Christian Events Marking the "Year of Japanese-Brazilian Exchange"

by Matsumoto Toshiyuki, pastor?

Kyodo-midorigaoka Church, Southwest Subdistrict, Tokyo District

The year 2008 marks the passing of 100 years since the first Japanese immigrants went to Brazil. To celebrate this anniversary, 2008 was designated “The Year of Japanese-Brazilian Exchange”(Ano do Interc?mbio Jap?o-Brasil) by the governments of both countries, with commemorative stamps and coins being issued and various celebratory events being held. Since 1908, a large number of Japanese people have immigrated to Brazil, and their descendants have spread throughout the country. So Brazil today has the largest ethnic population of people of Japanese descent in the world: over 1,500,000. Immigration has also taken place in the opposite direction, as since the 1980s Brazilians of Japanese descent and other Brazilians have been coming to Japan to work and study. So there are currently more than 300,000 Brazilians living in Japan.?

Christians have also held celebrations of this anniversary. In Brazil, the Alliance of Protestant Churches in Brazil sponsored a series of ten evangelistic concerts by Mori Yuri, a Christian singer known for her involvement with the children’s television program “Uta no onei-san (Big Sister Singing Songs),” broadcast by NHK (the national television network in Japan. These concerts took place from Aug. 29 to Sept. 14 in various areas of Brazil. In S?o Paulo, over 1,000 Japanese Brazilians gathered to hear hymns and nostalgic Japanese songs. ?

In Japan, to mark the Year of Japanese-Brazilian Exchange, an ecumenical bilingual service was held at the Kyodan’s Harajuku Church, which is situated next door to the Brazilian embassy. This service, sponsored jointly by Harajuku Church and the Catholic Tokyo International Center, was also supported by the National Christian Council’s Committee on Human Rights of Foreigners in Japan, the Music Department of the Kyodan Tokyo District’s Southwest Subdistrict, Brain corporation with the backing of the Brazilian Embassy.?

I led the singing at this ecumenical service, with guitar and percussion accompaniment by professional Brazilian musicians who are working in Japan. We sang three hymns from Brazil (from both Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions), in Portuguese and Japanese. The Japanese versions were translations I had done myself.?

During the seven years that I worked as a missionary in Brazil, I encountered many typical Brazilian hymns with their wonderful rhythms, beautiful tunes, and strong social messages. As I really wanted to make it possible to sing these hymns in Japanese, I translated more than ten of them in order to introduce them to Japan. One of them, “Momento Novo (New Time),” which we sang at the ecumenical service, is included in the Kyodan hymnal Sambika 21,” published in Japan ten years ago.? The English words are as follows:?

?? ? ? ? God calls his people now to a new life,

? ? ?

? ? ? ? ? ? ? walking along together hand in hand;

? ? ? ?

? ? ? ? ? ? ? the time is ripe for changing, the moment is now.

?? ?

?? ? ? ? Let’s walk together; no one can go alone!

?? ? ? ? So, come and join! Get in a circle with all the people,

?? ?

? ? ? ? ? ? ? your hands and hearts are important!?

Father Olmes Milani, a Brazilian missionary working at the Catholic Tokyo International Center, gave a powerful ecumenical message. “In spite of the many cases of division, war, exclusion, and prejudice, we hold on to the same vision that God has the hope of building a new kingdom, both for God and for ourselves. This is a kingdom founded not on legal, social, or political systems but on the power of love for one another, where differences of language, culture, and religion are not obliterated, but where, united as one body, we can build a world of peace and love, to the praise and glory of God.” We pray that the next 100 years will bring a bountiful new harvest for the churches of both Japan and Brazil.

?(Tr. SN&BE)