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NSKK NEWSLETTER distributed by
The Nippon Sei Ko Kai
(Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan)
 
St. Mary’s Church in Los Angeles
NSKK NEWSLETTER 07
 
JAPAN 071201-1
December 1, 2007

[The Nippon Sei Ko Kai - Japan]  In June, for the first time, I participated in a journey to Okinawa, which inspired me to intensify my prayers for peace. “All the teachers in Okinawa must perform a task eternally –––– taking their students to the battlefields.” These were the words of the former governor of Okinawa, if I remember them correctly. I added to my knowledge while I was there, and came to understand the appeals for peace emanating from Okinawa. I wonder if policymakers were aware of the tremendous sacrifices that would have to be made when they started the war. Did they give any thought to civilians and their small happiness?

When I went to Los Angeles to attend an EAM (Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry) consultation at the end of June, I had the opportunity to visit St. Mary’s Church. I noticed a plaque there on which “Sei Ko Kai” was written in kanji (Chinese characters). The church has a long history, which has connections to the NSKK Holy Cross Mission in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.
This year St. Mary’s is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The history of the church is also the history of the hardships endured by Japanese immigrants. Most of the immigrants were very poor people whose only hope for the future was to go abroad. In the early stages of their lives here in the USA, they were not allowed to become government employees, physicians, lawyers or teachers. The only occupations available to them were gardening (for others), fishing, selling flowers or farming. They could not own land, so they were hired as farm laborers. I learned that the work was exhausting, and that they were practically slaves. But through those hardships, those immigrants gradually established a footing on American soil.

But their suffering proved to be in vain after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. According to a presidential order issued on February 19th, 1942, “all people whose roots are in Japan” were confined to internment camps in remote areas, whether or not they were American citizens. Approximately 110,000 people lost everything, permitted to take only small bags containing their daily necessities to the camps. As American citizens, they were blameless, hard-working people. The novel “Two Homelands” describes the fates of many Japanese immigrants during that era. I read the book once again and learned that it is based on true stories.

St. Mary’s Church became a collection center for possessions left behind in the houses of the Japanese Americans which they had been forced to vacate. The Rev. Yamazaki, Rector of St. Mary’s at the time, said in his sermon on Easter 1942, “Soon the time will come for us to leave our beloved houses and towns where we have lived for a long time. We will go through hardships like the Israelites endured when they departed from Egypt, as written in Exodus. But I believe that there will be a time of resurrection, when we emerge from a dark A few weeks later the Yamazaki family was interned in a stable at a racetrack in the city. The space given to each family was previously occupied by one horse. I can’t go into detail here, but all their efforts had come to nothing. To prove they were upstanding American citizens, about 150 young adults from St. Mary’s congregation enlisted in the U.S. Army. They were sent to Germany as members of Regiment 442. When they returned to the U.S. for rest and relaxation, “home” was an interment camp.
Here I’d like you to consider whether the political leaders of that era thought about these sacrifices. Will they protect our small happiness? We, not the politicians, are the peacekeepers, each one of us and us in our solidarity.

The United States government and the American people have admitted that the internment of Japanese Americans during the war was wrong. Apologies were offered and some compensation was paid. We Japanese are being asked whether we have atoned sufficiently for past misdeeds. We are blessed with abundant lives today, because our country, once reduced to ashes, has risen again. We must think about our responsibility - the legacy of our parents’ generation.

After Okinawa Week, we turn another page of the calendar to August, the month when we commemorate Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the end of World War II. I’d like us to think about our responsibilities as peacemakers.

Article by: Revd Laurence Yutaka Minabe. General Secretary