed of an action in front of the White House organized by Pax Christi USA which we appreciate deeply. Our heart-felt gratitude to you for your commitment for non-violence and the meaningful gesture of solidarity.”
During the vigil, those gathered publicly recited the words of Article 9 and affirmed them as U.S. citizens and people of faith committed to non-violence. Perhaps we might add these words to the Vow of Non-Violence that Pax Christi USA members periodically make, and encourage our church and nation to publicly affirm with us:
“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the people of the United States forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation, and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”