Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Article 9 and Peace in Asia

“Article 9 of Japan Constitution states:
(1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.
(2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

It is heartwarming to see Japanese Christian leaders as well as other religious groups in Japan stood their ground against the revision of Article 9 in their constitution. There is an attempt by the Japanese government to move in the direction to make amendment to Article 9. Already revision of textbook had taken place to portray Japan as a victim instead of being the victimizer in the Second World War. China and Korea protested vehemently to the distortion of history. These are the two nations, which had suffered the most during the brutal regime of Japan.

At the consultation which was organized by NCCJ (National Christian Council of Japan), delegates from Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Germany, UK, USA, Australia, and Japan listened to key note addresses and panel presentations and unanimously stood in solidarity with the majority of Japanese not to revise Article 9. Any attempt to revise Article 9 will pose as a threat to regional security and peace. Peace can never be achieved through military violence but only through promoting a culture open to patient dialogue and diversity that promotes justice, equality, and respect.

Transformation of society involves active engagement with national agenda. Although Christian population in Japan is very small but they are active in political and social engagement.

An elderly Japanese (probably in his mid 80s) spoke about the wars with deep sadness and remorsefulness. He obviously had gone through the pains of seeing the Japanese soldiers brutally killed and raped the victims of the wars. I could sense the great guilt carried by the Japanese Christians on behalf of their nation.

I remembered reading Iris Chang’s book “The Rape of Nanking” which described the atrocities and brutalities of the Japanese soldiers. It was estimated that 300,000 civilians were massacred. Thousands of women were raped, tortured, humiliated beyond words to describe. It was a national shame to China to be humiliated to such extent. The Japanese government denied the historicity of such event in spite of the presence of thousands of documents, photos, and eyewitnesses’ accounts. This singular colossal tragedy happened in 1937, the precursor of the Second World War. China has recently published an eight-volume list of 13,000 victims of the Nanjing massacre in which it says invading Japanese troops killed 300,000 civilians. The Chinese publications, released to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of massacre which is known as the “Rape of Nanking”, include the names, ages, sex, occupations and residential addresses of the victims, which Japanese army unit was responsible and how the victims were killed. To deny the reality of the historical event on the part of Japan is tantamount to murdering the victims twice. No wonder the people in China still harbor deep resentment over Japanese wartime atrocities.

“Women suffered the most,” Takokoro, Kozo, a former soldier in the 114th Division of the Japanese army in Nanking, recalled. “No matter how young or old, they all could not escape the fate of being rape. We sent out coal trucks from Hsiakwan to the city streets and villages to seize a lot of women. And then each of them was allocated to 15 to 20 soldiers for sexual intercourse and abuse.”(Iris Chang “The Rape of Nanking” p.49)

In 1941 when Japan invaded Malaya, Philippines and other South East Asian countries, army brothels were set up to service the sexual needs of the Japanese soldiers. The women were forced into prostitution and they were later known as the Comfort Women. In fact many Korean, Taiwanese and Chinese women were forced to become Comfort Women. This was the response of the Japanese government to the massive outcry from Western nations to the wholesale rape that took place at Nanking.

It was estimated that 200,000 women were forced into this giant underground system of military prostitution. To this day, many Comfort Women who are now in their old age are too ashamed to even talk about it to their families let alone to come out to make public statement. But there are those who were persuaded to make public press statement and to sue the Japanese government for compensation.

Germany could move forward because it had confessed and acknowledged its sin and compensated the Jews for the holocaust. But Japanese government still lived in denial. The previous PM of Japan periodically visited the shrines of the war criminals to honor them. Japan government has not publicly apologized to the nations, which were brutalized by the Japanese soldiers during the wars.

One lady panelist from Philippines narrated the story of his aunt being beheaded by a Japanese soldier at the consultation. There was a dead silence in the audience.

If Article 9 is changed and Japan begins to arm itself, militarism and militarization rears its ugly head again, I wonder what will be the implication for the security and peace in Asia. Hence, Christians in Japan see its role to resist the government.

As I participated in the consultation, I sat there wondering: “what was going through the mind of the teenage Japanese soldiers who were handed rifles and bayonets that propelled them to commit such atrocities?” Have the Japanese learned from wartime history? What would be our collective responsibility in halting Japanese government to revise Article 9 of their constitution?