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S. Murei: A Shinto Priest Seeks Reconciliation in Israel

I was born from a long line of traditional Shintoists and became a Shinto priest in 1963. I had an inborn gift for mediation and in 1983, I got a revelation from Takamimusubi, a creator god in Japanese religious tradition. At that time, my God became a golden pillar and entered my body in the course of my midwinter discipline, saying, “I have descended from heaven for the sake of world peace.” Until that time I had been praying only for Japan, so I was curious why I had to do something for world peace. Now I understand that my mission for world peace was predestined thirty years ago.

I have determined to devote my life to the cause of world peace as an Ambassador for Peace of the Universal Peace Federation. Even though it may be the “widow’s mite,” I will do it because it is God’s wish.

I deeply appreciate Rev. Moon’s vision for establishing world peace based on true love and true family. In order to establish world peace, one has to build a strong foundation at one’s feet, which is the true family based on true love. Those who cannot establish families filled with true love are not qualified to speak about world peace. Therefore, I am publicly speaking that our goal is to complete the true family.

Representing Shinto in Japan, I visited Israel in 2003 as part of the Middle East Peace Initiative. Before the pilgrimage, I offered obeisance at the Ise Shrine to the goddess Amaterasu Omikami in order to make an advance report on my pilgrimage to the goddess. I got a holy stone from the most holy place of the shrine. In 1993, at the Gosengu Festival of the Ise Shrine, guests from Israel had presented white stones to the shrine. In return, I wanted to bring a holy stone from the Ise Shrine to Israel and bury it there, repenting for Japan’s wrongdoings and fostering a world of peace hand-in-hand with people of the world. I thought that if my pilgrimage to Israel could contribute to this great cause, the goddess would be pleased with it.

The Japanese delegation included Christian ministers, Buddhist priests, political leaders and scholars. I asked a Christian minister, “I brought a holy stone of the Ise Shrine to bury it in the ground of Israel. Where do you recommend burying it?”

He replied, “I recommend at the base of the olive tree at the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ prayed before he was arrested 2,000 years ago.”

We visited the garden and buried the holy stone there. We prayed together that this could be a cornerstone for forgiving the sins of humankind as well as for creating the world of peace. We prayed from the bottom of our hearts, “May everything be done by the power of true love.”

On October 22, we marched through the Old City of Jerusalem shouting “Peace.” This march included 400 Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Shintoists, and people from other religions. These stone alleyways of Jerusalem were stained with Jesus’ blood 2,000 years ago; I felt the heart and spirit of Jesus Christ there and began to cry. He was severely persecuted and afflicted, but he did not condemn or resent those who destroyed him. His sorrowful heart touched my heart, and I kept shedding tears.

That afternoon, at a big rally in Jerusalem’s Independence Park, one black minister shouted, “Let us be united transcending the difference of religion, nationality, race, and culture!”

I rushed up on the stage and hugged her. We began to cry together. It was a moment of repentance and reconciliation. I felt that she was my real sister and the world was truly united there. I have participated in many interreligious conferences and dialogues, but I had never experienced this spirit of repentance and reconciliation.

In one period of the past, Japan was caught in the trap of militarism and lost her genuine traditional culture characterized by a genuine love for nature and love for human beings.

We Japanese lost our national pride and often despised our traditional culture including Shinto. “State Shinto” was the official religion of Japan until the end of World War II, but it was an artificial religion made by the government and different from traditional Shinto with its simple nature. Both worshiped Amaterasu Omikami as the supreme goddess. Some blame her for causing the war, because under her flag Japan headed towards militarism. But I believe that people’s faith in her was manipulated by its militaristic government. She is grieved at this sad history. I, as a Shinto priest, have a collective responsibility for all past wrongdoings and mistakes of Japan and Shinto; so I would like to apologize for all sins committed by Japan, especially to Koreans, even kneeling on the ground in front of each Korean.

Amaterasu Omikami said to me, “Go beyond all past prejudice! The world is one! It is time for all religions to work together—not only for Japan, but also for the world!” I believe that Japan should recover her national pride and contribute to world peace, becoming the mother nation of the world.

Recently I was taught about Yoo Gwan Soon, who stood up for the liberation of Korea from Japanese occupation and died in prison at age seventeen. My heart aches for such a young woman killed by our people. As a Shintoist, I would like to apologize for this brutal conduct. She was part of the Samil Movement, a Korean protest movement which stood up against the Japanese occupation that began on March 1, 1919 in Seoul. Officers fired on the crowd, and more than 7,500 demonstrators were killed. This movement rapidly spread throughout the country, but the nationwide uprisings that resulted were brutally put down by the Japanese. Yoo Gwan Soon led a rally in her hometown, Cheonan. As a martyr, she symbolized this movement.

Rev. Moon received a lot of persecution, but he carried out his mission without complaint or resentment. He was also tortured by the Japanese police. In spite of all this, he still forgives and loves Japan. This is really amazing to me. As a Shinto priest, I counsel my followers every day. Sometimes I mediate between spiritual beings and my clients in order to heal their illnesses and resolve other troubles. Forgiveness is the key to solving the problems of resentful spirits. Only true love can solve resentment, and even Satan surrenders to true love. Because Rev. Moon forgives the unforgivable and loves the unlovable, I believe that he is the Messiah.

Rev. Benita Lawrence, a black Christian minister from the United States, visited my shrine on October 24, 2006 as part of the Universal Peace Federation’s fourth World Peace Tour; she delivered Rev. Moon’s message entitled “God’s Ideal Family and the Kingdom of the Peaceful, Ideal World.” First, I performed a Shinto ritual and prayed, “This ceremony is officiated under the witness of God the Creator, god of Musubi, and True Parents of Heaven and Earth.” It was a moving event with 120 participants.

I had a very deep internal exchange with Rev. Lawrence. When I first saw her, the spiritual world behind me was delighted. She was also a spiritual person, so we found a congenial spirit in each other. We hugged each other and rejoiced at our encounter. I felt that Shinto and Christianity merged in this event.