Marking its 47th anniversary, ‘Pilgrimage to Hiroshima’ program, designed and hosted by YWCA Japan since 1970, presented an opportunity to think about peace with participants from different age groups, including exchange students and guests from China and Korea. The theme for this year was “Roots of Peace” from HIROSHIMA” and it provided the experience to a new awareness and learning through listening to a testimony of an atomic bomb survivor, fieldwork, visits to memorial monuments, exchange session and workshops. As usual, the delegation from the National YWCA of Korea participated this annual program as an important part of the international cooperation program with YWCA Japan.
Written by Boram Baek (YWCA Korea Young Women Participant to 2017 Pilgrimage to Hiroshima)
Hidden cries of the 1945 War Victims
The word “Atsui, atsui(あつい)” filled up the air quickly. It means ‘hot’ in Japanese language. As soon as I left my hotel room, the August heat of Hiroshima surely did welcome me. The ‘2017 Pilgrimage to Hiroshima’ program began from August 9th through 11th in Hiroshima, Japan. Despite of this scorching heat, about 50 youth participants from all regions of Japan, YWCA of Korea and YWCA of China still joined together under the theme of ‘Roots of Peace from Hiroshima.’ At the end World War II in 1945, thousands of lives from Hiroshima and Nagasaki were lost and suffered by the U.S. atomic bomb. As we began our peace program right at Hiroshima, participants pondered of different ways to remember peace.
First, we made a visit to the Christian social welfare center to meet with the Koreans who were exposed to lethal post-explosion radiation of the atomic bomb. Also at the Peace Memorial park and museum, I was able to see various forms and shapes of monuments such as the Memorial Cenotaph for Japanese Victims, Cenotaph for Korean Victims, Children’s Peace Monument, Peace Flame, Peace Bell including the A-Bomb Dome which is the building closest to the hypocenter of the nuclear bomb that remained at least partially standing.
The former villages directly hit by the atomic bomb, have stopped its excavation work and are now turned into the memorial park where I was standing. It brought grief and pain in my heart to think about all the undiscovered souls of victims buried two meters under my feet.
More and more I learned about the disastrous results that the war brought into our humanity and listening to the witness’ living testimonies of the bombing made it even harder for me to face and imagine the catastrophic moments of 1945. Throughout the testimonial session, the involuntary sound of despair came out when I pondered upon the results of the endless greed and complete ignorance of humans which caused a horrendous crime against the another human being. One of the most interesting testimonial sessions were hearing the hidden voices of the Korean atomic bomb victims and the discrimination of Zainichi Koreans in Japan. Both groups of Koreans in Japan can trace their diaspora to the early 20th century under Imperial Japanese rule when all Korean people became the nation of the Empire of Japan. Their life stories were very sad and brought tears to our eyes, but the most touching stories were the stories of the good-hearted Japanese people helping out these Koreans who were denied by the both Japanese and Korean government.
Defining ‘Peace’ in everyday life of Young Woman of Korea
There were several platforms provided to discuss and share the ‘Roots of Peace’ defined by the participants. As a presenter, I introduced the justice and peace movement of YWCA of Korea such as the anti-nuclear energy and weapon(anti-nuke) movement, wartime sexual violence against women(VAW), reunification and reconciliation movement. Anti-nuke movement and the awareness programs caught the attention of the participants from Japan and China for the dangers of nuclear energy seemed to be the common issue in the north east Asia regions. Also as a young woman myself, I spoke about what “Peace” means in everyday life to young women and youth of Korea who have to face social and economic inequality, gender inequality and intergenerational gap. These same brick walls are not an exemption in my life. Though I have to face them every day, I believe that my efforts in reducing this gap is my own way of building peace.
Japanese youth participants showed high interests when I introduced the Korea YWCA movement. They engaged by asking different questions especially regarding the anti-nuclear energy and weapon movement and the justice movement of ‘Japanese’ military sex slaves ‘Comfort Women.’
“Blessed are the Peacemakers…”
In the small group discussions, the common question of ‘what should we do in order to bring peace?” remained as an unresolved assignment among the participants. As we discussed further, we came to realize that defining ‘peace’ can vary depending on the people, background and culture and acting ‘peace’ also can be implemented in so many different ways. But I was still thankful that I was able to share my thoughts about peace with the similar age groups from China and Japan. It may take some time for the world to agree on the concept of “peace,” but I believe that the Pilgrimage to Hiroshima program definitely provided an important platform where the youths from different culture can brainstorm together to recognize the common agenda in the North East Asia as the Youth members of the YWCA movement. It will be my lifetime assignment to remind myself on a daily basis to become the ‘peacemaker’ just like the one mentioned in the Book of Mathew 5:9.
For More Information, contact Grace Eun Young Kim (International Relations Program Coordinator of YWCA Korea) at firstname.lastname@example.org