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Japan bishops issue statement opposing military shift

Say 'collective self-defense' violates the nation's constitution

Japan bishops issue statement opposing military shift

Protesters hold placards during a rally in front of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence in Tokyo on Tuesday to oppose loosening of restrictions on the nation's military (AFP photo/Yoshikazu Tsuno) special correspondent, Tokyo

July 4, 2014

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In a strongly worded statement addressed to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japanese bishops have called on the government to "review and repeal the cabinet’s decision at once" to allow Japan’s Self-Defense Force to carry out military operations with other nations.

On July 1, Japan’s cabinet announced a reinterpretation of the nation’s constitution that would enable the country to exercise “collective self-defense” involving military cooperation with other nations.

The Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ) issued the bishops’ statement following their monthly meeting on July 3. Seven bishops, including the archbishops of Tokyo and Nagasaki, signed the statement.

In their statement, the bishops pointed out that previous governments had recognized that participation in collective self-defense was “constitutionally unacceptable.” The bishops claimed that the Abe government’s decision “trampled on the constitution” and was “a denial of constitutionalism”.

The bishops said that for the nearly 70 years since the end of World War II Japan’s citizens have respected and taken pride in the Preamble and Article 9 of the constitution that call for peace and renounce war.

“We, the Catholic Church, are convinced that it is false to think that security can be ensured by military buildup and the use of force,” said the CBCJ statement.

The bishops went on to say, “Moreover, the latest backtracking on the principles of the Peace Constitution obstructs the easing of tensions in East Asia so that dialogue and trust among nations will be beyond our reach.”

The bishops emphasized that peace “can be built by sincere reflection upon history and apology followed by forgiveness” and “We must not abandon the hope to avoid war and armed conflict through dialogue and negotiation.”

However, at a July 1 press conference, Prime Minister Abe expressed the government’s view that “this cabinet decision does not in any way change the principles of the constitution”.

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