Canadian Activist Demands Japan's Apology for Atrocities
by Al Campbell
As the world marks the 75th anniversary of the Nanjing massacre, which left an estimated 300,000 dead, a local activist has repeated her call for Japan to apologize and make restitutions.
Thekla Lit, founder of the British Columbia Association for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia (BC ALPHA), said Friday this was necessary to "prevent such crimes against humanity" happening again.
"After 75 years, when these atrocities were committed, still, up to this day, Japan has not faced up squarely to this chapter of history and there are still many deniers who say the Nanking massacre is a fabrication," Lit said.
"But with the survivors basically passing away, it's even more important for us to keep this memory alive so these stories will not be lost," she said.
Speaking at Vancouver high school, where BC ALPHA hosted a two-day symposium themed "Human rights in the Asia-Pacific 1931-1945," Lit, a former senior lecturer at Hong Kong's City University, blamed the allies' poor handling of Japan following the country's defeat in World War II for the ongoing hostility that continues to this day.
Unlike Nazi Germany, where the allies largely purged the country of war criminals, many of Japan's top wartime officials were not punished and went on to become politicians and other high-ranking officials in the country's government, Lit said.
"So, for them, they still believe that it was a holy war. So, if they still believe that was a holy war, then why would they apologize? If more people learn about this chapter of history and the rest of the world will also give more pressure to Japan, then they have to really come to face this chapter of history squarely and eventually make an apology and sincere compensation apology to these victims."
Founded in 1997, BC ALPHA has played a major role in Canada in educating both teachers and students about Japan's wartime atrocities in Asia. Unlike the acts of the Nazis, whose crimes are widely covered in Canadian school curriculums, China's "forgotten holocaust" in Nanjing, carried out by the invading Japanese army during a six-week period starting in December 1937, remains largely unknown.
To promote awareness of the atrocities, BC ALPHA has brought more than 200 western teachers to Nanjing over the past eight summers to provide them with a first-hand insight.
Lit told Xinhua she would like to see details of the Nanjing massacre taught in every Canadian school, but currently it is optional and up to the teacher to include it in the curriculum.
Thomas Lalonde, a teacher at R.A. McMath Secondary School in Richmond, a Vancouver suburb city, participated in the first Peace and Reconciliatory tour for educators in 2004.
"Anytime you meet survivors who have been through what these people have been through, it's so touching," he said. "It really brings home the importance of trying to communicate that to the kids, developing that kind of empathy, to truly understand what it felt like to go through these events."
Marius van Dijk van Nooten, one of the Vancouver symposium speakers, knows exactly what it feels like. In 1942, when he was only 11 years old, the Dutch national was interned in a Japanese P.O.W. camp in Indonesia and he stayed there for three and a half years.
Now 82, the retired ship captain said he has suffered from post-traumatic syndrome disorder from his internment experience and felt there would never be peace in Asia until Japan issued a formal apology for its wartime activities.
"I don't think all the Japanese are like that. There's a few hardliners who are still in the government and refuse to do that (apologize)," van Dijk van Nooten said.
Lit said: "Peace only comes from justice, redress and reconciliation. Without this, without apology, without compensation, how can peace be achieved?" she said.
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