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NSKK NEWSLETTER distributed by
The Nippon Sei Ko Kai
(Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan)
An Encounter with Patients from the National Leprosy Sanatorium
-- Enlightening Activities on the Subjects of Leprosy
The Revd. John Makoto Matsuura, Kita-Kanto Diocese
JAPAN 071015-3
October 15, 2007

NSKK Newsletter September 07

[The Nippon Sei Ko Kai - Japan] From August 25 to 27, 2006, we held a workshop named "The New Way For Communication With the Leprosy Sanatorium" at Sei Nagusamenushi Kyokai (The Church of Holy Lord of Consolation) of Nippon Sei Ko Kai, which has been established within the National Leprosy Sanatorium, Kuryu Rakusen-en. The workshop was held to increase understanding regarding the problems of leprosy in Nippon Sei Ko Kai.

We invited two speakers. The first speaker was the Revd Kunio Ohta, a patient at the National Sanatorium Kikuchi Keihuen and an officer of the autonomous group organized by patients. He also serves as a Deacon of Nippon Sei Ko Kai. The other speaker was Mr Sanshiro Fujita, a patient at Kuryu Rakusen-en Sanatorium serving as a president of an autonomous group and a member of the Church of Holy Lord of Consolation. Fifteen people who are responsible for human rights in the dioceses of Kita- Kanto, Tokyo, Yokohama, Chubu and Kyushu also attended at the workshop.

Through many years of hard experiences at the sanatorium, Revd Ohta related the conflicts and torture he experienced. He told us the truth he gained through those experiences. He said that discrimination or prejudice was based on one's own consciousness welled within the bottom of one's heart and was one's own theme for life. He told us that was the subject given by God to mankind on "how to live one's life". Certainly, discrimination was not the subject of others but one's own, and enlightening others meant not only to give knowledge but also to communicate with others.

Mr Fujita spoke as an officer of an autonomous group of patients. He related the facts in the history of the sanatorium, stating that patients wanted to live and be treated as human beings. He referred to the fact that churches did not respond to their circumstances and did not give enough understanding to the history of their daily lives. He asked us to apologize for our negligence of the facts in their history and to reflect that we were equally human. Also he suggested to develop future programmes for patients in the sanatoriums.

Through two presentations we learned many facts which we had not heard before. At the same time, as Christians we were asked to recognize how to grasp the wisdom of leprosy patients as a subject of our own and also as a theme for our own lives.

On the second day, we experienced a field trip within Rakusen-en. We walked around Kusatsu Yunosawa district where the patients suffered by severe discrimination in the midst of a modern society. We were introduced to the medical and social activities of Miss Cornwall Lee who devoted half her life to the patients from the Taisho-era (1912-1925) to the first part of the Showa-era (1926-1988) and also learned of the activities of the Mission of St Barnabas. On the third day, we summarized the whole programme of the workshop and attended a joint worship service sponsored by the Gumma Mission district.

Through this workshop we became aware of the truth behind the leprosy sanatorium and at the same time we could truly listen to the cries of the patients wrung out from the bottom of their hearts.

We, Nippon Sei Ko Kai, are deeply repentant for the fact we were not the best co-workers because of our misunderstanding of their unique churches as exclusive organizations surrounded by high walls.

The continuance of the leprosy sanatorium is said to be nearing its end as the patients age and pass away. At this stage we have to reflect on what is the best and the most appropriate way to connect with the sanatorium. In addition, we have to construct the future framework for mission activities with the sanatorium and of the church based on the reflections to the past.