First, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the chairperson and all of you who are present here. I also want to extend my gratitude to the Community of Sant’Egidio for giving me this opportunity.
I would like to talk about the dignity of human life, or, particularly, what it means to be born in this world, because the circumstances surrounding the lives of children are changing rapidly.
Recently in Japan, a clinic used the sperm of the husband’s father for in-vitro fertilization to help the couples who are unable to have a baby due to the husband’s azoospermia. Biologically speaking, the newborn baby would be the husband’s brother or sister, not his son or daughter. For the baby, the “grandfather” in his or her family register would be in effect his or her father.
In some countries, more and more people born via surrogacy are claiming the right to know their biological parents once they become adults and taking legal action if they are denied that information.
Lately, a Thai woman who served as a surrogate mother delivered twins—a boy and a girl—at the request of a foreign couple. According to news reports, the baby boy was diagnosed with Down syndrome before he was delivered. The surrogate mother was asked to terminate the pregnancy but she refused and gave birth to the twins. The foreign couple who requested the surrogacy refused to take charge of the baby boy with DS while the surrogate mother decided to raise him by herself. This incident was reported through the Internet and spread worldwide. Now, more and more people are willing to support the boy.
This incident has stirred up discussions on surrogacy in many countries. In one country, surrogacy is a commercial service for many foreign couples suffering from infertility.
On the other hand, last year, a total of 73,000 cases of child abuse were dealt with by child consultation centers in Japan. In other words, more than 200 cases of child abuse are reported to those centers in Japan every day. In July this year, a boy committed suicide in Tokyo after being mistreated by his stepfather. The media reported that the stepfather even went to the extent of pressing the boy to kill himself within 24 hours.
Now is the time for us to pause and give careful thought to what life is. What is common in all those incidents is the lack of the perspective of the children themselves.
It is not difficult to understand how desperately a childless couple might wish to have a baby. However, babies are not born only for the sake of their parents’ joy. What would the children think if they ever found out that they were born through commercial surrogacy? Would they not be greatly disturbed if they found out that the one whom they thought to be their father was not really their biological father? Have abusive parents ever given thought to what their innocent children are feeling when they are mistreated and beaten for no reason? Parents never own them.
The Foundress of Tenrikyo, Miki Nakayama, explained the truth of husband and wife in the Songs for the Service as follows: “Representing heaven and earth / I have created husband and wife. / This is the beginning of the world.” Husband and wife were created in the image of heaven and earth. From heaven, sunlight and rain fall on the surface of the earth. Receiving those blessings, the earth in turn produces all things. Heaven and earth work together to nurture the lives that are born. This is exactly how the world came to be. At the same time, it also describes how husband and wife should live. This process will continue for all eternity. Only through such a perfect combination between husband and wife, who should be like heaven and earth, can they be blessed with a new life and nurture the baby.
Moreover, the Foundress taught us, “The conception of a baby is by Tsukihi. Giving birth to it, also, is by the work of Tsukihi” (VI:131). Tsukihi refers to God. Due to the profound intention of God, each baby is born through the workings of God at a particular time and place to particular parents. They are not born to their parents for no reason. The reason may not be readily comprehensible to humans but there is surely a purpose. In Tenrikyo, we call it “causality.”
According to Tenrikyo, these bodies of ours are actually something we borrow from God. The fact that we borrow the body and are therefore given life means that everything including our existence itself depends upon the blessings of God, who lends us everything. Although we speak of “my child,” “my wife,” or “my husband,” actually they are what we borrow from God. We never own them.
On the other hand, the fact that the body is something we borrow from God does not mean we are God’s slaves, because we are given freedom of mind. Exercising the freedom of mind, we are to make the best use of the body that we borrow from God. Tenrikyo teaches that this is how humans should live.
Let us think about it. When we borrow something from others—whether it is a car, a house, or clothes—we should use it with great care so that we don’t damage it. We should use it in the right manner for the right purpose. The same principle applies to the body (or life). Because the body is something we borrow from God, we need to take great care in using it according to the intention of God, the lender. Our body is an invaluable thing because it is something we borrow from God. We must not hurt our own body, let alone others.
Speaking of husband and wife as well as parent and child, we borrow them from God so long as we live. We are brought together as husband and wife or as parent and child due to our causality, whatever it may be. When we realize our own causality that brought us together, the joy of being each other’s husband and wife or parent and child wells up in our mind. With that joy in mind, the husband can care for his wife and the wife can respect her husband. With that joy in mind, the husband and wife can nurture their children with a lot of love. As we are persons of faith, we should not keep our joy to ourselves but share it in wider circles. I believe that this is the mission that we need to carry out.
I would like to share a story about the head minister of a Tenrikyo church and his wife, who are also engaged in foster care. They are among many Tenrikyo church head ministers and wives who, as foster parents, take care of many children who cannot live with their parents for various reasons. Whenever a new foster child comes to the church for the first time, the couple—head minister and his wife—welcome the child by saying, “Welcome back,” instead of “Welcome.” What they mean by saying that is that this is his or her home.
One foster daughter—perhaps due to her complicated upbringing—had a habit of hitting other people without any particular reason. The head minister and the foster daughter made a rule that she would not hit others at school. She would come home every day, suppressing her angry feelings. When she got back to the church, she would hit the wall of the church building to let out her anger—not just once or twice, but many times. Her fists would bleed and be covered with blood. The wife of the head minister would wash the girl’s hands at the sink. She did this every single day.
As she would wash her hands at the sink day after day, the physical distance between the wife and her foster daughter became shorter and shorter to the point where they were finally close enough to touch each other’s shoulder. This does not simply mean that their physical distance got closer. The distance between bodies represents the distance in mind or in affection. This shows the very process in which the two developed a true parent-child relationship. Eventually, she completely stopped hitting others and is now capable of loving and caring for others. She grew up into a fine young woman. Needless to say, she continues to love her foster parents as if they were her real parents.
All human lives in the world are nothing but the things borrowed from God. Life is sacred and absolutely inviolable. Life is so precious that it cannot be replaced by anything. All lives in the world must be protected and nurtured by all of us humans. That is the best way we can make repayment to God for giving us life.
I would like to conclude my speech by sharing a verse composed by Miki Nakayama.
All human bodies are things lent by God. With what thought are you using them?
Thank you for listening.