Japan is looking forward to the Chief Apostle

For the first time, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider will be travelling to Japan. He will conduct a divine service in the congregation of Tama City on 22 May. Following is a look at a country that played a special role in the development of the New Apostolic Church in South-East Asia.

Tama is part of Tokyo, but then again not. Situated west of Tokyo, one of the largest cities in the world, it was designed as a residential development. Some 150,000 people live here, of whom many work in Tokyo. Tama is a municipality but classified as a city.

Christians are a minority in Japan. District Apostle Urs Hebeisen, to whose district the country belongs, says, “Freedom of religion in Japan is defined as follows: people don’t really care what others believe. Shinto and Buddhism are the prevailing religions. The personal life of faith is often a mixture of the two. The small Christian minority in the country, however, goes back a long way.”

Turbulent history

Christianity was established in Japan a long time ago. Already in the seventh century the Nestorians came to Japan via China and built three churches near Kyoto, the country’s later capital. In the middle of the sixteenth century Jesuits began their Roman Catholic missionary efforts. But the rulers at the time repressed Christianity and, in 1587, it was banned in many parts of the country. Christians were persecuted and tortured. Christianity became a largely hidden religion. The situation only began to ease somewhat in the middle of the nineteenth century. Today about one per cent of Japan’s population is Christian. More than 80 per cent are adherents of Shinto and Buddhism.

From Canada to Japan

The New Apostolic Church in Japan is 45 years old. There are two established congregations in the country: one in Tama and the other one in Matsuyama, plus additional missions in various places. The Church has a membership of about one hundred.

The pioneering work was done by Yoshiharu Yahata. He and his wife were invited to Canada by District Apostle Michael Kraus in August of 1968. They were sealed there together with another Japanese family on 21 August. Yoshiharu Yahata was soon ordained as a minister and as such represented the Church in Japan. In February 1973 he was appointed rector of the congregation in Tama. Starting in 1987 he was active as a District Evangelist.

From Japan to South-East Asia

From Japan the New Apostolic faith spread to Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. Also District Apostle Urs Hebeisen lived in Tokyo for a number of years. His employer had sent him to Japan in November 1976. Looking back he says, “For me everything began in Japan. Still today I have a deep affinity for this country. That is why I look after Japan as the responsible Apostle myself. I visit the country once a year.”

The New Apostolic Church in Japan has its own website: http://nac-japan.org/. Its current top news item is: “It is a great pleasure to announce that Chief Apostle Schneider plans to conduct a divine service at Tama City on May 22. Location: Keio Plaza Hotel Tama.”

Ambitious agenda

The Chief Apostle will arrive in Japan on Friday, 20 May. The next leg of his journey will take him to South Korea, where he is expected on Thursday, 26 May. On Friday morning, an excursion is planned to a Korean memorial north-west of Seoul, where the Chief Apostle will say a prayer for peace. On Sunday he is planning to conduct a divine service in Daejeon (South Korea).

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