【February 2019 No.401】From the General Secretary’s Desk: The Life of Takami Toshihiro, Founder of Asian Rural Institute Rural Leaders Training Center

As we enter the new year of 2019, we hear many joyful reports from Kyodan churches of people who have been baptized at Christmas, joining together with those already experiencing resurrection life in Christ. At this time, when the aging of church members leads to an increasingly reduced ability to engage in evangelism and when Japanese society is increasingly apathetic toward or skeptical of religion, it is a great encouragement to hear these reports of new life in Christ from these churches. We pray that God will use these newly reborn lives as his instruments to be ambassadors of reconciliation in this world.

With this feeling in mind I think of Rev. Takami Toshihiro, who passed away in September 2018 at the age of 91, and the diligent work he did in training agricultural leaders from Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, South America, and elsewhere at Asian Rural Institute (ARI), which he founded. On Dec. 16, graduates and supporters from all over the world gathered together at ARI with people from around Japan who are connected to the institute to commemorate his life and thank God for raising up this servant to do his work.

Takami was born in Bujun, Manchuria (Japanese puppet state, now in China), and after World War II, was repatriated to Japan. Due to poverty, he ended up living and training at a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto while attending middle school. After graduation, he did manual labor in businesses, including working as a longshoreman and in a salt factory. Later, he had the opportunity to work as a cook in the home of a missionary family, and it was there that he encountered Christ. Thus, he had quite a varied life as a young person, culminating in his conversion and baptism as a Christian. As he dedicated his life to Christ, he felt the call into full-time ministry and was able to go to the United States to study, first at Doane University in Nebraska, then at the University of Connecticut, and finally at Yale Divinity School.

After returning to Japan, he found his calling was in rural evangelism and the nurturing of agricultural leaders, so he began teaching at the newly established Rural Evangelical Seminary. In 1959, he participated in the East Asian Christian Council meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where it was unanimously decided that the pressing need of the time was for the development of rural leaders to help rebuild war-ravaged Asian countries and that churches in Japan should help with this. In recognition of this, the Kyodan established the “Southeast Asian Course” at Rural Evangelical Seminary, with Takami taking a leading role. In 1973, the seminary moved to Nishi Nasuno in Tochigi Prefecture to establish an independent entity known as Asian Rural Institute. Takami laid its foundations as its first president and served as its spiritual leader until his retirement in 1993. Following retirement he continued to serve as honorary president, working to further develop ARI.

In the background of this decision by the church in Japan to take on this task, under Takami’s leadership, was the issue of war responsibility for what Japan had done under its military government in the first half of the 20th century, as it invaded the Asian countries of that time: China, Taiwan, Korea, Burma, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Pacific Islands. This dragged all of these countries into World War II, resulting in the loss of many lives and the destruction of their economies. This goal of a world government under the Japanese emperor resulted in the usurping of these peoples’ freedom and sovereignty, and the church in Japan succumbed to the pressure of the state to participate in the pacification of these lands under Japan’s harsh occupation. Thus, the church in Japan felt compelled to repent of its wartime actions and take responsibility through concrete actions of atonement, not withdrawing in fear of denunciation, but pursuing the gospel of reconciliation shown by Christ through his atonement on the cross for the forgiveness of all sin.

Every year, about 30 trainees from around the world come to ARI for a nine-month period of study, which includes Christians as well as rural leaders who are Buddhists and Muslims. Their purpose is not only to learn advanced Japanese agricultural techniques but also to learn traditional farming methods that have been developed in these countries in order to develop sustainable agriculture that maximizes the power of nature. Through the communal living of eating and studying together while working as a team to grow food and raise animals, these people from different backgrounds—with different languages, religions, and customs and often with strong personalities—overcome their initial hesitation and learn how to live together as they listen to and dialog with each other and work towards the common goal of maximizing sustainable agriculture. This process develops within them the spirit of servant leadership that they can take back to their own societies to become a force towards developing their own active communities. Already some 1,200 graduates have returned to countries around the world and testify to how their experiences at ARI have served them well.

Takami Toshihiro dedicated his life to developing a community based on love and peace, where each individual’s gifts were utilized to release the inherent power of the world God has created, as opposed to a society focused on wealth and power that is based on the love of power and things. In his faith and wisdom, we can see the life of one who tried to live as an ambassador of reconciliation faithful to the word of God. (Tr. TB)

—Akiyama Toru, general secretary

アジア学院の高見敏弘先生のこと

 2019年を迎え、教団でもクリスマスに洗礼を受けてキリスト共に復活の命にあずかった人たちの喜びの声が多くの教会から聞こえてきます。超高齢化して伝道力が低下している教会、また、宗教的なことに対する無関心や警戒がひろがっている日本の社会の中で、それぞれの教会で新しくキリストのものとされた命が生まれているのを聞くことは大きな励ましになります。新しく生まれた命が和解の使者として世界に遣わされるために、神に選ばれた器として用いられて生涯を全うするように祈ります。

 2018年9月に91歳で天に召された高見敏弘先生のことを思い起こします。「アジア学院」の創立者としてアジア、アフリカ、太平洋諸国、南アメリカなどから集められた農業指導者の研修のために尽くされた牧師、また教師です。12月16日にアジア学院でお別れの会が開かれ、世界各国から集まったアジア学院の卒業生、支援者、日本の関係者が共にその生涯を思い起こし、この人を主の御用のために呼び出し用いてくださった主なる神に感謝をしました。

 高見先生は、満州(撫順)で生まれ、第二次世界大戦後に引き揚げて来られ、貧しさのゆえに京都の禅寺で修業の生活をしながら中学に通われました。卒業後は行商や沖中仕、塩焚きなどの重労働をされました。その中で宣教師の家庭のコックをするというチャンスがあり、キリストにふれ、やがて洗礼を受けてキリスト者になる波乱にとんだ若い時代をすごされました。やがて生涯をキリストにささげ伝道者になりたいとの志が与えられ、アメリカのドーン大学やコネチカット大学、イエール大学神学部などで学ばれ牧師になられました。

 帰国後、日本の農村の伝道と農業指導者の養成に使命を感じられ、そのころ設立された農村伝道神学校で教えられることになりました。1959年にクアラルンプールで東南アジアキリスト教協議会(EACC)が開かれたとき、荒廃したアジア諸国の戦後復興のために農村指導者の養成訓練が急務であるとの認識が高まり、この任務の遂行を日本の教会に期待する決議が、全会一致でなされました。これを受けて1960年に教団は農村伝道神学校に「東南アジア農村指導者養成所」を開設します。高見先生はこの事業の中心となられました。1973年に西那須野の地に移り、農村伝道神学校から独立して「学校法人アジア学院」となると、高見敏弘先生が院長に就任。学院の精神的支柱として基盤を築かれ、1993年に引退の後も、名誉院長として学院の発展に尽くされました。

 高見先生をはじめ日本の教会がこの任務を引き受けようと決意した背景には、日本が20世紀前半、軍事政権の下で中国・台湾・朝鮮・ミャンマーやインドネシア、フィリピンなど東南アジア、太平洋諸国などに侵略し、戦渦に巻き込み、多くの人の命を奪い物資を奪った戦争責任の問題があります。天皇を中心とした世界国家にするとの野望を抱いてアジア諸国の自由と主権を奪い、過酷な植民地支配を続ける中で、日本の教会も国家の統制に服し宣撫工作に協力するなど、この戦争に加担したとの罪責と悔い改めの意識から、贖罪の業としてこの責任を果たしたいとの強い自覚が働いていたと言われています。糾弾を恐れて頑なに閉じこもるのではなく、すべての罪がキリストの贖罪によって赦されているゆえに、諸国への謝罪の思いと言葉と共に、キリストによって示された和解の福音を身をもって表すことに命をかける方向へと、進んでいったのです。

 アジア学院では、毎年世界各国からキリスト者だけでなく仏教者やイスラム教徒も含めた研修生30人前後が、9か月の研修期間を過ごします。日本の進んだ農業技術を学ぶだけでなく、各国で培われてきた伝統的な農業技術も学びながら、自然の力を生かした持続的な農業について実践して学びます。さらに、宗教も生活習慣や言葉も違い、それぞれ強烈な個性を持った人たちが、始めは戸惑いながらも、食を共にし、教室で学び、作物や畜産の作業をチィームで行ううちに、次第に他者の存在を認め、耳を傾け、語り合って、社会の中で共同の働きを進める為の、基本的な関係作りを学びます。これがサーヴァント・リーダーとしてそれぞれの社会に帰って働く時に、生きた共同体をつくる原動力になっていきます。世界中に戻っていった約1200人の修了者が、口々にアジア学院で経験したことがどんなに大切なことであったかを語っています。

 高見敏弘先生は、物欲と支配欲に駆られ富と権力を志向する社会とは全く別の、神が創造された世界がもっている潜在的な力と、一人一人の賜物が豊かに用いられる、愛と平和に満ちた共同体形成に力を尽くされました。そこに先生の熱い信仰と知恵と、和解の使者として生きよとのみことばに忠実に従った生涯を見ることができます。
(秋山徹)