Rt. Rev Yoshinobu Miyake
Chair, International Shinto Studies Association
Director General, Kansai U.N. Association
First of all, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations and the 15th anniversary of the UPF, on the issue of "Opportunity and Hope at a Times of Global Crisis: Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity and Universal Value" I greatly appreciate having the opportunity to make a speech on behalf of Japanese religious leaders.
Before giving my opinion, in order to share the premise of the recognition of the history, I would like to divide 75 years of history into three “periods” that are characterized by every 25 years after established the United Nations in 1945 and analyze each from three perspectives: international-political, economic-social and religious-cultural. Then, I will consider the prospects for the centennial anniversary of the United Nations.
What characterizes the first quarter century (1945-1970) is that internationally and politically, the Security Council system by the absolute control of the victorious nation formed by ending World War II, has not functioned with the beginning of the Cold War. Economically and socially, rapid economic growth triggered by postwar reconstruction progressed around the world. The infrastructure of defeated countries such as Japan and Germany were destroyed completely by the bombing, but it pushed them forward the drastic modernization of productive facilities. It overcame the victorious nations, the United Kingdom and France, and became the second and third largest economy power following the United States. However, this spread the value of "the economy ahead of all else" among the people of developed countries, and traditional religious and cultural values have been abandoned and secularization progressed remarkably.
What characterizes the second quarter century (1970-1995) is the rise of "people’s power" in international politics. The masses, enriched by the first quarter-century of economic growth, began to insist on anti-war and peace movement in the West. Among them, number of NGOs appeared with strong international influence. On the East side, they headed to overthrow the socialist dictatorship system centered on the Soviet Union. Economically and socially, people has become conscious of the “growth limit” that is a negative legacy of industrial economic growth, which is caused by environmental pollution and the Oil Shock. In terms of religion and culture, the counterculture and occult eroded healthy civil society and the rise of religious fundamentalism against excessive secularization attracted many people.
What characterizes the third quarter century (1995-2020) is the rise of “Non-state actors” such as the Taliban which is based on extremism, in the countries of vulnerable governing base. It seems that they are trying to fill the power vacuum, following the collapse of the Cold War structure in international politics. Terrorists attack by "Non-state actors" such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State (today is the memorial of “9.11”) also frequently occurred in the Western countries that should have won the Cold War. The industrial society, which has reached its limit in terms of economic society, has shifted to the global financial economy, and the internet society symbolized by "Windows 95" has emerged. Also, in terms of religion and culture, the people who used to be the “information receiving side” have become the “information transmitting side” due to the worldwide spread of mobile communication and the development of SNS. With the collapse of the dictatorship in the Middle East, which had been stagnant for many years due to the "Arab Spring," the progress was made in flattening the hierarchy of established authorities, including the religious community.
As explained so far, by analyzing the changes in the world situation over the 75 years since the end of World War II from a compound perspective, we can design the guideline what should religious people do in the upcoming fourth quarter century, aiming for the centennial anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. In terms of international politics, the biggest issue is that the communist state China, openly challenges the world order of "Pax Americana" that was established as the result of the end of World War II. The Soviet Union once challenged the United States half a century ago, but the overwhelming economic disparity between these two countries prevented Russian’s ambition. But during the 2020s, as China's GDP will exceed that of the United States, China will avoid the same mistake as the Soviet Union did.
Of course, that includes the dismantling of the established financial order with the US dollar as the international settlement currency. From an economic and social points of view, BATH (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei) of China is seeking to take place of GAFAM (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Micro Soft) in the United States who has been “dominant” in the global market along with the transition of industry from “heavy industry to information technology”. In that sense, the United States and People's Republic of China, where the competitive field expanded not only to the military but also to the economic field, would have a greater negative impact on the world than during the Cold War (there was no conflict other than military tension).
Now, China's greatest weakness is the religious cultural elements. In ancient times and in the Middle Ages, no one would deny that China led the world by its religious and cultural powers. However, the fact that the current one-party dictatorship of a communist China denies various religions and cultures, that was the greatest soft power of Chinese civilization, is attributed to the Muslim Uighurs and the Buddhist Tibetans. It is also clear from the repression of the law, depriving Hong Kong people of political freedom and disregarding copyrights for anime, music and game software. Unless their attitude is changed, it is clear that people of the world will not respect the Chinese or adore the Chinese culture.
In addition, China has spread COVID-19 throughout the world from the end of last year, and the pandemic of the coronavirus infection has already infected 27 million people worldwide and killed 880,000 people. Even if COVID-19 ends due to the great cost and efforts of many people, it will probably continue to occur in the future in a globalized society in which the movement of people, goods and money are expanding rapidly. A new infectious disease originating in China will cause a pandemic. The etymology of the word "religion" in English is the Latin word "religio", which means "reconnect". Following the recommendations of medical experts, governments are calling for people to "get a social distance to deal with infectious diseases." That is why this UPF conference is also held in a "remote" format.
However, neither "interdependence" nor "mutual", which is the theme of this conference, cannot exist without human-to-human ties, and the United Nations cannot be established without nation-to-nation ties. Therefore, religious leaders must proactively speak about interdependence, mutual prosperity, and universal value, regardless of nationality or religious difference, in order to show people opportunities and hopes in times of global crisis. Not only that, but for those whose universal values such as human rights and freedoms are hindered by the state, we must commit to that situation as much as we can.