From April 20th-25th, Sue attended the 2nd annual Christian Forum for Reconciliation in Northeast Asia hosted in Nagasaki, Japan. This event was co-sponsored by Duke Center for Reconciliation and Mennonite Central Committee inviting 58 representatives from Japan, Korea, China, and the US. We gathered to discuss how we as Christian pastors, scholars, and activists can come together to seriously engage in the ministry of reconciliation in the region.
The location of the forum was very significant for this year marks the 70th anniversary of the US dropping the atomic bomb in Nagasaki which was impetus in Japan surrendering and ending World War II. But if we look at the story of the bombing in Nagasaki just a little closer, it is more complex.
Nagasaki is the center of Japanese Catholicism that dates back to 1582. In spite of the heavy persecution and outlawing of Christianity, “hidden Christians” kept their faith for over 250 years. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the “discovery of the Christians” in Nagasaki. The irony of an American Catholic pilot dropping the atomic bomb on this historical Christian city populated by Japanese Catholics and beautiful churches raise the question of defining who is “the enemy”.
In addition, the Forum participants were reminded that the Japanese were not the only people who were killed by the atomic bomb. Thousands of Korean and Chinese laborers working in Nagasaki were doubly victimized, unable to receive compensation from Japan when they needed medical treatment from the exposure of A-bomb. As forced laborers with no power, their needs were neglected. We lamented at the layers of pain experienced by the violence of war and the many unseen and nameless victims of who suffered in the name of nationalism.
The “new we”
How then, can we move towards a “new we” when there is so much brokenness and hurt in our history? Can we truly see each other as brothers and sisters when we also carry the trauma and the pain of our parents and grandparents?
Through our week together, worshiping, studying, eating, biking, bathing (public bath!), and walking together, I was able to see glimmer of hope towards a “new we”:
- we wept together at Oka Masaharu Memorial Nagasaki Peace Museum, a small and independent museum run by a Japanese pastor that tells the hidden stories of the Korean and Chinese victims of war and bring justice for them.
- we laid hands on the Japanese Christian leaders and blessed them as a minority in their country. For some of the Korean and Chinese leaders, they commented that this was the first time they touched a Japanese person or blessed the Japanese people.
- I saw a Japanese photographer dreaming with a Korean American resident of North Korea of making a pilgrimage to North Korea and capturing photos of the people there through the eyes of a Japanese Christian.
- A registered church leader and unregistered church leader from China spent the whole week together talking, eating, and even laughing- something that people said was impossible to do.
- Catholics and Protestants came together to work together for peace; several Korean Protestants shared that this was the first time that they interacted so closely with Catholics and their respect has grown deeper for the other.
- Two Japanese pastors rolled my luggage all the way to the bus station wanting to make sure that I would not get lost. They carried my load, my burden. By the time we got to the station, I called them my brothers.(Mennonite photo op: Sue Park-Hur, Jennifer Deibert, Myrrl Byler, Joe Manickam, Kyungjung Kim, Hongtao Yin)
We still have a long way to go in this journey towards reconciliation, but I sensed a commitment that we will not abandon the gift of reconciliation God has given to us, for we have seen Christ in one another through our time together.