"Der verwundete und zu Boden gefallene Mensch, ist das nicht Jesus selbst?" (Pfr. SEKI, Kyoto, 2002)
"Anerkennung verweigern nicht zuletzt viele Christinnen und Christen" (M. Sonntag)
"Ich bin doch ein Mensch" (Kalligraphie aus der Befreiungsbewegung der Buraku)
2011: Liberation Play "Who is Your Neighbor?"
Performing the Liberation Play: "Who is Your Neighbor?"
lay member of the Kinrin Church in Kyoto
A new Liberation Play is produced by the Buraku Liberation Center every other year, and this marks the ninth production. Each play is based on an actual incident of discrimination, and it seeks to portray how such discrimination occurs, how it scars those who are victimized, and how others react to the situation. Each new production is first performed at the General Assembly and then in numerous venues, particularly in the Kyoto, Osaka area, and each production has been well received.
I became involved in the plays from the 2nd production, and since the 4th production, I began playing the role of the pastor. I have written the scripts for and directed the last 3 productions. In this new play, however, my role was not that of the pastor, but of an administrative board member. As is obvious from the title, this play uses the parable of the "Good Samaritan" in Luke 10 as its base.
The main character, Mr. Kobayashi, was originally from a discriminated-against buraku, but he has hid that fact from others in the church. But as he continues his life in the church, it becomes a burden to continue hiding his background, and so he decides to confide in the pastor, Rev. Sugishita. Instead of acknowledging his pain, however, the pastor ends criticizing him for "weakness," declaring that in the church, which stresses love of neighbor, there isn't any discrimination.
This lack of understanding hurts Kobayashi deeply, and he feels he can no longer attend this church. The administrative board takes this issue up, and Mr. Ishikawa points out that the pastor was in error in how he handled it. However, the pastor, supported by the patriarchal pillar of the church, Mr. Hasegawa, doesn't accept that, and so discord erupts in the church. The pastor does regret bringing on the confusion, but his apology is only in the form of expressing contrition before God. It is in this situation, that a new Bible Study called "Reading the Bible" is formed, with the participants studying on their own without the pastor, trying to get close to Jesus. There are three scenes in the play involving the Bible Study, all centering on the "Good Samaritan" passage, and the three lay members in those scenes share their thoughts. What did Jesus do and how did he live? Whose "neighbor" was he? They each share what they learn from the Scriptures.
Next, a special church assembly is called, and the pastor again insists upon the correctness of his position. Together with board member Hasegawa, they try to push for a majority vote. The church, however, chooses diversity and depth of spirit instead. The last scene is a monolog by Mr. Kobayashi.
"I am who I am and you are who you are. I think it is wonderful if we can accept and support each other. How is it in your world? In your church, are you accepted and celebrated for who you are? I want to rejoice in the fact that each of us is a unique individual. Please go and do likewise."
These lines were penned with the intent of my deep desire that our world will become one in which all humans are valued. In our Kyodan General Assembly, we have the situation of the human rights of a pastor being trodden upon through the form of cancelling his ministerial credentials because he practiced open communion. (Ed. note: meaning allowing non-baptized persons to receive communion in the church) Many voices have been raised in protest against this action, but the present leadership of the Kyodan has completely disregarded that.
At the previous General Assembly, the liberation play shown then, "Forty Days in the Wilderness," had that very theme at its core, portraying the act of the majority disregarding the minority as a kind of violation of human rights, something antithetical to the mind of Jesus. The Buraku Liberation Center is an organization that exists for the purpose of eliminating discrimination, and so I think that it cannot overlook such an example of the strong dispossessing the weak. Thus, our liberation plays have not only focused on buraku discrimination, but also such things as gender discrimination and discrimination against those with handicapping conditions. And since it is theater, it is not inappropriate to portray ideals that don't reflect the hard realities. However, unless liberation plays are produces with the reactions of the audience in mind, they are meaningless. While it is important to portray reality, simply telling of the severity of the discrimination could end up discouraging people, unless the message instills in those who view the play a sense of righteous anger against discrimination and a passion to eliminate it from society.
It is my conviction that liberation plays have the power to encourage those who view them to move forward in the fight to eliminate discrimination. Our efforts will not be in vain. The will to eliminate discrimination will bear fruit. We are not alone, and so we can build a society in which all are valued. That is the message that I wanted to communicate as I wrote this play. We received many expressions of appreciation, such as "I was encouraged," and "I want to join in the struggle to eliminate discrimination." Hearing those words, of course, is an encouragement to all of us as well, and so I am challenged to begin work on a new production.
Finally, there is one more thing I want people to know about the liberation plays. It takes months of preparation to produce a new play. We have to recruit the actors, write the script, learn the lines, and figure out the sound and lights as we practice numerous times. We are not professional actors, and have our own vocations to pursue. Thus, it is really quite a job. Sometime, we have to take time off from work, and so recruiting the actors is a difficult process. I hope that all of you reading these words will support us in these efforts.