"I will not let you go until you bless me." (Gen. 32:26)
|Comfort women in front of Japanese embassy |
Every Wednesday at noon, Mrs. E is there. She sits in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, Korea with her friends to ask the Japanese government to apologize for its past treatment of Korean women as sex slaves during the Asia Pacific War. Mrs. E is elderly, as are her friends. Many of the so-called "comfort women" have passed away. Mrs. E hopes that justice will be done before she meets her grave. She is surrounded by a crowd of civilians who support her struggle. Over the loud speaker a statement is read, a song is sung, a prayer is given. The window blinds of the Japanese embassy are shut. Stone faced guards and secret police make sure there is no out right confrontation. This peaceful sit-in has continued for seventeen years. I was there with Mrs. E last December. What I witnessed was a wall; a remnant from the Cold War. The wall is invisible, but no less as real as the wall being built in Israel.
|Mrs. E Ok-San|
In December 2009, religious leaders from around the world, gathered for the Second Conference on Article Nine and Peace in Asia. There were various Buddhist, Christian and Muslim denominations represented. There was great meaning in gathering in Seoul, because we were all made aware of the realities of the Cold War which still divide the Korean peninsula. East Asia has not been able to move beyond the dualisms of the Cold War era. Part of our program was to join the sit-in mentioned above, and pray alongside these women who were victimized by war. We were all moved by the prayer offered by a Nihon Myohoji Buddhist priest from Japan– simple, and yet direct.
|Members at the Conference sponsored by NCCJ and NCCK|
I was reminded of the story of Jacob who wrestled all night with the angel of the Lord. Jacob refused to let the angel go until he received a blessing. Mrs. E is one of those Jacobs of our time. In her I see a faith that refuses to let go, trusting that God is a God of love and blessing for all.
Jeffrey Mensendiek serves with the Council on Cooperative Mission, assigned to the Gakusei (Student) Center in Japan. He serves as Director of Gakusei (Student) Center in Sendai, Japan.