Two Langham Graduates in Japan have shared their thoughts and reflections following the shocking assassination of its former prime minister last month.
Kei Hiramatsu and Surya Harefa currently serve in bible colleges and both expressed that the murder of Shinzo Abe is unimaginable in contemporary Japan.
Kei explained: “Safety is one keyword to describe our country; for example, some 7 or 8-year-olds commute to their school by train in Tokyo unaccompanied.
Our foundation is collapsing
“However, the assassination of our former prime minister has become a wake-up call for us that it might not be the case anymore.
“People in Japan are confused and afraid, for our foundation is collapsing. Our society is built on ‘trusting others.’ However, we began to wonder that this “trusting others” may not be working anymore.”
The suspected murderer was a victim of a cult, widely known as the ‘Unification Church’. His mother became devoted to the group as his father was an abusive alcoholic.
Amplifying aversion to religion
The mother gave over half a million pounds to the cult, leading to his brother’s suicide and the suspect’s own suicide attempt.
He initially wanted to target the leaders of the Unification Church, but decided instead to shoot the former prime minister because he discovered Abe had a close connection with the cult.
Surya is Indonesian but serving in Japan. He says the incident shows the “complexity” of things happening in Japanese society. It could “amplify people’s aversion to religion”, making it difficult for Christians to share the gospel.
The result is devastating
Kei noted that people “cannot tell the difference between the church and heretical groups because their appearance looks very similar. In the case of the Unification Church, their worship, their evangelism, their emphasis on eschatology, and many other aspects are not far from those of the church.
“This is why people buy into what they are offering, yet the result is devastating: deception, captivity and destruction.”
But Kei added: “We are reminded of the absolute necessity to proclaim the truth, release the captive, and set free the oppressed (Luke 4:18). We cannot and must not let the empty deception and the elementary principles of the world prey on another victim.”
Responsibility to engage with society
Surya’s PhD dissertation was about the political engagement of Japanese evangelical Christians, which is highly relevant to what is happening right now.
He said: “Japanese evangelical Christians tend to avoid things related to politics. But, some Christians understand the responsibility to engage with society, including in political fields. I am glad to hear that there was an emergency online prayer meeting held on July 8th.
“This online meeting was initiated by an evangelical pastor and attended by 300 people. Although they knew the dangerous side of Abe, they did not agree with the assassination. They also confessed their lack of praying for the nation.”
Less than 1% Christian
Both Kei and Surya asked for prayer that the Gospel would be shared and more people would be saved in Japan, as the number of Christians there is less than 1 percent.
Surya also said: “Please pray for my ministry as a cooperative pastor at Ibaraki Bible Church and part-time lecturer at Tokyo Christian University so that through my preaching and teaching, Japanese evangelical Christians can get involved in socio-political engagement as Christians.”
And Kei asked: “Please also pray that God will train and prepare more Christian workers in Japan through the theological education I serve. Please pray for our strength and more workers in Japan.”
Kei graduated with a PhD from Asbury Theological Seminary, US, in October 2020. He now teaches at Central Bible College in Tokyo and pastors a local church.
Surya studied at Kampen Theological University, Netherlands, and also graduated in 2020. He now co-pastors a church and is a part-time lecturer at Tokyo Christian University.
The Langham Scholars programme equips leaders like Kei and Surya who return to their contexts to have an enormous impact in the Church and society at large.