International Institute for the Study of Religions

Religious Information Research Center

Religious Articles Select 5 (Dec 2003 - Feb 2004)

About these articles

"Religious Articles Select 5" is the contents that introduce the Religious News Digest in Japan. All articles are picked up by Prof. Inoue who is the chief of RIRC, and selceted from the last "RIRC REPORT"; the publication for our members by the seasons.

Articles of the Past

From Specialized Publications

December 1, 2003
Professor Yoshiya Abe, the director of Kokugakuin University, passed away at age 66 due to illness. Professor Abe was also head of the Religious Juridical Persons Council in the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Technology.

November 25-26, 2003
The World Federalist Movement of Japan held its 25th National Assembly of Religious Leaders for the Promotion of Peace in Nagasaki. Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi of the Catholic Church took over the position of head of the assembly and altogether 1,500 members of various religious groups took part in the event. The assembly called for the abolition of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and putting an end to terrorism.

December 26-27, 2003
The 50th Conference On Religion in Modern Society was held in Kyoto under the auspices of the Research Group for Religions in Modern Society (CORMOS). The topic of the conference was "Religion and Art: The possibilities of religious music." Activities included a lecture by the Buddhist priest, composer, and guest professor at Sorbonne University, Rev. Otani Sensho, and panel discussions.

February 2,2004
The Niwano Peace Foundation announced that the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) headed by Archbishop John Baptist Odama has been selected as the recipient of the 21st Niwano Peace Prize. The Peace Initiative is a group that is dedicated to finding solutions for the ongoing conflicts in Uganda, East Africa.

January, 2004
For the first time in history the annual observance of the death of the founder of the Jodoshin Honganji denomination, Shinran Shonin, was conducted by a female priest. Otani Mariko, oldest daughter of the hereditary head of the Jodoshin Honganji denomination, Monshu Otani Koshin, conducted the ceremony in the summer of 2003. This event has spawned a debate inside the Jodoshin Honganji denomination about the issue as to whether a woman can become Monshu.

Domestic News

On January 6, 2004
the government decided, for the time being, to shelf plans for a national facility to honour Japan's war dead. Entities critical of the Prime Ministers visits to Yasukuni Shrine, such as the New Komeito political party and the South Korean government, expressed their displeasure with this decision.

January, 2004
According to figures issued by police authorities, this year's turnout for the traditional first visit to a shrine or temple during the three-day-long New Year?fs period was 88.89 million and thus, with 2.67 million more persons than last year, the highest turnout recorded.

January 21, 2004
The "Association against dispatching the Self-Defence Forces to Iraq and for the protection of the Peace Constitution," created by Soka Gakkai volunteers, collected more than 1,800 signatures against dispatching troops to Iraq from inside and outside of this religious group and submitted the list of signatures to the New Komeito headquarters.

February 27, 2004
The 39th National Assembly Against "Spiritual Sales," organized by the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, an association of lawyers opposed to the practice of the Unification Church to sell religious items as a way of raising funds, was held in Fukuoka. Apart from a report showing that there had been 1044 cases of injury accumulating to a total of 3.7 billion yen in damages related to the practice of "spiritual sales", former members of the Unification Church also gave talks.

February 27, 2004
Presiding judge Ogawa Shoji of the Tokyo District Court found the former head of Aum Shinrikyo (now known as Aleph) Shoko Asahara (real name: Chizuo Matsumoto), who had been indicted over 13 charges, including multiple cases of murder and the two Sarin gas attacks against Matsumoto city and the Tokyo subway, guilty on all charges and followed the demands of the persecution when he sentenced the defendant to death. Judge Ogawa said that the accused had "the lunatic aim of taking control of Japan under the name of salvation." The judge concluded that "in view of the seriousness of the charges, there is no other choice than the death penalty."

International News

January 4, 2004
A new Afghan constitution was passed at the Afghan Grand Council (Loya Jirga), which was convened in the capital Kabul. It was decided that "Islamic Republic of Afghanistan" is to be the official name for Afghanistan and that Islam will be the state religion. However, religious freedom for other religious denominations and gender equality were also specifically included.

February 14, 2004
A Buddhist memorial service for the roughly 2.6 million chickens that have been killed as part of the prevention measures against avian influenza was conducted in Thailand. The service was performed by 108 Buddhist monks who were invited by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

January 22, 2004
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, commonly seen as the spiritual leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, paid an official visit to Cuba after receiving an invitation from the president of the Cuban Council of State, Fidel Castro. This visit marked the first time that a patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church has visited Latin America.

December 17, 2004
During a speech given at the Elysee Palace, French President Chirac expressed his approval for a new law that prohibits the wearing of religious symbols, such as the Islamic veil (hejab), in public schools.

February 25, 2004
"The Passion of the Christ," a movie depicting the final 12 hours in the life of Jesus Christ, opened in cinemas across the United States. The Pope, after seeing the film, is quoted as having called the movie "extremely accurate."

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