Profile: Toshihiro Takami: Grassroots Vision

Toshihiro Takami ’60 M.Div., founder of the Asian Rural Institute in Japan, which trains grassroots leaders in organic farming techniques and community-building in order to better serve poor and marginalized people.

Working as equals:

“I have experienced the joy of living with the poor. My work was to create a place where participants from all over the world, mainly from the poorest regions, can think for themselves and develop ideas about their particular situations. People are coming to ARI from more and more countries. They come here and work as equals no matter who they are. The numbers of visitors are increasing every year.”

Hazards of affluence:

“People are longing for equality. The hope of people to be equal with others is moving the world now. However, in general everybody is seeking affluence. That is a problem. Responsibility comes with freedom. Everybody should be aware of their global responsibility to others.”

The mahatma:

“The life of mahatma Gandhi was a symbol of people’s longing for freedom and equality. He was a lawyer certified in Britain, but he was discriminated against in South Africa and kicked off the train just because he was an Indian. He decided to go back to India and work for freedom and equality of people. The British government monopolized the salt business in India at that time, a symbol of colonization. Gandhi decided to do a disobedience walk (the salt satyagraha) to stop the salt monopoly. The british government of that time occupied the ‘seven seas’ of the world. I think it is still true today: the English language still governs the world. Gandhi’s statue stands in lower Manhattan, Union Square. Thousands pass by every day without noticing the statue. Nobody realizes that Gandhi is standing there. That is truly symbolic to me. Americans and everybody in the world are busy wanting affluence. This is where the problem of the human being can be found.”

The values of success:

“Everybody, including church leaders and lay people, has a wrong conception about success in life. They believe that the purpose of their life is to seek affluence. They believe that if they become affluent, their life is successful. So while the world is seeking affluence, ARI helps people who try to build a different future, sharing ideas, sharing food, teaching equality, learning to work with the poor and hungry. This is God’s will. I hope that we can devote such a world of such values to our Lord.”