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Kagawa Toyohiko

Kagawa Toyohiko (1888–1960). Japanese Christian evangelist and pioneer social worker. Kagawa was perhaps the greatest leader in the development of Japanese Christian social-welfare work and reform in the 20th cent. At the same time he preferred to describe himself primarily as an evangelist.

Kagawa first encountered Christian faith in the middle school at Tokushima in Shikoku. He was befriended by a Japanese Christian teacher and by two missionaries of the Presbyterian Church, USA. He read and reread the New Testament until all the pent-up agony of his past burst forth in the prayer ‘O God, make me like Christ’. From this developed a growing inner conviction that he had been given a divine commission to serve the poor.

On Christmas Day 1909, he carted his few belongings to his one room in the slums of Kōbe. There Kagawa committed himself to service and love of the lowliest of persons, in whom he came to be convinced that God dwells, in the whole person and circumstance. For this reason he became a Christian Socialist, a social seer and reformer as well as a Christian evangelist.

He helped to form the Japan Federation of Labor and to organize the labourers of Kōbe into a branch of this national body. He was perhaps the leading figure in the great strike of the shipyard workers in Kōbe in 1921. For the next forty years he was prominent in almost every movement for constructive social reform in Japan.

In his methodology Kagawa was a thorough social evolutionist, a strict follower of the principle of non-violence. Kagawa has been called one of the three greatest Christians of this century. His ideals were expounded in many books, e.g. Love, the Law of Life (tr. 1930) and Christ and Japan (Eng. tr., 1934).

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