In March last year, Pierre Batoko (36) from the Democratic Republic of the Congo gained a bond with Buddhism through online Buddhist study sessions run by Buddhist teacher Hiroshi Morita. Pierre is now striving with all his might to be able to attend Gotan'e. The Congo is a poor region where there is constant conflict, and there Pierre has a family of 10 people to provide for. So for him, continuing to listen to Buddhism as a Shinran Follower is very difficult. But surprisingly, says Mr. Morita, “He kept saying, ‘I want to listen to Buddhism,’ ‘I want to become a Buddhist,’ ‘I want to hear the truth’ and so he became a Shinran Follower. The next thing I knew, we had spent more than 100 hours talking in one-on-one sessions.” Pierre joins online Buddhist study sessions four times a week. Having said that he wants to join all sessions that are outside of work hours, he happily joins sessions that begin at Congo time 7 a.m. or even 3 a.m.
The Congo was once colonized by Belgium, and so it is a Christian nation. When Pierre tried to join an online Buddhist study session at an internet café, the shopkeeper made him leave, saying religions other than Christianity were banned. When Pierre tried to request time off from his work as a school teacher so he could go and listen to Buddhism in Japan, he was told, “This is a Christian school. We have no need for a Buddhist teacher here.” So they fired him and he had to transfer to a different school. Yet even so, Pierre has a burning desire to attend sermons at the 2000 Tatami Mat Hall. So with the help of Takuya Saitou (South Saitama Chapter), who is proficient in French, which is the Congo’s official language, Mr. Morita supported Pierre in obtaining a visa. But in order for Pierre to go to the capital, Kinshasa, where the Japanese Embassy is, a plane ticket would cost him 3 months’ worth of pay, and a boat trip down the Congo River would take a month one way. Despite these harsh obstacles, he applied for a visa and was approved. Mr. Morita said, “In a rural town right in the middle of the African continent, and in a place full of only Christians, Pierre has set his sights on the 2,000-Tatami-Mat Hall. I cannot help but feel that this is due to the immense power of the supreme Buddha.”