Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Patriot An Seen by Japanese Catholics

On March 26 a Mass was said in China at the Lushun Prison in Dalian where Patriot An was put to death. Ucanews article gives the details. The recent issue of Gaudium and Spes tells us about Bishop Daiji Tani of Saitama, who went to China with 51 Japanese Catholics.

When the bishop was a young man he took part in movements advocating for more rights for Koreans, denouncing the rampant prejudice against Koreans living in Japan at that time. It was then that he heard about An Jung-geun and, later, after making a trip to Patriot An's memorial museum, was greatly moved and decided to study his life.

"An was," said Bishop Tani, "a very devout Catholic who felt that there was no other path but killing. I have given much thought to this situation and can sympathize with his pain. Dialogue and talk about peace were of no avail in stopping the Japanese aggression. This year is the 100 anniversary of Patriot An's death and I wanted to visit Lushun. I want to have that same desire for peace."

Although many Japanese still consider Patriot An a terrorist, the bishop, surprisingly, some may think, made the trip to the prison in China and spoke glowingly of An's life and aspirations. There are many Japanese bishops, like Bishop Tani, who have made known their love and desire for justice for the Koreans. During the Koreans' fight for human rights, the Japanese bishops were on the side of the movement for freedom, and on a number of occasions gathered funds to help those in prison. When past president Kim Dae-jung was condemned to death, they worked to save his life. The effort to be on the side of those who are oppressed in another country is not an easy task, but during those dark 10 years the Japanese bishops worked for the oppressed here in Korea.

The writer of the article, after talking with Japanese priests, sees a big difference in the two Churches. In Japan, it is hard to distinguish bishops, priests and lay people when together in a group. The difference shows up in the roles they play in the church; rank is not considered important. The Japanese Church, in this regard, has a great deal to teach us.

Here in Korea the feelings against the Japanese are still present in the minds of our people. Some of the atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese are often recounted to ignite the passions of our Koreans. This seems to be a way we get back at those we have little sympathy for. It would be better for all of us if we could get into the habit of reevaluating these 'truths' from the past. People do change, as do companies, societies, communities, governments and nations. We must give them all a chance to change and allow ourselves the right to change as well. Hopefully, we will then react differently than we have in the past.