|United Methodists criticize Japan leader's denials|
A UMNS Report
Bishop Roy Sano
By Linda Bloom*
March 8, 2007
Asian American United Methodists are criticizing recent denials by the prime minister of Japan regarding that country's coercion of "comfort women" during World War II.
"Your denial places you in the category of those who deny the Holocaust against six million Jews," wrote Bishop Roy Sano, executive secretary of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, in a letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Three women - two Koreans and a former Dutch colonist - testified March 1 before the U.S. House of Representatives foreign affairs subcommittee about how they were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers.
About 200,000 women are thought to have been enslaved as "comfort women" during that period. In 1993, the Japanese government admitted its military had established brothels for its troops during the war.
Speaking on March 5 in Japan's Parliament, Abe blamed any coercion of women into the brothels on contractors used by Japan's military, not the military itself, according to The New York Times.
Bishop Robert Hoshibata
He said Japan would not comply if the U.S. Congress issues a demand for an apology. Such a resolution, which blames Japanese authorities for the coercion, is now under consideration, the newspaper reported.
Sano wrote Abe that he joins with those "who demand you renounce your statement and apologize for your indefensible denial of the atrocities inflicted on 200,000 women from various parts of Asia."
He also said Abe's comments could have repercussions for other Japanese. "Your remarks destabilize the region against Japan and even jeopardize Japanese tourists who go abroad," he wrote. "As a Nisei in the U.S. during World War II, I want to remind you that actions by Japan turn us into the most accessible target to vent anger and hatred."
The 2004 United Methodist General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body, passed a resolution calling upon the Japanese government to issue "a full and frank apology" for the establishment of the comfort system, to compensate the victims and survivors and to recognize and honor those women through memorials, a museum and a library.
In a statement about the prime minister's comments, United Methodist Bishop Robert Hoshibata of Portland, Ore., said it is "incomprehensible that a world leader has taken a stand that contradicts accepted fact.
"Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is attempting to silence the testimony of thousands who were conscripted against their will and forced into sexual slavery…" -Bishop Robert Hoshibata"Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is attempting to silence the testimony of thousands who were conscripted against their will and forced into sexual slavery and subjected to inhumane treatment, violence, injury and death."
Hoshibata urged Abe to retract his statement "and offer an apology to the women who endured suffering, their families, and all who are incensed by his denial of the truth."
The Rev. Mark Nakagawa and Inday Day, chairman and executive director, respectively, of the National Federation of Asian American United Methodists, expressed support for the statements from Sano and Hoshibata.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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