This year, the Community of Sant’Egidio held its meeting for peace in Berlin. Last year, when it was in Rome, I was part of the Jinja Honchō delegation, but this year the decision was that I wouldn’t go. I am told that things went well enough, so we will see what happens next year. If they suddenly decide that I should go again, that would suggest there was room for improvement…
Anyway, three people went in the end: the director of our department (Revd Ushio), the head of our section (Revd Mitsui), and one of the staff members of the section (Revd Iitsuka). Their attendance was reported in Jinja Shinpō, in the October 2nd issue. The Sant’Egidio meeting does involve sessions at which religious leaders talk about peace, much like the Kazakhstan congress, but it also has a distinctive additional element: a prayer for peace. They ask all the attendees to pray for peace within their tradition.
We did that last time, and had an audience, because Shinto priests do not mind people just watching, and it is something that many people have never seen. This time, it appears that they had a rather larger audience, and I think that was because Revd Iitsuka danced.
While she is a licensed priest, she has also, like most priests, learned one of the basic kagura dances, and she performed that during the prayer for peace. That was not her only job by any means — she has much better English than the other two delegates, so she was the translator for much of the time, for a start. However, she was originally added to the group so that the dance could be included in the prayer. Those dances are normally performed by women, which meant that Jinja Honchō decided to send a woman as part of their delegation to an international event.
I think this is the first time that has happened.
Revd Iitsuka is still pretty junior within Jinja Honchō, so a man in the same position would basically be an assistant on the trip (and, indeed, was last year). Other than the dance, then, her role was no different from that that a man would have played. With any luck, this will set a precedent.