Japanese church leader hails U.S. resolution on WWII-era 'comfort women'

Japanese church leader hails U.S. resolution on WWII-era 'comfort women'

August 06, 2007
Written by Bennett Guess

The head of the National Christian Council in Japan has welcomed a U.S. House of Representatives resolution that demands Tokyo's formal apology for a system of sexual slavery that existed during the Second World War, and whose victims were euphemistically called "comfort women."

The Rev. Toshimasa Yamamoto, general secretary of the Japanese Christian council, told Ecumenical News International he welcomed the U.S. lawmakers' resolution, and that, "The Japanese government should recognize its responsibility and make an official apology."

The resolution was unanimously adopted on July 31. It states that, "The government of Japan should formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner."

Mike Honda, a Japanese-American representing the Democratic Party, in what is the lower house of the U.S. Congress, introduced the resolution, and later he described its passage as a beginning. "It is sending a strong signal to Japan's political community," he said.

Yamamoto, who is a United Methodist pastor, commented, "The resolution is part of what Christians in Korea and Japan have sought for so far." He added, "The NCCJ, primarily through its women's committee, will continue to address the issue of 'comfort women' in collaboration with Christians in Korea and citizens' groups."

On July 31, three citizens' groups in Japan, including Violence Against Women in War - Network Japan, co-led by Rutsuko Shoji, a member of the United Church of Christ in Japan, published a proposal that also called for the Japanese government to apologise to the victims of sexual slavery. The groups said the apology should be made in "an official and formal manner", and that the government should implement measures to show the world the apology was genuine.

The statement was approved by 32 groups in Japan, of whom six were Christian and it included the NCCJ women's committee, the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace, and the Japan Christian Women's Organization.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe enraged many Asians in March when he asserted that there was "no proof" that women had been forced to work as sex slaves to the Japanese Imperial Army during the war. Christian groups from Japan and other parts of the world protested about the comments.

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