|N2K Conference Apologizes to
Asks JACL to Do Same
by MARTHA NAKAGAWA
Mitsuru "Mits" Koshiyama, 75, a devout United Methodist before World War II, completely lost faith in the Christian church after hostilities broke out. He saw no spiritual leader fight for the constitutional or human rights of Japanese Americans and found himself further alienated from the church after becoming one of 85 Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee members, men who spent time in a federal penitentiary for refusing to fight in the U.S. Army until they and their families were released from concentration camps and their civil rights restored.
Today, Koshiyama has hope.
At the Nikkei 2000 Conference in San Francisco on April 30, an interfaith coalition passed a resolution publicly apologizing to the resisters of conscience and further asking the JACL to do the same at their June national convention in Monterey, Calif.
Of the 85 participants at the conferences final session, 82 people voted for the resolution with three abstentions.
"I think the religious groups are finally realizing that the dissidents in camp had every right to protest," said Koshiyama. "We were all victims of racism. We all suffered."
The interfaith resolution comes three weeks before "Conscience and the Constitution," Frank Abes documentary on the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee, is set to premiere in Los Angeles, and eight weeks before the national JACL convention.
At the JACL convention, the national council is expected to vote on a new resisters resolution, which is being sponsored by the Pacific Northwest District, Florin chapter, Sequoia chapter, Golden Gate chapter and the Honolulu chapter "Im glad to see that a resolution will be presented at the JACL convention this year because I think its important that the dialogue on the dissenters issue take place," said John Tateishi, national JACL director. "I cant predict what the JACLs decision might be, but Im hoping we can begin the process of healing through dialogue."
Koshiyama is encouraged by this latest gesture from the interfaith group. "I really thought the spiritual leaders should have been the first ones to fight for our constitutional rights," said Koshiyama. "I think they had a moral obligation to do so. Today, I am very pleased. Its great that the spiritual leaders, without any prodding from anybody, passed this resolution."
Koshiyama further commended the group for addressing the failure of the Christian leadership in remaining silent while Buddhist leaders and Issei were rounded up by the FBI and incarcerated at Department of Justice camps. The interfaith resolution of reconciliation was the brainchild of Rev. Lloyd K. Wake, 78, a retired clergy from Northern California. "The dissidents took a very principled stand in resisting but they have not been fully affirmed and recognized," said Wake. "We felt it was important to take action rather than talk in a general way. This resolution was a concrete way to take action."
Wake, a former Poston III internee, admitted that he was a "naive teenager" during the war years who paid little attention to political issues. It was not until he left camp and entered the Christian ministry in 1948 that his social consciousness was raised, he said.
While he had always heard of the resisters, he was not fully aware of their experiences until he attended a Tule Lake pilgrimage in 1998. There he met a Tule Lake resister, in addition to no nos and renunciants. He credited Frank Iritani, 79, of Sacramento, for planting the seed to draw up an interfaith resolution.
Iritani, a longtime JACLer, MIS veteran and a member of the Centennial Methodist Church, had been in contact with Wake during last years failed attempt by the national JACL to pass a resolution apologizing to the resisters.
He noted that this divisive issue has been brought up at every JACL national convention since the 1988 Seattle convention and that he personally knew a handful of people who vehemently opposed any offer of an apology to the resisters.
In an effort to bring about reconciliation, Iritani said, "To my mind, we needed to raise it to a spiritual level, a theological level, and bring more understanding, compassion and forgiveness to bring about peace. We needed to get different religions involved to try to reason it out and bring this to a higher level of thinking."
Marvin Uratsu, 75, an MIS veteran and member of the Berkeley Methodist United Church, also had a hand in drafting the interfaith resolution. During Uratsus tenure as president of the MIS Association of Northern California, the largest MIS group on the continental United States, the veterans unanimously passed a resolution of reconciliation with the resisters on Jan. 28, 1999.
"I think this is a wonderful step for the interfaith group to make," said Uratsu. "Theyre not just preaching from the pulpit, saying do this or do that. Theyre doing something about it with this resolution. And I think theyre taking a step to reconcile the split with the resisters of conscience, the JACL and the community in general." It is Uratsus hope that the JACL will do the same in June. "Hopefully, they (JACL) will take this into consideration and pass a resolution reconciling the two groups," said Uratsu. "Its about time."
Wake said they plan to send the resolution to the national JACL convention where he hopes JACL will "extend an apology to the resisters."
Updated: May 12, 2000