|Sunday August 13, began a week of special
prayers for world peace in Japan. On that
day, I was able to attend Mass at the church
in Nara that was built by the late Father
Before Mass began, a list of those who had died in the parish was read, and during Mass a message from the Bishop. At the end of Mass, incense was offered by the entire congregation in the Buddhist manner.
On Tuesday August 15th I attended a "Gathering for Peace" in a little country town called Naoetsu. I was in Naoetsu at the invitation of Mr Shoichi Ishizuka, founder and President of the Joetsu Japanese-Australia Society and his wife Mrs Yoko Ishizuka. It was the site of the most notorious of the POW camps in Japan during World War 2.
Some very brutal Japanese guards regularly beat the Australians who were imprisoned there. They had no reason for their actions. The prisoners ration of food was meagre, and they were forced to work long hours in a steel factory. The climate was severe, either very hot in summer or heavy snowfalls in winter. Many died through overwork and ill treatment. Only one Buddhist priest was prepared to accept the Australian soldiers ashes, but thankfully they are now buried in the Australian section at the War Cemetery in Yokohama, Japan.
The people of Naoetsu have built a Peace Park on the site, in an effort to promote world peace. Many of them are shocked by the truth of the situation, especially when they learn of the good treatment that Japanese received in the Australian POW camp in Cowra and how the Japanese who died during the breakout were given decent burials.
This year the Japan-Australia Society of Joetsu (Naoetsu is in Joetsu city) have established a small Peace Memorial Park Museum. Mrs Lyn Kise, daughter of Mr Jack Mudie, (who survived his time at Naoetsu camp) and myself were the official Australian guests at the opening of the Museum. Mr Mudie wrote several poems during his imprisonment, and I include one here.
The two sculptures in the Peace Park depict a Japanese girl wearing a garland of cherry blossom in her hair, and an Australian girl wearing a garland of gum leaves.
The first time I visited this park was in 1997 and I was invited to place some flowers on the monument to the sixty Australians who died in Naoetsu.
This was my third visit to the Peace Park. I wish to share with you a quote from a letter sent to me from Naoestu "Many Japanese regard Australia as a great holiday destination, but few of them know anything about the war. While the memory of the war against Japan still lingers in Australia, overwhelmingly, the Japanese people who holiday there have no knowledge of the shared history. The people of Naoetsu aim to establish true friendship and understanding between Australia and Japan. We must educate the young people so that such a tragedy will never occur again."
I have many very good friends in Japan, people who are sincere in their desire for peace, and so I was happy to join with them in praying for peace.