Ichiro Ozawa, secretary general of the ruling party, made his comments to journalists after meeting with Yukei Matsunaga, a local chief priest and the
chairperson of the Japan Buddhist Federation, a body of 102 Buddhist and groups, in Koyacho, western Japan on 10 November.
Ozawa said that Christianity, “is an exclusive, self-righteous religion. Western society, whose background is Christianity, has been stuck in a dead
end.” The politician said, “Modern society has forgotten or lost sight of the sprit of the Japanese people.”
Ozawa asserted, “Buddhism teaches you how humans should live and how the conditions of the mind should be from a fundamental standpoint.” Japanese media also quoted him as saying, “Islamism is also cliquish, although not to the extent of Christianity.”
The Japan Confederation of Christian Churches, the country’s largest Christian grouping, sent a protest letter signed by its chairperson, thRev. Nobuhisa Yamakita, to Ozawa on 11 November, urging him to withdraw his remarks.
“Your very remark is an ‘exclusive’ and ‘self-righteous’ remark based on a one-sided understanding of Christianity,” said the letter posted on the
confederation’s Web site. “We cannot but deeply question your judgment in that the words were made by the secretary-general of the political party
that is in charge of Japan to the international community where about one third of the world’s population is Christians.”
The letter continued, “Christianity . believes in Jesus Christ as the Saviour who preached, ‘Love thy neighbour’, and who dedicated his life and served all people.”
The confederation links Roman Catholic, Anglican and 58 Protestant traditions in Japan.
The letter said the confederation, “is fighting against exclusiveness that comes from discrimination and prejudice, in cooperation with the Japan Buddhist Federation under the umbrella of the Japanese Association of Religious Organizations”.
The Mainichi daily newspaper on 26 November wrote an editorial headed, “Potmeets kettle following Ozawa’s remarks on Christian insularity.” Takao
Yamada, a journalist for the Mainichi wrote, “There are some militant and offensive aspects of Buddhism in its long history. Since he is in a position of leadership, Ozawa should have avoided jumping to such hasty conclusions.”
He added, “Moreover, Ozawa’s conclusion that Christianity is cliquish itself is a cliquish idea. Excuses that he was only talking about philosophy have served to give the public the impression of arrogance and – after years of repute as insular himself – more than a hint of hypocrisy.”