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What the world needs: ‘moral re-armament’?

Blog author:
Hasn’t ‘moral re-armament instead of military re-armament’ become more acceptable and understandable again in the world?

‘moral re-armament’ for a time of crisis

The Japanese translation of Moral Re-Armament, especially ‘Re-Armament’ was felt to be too big-sounding and difficult for ordinary people to grasp, especially during the high economic growth period after the post-war reconstruction period. MRA in English was used for the names of the two organizations registered: The MRA House Foundation and the International MRA Association of Japan. 

I understand that Moral Re-Armament was changed to ‘Initiatives of Change’ in 2001 partly because the term ‘re-armament’ was not as acceptable as before in the English-speaking world. It always required an explanation: in the 1930s, as countries were re-arming militarily for World War 2, Frank Buchman talked of the need for ‘moral and spiritual re-armament’.

Now the world has entered another time of emergencies and dangers with COVID and the wars in Ukraine and Gaza. Hasn’t ‘moral re-armament instead of military re-armament’ become more acceptable and understandable again in the world?   

Pandemics are a major threat for people with chronic illnesses or the elderly. They become ‘my problem’ as COVID spreads. The wars in Ukraine and Gaza are no longer ‘distant wars’ but have become ‘my war of tomorrow’.    

Moral Re-Armament during peacetime

Japan is a rare nation where ‘peacetime’ lasted for decades. MRA helped Japan to enter peacetime after the war. This included the signing of the peace treaty, reconciliation with Asia and the U.S., improving labour-management relations and handling trade frictions. However, during this period, the peacetime impact of IofC/MRA has declined. 

However, the Association for Aid and Relief, founded by Yukika Soma, and the Caux Roundtable of business executives such as Panasonic and Canon who were inspired by MRA made distinctive contributions. Likewise, the MRA Asia Center in Odawara led by Masahide Shibusawa initiated projects such as Foreign language school and intellectual exchanges with Southeast Asia. These show that focused projects were effective during peacetime.

A new agenda for peace

In July 2023, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres introduced ‘A New Agenda for Peace’ which outlines multilateral efforts for peace and security, based on international law, for a world in transition. The original ‘An Agenda for Peace (AfP)’ was initiated by the UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1992, to deal with internal conflicts between different races and religions after the end of the Cold War. It advocated preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peace-keeping.

A new agenda for reconciliation

In 1996 I initiated An Agenda for Reconciliation (AfR) at an  MRA conference in  Caux, Switzerland with a conviction that reconciliation based on changing oneself first and moral rearmament from within is a prerequisite for peace. The AfR now continues to provide a safe space for sharing and training in Africa and between Palestinians and Israelis.

The IofC Trust Building Program of reconciliation and training in some 10 countries has been funded generously by the Fetzer Institution. A large number of people participating in Caux conferences since the 1990s have been from the Central and Eastern European countries, as they are in a process from emergencies to democracy. MRA in those nations were often under the banner of ‘Foundations for Freedom’. MRA was identified with trust building and reconciliation initiatives in these situations.

However, after the end of the Cold War hoped peacetime did not last so long and the world entered another time of emergencies as mentioned above. ‘A New Agenda for Reconciliation with moral re-armament’ is needed to support ‘A New Agenda for Peace’.

Rearmament of civic and moral values

French President Emmanuel Macron in his end-year/new year speech to the nation used the word ‘re-armament’ several times, 

“We will be determined to act to step up our industrial, technological and scientific rearmament.” “After economic rearmament of the State and our public services, we must now begin our civic rearmament.” “Continue to rearm our European sovereignty in the face of peril.”

I do not know enough about the policies of President Macron. But, civic values and the rule of law have to be reaffirmed as divisions, inequalities and multipolar disorder are seedbeds for conflict. Moral values also have to be reaffirmed as a prerequisite for all this worldwide. ‘A New Agenda for Reconciliation’ has to be equipped with strong moral values to support ‘A New Agenda for Peace’.

Since President Macron’s new year speech, quite a few  French newspapers and magazines have linked his speech to Gabriel Marcel and Moral Re-Armament… For this discussion on  ‘re-armament’, For A New World offers the message of Frank Buchman which fits the current world situation and initiatives taken by it in a variety of situations for nearly a century. It has materials also for those movements that grew from the same roots.

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