International Program

Staff Report on Peace Seminar in Okinawa 2019

We are sorry it took us a while to write this, but please read the following staff report on the Peace Seminar in Okinawa 2019, held in February last year.

From February 18 to 23, 2019 (5 nights 6 days), Peace Seminar in Okinawa 2019 was held at the Ginowan Seminar House, Okinawa Christian Center in Ginowan, Okinawa.
We had 24 people (15 participants, 5 staff members, and 4 guest lecturers, etc.) from 4 countries – Korea, the Philippines, USA, and Japan. We have been holding the Peace Seminars in Korea since 2015, but responding to a request to have it in Japan, it was held in Okinawa in 2019 for the first time in 5 years since it was last held in Japan in 2014.

We had 4 objectives for the seminar in Okinawa:

  1. To learn history, culture, and social issues of Okinawa through classroom lectures and field studies in order to increase interest in social issues, international issues, and especially in peace, and obtain the ability to think with the global (and particularly Asian) perspective.
  2. To learn and think about the leadership that creates peace from a women’s point of view, experience the exchange of opinions among the participants with various backgrounds, and contribute to the nurturing of leadership in women with the international perspective.
  3. To contribute to the building of a trust relationship across the border by sleeping and eating together and exchanging cultures with other women of the same generation, mainly from Asia, and the building of a new community.
  4. To have an opportunity to think of the common issue, violence against women, by objectively observing the participants’ own countries and cultures in the pre-study.

In the seminar, we gained a profound understanding of the US military bases that Japan, Korea, and the Philippines have in common (although US military has withdrawn from the Philippines in 1992, the joint military exercises are still held every year), and also of the violence on women that occur in their vicinity from prior learning and presentations. Prior to

the seminar, the participants were given the assignment to research on how the sexual violence against women during WWII is taught in their own countries and how the victim women are testifying. Each country gave a presentation, which gave the participants the opportunity to look at something not only from their own countries’, but also from the other countries’ point of view. It was a precious moment to recognize the importance of looking at the same incident from different perspectives and the participants deepened mutual understanding.

We have invited Ms. Takasato, an activist in Okinawa and a female historian Ms. Miyagi as lecturers to the seminar, who gave us the opportunity to investigate history with a women’s point of view and to study Okinawa before, during, and after the war. From Prof. Akibayashi of the Graduate School of Global Studies, Doshisha University, who is an activist as well as a researcher, we were able to learn about the peace movement from the international feminist’s perspective. The lecturer from the Philippines, Deaconess Framo of the Philippine United Methodist Church gave us a lecture on how to put peace building to practice on the basis of Christianity.

By looking into the history and the present of Okinawa’s sufferings from the common perspective of women’s rights, we could think from the broader point of view of the victims’ pain and of the human rights violation (especially, violence against women) that are taking place every day in the conflict areas and all over the world. We went to see the US military base from outside, and the experience of seeing the reality of military affairs with their own eyes escalated the interest of young participants in the international affairs.

Thanks to the great cooperation of the Ginowan Seminar House of the Okinawa Christian Center in Ginowan, Okinawa, it was made possible to see such places as the battlefield ruins of Okinawa, the US military base, and the building site of Henoko Base. We are also grateful to Ms. Suzuyo Takasato’s endeavors for inviting many female lecturers to the seminar. (Photo by Paul Jeffrey)

In the seminar, women at the same generation from 4 different countries praised the Lord, studied, ate, and had many experiences together. We sincerely hope that this experience made the first step toward truly building peace.

The Wesley Foundation was planning to hold a peace seminar from February 25 to 29, 2020 in Jeju, Korea, but unfortunately, it was called off due to the spread of Covid-19. We will, however, continue to plan peace seminars after next year.