This post is a part 2 follow up of my post recently featured on The Gospel Coalition blog by Joe Carter (editor). Thanks again Joe, if you’re reading this. ———————————————————————————————————————-
The Japan Times says that chairs on High School graduation day will be empty this year.
As graduation ceremonies get under way at schools across Japan this month, 1,029 students will not be graduating — not this year, not ever. That is the number of students who committed suicide last year, according to statistics released by the National Police Agency earlier this month. Though, overall, the number of suicides declined by 3.3 percent last year, suicides by students increased by nearly 11 percent. Those figures include 529 university students and 269 high school students, and an unspecified number of other students. The numbers are just part of the total number of people who commit suicide in Japan every year. The total has remained over 30,000 suicides a year for the last 14 consecutive years (via The Japan Times).
What are the causes of suicide among these High School students? The article goes on to say that “140 committed suicide due to academic underachievement and 136 did so because of worries about their future after school. The reasons for others, unfortunately, are more difficult to discern. School issues accounted for 429 cases, an average of over one suicide per day.” The article is also quite positive that “with focused attention, the problem of youth suicide can be reduced” by the school and government educators. But behind the suicides of young people is also economic stagnation and a pervasive feeling of gloom about Japanese society. In the Japanese worldview, suicide does not have the Judeo-Christian connotation of sin. Indeed it is quite the opposite. In the traditional Japanese culture suicide is romanticized. It is often interpreted as a noble and honorable act, especially among the older generations. However, this mind-set has survived & persists to a great extent in modern Japanese culture.
But as I wrote in my earlier post, the hope that Christians bring to the suffering world is not empathy of doubt and uncertainty of future. The cause of all our problems is deeper. It is not difficult to discern. Man’s deepest problem is spiritual. The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers hope for living, not only here and now; but also for tomorrow and the next. The Church is called to do only what the Church alone can do by the power of the Gospel, i.e to minister to the whole person- body and soul.
How can the Church help?
Young people are the future leaders. However, Japanese churches usually do not average more than 35 members with little lay discipleship and youth focus. Some churches have less than 10 members; and may probably be in decline unless renewal takes place. A friend of mine, who interned at one of the Japanese churches some years ago said that he was the youngest in the congregation. He was about 29 then. Japan is aging faster than any country in history. And the Church is aging too, unless we invest heavily in the next generation. But there are new growing Churches that are reaching out and investing in the lives of young people. In the wake of recent events that unfolded on March 11, 2011, the spiritual climate in Japan has also changed drastically. We have great hopes that God will bring Gospel-centered revival throughout this nation.
Even in the midst of tremendous loss and suffering Junko Aisawa recalls what happened on the day of the Tsunami, 3.11.11 in the video below.
It is a moving testimony of her faith in God. She said with tears, “We lost everything we had….For me real hope comes only from the God I believe in……..It is not about being happy because you have things. Only God’s love can satisfy your heart.” There is hope for Japan in the power of the Cross. Please pray for Japan; and feel free to share this post.