Picture: Jesus is among those who are being fed.
Translation by Stella Sanz r.a.
Nishinari is a very popular district in the big city of Osaka in which we find Kamagasaki、a very small town famous for the “Center of Daily Work for Construction”, in existence for more than 50 years, and to which people from all over Japan go to look for work. They are hired for a day and with no provision for social security thus living in very precarious and insecure situations. The work is very dangerous and hard. As time goes by, they are no longer hired and since they can no longer send money to their families, some of them stay and live from the sale of cartons, paper, cans etc. Many end up sleeping in the street. They ask for work, not for alms.
Not having any fixed residence, they also do have any identity papers, are not registered in the municipality, are outside of the society, are non-existent persons.
They themselves claim for their rights helped by different groups: workers’ syndicates, activists, defenders of human rights...they do not go by ideologies. The center of all the activities is the marginalized, impoverished person.
The Church is also present. Christians (Protestants and Catholics), religious women, some priests and Buddhists, collaborate. It is a “macro ecumenism”.
Food is prepared in the parks where hundreds of people go to eat. At night, a patrol goes around the places where the persons are sleeping and give out blankets, “niguiri” (sushi), soup etc., and now, facemasks; if necessary, they call for an ambulance. And added to this much needed assistance, they always claim from the government for the justice due from them for the people.
We are now 4 Sisters in the Community: María Christina, Superior, María Tsuneko, Veronica Miki and María de Pazzis. The Community has no apostolate of its own. All of the Sisters collaborate in different places without any of us being the head of the mission. One Sister goes to the Kindergarten of Mino, another participates in the “Telephone of Hope”. We also help in the “SINAPIS” Organization of the Diocese of Osaka to welcome the refugees that come from many countries and help them, in collaboration with the lawyers, to obtain their visa. We also go to visit them when they are in the detention center.
Our main mission is here in Kamagasaki. We help in the preparation and distribution of food in the park, patrolling at night, relating daily with the people, speaking with them. We go to the demonstrations and meetings to demand from the government the justice that is due to these people. Lately we have obtained from the government a change in their way of distributing economic assistance given, due to the pandemic, to all the Japanese and that they, because of not having a fixed dwelling, could not previously receive. The strong conviction with which they speak in defense of the dignity of every human being is impressive. A representative of the government confessed to a syndicate leader: “we have learned a lot in these meetings...”.
In Community we share personal experiences: what we have seen and heard, what each one experienced. This enriches us. One of our common experiences is to see that the Gospel is present here, that it is lived. They are not Christians, that is, they have not been baptized, but they live out what Jesus did and left us with what is most important: to always be beside those who are most in need. We realize that the Gospel is not ours, not the property of Christians. The Gospel is the patrimony of humanity. The Gospel is not there to be passed on but to be lived. We live with “the saints by our side”.
Here we see a lot of humaneness. During the night patrols, when we offer a blanket, sometimes the answer is: “I don’t need it, give it to the one by my side. He coughed a lot last night.” Or when we give the sushi: “I have already eaten today, give it to one who needs it.” Experiencing the same suffering makes them more sensitive to the suffering of others. On Christmas night, when we go on patrol after the Mass, we go through the same experience of Jesus in those persons sleeping on the street because “there is no place for them in the society” as there was none for Mary and Joseph.
One day I met Fuji Yan, an active defender of human rights, who had just been released from prison where he had been detained for having organized demonstrations with and for the homeless, to peacefully demand work and a dwelling for them. He told me with impressive conviction: “This is the eighth time I have been imprisoned but it was never for something bad. It was always for having defended so many who sleep in the street and claim for them the justice that is their due. I cannot just pass by and be silent when I see them like that.” For me that was like a cry from the Gospel...I can imagine the scene in Mark 25 when Fuji Yan, who has already died, arrived in heaven: Come, blessed of My Father, because I was sleeping on the street and you fought for me, and continued doing it despite the fact that they imprisoned you 8 times...
They come to work here from all over Japan as well as from other countries, and they get to know the work system of Japan and the reality of human rights. Many schools, in their formation program on human rights, justice, etc., organize 2 or 3 days’ visit to Kamagasaki to get to know, sur place, the reality of the society in which they live. They help in the different tasks, but their intention is to learn. They are very impressed and many return years later to stay and are among those engaged in Kamagasaki today. We participate during those moments of formation. We go around Kamagasaki helping them to understand what is being experienced here and answering their questions. At the end, it is very moving when they share what they feel and have experienced. They always say that they do not learn this in school or in the University.
Every year many students from our College in Mino as well as from our schools in Manila and in Bordeaux come here when they come to Japan for an immersion in our College in Mino.
Marie Eugenie is not known here in Nishinari. Assumption Together does not exist here.
This does not mean that Marie Eugenie is not present. Marie Eugenie is present in Kamagasaki through each one of us and we are sure that she is always happy to meet these persons that are impoverished and rejected by society.
At the beginning of the foundation, she told us regarding the enclosure: “Our real reason for going out is the fear of not being truly sisters of the poor if we stop seeing them and forget the realities of life...”
Here you have a short summary of what we live. We hope that these few words, badly written, have been able to pass on to you the experience God graces us with.
María de Pazzis（Community of Nishinari）