In the anniversary year of Japan's annexation of Korea, a message for peace by The Most Revd. Nathanael Makoto Uematsu, Primate of NSKK and Bishop of Hokkaido and The Rt. Revd. David Shoji Tani, Chairman of the Peace and Justice Committee, NSKK and Bishop of Okinawa
"August 15 is the day when Japan was defeated in WWII. Every one of us should, through our own faith in our Lord, reflect upon the errors Japan committed in the past and pray for peace in the world asking for the courage and power to do what we can do ourselves.
This year sees the 100th anniversary of Japan’s forced annexation of Korea. The Annexation of Korea Treaty, which was signed on the 22nd of August, 1910 and issued on the 29th of the same month, stipulated that Korea should be Japan’s colony, thus making it possible for Japan to incorporate Korea into so-called Great Imperial Japan to rule over the peninsula. Actually, however, 40 years before the conclusion of the treaty, the Japanese government had planned to put the Korean peninsula under its control as Japan considered Korea its “lifeline” for the aggression on the whole Asian continent. After the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5), both of which were waged over the control of the peninsula, the Annexation of Korea Treaty was signed under Japan’s military pressure. We must look back afresh upon the past history of Japan before and after the treaty, through which it violently and thoroughly oppressed the fierce protest, struggle and movement for independence in Korea by killing many people, making the Korean people “the Emperor’s subjects”, renaming them in Japanese, and forcing them to pay homage to Shintoist shrines. Thus, we must sincerely regret and repent for the humiliation, loss and despair Japan inflicted upon the Korean people, and make a fresh pledge not to ever again commit such a gross error.
At the same time, we must request the current Japanese government to resolve at the Diet session to put into practice the reparation and compensation to those who suffered under Japanese colonial rule, particularly to the soldiers drafted into the Japanese army and to the civilian employees in the army, to the people forced to work in Japan, to the sex-slaves for the Japanese army (“comfort women”), as well as to the Korean residents in Japan who, discriminatively called “the third nation”, have been deprived of the freedom of selecting their own nationality. So far, no reparation or compensation has been made to those people. We consider this as the most serious problem Japan has to solve right now. Only when this problem has been solved, can we create a community, hoping for peace in Asia in solidarity with the Asian peoples for the future. Considering one of the greatest consequences of the Japanese colonial rule is the division of Korean peninsula, we must also hope for and help realize the reconciliation and peaceful reunification of the two Koreas in spite of all the difficulties.
The 46th regular General Synod of NSKK in 1996 adopted the “Declaration on the War Responsibility of NSKK”, and in the “Pastoral Letter of the House of Bishops on the 150th Anniversary of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai” issued last year, we admitted that “Japan engaged in armed conflict and undertook a program of occupying and colonizing neighboring Asian countries. The church, lacking a clear understanding of the Christian faith and the Gospel, proved unable to speak out against these events.” At the same time, the pastoral letter said, “We especially felt called to repent and seek reconciliation and deeper engagement with our neighbors in countries throughout Asia who had first suffered under Japanese occupation and colonization, and then been made subject to economic control under Japan's post-war development. We were especially blessed by our fellow Anglicans in the Anglican Church in Korea (ACK), who opened their hearts to us even before Japan had come to terms with and apologized for its role in the colonization of the Korean peninsula. As brothers and sisters sharing the same faith, even as the ACK drew our attention to the inadequacies and errors of Japan's historical awareness, they also opened the door to exchanges between individuals, churches, dioceses, and at the provincial level.” We express our gratitude once again for the fact that this communion in our Lord supports our understanding of history and provides the conditions for improved relations.
The resurrected Jesus, our Lord, stood among the scared disciples, first saying to them, “Peace be with you.” We cannot deny that there is a very strong affirmation of violence working in the depth of human minds. The affirmation of violence is based on the fear for death and the defense of one’s own life. Jesus, our Lord, took all human violence on his shoulders. He died on the cross, and was buried, and opened up the way for a new life of human beings – a resurrected life. He leads us to the joy of living a life in which we need no violence, without fearing of death. The way for this resurrected life, new eternal life, was opened by the Holy Spirit for all nations and peoples. The path to peace is provided exactly in this encounter with the resurrected Jesus, our Lord. Let us go faithfully along the “way for peace in our Lord,” severely looking back on our past history."