Flying the flag of reconciliation
A DIVERSE group of locals gathered at the Lismore Uniting Church on Saturday night to mark the return of two war souvenirs to Japan in the spirit of peace and reconciliation.
A Japanese military sword and a Rising Sun Flag were presented to Buddhist Minister, the Reverend Shigenobu Watanabe, in a multi-faith service with representatives from 35 religions.
Organised by the groupRemembering and Healing Old Wounds, the service continued a strong post-World War II tradition in Lismore of building bridges with modern Japan.
Remembering and Healing Old Wounds was formed by three Lismore women of Australian, German and Jewish heritage, whose families were all affected by war in different ways.
In a moving speech on the eve of Anzac Day, Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell, who lost a family member on the notorious Thai-Burma railroad in WWII, reminded the congregation that Lismore led the way in such reconciliation.
In 1963, representatives of the city signed the first Australian Sister City relationship with Japanese city Yamato Takada – just 18 years and a day after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, shortly before the end of World War II.
The Sister City relationship was initiated by a Lismore Marist priest working in post-war Japan, the late FatherTony Glynn, whose brother, Father Paul Glynn, inspired the formation of the Lismore reconciliation group.
As documented on Lismore City Council’s website, The Northern Star’s coverage of the 1963 Sister City signing was reported in the Japanese press, leading Father Tony Glynn to comment at the time: “The open-heartedness of the Lismore welcome impressed (the Japanese) deeply ... I personally felt very proud of the big-heartedness of Lismore and of The Northern Star.”
Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin, who also attended Saturday’s church service, described the gesture as a very practical and symbolic act of reconciliation, and said the path to peace was never aneasy one.
“It requires the commitment of individuals and the community,” she said.
“On the eve of Anzac Day my thoughts are with the veterans. I always look to them for the leadership they have shown in reconciliation.”
The Rev Watanabe graciously accepted the flag and the sword, saying the Japanese Consulate General in Sydney would research the origins of the items in order to repatriate them.