Japan: Prison Chaplaincy

When compared internationally, Japanese prisons have a very strict discipline. The United Church of Christ in Japan (KYODAN) visits people in prison and provides them with pastoral care.

"Nobody looks after the prisoners and they are really in distress," says a Japanese pastor who cares for prisoners in his spare time. "That's why we must look after them." God gave every person dignity and the possibility of transformation, even if they have been in prison for a long time.  For over 60 years, volunteers and pastors of both genders from the KYODAN church have provided prisoners with pastoral care and counsel them after their release.

Ministry and practical help for prisoners

One thing that impresses is that most pastoral carers work voluntarily in their spare time. They support prisoners regularly or over long periods of time and they help them with visit applications and family problems. They prepare people in prison to resume life outside and to meet their children – many of the prisoners have not seen their children for over 20 years. The most important thing is spiritual ministry – as a practical witness of God's presence and, in the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:36: "I was in prison and you visited me." Questions concerning guilt and forgiveness also play a role in their work.


126 million inhabitants, of which 56,000 are detainees


Training and networking volunteer pastoral carers

Since Christians are a small minority in Japan, the church has very little financial means.This is why the EMS supports the valuable work of the church with prisoners and gives pastoral carers the vital opportunity of having regular exchanges of experience with each other. The EMS helps with travel costs for network meetings and participation fees for further trainings or conferences on the subject. It also supports the exchange of experience between volunteers by newsletter.

Project goals

The United Church of Christ in Japan (KYODAN) spreads the Gospel in prisons in word and deed. Volunteers and female and male pastors hold worship services and devotions – they are dialogue partners and confidential counsellors for the prison inmates. The female and male co-workers provide prison chaplaincy. They are not members of the judicial system but are in the service of the church. From this position they can build up trust between prison warders and prison inmates and reduce tensions between inmates.


Project work

Chaplaincy – also for prison inmates – is an important duty of the church. Pastoral care workers meet prison inmates whom nobody wants anything to do with. Regardless of the difficulty of the deed, prison chaplaincy consists of supporting inmates to deal with their deeds. One of their major fields of duty is to prepare prison inmates for their release and their special problems as well as holding worship services and leading discussion groups. 


Project partner

The United Church of Christ in Japan (KYODAN) has about 200,000 members in 1,700 congregations and with 2,200 female and male pastors, it is the largest Protestant church in Japan. Besides evangelisation, it is committed to peaceful coexistence with its East Asian neighbours. A particular concern of the UCCJ is the fight against the discrimination of minorities. Christians form less than one per cent of the population and are themselves a minority in Japan; there are a total of about 650,000 Protestants in Japan.


We are pleased to hear that you are interested in this project. If you have any general questions, please use the contact form below. We are also happy to help you personally if you have any questions or require further information – by phone or by E-mail.


Solomon P. Benjamin

Head of Units India and East Asia

+49 711 636 78 -42


Angelika Jung

Head of Unit Fundraising

+49 711 636 78 -63


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