Peace On Earth: Toyohiko Kagawa

December 9, 2014 — 2 Comments

Kagawa_Columbia Univertisty Library Union Theological SeminarySomething not often heard about is Japanese opposition to war, both during and before World War Two.

I was introduced to Toyohiko Kagawa, a Christian Pastor, poet and theologian, during my study as an undergrad.

Being born in an era still very sensitive to war crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Forces during the war, it intrigued me enough to learn a little more about him.

Kagawa’s faith and work reached into pacifism, economics and international affairs. He was born in 1888 and became an orphan before he was four. Kagawa was raised a Buddhist, yet gave his life to Jesus Christ at the age of fifteen.

He lived his theology. Becoming known for the ‘conviction that Christian witness must include social service to meet the material needs of people…His desire to express Christ through social concern was first articulated when he moved into Kobe’s Shinkawa slum in 1909 to live among the poor[i]

In ‘Letters from Kagawa to America’ it clearly shows his belief in the compatibility of the Church with fair economic management:

‘As you know I am much interested in the organization of co-operative societies, because I believe that only through them can the necessary economic foundation of world peace be laid. These co-operatives must be imbued with the ideals of Christian love and service.’[ii]

In 1935, after arriving in San Francisco, he was detained for health reasons. He had contracted trachoma whilst working the slums of Japan. President Franklin Roosevelt was made aware of the issue and requested that ‘appropriate steps be taken to reach a final decision concerning admission of the prominent church leader without delay.’[iii]

Roosevelt, after receiving a letter of thanks for Kagawa’s admission into the United States, responded:

‘My dear Mr. Crane : I write to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated January 31, 1936, enclosing a copy of a letter addressed to you by Miss Helen F. Topping, in regard to Mr. Toyohiko Kagawa. I am glad to have the information concerning Mr. Kagawa’s activities, contained in Miss Topping’s letter, and appreciate your courtesy in sending it to me.’[iv]

Kagawa went on to speak in both the United States and Canada.

In the summer of 1941 he visited America again on a peace mission with the Japanese Christian Fellowship Deputation.[v] In June of that year, Kagawa met with Stanley Jones, a senior pastor in the American Methodist Church, discussing their ‘concerns about a possible conflict between Japan and the United States.’[vi]

Attempts made towards the Japanese embassy in America, to mediate peace and avert any potential conflict were rejected, Kagawa returned to Japan and later that year lamented:

‘I went to the {Japanese} parliament and urged them to be peaceful and not go to war. I told them that I had just come from America. I said I knew that the American people wanted peace – and so did the Japanese people. But it did not do any good. On December 7th, 1941 I felt like all the lights had gone out. My heart was broken.’ [vii]

After writing over 150 books, experiencing a life of achievements and setbacks, Kagawa died in 1960.

In January, 1963, Karl Barth, sympathetic to Kagawa, wrote:

 ‘What needs to take place today in the interests of peace is in the first place…a spiritual Reformation and thus a conversion of Christians and of the Christian churches themselves-a conversion to the truth of their own message. Among other things…a good deal of better theology is needed! And so…we come to the contribution which…I have to make to peace among the nations.’[viii]

Barth’s words and the efforts of Kagawa are highly relevant to advent. It is here that the angelic proclamation, “Peace on earth, good to will to men[ix]”  is again heard.  They form into a kind of challenge to seek first the things of God. Such words also remind us that although waves may rise, God remains capable of calming them[x].

It is no small feat that in Jesus Christ, God steps up, speaks and in his free choice claims us as his. If we hear this good news and act on it. Even in limitation, as Mary did, perhaps we too can hear in the words “Do not be afraid”, the response: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” [xi]


Sources:

[i] Ericksen, P.A Kagawa, Toyohiko in Elwell.A.W, (Ed.) 2007 Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Ed. Baker Academic Grand Rapids, pp.648 & 649

[ii] Friends of Jesus Kagawa in Lincoln’s land Sourced 9th December 2014 from: archive.org

[iii] ibid

[iv] ibid

[v] Kagawa, Toyohiko Papers 1929-1968 Sourced 9th December 2014 from: The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University, Union Theological Seminary, N.Y

[vi] Source: http://www.sdh-fact.com/CL02_1/56_S4.pdf

[vii] Toyohiko Kagawa working for peace sourced 9th December 2014 from spotlightenglish.com

[viii] Barth, K. 1963 Letters 1961-1968 cited in Gorringe, T.J. 1999 Against Hegemony Oxford University Press pp.217 & 221

[ix]  Luke 2:14

[x] Psalm 89:9

[xi] Luke 1:30-33

Image: Kagawa – Columbia Univertisty Library, Union Theological Seminary.

2 responses to Peace On Earth: Toyohiko Kagawa

  1. 

    I can’t imagine writing 150 books.

    and in his free choice claims us as his this is so powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s