Skip to main content

KAICIID Board Member The Reverend Kosho Niwano on World Refugee Day

20 June 2018

One morning, the television was showing news of the bombing of a far-off land. While I was listening to the news that hundreds of people had been killed and tens of thousands had become refugees and were forced to flee, a small spider suddenly appeared on my dining table and gave me such a startling that I cried out. Although it had happened in a fleeting moment, I was appalled at my own reaction. I cried out not because I felt the fear and helplessness of the people being bombed or the sadness and suffering of people who had to flee their hometown. No, I had cried out because of a spider and that made me ask myself if I had failed to feel, as if it were my own, those people’s suffering.    

“Until the whole world becomes happy, it is impossible for an individual to be happy.” These are the words of Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933), a Japanese author of children’s books that bring to life his Buddhist faith. Miyazawa was also an educator as well as a farmer. Because our world is one organic body, we live in a state of inter-relation and coexistence. Therefore, we must realize that we all bear some responsibility for bringing about such issues as “the problem of refugees.”

As a person of religious faith, I hope and pray that I can do something for the sake of other people, not for myself, because I should be the kind of person who accepts my responsibility for the suffering of other people. How, then, could I turn my back on those people who have nowhere to go?

First of all, each and every one of us should examine ourselves to see if we are truly people worthy of God and the Buddha. And then, we should take a small step forward. If we can do this, then we can rescue from hopelessness those people who have nowhere left to go. We can prevent people’s hearts from being tainted by hatred, bitterness, and despair. And we can fill their hearts with warmth. In Japan, different religious organizations are cooperating so that each of our organizations accepts several Syrian refugee students. Some people may scoff at our efforts, saying they are an exercise in futility, like sprinkling a few drops of water on hot coals. However, only by doing so can we hear the sound of footsteps approaching Kenji Miyazawa’s ideal of “true happiness for everyone” (quoted from Night on the Galactic Railroad).