FaithWorld

Japanese Buddhist priest discusses spiritual toll of nuclear crisis

(Sokyu Genyu during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo June 4, 2011/Chisa Fujioka)

In Japan, where nature is believed to cleanse spirits, how do people cope when treasured mountains and oceans are tainted by leaks of radiation from a nuclear power plant?

Sokyu Genyu, a Buddhist priest from a temple just 45 km (28 miles) west of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeast Japan, is drawing attention to the less visible scars from the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. As a member of a government panel to come up with a blueprint for rebuilding after the deadly earthquake and tsunami on March 11, Genyu is adding the people’s voice — and a different view — to debate on dealing with the loss of homes, jobs and communities.

“We need to treat the situation in areas affected by radiation separately,” said Genyu, head priest of the Fukujuji Temple and also an award-winning author, told Reuters. “It’s not just about getting compensation.”

His small town of Miharu has welcomed thousands of residents who have evacuated from around the nuclear plant, still leaking radiation after being struck by the tsunami.

Obama’s Nobel citation speaks of shared values – is hope on top?

obama-at-unThe statement announcing the Nobel Peace Prize for U.S. President Barack Obama says that “his diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population”. (Photo: Obama at the United Nations, 23Sept 2009/Kevin Lamarque)

Is there actually a set of values and attitudes shared by most people around the world? It would be interesting to know exactly what the Norwegian Nobel Committee meant by this. Are they talking about some vague form of world political consensus or even global ethics? The citation text mentions Obama’s “vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons” and his preference multilateral diplomacy, dialogue and negotiations. But none of these efforts has yet borne much fruit.

The citation also mentioned the “hope for the future” it said Obama has given the world. Hope is a powerful force, both in personal and political life. In the Christian tradition, it’s a theological virtue as important as faith and love. And it is a key element of the Obama “yes we can” message.

Should religious groups talk to Iranian president?

ahmadinejad-waves.jpgA rabbi, a Mennonite and a Zoroastrian priest were having dinner with the president of Iran — sounds like the start of a joke, but it happened in New York this week.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had dinner with around 200 people of various faiths including Mennonites, Quakers, United Methodists, Jews and Zoroastrians who said they wanted to promote peace by meeting such a prominent foe of the United States.  You can read our story about the meeting here.

Those who attended the Iftar meal in a Manhattan hotel ballroom had to brave a line of protesters outside who accused them of sitting down with a man little better than Hitler. Major Jewish groups had urged the cancellation of the event.