Japan (MNN) — Nineteen people were stabbed to death, and 25 injured early Tuesday morning in Japan. Of those injured, 20 are severely wounded.
26-year-old Satoshi Uematsu broke into Tsukui Yamayuri-en, a facility for disabled individuals, during the night armed with knives to kill the residents. The attack took place in Sagamiharaa, around 30 miles from Tokyo. Uematsu was a former employee of the facility.
In the past, the attacker has reportedly said he believes disabled people should be allowed to be euthanized, with their guardian’s consent — something that is an ongoing discussion in the political realm today.
Mary Jo Wilson with Asian Access is currently in Japan, and reports, “[The attacker] then drove to the police station and turned himself in, and it didn’t sound like a hate crime, but something intentional that he had planned, and had even written a letter in February to a politician kind of describing what he thought he would do. [He] was hospitalized for a period of time.
This is the deadliest mass killing in Japan since World War II. A rare tragedy like this has been horrific for the nation.
“It is shocking in a facility for these very vulnerable, severely disabled individuals who were sleeping to be killed in their sleep and murdered this way. So I think that Japan is still in shock and processing these numbers and just the horrific tragedy that it is.”
Things like this don’t really happen in Japan, partially because the honor-driven culture encourages people to avoid doing things that would bring dishonor or embarrassment to the group or family.
Wilson wonders if the veneer of stability in Japan ends up covering real issues.
“I think it’s very contrary to how the Japanese would see themselves, so it’s very shocking to the senses to have something like this happen. I think it has kind of a numbing effect. At the same time, I was just thinking how I was on the train to Tokyo this evening, and having suicides disrupt the trains, it’s a very common occurrence.”
Wilson goes on to share, “I just talked with a pastor this evening who lives not far from where this tragedy occurred, and he was saying on the surface Japan looks very put together and safe, and it’s relatively a very safe country. But under the surface, there is a lot of stress and a lot of troubles and really a need for true peace that only Christ can bring.”
Asian Access works in countries all across Asia within four ministry spheres: to raise up godly leaders who will impact churches, congregations that will change communities, create collaborative church efforts across communities, and these will hopefully transform nations for the glory of God.
“We serve pastors and churches to develop leaders and multiply congregations and that work continues. Less than one percent of Japanese are Christians, and so there are a lot of people who I think are questioning and wondering; and churches, Christians are available then to share with people the hope of Christ.”
Right now, maybe more than ever, is a good reminder that even the safest countries in the world are not immune to the pain and results of sin. Even the calmest waters can have churning currents deep underneath.
Wilson asks for Christians around the world to pray for Japan.
“Pray especially that God will open hearts, because it’s spiritual movement that we really need, for God’s Spirit to move and draw Japanese people to the hope of Christ. And then that churches and believers will be ready with open hearts to share with people and to welcome them in… for them to learn of Christ and be welcomed into the community.”
To learn more about Asian Access and their work, you can check out their website here.
Wilson leaves us with this poignant reminder about the value and beauty of human life that is created in the image of our Heavenly Father:
“I think one message that’s really important right now is how precious life is, and for every Japanese person to know that they are precious, and Christ values them and God values them, and that’s the message they need to hear today.”