YWCA of Japan
YWCA of JAPAN TOP > October 7, 2011

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For a Peaceful World: YWCA of Japan’s Summer Programs for Peace(October 7, 2011)

This summer YWCA of Japan held two programs aimed for learning and international exchange for the realization of peace. Following are reports for the two programs.

Korea- Japan Youth Conference 2011: Living together in East Asia

Korea-Japan Youth Conference 2011 was held in Seoul, South Korea, from 30th August to 2nd September 2011. This is a joint program between YWCA of Japan and Korea which has been held in rotation between the two countries since 1993, and provided opportunities for Japanese and Korean youths to discuss ways to address the shared issues in both countries. Themes of the past programs include the Korean victims of the Atomic bomb, and the territorial/ historical issue between the two countries. This year, 22 participants from Japan and 42 participants from South Korea met under the theme “The Korea-Japan Youth March for the Peaceful World: Living Together with North Korean Defectors and ethnic Koreans in Japan”. They developed their ideas through workshops, discussions and field trips, and created action plans for a joint effort for the realization of peace.

YWCAs of both Korea and Japan spent months in preparation for the program. Participants from Japan visited and interviewed “Zainichi Koreans”, or people from the Korean Peninsula who came to or were forcibly brought to Japan while the Korean peninsula was colonized by Japan. The participants seriously thought about the nature of the society they live in, and discussed what to share with friends from Korea at the Council. Also, they worked hard to prepare presentations, morning services and performances to share in the program.

  Joining hands and experiencing peace      Pieces with messages for peace

As Japanese and Korean youths met in Seoul, they shared close and vibrant exchanges, helping each other with communication through a mixture of Japanese, Korean, and English languages. Through the rich contents planned by Korea YWCA, the host YWCA for this year, the participants from both countries imagined East Asia in the next decades, and thought of concrete ways to realize peace in the region. An example of such a way was also shown through a musical and physical movement workshop to experience the feeling of cooperation and harmony, where Japanese and Korean youths shared a hint of working together toward peace. In the presentations by youths from both Japan and Korea, the participants shared and discussed the issues of defectors from North Korea to South Korea and Zainichi Koreans in Japan, and the challenges faced by the societies of the two countries and their shared problems.

The participants were blessed with an opportunity to meet defector youths from North Korea, and have a lively exchange with them through dance performances and chat over Korean food. They also went on a tour to the Demilitarized Zone between South and North Korea. After visiting sites such as an observatory tower viewing North Korea and a tunnel that had been secretly dug across the North-South border, they visited an alternative school supporting 30 defector students from North Korea. They listened to explanations by a teacher, and also experienced artistic expressions by defector youths through a video clip of an art exhibition held in this school. This direct contact with the history and challenges between South and North Korea was an extremely valuable experience for the participants, which gave them a broader and deeper view about peace in East Asia, their own region.

     Participants of the conference         The fence in the Demilitarized Zone

On the last day of the program, the participants created an action plan that would connect their new ideas and understanding shared and learned during 4-day-program. The action plan, built through thorough discussions, pledges to tackle the difficulties faced by North Korean defectors and Zainichi Koreans and to strive for a peaceful world through the following actions:
- Participate in activities including education, awareness-raising, exchange, providing concrete support, and media outreach
- Learn each other’s cultures and languages
- Pray for peace
- Become leaders that bring about peace
Also, issues related to nuclear energy, a problem widely shared in East Asia and the whole world, were raised from participants from both Japan and Korea.

For four days, the participants from Japan and Korea spent days and nights together, helped each other to communicate, shared each other’s cultures and gained new experiences and understandings together. The YWCAs of Japan and Korea will continue to facilitate this unique program that provides youths learning and exchanging opportunities.

*The Korea-Japan Youth Conference 2011 is supported by the Japan-Korea Cultural Foundation.

Pilgrimage to Hiroshima 2011: Remembering, and Passing on

This year’s “Pilgrimage to Hiroshima” was held under the theme “Remembering and Sharing: Moving toward a Nuclear-Free World”. The program was focused on passing on the experiences and ideas learned in Hiroshima to others as well as to the future generations. Some guests from the YWCA of China also participated.

      Sharing images of peace          The Atomic Bomb Dome

The participants visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum to see various information sources indicating the damages by the Atomic Bomb that was dropped in Hiroshima in 1945--- items such as belongings left behind by the victims of the bomb and wreckages of buildings. They also went on a field trip to visit places and buildings that show the damages by the Atomic Bomb, and monuments in memorial of the victims, and heard testimonies from survivors of the Bomb. The field trips included:

- Listening to the testimony of Ms. Yoshie Oka, who was working as a mobilized student at the military headquarter that was located in Hiroshima at the time of the bomb. She talked in the underground shelter where she was actually working at the moment of the bombing
- Visiting Hiroshima Jogakuin girl’s school whose 300 students and teachers were affected by the bomb, and the Nagarekawa Church which bears a cross made out of the debris of destroyed buildings
- Visiting places that appear in the famous book Summer Flower written by Tamiki Hara, a poet who survived the Atomic Bomb
- Visiting the Korean atomic bomb victim memorial monument, and listening to a testimony about the sufferings of the Korean residents in Japan from the Atomic Bomb and their lives after the tragedy
- Paying a visit to the places where many Chinese workers were forcibly brought to Japan and were engaged in forced labor, and some were later killed by the Atomic Bomb

In the end of the program, the participants sought the way to share with their friends and families back home about what they learned and thought about during their experiences in Hiroshima. They actually shared it among each other during a closing workshop, through expressions including literature, drawing, design and physical expression. The program was concluded with the hope that it is possible to call on a wider range of people to come together in the effort for peace, through sharing the lessons from history, the tragedy of wars, and the challenges that need to be tackled by the younger generations.

Visiting the Peace Memorial Park          Ms. Oka talking about what happened at this very place
                  in 6th August, 1945
Both of these programs for peace will continue next year on. The YWCA of Japan, together with our friends in Asia and around the world, will continue to take actions that will reach even more people and motivate the society toward a peaceful world.

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