Philippines: Meeting in Manila

"Most simply I am grateful for life"

Ken Arita is from Japan. He suffers from cerebral palsy. In February 2010, he took part in the pilgrimage of trust on earth meeting in Manila, Philippines. He expresses here how he personally experienced the meeting.

I attended the youth meeting sponsored by Taizé in Manila, Philippines, in February of this year. The programme was centred on prayer three times a day. During the day, we often met in groups to share about our lives.

On the fourth day there was a time for cultural exchanges. The participants from Korea and Japan gathered on stage and gave me the chance to share a message in front of the whole assembly. The theme for the meeting was, “A thirst for life in all its fullness” and “A call to transform the world.” After speaking about my own disability, I touched on two points which I wanted to share with everyone.

I live with a disability called cerebral palsy. I cannot live without depending on help from others. Waking in the morning, changing my clothes, going to the toilet, eating, bathing… in all these daily activities I need the hands of others to assist me. My life is made possible only through trust; when we share mutual trust for each other.

First I touched on the theme of “Fullness of life.” Although I was born with a disability, I am eternally grateful that I was born into this world. I have never blamed my parents, nor have I thought that my life was harder than anyone else’s. I am just thankful that I was given the opportunity to live, and I am grateful to my parents for all they did to raise me. Most simply I am grateful for life.

The second theme was “A call to transform the world.” For me, transforming the world is deeply linked to the fact that I was able to attend this meeting in Manila. Showing my own presence to all who were assembled was itself linked to the theme. I know that the Taizé meeting is open to all to attend, whether one has a disability or not. I called out to everybody: “When this meeting is over, and you return to your homes, if you know someone with a disability, please tell people about this meeting. Please invite them to attend the next meeting.” I said that I hoped that I could meet many people with disabilities at the next meeting.

After I came down from the stage, people came up to me, saying: “Your speech was wonderful.” “Thank you, I was very moved.” So many people came up to me to express their feelings. Each of these encounters was very moving for me, and they remain with me as my treasures.

My first experience of a Taizé meeting was in Kolkata, India, in 2006. My days in Manila were over before I realised. I had a chance to experience Filipino culture, and to interact with many young people from around Asia. This was a wonderful intercultural experience for me. The reason I decided to attend this meeting is of course because I love Taizé. But there is a more important reason. All around the world, it is increasingly difficult for disabled people to go out into society. I wanted to show myself in this wheelchair. I wanted to say with my life: “At this Taizé meeting there is no difference between those who are disabled and those who are not. Let all kinds of people attend. Let many disabled attend too. This was the prayer in my heart as I went to Manila.

I am very grateful to the many people who travelled with me and who made this trip possible. It was a fabulous pilgrimage, and a chance to meet so many people. Thank you so much.

Ken Arita

Last updated: 24 May 2010