The Religious Community as a Network of Mutual Aid. Social Care activities in Risshō Kōseikai.
The paper discusses the social care activities promoted by Japanese new religious organisations, focusing on the lay-Buddhist movement Risshō Kōseikai. Kōseikai’s welfare activities are examined within the broader framework of Japan’s welfare system, in comparison with social services offered by non-religious providers. Data collected through 12 months of fieldwork within local congregations revealed many commonalities between their activities and other locally-based networks of mutual support, questioning the distinctiveness of Kōseikai-sponsored care as religiously-connoted. In the eyes of practitioners, however, welfare activities acquire religious significance by being reinterpreted in the light of the movement’s doctrine, turning into a missionary tool and vehicle for practice.