Shinzo Abe, the former longtime Prime Minster of Japan, about whom I’ve written in ambivalent terms for Where Peter Is in the past, died earlier today after being shot at a campaign rally for Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, does not deny killing Prime Minister Abe. His motives are unclear and may be personal or even religious rather than political in nature.
I have been a longstanding critic of Abe and his domestic cultural policies, which include advancing a negationist attitude towards Japan’s World War II history and repeated friction with the Church in Japan on issues like immigration and state support for Shinto and Buddhist organizations. These aspects of his time in power did further harm to Japan’s, in many ways, already stagnating society. However, I would caution other opponents of Abe and of the Japanese right in general not to excuse or minimize this event, which is a trauma for Japanese democracy across the political spectrum. Everyone from the far-right flank of the LDP to the leader of the Japanese Communist Party has condemned the assassination as an attack on Japan’s democratic processes and generally peaceful society, where the rate of gun homicide is somewhere around one in ten million.
As the Archbishop of Tokyo, Isao Kikuchi, said in a statement today (my translation):
Violence destroys democracy, destroys freedom, destroys justice. Political debate must be resolved through dialogue and free elections. Violence only silences others; nobody has that right. Only dialogue provides a true key to attaining justice and peace.
Certainly prayers for dialogue and for peace are in order here. So too are prayers for the eternal rest of Abe’s soul and for the comfort and healing of his family, his friends, and everyone in Japan for whom this obscene act of violence was such a shattering event.
Image: Shinzo Abe just before he was shot. Via Reuters.
Nathan Turowsky is a native New Englander and now lives in Upstate New York. A lifelong fascination with religious ritual led him into first the Episcopal Church and then the Catholic Church. An alumnus of Boston University School of Theology and one of the relatively few Catholic alumni of that primarily Wesleyan institution, he is unmarried and works in the nonprofit sector. He writes at Silicate Siesta.