About Life and Death


  • Reflection on my 90th birthday –

Rumour has it that Dustin Hoffman’s tombstone is expected to have an inscription: “I knew it would happen.”

Death is not a morbid subject of conversation. When I came to Canada in 1957, I found it strange that suicide was felony; condoms were hidden and sold from under the counter; and abortion and homosexual acts were illegal. I assumed it was the influence of Judeo-Christian culture to encourage procreation and to deny death. In Japan: “Death is real and Life is a sweet dream.” But it’s changed in Canada.

Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) is legal and a few thousand Canadians benefit from it every year. Gay ministers of religion have been around for more than a few years in major Christian denominations, and same sex couples have been marrying legally for a few years. Conservatives try to avoid the subject of abortion to keep the votes from the middle of the road.

On the surface the Bible is very anti-gay and against masturbation. Lesbianism is ignored because it does not prevent procreation, nevertheless they had been persecuted though there is no Biblical base to condemn it. It was all about preventing waste of sperms. “Thou shall not kill” was a commandment applicable only within the tribe, meanwhile killing members of other tribes was tolerated, even encouraged. They all point to the supreme directives: procreate and proliferate.

It made sense when untimely early death was common and all outsiders were ready to kill you. It was a dangerous and unhealthy world. Too many infants died, many more than those survived. Henry VIII married six wives but had only one male heir. Other tribes were enemies. Humans killed each other by the hundreds of thousands throughout history. Hence life was most precious and death was to be avoided at all cost.

Thank God paradigms shifted: Life and death are no longer oxymoron. They are two sides of a coin. We had dreaded death because too many people died too early, and too often suffered painfully.

I eat wisely, exercise regularly. I enjoy life: family, friends, food, and nature. Without sickness and violence, our natural life should be much longer than it is now. I am an optimist. Prophet Isaiah said, “One who dies at one hundred years will be considered a youth.” Reality is moving rapidly closer to Isaiah’s ideals. It’s not unusual to see obituaries of centenarians. Dying no longer has to be painful. We live longer, procreate and proliferate faster, and stay healthy to the extent that the major concern now is the unsustainable large population.

When Homo Sapience became self-conscious and aware of finitude, the reaction was denial: “They die, but I won’t. I am different: chosen, special, top of the food chain.” So we conjured up something like “god” who will tweak the nature and make us live forever. Imagination invented “Eternal Life.” But now we can live until we are tired of it. MAID rendered “eternal life” pointless. My mother died in sleep at 96 and 1/2 years. She was happy and healthy until the end. Near the end however she kept saying, “My friends are gone. I can’t play piano anymore. Foods don’t taste the same. What’s the point?” Her wish was not eternal life. She wanted rest.

I intend to live fully. When the end comes whoever is out there will take care of the rest. I am happy with that.


For me, following Jesus means to join the company of his followers. I cannot do it alone. I am not brave. I witnessed the martyrdom of those who followed Jesus as they fought for justice in Palestine and South Africa. But I am like the Roman centurion who watched Jesus die on the cross from a safe distance and said, “This man was innocent.”

The people I accompanied were following Jesus in varied ways. Some were agnostics, humanists, Christians, or Muslims. Regardless of different labels, they were moved by the same spirit. Like the centurion who might have been a pagan, they reached the same conclusion as Jesus’ followers. They gave themselves entirely to the cause of justice, love, and peace – salaam – shalom. When a theological college awarded me an honorary degree, I did not feel worthy. I accepted it to celebrate those followers of Jesus I had known and named them in my acceptance speech. I am a witness to those who paid the ultimate cost of discipleship.

People must wonder if I am a reckless adventurer seeking excitement by being involved in the struggles of Palestinians and South Africans. It was not like that. I took the job that came my way, and realized the price of the choices I had unwittingly made. Nevertheless, I wanted to run every time I came face-to-face with harsh reality, like Peter did.

We went to Africa because, after eleven years in my first pastoral charge, I wanted change. I applied for an overseas posting with the United Church of Canada. Norman McKenzie, the personnel officer of the Division on World Outreach, asked me, “Africa or Asia?” I said “Africa.” He asked, “Lesotho?” I had never heard of such a country, but I said, “Yes.” That’s how I stumbled into the struggle against apartheid in South Africa in 1968. Was I seeking an adventure? No.

Lesotho is a tiny land-locked mountain kingdom surrounded by South Africa. The Paris Missionary Society of French Reformed Churches requested the United Church of Canada to recruit an English speaking person with a graduate degree in Theology. After a few months of orientation in Paris, we went to Lesotho where I met extraordinary colleagues and students. Some of their names you may recognize and others not, but each of them were equally committed to the struggle for justice.

Who were my colleagues and friends? Desmond Tutu was my colleague in Theology at the University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland. John Osmers was the chaplain of the Student Christian Movement. Another colleague, Anthony Gann was already prohibited to enter South Africa. The university had many South African students who were activists in the Black Consciousness Movement created by Steve Biko. They came to avoid racially-segregated university education. One was Njabulo Ndebele, who later became President of the University of Cape Town. Another was Jama Mbeki, a brother of the second President of free South Africa, Thabo Mbeki. Jama simply disappeared from the campus in 1971. To this day, nobody knows what happened to him.

Others died in the struggle. In 1976, Mapetla Mohapi was found dead in a prison cell in King Williams Town. He was probably killed while being tortured. Police were trying to find the names of overseas financial supporters of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), of which the World University Service (WUS), my later employer, was one. Mohapi was the treasurer of BCM. His wife, Nohle, wrote to me that it was the worst possible time for her. Their first child was just born and they just had a roof repaired. Griffith Mxenge, who was a lawyer for the BCM, was found shot dead on the street a few months after he and I had a meeting in Lesotho to discuss administrative matters. A year after Mohapi’s death, Steve Biko was beaten to death in the same prison. The whole world knows what happened to Steve Biko. But there was no real difference between those who lived or died. Following Jesus means one accepts the risk, the roll of the dice.

Two of my friends, both Anglican chaplains, John Osmers and Michael Lapsely, were nearly killed by parcel bombs. They lost a few limbs but survived. Abram Tiro was blown to bits in exile in Gaborone, Botswana, with a parcel bomb. The bombs were sent from Geneva, most likely by Craig Williamson who I had thought to be my good friend. He pretended to be a refugee. In 1980, Craig was exposed to be a spy for the South African Police. Sometimes following Jesus means you may run into Judas.

In January, 1971, I was detained at the Detention Centre in Johannesburg Airport while returning from a conference in Tanzania. Thereafter, I was expelled and prohibited further entry into the Republic of South Africa. At the time, I had no idea why it happened to me. I was not looking for trouble. I had not done or said anything subversive.

I stayed in Lesotho for five more years not being able to leave the land-locked country. Dentists were available only in South Africa. I had to ask someone to take my car into South Africa for service. To go outside of the country, I had to fly via a South African airport where I was required to be escorted by Canadian embassy staff. It became impossible to send my daughter to an English language secondary school outside of the country. We had to leave Southern Africa.

I took up a position in the World University Service (WUS) International Headquarters in Switzerland. It enabled me to continue working with the same people in Southern Africa. I administered funds to support the work of those who were engaged in the struggle for the freedom in South Africa. I always flew to Lesotho to meet with my partners from South Africa as I was not allowed in. And I came safely home while others stayed to pay a price.

While still in Lesotho, I asked the Canadian Embassy in South Africa to discover the reason for my detention and expulsion. It took several years. Initially, the Canadian Embassy in Cape Town dismissed my request for inquiry. This was how their letter began, “As a Canadian of non-European origin, etc., etc.” It sounded as though I did something wrong and Canada had two-tier citizenship. There was a strong protest from the United Church of Canada, spearheaded by Garth Legge, General Secretary of the World Outreach and my home Conference of British Columbia. Mitchell Sharp, the Minister for External Affairs, finally apologized and informed me that it seemed the South African authorities saw me as undesirable because of the kind of colleagues and friends I had. I didn’t choose them: they were there when I got there. Following Jesus can place you among the outcasts.

I have also met brave people in Palestine when I worked for the Canadian Council of Churches from 1979 to 1990. Part of my job was to represent Canadian churches that supported the Middle East Council of Churches. Also, for three months in 2003, I joined the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program of the World Council of Churches and lived in the West Bank village of Jayyous. One day, some farmers were prevented to go to their fields by a barricade and curfew, leading to a tense encounter between them and Israeli soldiers. Many young Israeli peace activists and my co-workers in the Accompaniment Program rushed to be with the farmers to provide them safe space. There was tear gas shot into the crowd. Where was I? I ran away to wash my eyes with a raw onion, an antidote for tear gas. I had to face the fact that I was not brave. Following Jesus teaches you humility.

I met many brave Christian Palestinians in Gaza Strip and West Bank, including Constantine Dabbagh, Doris Saleh, and Albert Nursy. They were the members of the Refugee Service Committee of the Council of Churches. Another was Emil Aghaby, a wealthy businessman who volunteered to administer the Middle East Council of Churches’ program in the refugee camps in Lebanon. He was later found shot dead on the road. They were all well-educated, middle-class Palestinians. By the 1980s, most middle-class Palestinian Christians had left for safer living conditions in other countries, and their numbers dropped from 26 to 5% of the total Palestinian population in the Holy Land. But my colleagues stayed behind to help those who could not migrate. Many traced their ancestry to the original Christians: the original followers of Jesus.

Saying “yes” to Lesotho changed my life. By chance, it set me on the road to South Africa and to Palestine. And on the road to Emmaus. The encounters on that path taught me many lessons. Those with whom I walked paid a heavy price. I am a witness for them.


1968 – 1980

For me, following Jesus means to join the company of his followers. I cannot do it alone. I am not brave. I am like the Roman centurion who watched Jesus died on the cross from a safe distance and said, “He was a good man.” I witnessed the martyrdom of those who followed Jesus. They fought for dignity of all people and for justice in Palestine and South Africa, like Jesus did for despised, poor, and sick. I can also be compared with John Mark, Barnabas’ nephew in the Gospel and the Acts of Apostles. Like him I walked with people who followed Jesus, but when I came face to face with the real test of strength of my faith, I got scared and ran away.

People I accompanied were all followers of Jesus but in varied ways. I don’t look at their labels: they were moved by the same spirit, like the Roman centurion who might have been a pagan but reach the same conclusion about Jesus as his followers did. Though they are labelled differently, they followed the same Jesus in spirit. They could have been atheists, agnostics, humanists, Buddhist, Christians, or Muslims. They believed in and gave themselves for the cause of justice, love, and peace – salaam – shalom. They were followers of Jesus just the same, just like Mahatma Gandhi and Dalai Lama.

When a theological college awarded me an honorary degree, I did not feel worthy. I accepted it to celebrate those followers of Jesus and named them in my acceptance speech. I am a witness to those who paid the ultimate cost of discipleship.

People must wonder if I am a reckless adventurer seeking excitement by being involved in the struggles of Palestinians and South Africans. It was not like that. I took the job that came my way, and paid the price of the choices I had unwittingly made. I wanted to run every time I came face to face with harsh reality.

We went to Africa because after 11 years in my first pastoral charge. I wanted change. I applied for overseas posting with the United Church of Canada. Norman McKenzie, the personnel officer of the Division on World Outreach, asked me, “Africa or Asia?” I said “Africa.” “Lesotho?” I had never heard of such a country, but I said, “Yes” to Lesotho. That’s how I stumbled into the struggle against apartheid in South Africa in 1968. Was I seeking adventures? No.

Lesotho is a tiny land-locked mountain kingdom surrounded by South Africa. The Paris Missionary Society of French Reformed Churches (La societe des mission Evangelique de Paris) requested the United Church to recruit an English speaking person with a graduate degree in Theology. So I went to Lesotho after a few months of orientation in Paris. Once in Lesotho I met colleagues like Desmond Tutu and Anthony Gann, and students like Steve Biko, Njabulo Ndebele, Jama Mbeki, and Shelagh Sisulu.

In January, 1971, I was detained for three days at the Detention Centre in Johannesburg Airport as I was returning from a conference in Tanzania. Thereafter, I was expelled and prohibited further entry into the Republic of South Africa. At the time I had no idea why such a thing could happen to me.

I stayed in Lesotho for five more years without being able to leave that land-locked country which is the size of Belgium. Dentists were available only in South Africa. I had to ask someone to take the car into South Africa for service. To go outside of the country, I had to fly via a South African airport where I was required an escort of a Canadian embassy staff. After five years without being able to get out of the land-locked country, the “prohibited Immigrant” status made it impossible to send my daughter to an English language secondary school. We had to leave Southern Africa.

I was recruited to take a position in the World University Service (WUS) International Headquarters in Switzerland. Our daughter went to a French language secondary school: no problem for a Canadian. The WUS position attracted me because it enabled me to continue to work with the same people in Southern Africa. My work involved administering funds to support people and their work who were engaged in the struggle for the freedom and justice for all people in South Africa.

While still in Lesotho, I asked the Canadian Embassy in South Africa to discover the reason for my detention and expulsion. It took several years for them to find it. Initially, however, the First Secretary of the Canadian Embassy in Cape Town dismissed my request for inquiry. This was how his letter began, “As a Canadian of non-European origin, etc., etc.” It sounded as though I did something wrong and Canada had two-tier citizenship. There was a strong protest from the United Church of Canada, spearheaded by Garth Legge, General Secretary of the Division of World Outreach and my home Conference of British Columbia. Mitchell Sharp, then the Minister for External Affairs finally apologized and informed me that it seemed the South African authorities saw me as undesirable because of my association with the kind of colleagues and friends I had. I didn’t choose them: they were there when I got there.

Who were my colleagues and friends? Desmond Tutu was one of my teaching colleagues in the Department of Theology at the University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland. John Osmers was the chaplain of the Student Christian Movement. Another colleague in Theology, an Anglican priest from Britain, Anthony Gann, also became prohibited to enter South Africa. The university had many South African students activists in the Black Consciousness Movement created by Steve Biko. They were there to avoid the racially segregated university education. Jama Mbeki was one. And Njabulo Ndebele was another, who later became President of the University of Cape Town. Jama was a brother of the second President of free South Africa, Thabo Mbeki. Jama simply disappeared from the campus in 1971. To this day, nobody knows what happened to him.

I was not looking for trouble. I was there for work. I had not done or said anything subversive about South Africa. In 1976, Mapetla Mohapi was found dead hanging in a prison cell in King Williams Town, Eastern Cape Province. He was probably killed accidentally while being tortured. The police were apparently trying to find the names of the overseas financial supporters of the Black Consciousness Movement (BMC), of which WUS was one. He was the treasurer of BCM. His wife, Nohle, wrote to me that it was the worst possible time for her. Their first child was just born and they just had a roof repaired. A year after Mohapi’s death, Steve Biko was beaten to death in the same prison. Other staff were banned – house arrest. Griffith Mxenge, who was a lawyer for the BCM, was found shot dead on the street of King Williams Town a few months after he and I had a meeting in Lesotho to discuss administrative matters. I always flew to Lesotho to meet with my partners in South Africa since I was not allowed in. The whole world knows what happened to Steve Biko. But other martyrs remain mostly unknown.

Two of my friends, both chaplains and Anglican priests from New Zealand, John Osmers and Michael Lapsely, were nearly killed by parcel bombs. They lost a few limbs but survived. The bombs were sent from Geneva by Craig Williamson who I had thought to be my good friend. In 1980, Craig was exposed to be a spy for the South African Police. He had pretended to be a political refugee and came to Switzerland. Abram Tiro also was blown to bits in his exile home in Gaborone, Botswana, with a parcel bomb.

I have also met brave people in Palestine when I worked for the Canadian Council of Churches from 1979 to 1990. I was assigned to a job representing Canadian Churches that supported the Middle East Council of Churches. Also for three months in 2003, I was a member of Ecumenical Accompaniment Program of the World Council of Churches and lived in the West Bank in a village called Jayyous. One day, some farmers who were prevented to go to their fields by a separation barrier and curfew, there was a tense encounter between farmers and the Israel Defence Force soldiers. Many young Israeli peace activists and my co-workers in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program rushed to be with the farmers to provide them safe space. There was tear gas shot into the crowd. Where was I? I was running away washing my eyes with a raw onion, an antidote for tear gas. I had to come face the fact that I was not brave.

Emil Aghaby, who was the coordinator of the Refugee Program for Palestinians in Lebanon, was found shot dead on the road, a victim of mistaken identity. He was a wealthy businessman who volunteered time to administer the Middle East Council of Churches’ program in the refugee camps in Lebanon. I met many brave Christian Palestinians in Gaza Strip and West Bank. Constantine Dabbagh, Doris Saleh, Albert Nursy, to name a few. They were all middle class educated Palestinians. I met them as the members implementing the Refugee Service Program of the Middle East Council of Churches. When a majority of those middle class Palestinians Christians left the homeland for better and safer living in other parts of the world, they stayed behind to help their compatriots who had no resource to migrate. Palestinian Christians are better educated hence have better chance to migrate and re-establish their life in safer countries. Palestinian Christians used to constitute 26% of Palestinian population in the Holy Land. Remaining Christians are now less than 5% of Palestinians. The Holy Land has been empties out of native Christians. Many of them claim their ancestry to the original Christians.

They followed Jesus and paid the heavy price. I am a witness for them.


The WW II ended in 1945: Many silly little life-style restrictions also ended in Japan. I was an incorrigible grade seven boy. Free at last! I decided to let my hair grow. Under the war-time regime, all school boys had to keep their hair very short. Only one shaggy head among several hundred short cropped hairs: mine must have stood out.

It took a while for people in the administration to decide how to handle the new situation. I was called to the principal’s office. They asked me why I had to look different. They didn’t know what to do with me, but they knew they couldn’t force me to cut my hair. I said, I got tired of cutting hair so often. Besides I said, my hair would not harm anybody except making me look weird.

Many people seem to have a problem wearing masks. Is the face mask the same question as length of hair? Is it attack on fundamental rights to freedom? I disagree. We wear a mask to prevent transmission of virus to other people; we don’t know if we have virus or not. But some people don’t see it that way. A face mask is uncomfortable. Maybe some people simply don’t like to be told, like the boy in the grade seven.

We do have the rights to liberty but we do not have freedom to endanger people’s lives. It’s like ignoring the traffic lights or texting while driving. Gun ownership poses the same problem.

Of course freedom is our fundamental right. It’s the hallmark of liberal democracy. It’s also what makes us creative and dynamic. Autocracy stifles creativity and is an attack on human dignity. It is a particular American dilemma. The U.S.A. is proudly a land of liberty. Freedom is sacred. The Second Amendment gives the right to bear arms against arbitrary measures.

That’s why Americans are creative and their society violent. Americans have won the largest number of Nobel Prize in many fields. Meanwhile it’s where the largest number of people killed by the guns held by fellow Americans: the second largest number of deaths after traffic accidents.

I treasure my freedom. I hold dear the same spirit of a long hair wiredo. But I want to live longer too.

SWITZERLAND – I worked for the World University Service in Geneva, Switzerland


by Tad Mitsui

I was employed by the International Office of the WUS in Geneva, Switzerland from 1975 until 1979. My job title was Associate Secretary for East and Southern Africa. I administered the largest funds in Southern Africa, namely Zimbabwe (as was called Rhodesia then) and South Africa. I was assigned also to keep contact with the national committees in Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Rhodesia, and Lesotho. There was no WUS Committee in South Africa but the WUS International worked directly with the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) for white students and the South African Students Organization (SASO) for blacks. I was also a lead contact with the committees in Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea because of my language ability.

I visited all the above national committees at least twice during my tenure, except for South Africa. When I was hired by the WUS International, I had been a “prohibited immigrant” in South Africa since 1971 following a brief incarceration and expulsion. So, I was not able to visit South Africa from Geneva, though it was where WUS International raised and spent the largest sum; Rhodesia being the number two. I met with South African project holders often in Lesotho. Other times, they came to Geneva.

* I once asked Richard Taylor, General Secretary, to visit all the WUS supported programs in South Africa.  I was very excited that Richard managed to spend time even with Steve Biko who was under house arrest as a  banned person.  Little did we know that Richard was followed by the security police everywhere he went.  We planned the whole excursion on consultation with Craig Williamson, who was working for the IUEF (International University Education Fund) as Deputy Director.  After I left Geneva, in 1980 Williamson was exposed to be a spy for the South African Police, a captain in the Special Branch. 

I was made aware of WUS for the first time by a plaque at the entrance of the university library in Lesotho in 1970. The plaque indicated the building was the donation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the WUS. I tried to find the WUS Committee in Lesotho. There was none. The committee had existed apparently but was disbanded. The relation with WUS was severed after the decision of the WUS General Assembly to establish contacts with anti-Apartheid movements and organizations. The Vice Chancellor at the time was British who did not think that keeping the connection with the organization explicitly against South Africa prudent because of the presence of a large number of South African students. It must have been the sign that a change was happening in WUS. In the 1960s many altruistic and activist organizations were shifting the emphasis towards social justice and away from merely charity and welfare.

In 1974, as Dean of Students of the university I encouraged students to revive the national WUS committee. I thought it would be a way for them to be involved in community and national development. The Committee did revive and was recognized at the 1974 WUS General Assembly. When the WUS Lesotho Committee was recognized, the new University Vice Chancellor was very pleased seeing a WUS national committee as an important channel of international assistance.

Among 12 national committees I was assigned to – nine were in Africa and three in Asia, – I observed that there were three categories of programs being implemented:
(1) Service to the students typically by providing important facilities e.g. libraries, residential accommodations and tuberculises sanatoria;
(2) Assistance to international students particularly refugees and disadvantaged students by unjust policy and system.
(3) participation in community development and popular consciousness raising programs.

Categories 1 and 2 were the original type of WUS programs in Europe after the World War I, which provided opportunity to continue university education for the prisoners of wars and the students with tuberculosis. Scholarships to refugee students displaced by war, civil unrest, and those disadvantaged by unjust society were a part of the category 2.

I classify most of the consciousness raising programs to No.3. They were, for example, the South African Committee for Higher Education (SACHED) and a few community development programs in black townships. There were several programs carried out by Black Consciousness Movement headed by Steve Biko. There was only one rural development program, which was based in an university; it was in Rwanda. I found it interesting that Tanzania and Zambia committees had not found their new niche after the governments introduced university students national service for development. Their Presidents’ (Julius Nyerere and Kenneth Kaunda) socialistic philosophy pre-empted WUS’s impetus. They have not found a new direction after ‘bricks and mortar’ foreign aid program in the WUS’ donor community became redundant.

  1. Of the committees I had related to, Sudan, Korea, and Japan focussed more on category one. Student residence s were in Khartoum in Sudan and Seoul in Korea and in Tokyo Japan. I believe Japan had a TB sanatorium as well. It was no longer there when I visited from Geneva.
  2. Scholarships: Burundi, Lesotho, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) administered scholarship program. In South Africa it was implemented by NUSAS which was a scholarship programs for black medical students and political prisoners. Burundi and Uganda administered the scholarships for Tutsi refugee students who escaped violence in Rwanda. They were the victims of the Hutu dominated government’s ethnic cleansing policy. In Lesotho, the WCC took over the WUS scholarship program for South Africans after the national committee was disbanded. WCC transferred the funds directly to the University administration, and it selected the recipients. Because scholarship administration required strict accounting protocol, all scholarship programs had volunteer financial administrators under national committee oversight. Most of my time was spent to keep contact with the administrators in stead of volunteer student committees. Administrators were mostly faculty members.

Program in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe was by far the largest in terms of the size of funds as well as the number of recipients. It was the program to support all black students at the University of Salisbury. Though the university admitted all races on A level school leavers, most black students could not afford the cost which was determined by the average income of white population: Hence the scholarship assistance. Source of funds was the WUS committees in Canada, Denmark, and the U.K. and one government direct, Sweden. WUS committees received their contributions from the government aid agencies also. Even in the implementation of scholarship programs, what should be noted was the shift from emphasis on welfare to social justice. All WUS scholarships were social justice actions fighting political and social injustice..

  1. Participation in development: a shift from welfare programs to an emphasis on social justice must have grown from the mere support of refugee students to include the support of students who were disadvantaged due to discrimination and other unjust practices. This shift towards social action programs included consciousness raising popular education to create more just society, it became massive and effective such as News Paper Education Supplement, and was exemplified by programs such as one created by the South African Committee on Higher Education (SACHED) and the Domestic Workers’ Project to make maids, nannies, and gardeners more aware of their conditions and their rights. The fact that those popular education programs quickly became the target of attack by the South African government proves that it was effective. News paper education supplement and the educators were banned very quickly. All the funds for South African programs were Swedish government grants. SACHED was the biggest program in terms of the size of funds in the WUS International.

One curious twist I found was in Rwanda: There was an active agricultural reserach program implemented by WUS students at the National University of Rwanda directly funded by Canadian government, in Butare in Southern Rwanda. I found it creative and well run. When I visited the university, the student body was exclusively from people of Hutu ethnic group. It might have been the result of civil unrest and exodus of the Tutsi population. It is an interesting question why the violent persecution, even the massacre and resultant exodus of the Tutsis produced an university where students were all Hutu and keenly interested in rural development. Was it accidental? I never had time to solve the puzzle. A decade and a half later, the genocides of the Tutsi by the Hutu government happened.

Another interesting feature of some WUS national committees was the relationship with the Student Christian Movement (SCM). I found this in Japan, Korea, and Zambia. Of course, until 1970, WUS International office was sharing the same building and services such as the receptionist and the custodian on rue Calvin in the historical old Geneva on the hill, with the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), which is the international headquarters of the SCM. Japan and Korea still operated student residences with strong tie with SCM. In Zambia, the WUS committee did not have any WUS program. It looked like a SCM national chapter. I know this because before I joined WUS in 1975, I was Regional Director of the South African UCM (SCM) for Lesotho and Orange Free State.

Finally, let me say a few words about the International office of the WUS in Geneva. The running of the office in Geneva on rue Cointrin was not in my job descriptions. For that reason, I never raised a serious alarm about the existential problem of the WUS International. However, I thought there were two dangerous aspects. Firstly, there was an over-dependence on government funding exclusively for Southern Africa programs; and secondly the source of largest amount of funds for Southern Africa was mostly from one country namely Sweden, where WUS had no national counterpart. Yet, the cost of running the office in Geneva was mainly financed by Swedish government funds as the fee for administration, which created a sort of organizational instability.

I conclude with the challenge from the experience of working in the World University Service in regards to the role of Civil Society, such as NGO, in the global human family. There has to be a balance of power between three sectors of global human family: Market, Civil Society, and Government. Margaret Thatcher said, “There is no such thing as SOCIETY. There is only MARKET.” Charles de Gaulle said, “Government has no CAUSE only INTEREST.” The demise of WUS International is the result of NGO losing its independence as it turned into GONGO (Government sponsored NGO.)

Learning to Grow Old – Canada


In Asian culture, old people are honoured and respected. So when I was ordained to be a minister, I tried to look older. The tenet still dictates my consciousness. I don’t want to be young again with all that struggle with self-confidence and frustration. Nevertheless, getting old is never easy.

The ultimate insult for a Japanese man’s ego is having to ask for a fork at a Japanese restaurant. The muscles of my hands atrophied and can not handle chopsticks any more. I drop things. Body parts are replaced by artificial ones one by one. At the bottom of the staircase, I don’t remember why I came to the basement. “Aging isn’t for a SISSY.” said late Stuart McLean. The most difficult is to be honest with one’s conditions without self-pity and whingeing. Someone who is trying to help you is not insulting you. You must recognize reality with dignity and accept help gracefully.

Once, at a board meeting of a not-for-profit organization, the discussion focussed on the status of one person’s membership on the board, who had become a liability. He seemed to have joined the organization only for power and social standing. The question was: “Why should he stay with us when nobody can work with him?” No one could think of a good reason to keep him. But one person pointed out, “But he’s got money.” The board kept him on.

When libido recedes and stomach shrinks, you find yourself more desperate to hang on to the only thing left, pride. Some men become more greedy: yes, mostly men. There is no more pathetic person than a shrivelling old man obsessed with wealth and power. I notice that the rich and powerful die about the same age as average people. What they crave don’t seem to add even a year to their lifespan. Death lets us know that pleasure, money and power are only for what Japanese call “ukiyo” – the fleeting world. You can not take them with you once you leave this world. Then I have to ask myself, “What for?”

It’s good that I do not make unwise decisions as often as before. It seems accumulated pieces of knowledge have been sifted through a mesh. Trivial and unimportant junk seems to have been deleted with a click. It’s time to sit and wait for the spirit to catch up with me.

We are what we are, not what we do.

GOVERNMENTS ARE PAYING MANY PEOPLE FOR DOING NOTHING during the current crisis. Is this our future?

Once I nearly missed a flight because I got confused with a self-check-in machine and needed a help of an airline attendant. Furthermore there were fewer luggage drop-off counter; the customers had to spend more time in line. Airlines is saving money with smaller staff at the expense of customers’ time. Progress means less people?

A 14 year old geek can handle the automatic checkout with one eye on smart-phone, but not me. I didn’t want to wait in line for just a bunch of green onions. I got all muddled up and an attendant had to come to rescue me. Here again, I noticed there were fewer check out-counters with real persons serving; another case of a business saving money at the expense of customer’s time and grief.

Is all this automation a way to make humans redundant? Thanks to mechanization farmers who constitute 1.7% of population are now producing more food than the time when farmers numbered multiple times more. More is on the way: driver-less cars, parcel delivery by drones, automated factories, self-directing vacuum cleaners. During the Cold War, there were rumours about the development of neutron bomb. Its idea was a weapon that kills humans without damaging physical assets: absolute abomination.

I don’t think Mr. Trump is right to blame trade treaties for unemployment. It is automation, computerization, mechanization, robotics that are making people losing jobs. But humans are not disappearing; if at all we will be more in number. In these circumstances, there has to be a radical paradigm shift with our idea of who we are.

We have to move away from the notion of “We are what we do.” We have to accept ourselves as what we are regardless of what we do. I am a human being whatever I’m doing. When I introduce myself as a retired person, I feel obliged to find a way to justify my existence by describing how I spend my time. If I say, “Actually I do nothing,” people think I am being funny. So I say something like, “I write.” But I should not have to say what I do to win the right to occupy space and eat food. “I don’t apologize,” something like that, said John Wayne. I have a right to live and be loved by simply being alive and cranky.


I believe in religion. I go to church regularly and never miss the chance to go to a mosque when invited. I enjoy chatting with my Buddhist colleague Rev.Yasuo Izumi about religion. As Yuval Harari said, “humans think in stories not in facts, numbers and equations.” Religion is a story; a system created by imagination. If it’s not religion, it’s beauty, ethics, ideal, ideology, or tradition. Money is another product of imagination. Its value is nothing but the trust in the system agreed upon. Without the trust in what it promises, money is worthless. “In God we trust,” says Greenback. We create stories by imagination and put trust in what we imagined. But greed and hubris can easily transform religions into dark force.

It was in Jerusalem: I used to go there yearly during the 1980’s for refugee work. It was not the constant conflicts between two groups of sons and daughters of Abraham and Sarah; Arabs and Jews. It was the centuries’ old enmities between the believers of Jesus the Christ that made me ready to quit religion altogether. Go and see the Church of Holy Sepulchre, for example. Churches have been fighting over ridiculous inches of the space in the sanctuary. It’s all about property, and the money pilgrims/tourists bring in. I realized that Jerusalem was the location of butchery by Christians more than a millennium.

Marriage of religion and power makes it the agent of evil (paraphrase), said Salman Rushdie when he was under the threat of death “Fat’wa” by Ayatola Khomeni. Christianity became a demonic power after Emperor Constantine made the Christian Church the establish state religion during the fifth Century. Butchery: Crusades, Hundred Year War, Inquisition, Misogyny, Witch Hunt, Colonialism, Holocaust, including “Indian Residential School” ensued. All because of the pursuit of domination in stead of justice and love. I speak of Christianity because that’s the one I know. But other religions are guilty as well. Think what’s Buddhists are doing to the Muslims in Myanmar, for example.

My co-religionists lament secularization and demise of religious institutions. I don’t. After 15 centuries of living in the “glorious misunderstanding” (the words by Swiss theologian, Emil Brunner), the Christianity finally has a chance return to its true being, sort of like a homeless bare-foot prophet in the wilderness crying out for justice, love, and mercy.

Lethbridge Japanese Garden is a pearl



The idea of Nikka Yuko (Japan-Canada Friendship) Garden was inspired by Rev. Yutetsu Kawamura of the Buddhist Temple in Raymond. He believed that to heal the pain of injustice was a gesture of friendship for reconciliation not a demand for compensation nor revenge. The following is the story of another Japanese Canadian religious man who lived in Southern Alberta during the Second World War.

Rev. Jun Kabayama was removed from his church in Ocean Falls in the British Columbia in 1942 under War Measures Act which defined all Canadian citizens of Japanese descent as “Enemy Aliens. He was re-assigned by the United Church of Canada to begin a Japanese speaking congregation in Lethbridge. ” However, the law did not allow him to live in Lethbridge. So he and his family lived in Raymond.

My mother, Natsuno Mitsui, married Rev. Jun Kabayama in 1974. He lost his wife a few years previously, and my mother had been a widow for 20 years. When I came to Lethbridge to retire, I found that Rev. Kabayama was the founder of Japanese United Church here. I had run into him from time to time as a fellow United Church minister before. He came to visit us in Geneva in Switzerland as a newly married man to my mother in 1974. That was the only chance I had to get to know him. It was only a few days. By the time I returned to Canada from overseas service in 1980, Rev. Kabayama was recently deceased. So my knowledge of his life in Lethbridge was mainly from historical documents and other material like diaries of other United Church ministers. I only remember him as a stoic man of few words with a straight back; a Samurai from the country of Samurai, Satsuma; the Southern tip of the southmost island of Japanese archipelago, Kyushu.

Canadian Japanese clergy people struggled to begin their ministry in the new locations under difficult conditions. Many of them did not have cars as all cars and radios were confiscated when they were ordered to move out of the B.C. coast. Despite difficult conditions, when I came to Canada in 1957, eight years after they were allowed to return to the coat or to disperse across Canada, I had never sensed bitterness among them. It astonished me. I wondered if it was a manifestation of stoicism Japanese people grew up with. It is expressed in a familiar saying “Shikataganai.” It means, “You can not do anything about it. No use holding a grudge.” It is similar to the prayer of the Alcoholics Anonymous, “Lord, give us serenity to accept what we can not change; and courage to change what we can.”

I heard an amazing story of Rev. Kabayama’s difficult ministry in Southern Alberta, but not from him. He only spoke about good times filled with blessing. I learned about his difficulty, not only lack of mode of transport but also hostility he encountered not allowing him to live in Lethbridge, from a diary of another Japanese Canadian minister, Rev. Dr. Kosaburo Shimizu. In one of the entries about his visit to Alberta, he mentioned Kabayama’s bicycle. He was amazed how Kabayama travelled from Raymond to Lethbridge everyday on a bicycle, through rain, shine, and snow, 38 kilometres one way even in minus 20 degree temperature. He took the picture of Kabayama in his winter outfit. I found a picture of him with the bicycle in the 100th anniversary edition of the commemorative publication for Japanese United Churches. It is a picture of Kabayama all bundled up in layers. Shimizu’s comment was something like, “Strange creature!”

Kabayama covered the area from Coalhurst to Taber, Coaldale to Lethbridge from his home in Raymond. He rented spaces in Lethbridge United Churches to hold services on Sundays at Southminster United Church chapel and others. He visited other towns where people were relocated to work for sugar beat farms as often as he could on the bicycle. In those places he held monthly “Katei-shukai” – house church worship services. There is no record of the time when he was permitted to own a vehicle. But his bicycle ministry must have lasted for a few years. By the time he was reassigned by the Home Mission Board to Kelowna, B.C. he was driving his own car, in 1949.

When I think of Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, I think of pearl; that beautiful jewel from the sea. Pearl is produced to ease the pain caused by a foreign object accidentally invading the shell fish like mollusk. It keeps excreting mucus to cope with the pain in stead of expelling the offending object. In the end, sticky substance coagulates into a hard object transforming itself into a beautiful jewel. That is Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden.

How Can I forgive a man who pretended to be my friend?


A South African journalist, Jonathan Ancer, recently published a book “SPY: Uncovering Craig Williamson.” Ancer interviewed me on Skype for this book because I knew Craig, whom I thought was my friend. I met with him often over meals to catch up. But his friendship was a deception. He was a spy, a Captain in the South African State Security. For several years he pretended to be an activist working to change the racist political system. He not only infiltrated the international organizations but also killed and injured numerous people, including some friends.

During the late 1970’s, I was working at the International Headquarters of the World University Service in Geneva Switzerland. My job was to raise funds for and to support the movements fighting the racist system within South Africa. One of them was “National Union of South African Students” (NUSAS). I met Williamson first time at the Johannesburg Airport in 1975. He came to meet me in place of Karel Tip, who had just been jailed. Tip was President of NUSAS and Williamson was Treasurer. By then I was a persona-non-grata in South Africa, so I met with my contacts in neighbouring Lesotho and Botswana, or in the airport building which was outside of South African jurisdiction. Eventually he came to Geneva pretending to be a refugee. He spied on many international organizations with the help of naive armatures like me.

In April, 1994, I was back in South Africa as a member of the International Election Monitoring Group. Immediately after elected President, Nelson Mandela announced a plan to introduce “Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” The idea was to allow people on both sides to come forward and confess what they committed during the Apartheid offing amnesty. I said, “No, you can not do that!” I could not bear the thought of a person like Craig Williamson walking away scot-free. The fact is that was what happened.

I read Ancer’s book. Craig admitted what he did and was never charged; now a wealthy business man. He showed no remorse: “I did my job. It’s a soldier’s job to kill.” It’s difficult to forgive him. I am not a good Christian. However, without the Mandela/Tutu “tell the truth and be forgiven” measures, South Africa would have had a horrendous blood bath, and may be like another dysfunctional Zimbabwe.

Return to South Africa


Last month, Muriel and I travelled in three Southern African countries, Lesotho, South Africa, and Zimbabwe We thought this might be my last time to make such an extensive trip. I wanted to look up friends – former colleagues and students. Sure we saw elephants and giraffes and pony trekking, but. We wanted to see again counties and peoples that taught me so much about the life according to the Good News. It was Spring time with jacaranda and plum blossoms in full bloom.

In Cape Town, a few former students organized a party for us in the home of one of them. Also, we were able to have a cup of tea with the only remaining my former colleague, Desmond Tutu. They did well: Desmond of course, the host, Prof. Njabulo Ndebele, is a South Africa’s famous writer and a public intellectual, a former President of the University of Cape Town. There was another university president. Among the same generation of the student body, we counted two U.N. Ambassadors, Director General of World Food Program, and one Prime Minister, and a few successful business people, and M.P.’s.

We wondered how a small insignificant fledging university of 500 students (now 8000) located in a world’s poorest country managed to produce so many nation builders and successful people. Faculty was not all that spectacular; except Desmond Tutu. We agreed that we were all highly motivated, political refugees, driven by passion to excel for the future of their nations. It’s the students who made an university not money nor famous professors.

Lesotho and South Africa are hauntingly beautiful countries, striving toward democracy. We saw that they were well on their way. Democracy is a messy system so at times it’s chaotic. But it’s now an envy of all African, frocking into South Africa in droves just like Mexicans in the United States. It’s all because of one man’s idea of justice and reconciliation. Nelson Mandela forgave the past and brought in the very old notion of Reconciliation. It spared the country of blood-shed and hostility. I can not think of any other example in history. Forgiveness? Reconciliation between enemies? And it worked. The founder of Lesotho King Moshoeshoe was the same: he advocated and practised accommodation. Thing is it’s working.

Contrast is Zimbabwe, from where some students also came escaping Rhodesian racial policy. But a dictator is hanging onto power discarding democratic principles, thus having created a dysfunctional country. It’s still gorgeous place but things and organizations often don’t work.

Forgiveness, justice, and reconciliation truly work. Besides, people are kind and sing like angels. We loved it. You may leave Africa but Africa never leaves you.

P.S. The Protestant Chapel on the Lesotho University campus was completed after forty years. It was dedicated after we left. When I was there, we always had to borrow Catholic space when it was not in use. It is a beautiful brick building mainly built by volunteers.

Secular society protects minorities

I am Christian therefore I fight for the minority rights

There is nothing more irksome than someone misrepresenting me.  I totally disagree with Russel Whittaker.  In his letter to the editor to the Lethbridge Herald on June 9 he blamed non-Christian immigrants who caused the Supreme Court of Canada to ban the recitation Lord’s Prayer in public schools and city halls in Canada. He demanded that such non-Christian immigrants should go back to where they came from.  His view of claiming a majority rights of Christians does not represent me at all.  I am a committed Christian too, but I vigorously defend the rights of minority to remain different and to be comfortable among us.  My Christian conviction dictates that a civilised democratic country respects the rights of the minority and the vulnerable: such a country needs to be secular.

My father was a Methodist Minister during the WW II in Japan.  He often did not come home after Sundays for a few days.  Until recently I did not know that he spent those times interrogated about  his sermons by “Tokko Keisatsu” – the Special Police Force like German Gestapo .   He was pressured to confess and declare the divinity of the emperor.  He refused. The divinity of the Commander-in-Chief, the emperor, was the basis of the absolute power the military wielded.  Some ministers of religion were beaten to death during interrogation.  Dad died soon after the end of the war at the age of fifty from the stress he suffered.  This is the reason why Japanese Christians today are fierce advocates of the secular state: no official observance of any religion in public.

Orthodox Churches in Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, and Syria are ancient churches probably founded by the original Apostles.  Today they are in minority surrounded by Muslims and  are sometimes  persecuted.  In extreme cases, they are brutally killed as we observed recently in Lybia, Iraq, and Syria by extremists.  This is why they advocate for secular states: no observance of any religion in public life.  In Israel and Palestine, the minority Arab Orthodox Christians have been leaving the region in droves because of being minority among Jewish and Muslims majority.  As the result, there are more Christian Palestinians living in Canada than in Jerusalem today.  Some of them are descendants of the original Christians claiming the origine of their tradition to the Pentecost.  I know one of them.

To me, the essence of the Gospel is inclusiveness, tolerance, and universal love.  Unfortunately some of us who called ourselves Christians do not live up to that standard, and mis-take dominance and exclusion as faithfulness.  Have we not learn anything from the barbarous and tragic history of “Indian Residential School?”*

*  (Footnote) On June 9, 2015, the report of the Truth and  Reconciliation Commission which heard the experiences of the thousands of former students of so-called Indian Residential Schools was published.  Canadian government’s policy was to kill all identities, cultural, societal, and religious traditions of the Canadian First nations by rounding up all the children from the indigenous communities and forced them to live in the residential schools, where use of their native language, any practice of their spiritual customs and culture were prohibited.  The implementation of this policy lasted nearly a century. That created destruction of their society resulted in the wide-spread dysfunctional communities with crimes, abuse of alcohol and drugs. The chair of the commission termed this policy as “Cultural Genocide.”

The system does not adequately deal with sexual harassement.


I can relate to Justin Trudeau’s conundrum.  Did he rush into an action too fast by suspending two M.P’s in the latest sex scandal?  I made the same mistake.  When a woman comes to you reporting sexual harassment, you want to do the right thing quickly, but can end up overlooking the due process.  Is it your mistake or is the system faulty?

During the early 1990’s I sat on an administrative position of the United Church in Ottawa and Montreal region.  One of the terms of reference of the job was to facilitate the disciplinary process of church employees including clergy.  It was the time when sexual abuse by clergymen was in the media.  It was also the time the whole outrage of “Indian Residential School” came into open.  We in the church administration were scrambling to do the right thing fast.

In two separate cases, women reported to me that they took complaints of sexual harassment by their ministers to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.  We wanted to do the right thing as quickly as possible; so not waiting for the decision of the Commission, we suspended them from their pastorates.  Those ministers took the church administration to the civil court.  It took two years, and the church lost.  We had to reinstate them and pay the cost.

The court decided that the church did not diligently follow the procedure prescribed in “the United Church Manual.”  We were too eager not to repeat the past mistakes: lack of transparency and a long, arduous and adversarial process that punished the victims further.  Also, if the truth be told, we wanted to be seen to be sympathetic to women.

We did have a legal advisor.  But the system that requires presumption of innocence, adversarial disciplinary proceedings, and worst of all, the time consuming process did not work for the already traumatized victims.  Media frenzy traumatize the victims further.  No wonder those NDP M.P.’s wanted to stay anonymous.

The Parliament, incredibly, does not have a process.  But even the existing processes of other organizations do not work because the systems often victimise the victims.  Criminal proceedings are worse because they are extremely adversarial and brutal.  There’s got to be one that enables a quick and decisive yet humane action to deal with the offence against the vulnerable.

Value of University Education

The Lethbridge Herald, an an Alberta City of Lethrbidge daily, published and article on August 28, 2013 based on the survey done by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce about the diminishing value of the university education.  It reported that the university graduates are receiving less income relative to other practically trained people.  And have more difficulty finding employment than before.  I disagree with the CIBC’s use of the two criteria, namely the size of pay-cheque and the marketable skill,  as the only measurement to judge the value of university education.  I believe that the goal of the university also is to produce a person who can think creatively and knows how to see beyond what is.  Our world, like a machine, requires two kinds of people: those who competently run it and those who can see the problems with the status quo, and improve the whole system or invent a new one.  We expect the universities to produce such people.

60 years ago, I had a friend who was passionately speaking about cybernetics.  Nobody understood him including me, neither did any corporation: the result was no money for his research.  So he went to Germany.  My friend was about forty years ahead of the likes of Bill Gates, never made big money.  Now digital technology – cybernetics runs the world.  Industries often are so short-sighted that many of them have no patience for new ideas nor creative people.  They want people who fit in and make a big profit now.  That’s why the GM scrapped the development of electric car decades ago.

There are also many people who prefer a meaningful life than a fat cheque.   Artists are such people.  Also I have been surprised by the kinds of people who joined the ministry as a second career.   Among those I met, there were lawyers, medical doctors, and one highflying executive of IBM from New York and an Union Carbide executive from a Geneva based international headquarters.  They all left lucrative careers, went to seminaries and became ministers.  They saw life beyond money.

Let me shamelessly brag a little (you can stop reading this now): I have two graduate degrees, can work in three languages, worked in four continents in church administrations, a secular NGO’s in executive positions, and as an university teacher, but never saw a pay-cheque bigger than a high school teacher’s.    But I would not repeat my life in any other way.  There are people like that.  Crazy? Maybe.  But I have seen too many such people to say they are all crazy.  Stupid?  No.  I believe that the world is a better place because of them.



The January 12th – 18th, 2013 issue of the Economist magazine published an obituary of a woman who, at the age of 22, changed Japan forever.  She was an American by naturalization, born in Vienna, Austria of Jewish parents.  Her name was Beate (Pronounced Bay-ah-tay) Gordon Serota.  She was assigned to be a member of a secret drafting group of New Japanese Constitution, a group of twelve men and one woman, Beate Serota.  The reason for this extraordinary turn of event was her fluency in Japanese language.  This was how she ended up drafting Article 24 of the Constitution of post-war Japan defining the rights of women.  What she drafted was so radical that a member of the group, an American Army colonel, commented that even the Constitution of the United States did not give so many rights to women.

In 1945, she was in Japan as an interpreter in the General Headquarters of the Allied Occupation Forces.  She had lived in Japan before the WW II for more than a decade as her father was a professor at Tokyo Imperial Academy of Music (now a part of the University of the Fine Arts in Tokyo), hence she was fluent in Japanese language by the time she became of age.  She loved Japan, its culture and people.  She went to the United States to advance her study in an university.  While studying in the U.S., the war in the Pacific broke out.  Thus she lost contact with her parents.  She joined the Army as a civilian after the war to go to Japan, in order to find her parents.  She eventually found them in an internment camp for enemy aliens.  However, the story does not end there.  She played a much more earth shaking role in the history of Japan, in fact in the history of women’s advancement in the world.

Article 24 of Japanese Constitution spells out marriage as one based on the mutual consent on both sexes, with equal rights and mutual co-operation.  There is equal rights in regards to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce, rights to paid work, custody of children, equal rights to education, and many other matters.  Japanese bureaucrats hated it.  Americans took some of them out because they thought them too radical.   Miraculously most survived and was passed by the Diet (Parliament).  Now it is considered to be the most valued part of the constitution. It is one of the two revolutionary articles of the basic law in Japan: (the other one being Article 9 renouncing war.)

I am writing this for two reasons: one personal and the other out of my astonishment.

As is mentioned in the article “Two Rogues in My Family” in the Memory and Stories section of this website, I lost family fortune because my grand mother did not have right to hold on to her property.  My branch of the Mitsui’s was a very wealthy family in Japan.  My grand father had a control of my grandmother’s wealth, which he wasted away.  She was the only remaining child after two of her brothers were killed in the Russo-Japan War of the early twentieth century.  The post WW II constitution could have prevented that.

Secondly, after nearly seventy years, there is still strong resentment amongst Japanese about the fact that their basic law is drafted by a foreign power, the United States of America. However, Article 24 has never been in dispute.  It is deeply entrenched in Japanese psyche.  The target of resentment was Article 9.   Every conservative government that came into power tried hard to amend the constitution in order to abolish Article 9It has never succeeded because no party ever achieved a 2/3 majority in the lower house, required by the Constitution.

It is quite an achievement for a 22 years old woman.

Administration kills visionaries


– Are they enemies? –

I admire prophets and visionaries, but I have realized that I am not one of them, neither do I want to be.  I had wanted to be seen as a prophet. Looking back on my career, however, I have realized that I am more suited to be an administrator than a visionary.  I am not a self-loathing failed prophet though.  I know that institutions require both: bureaucrats and visionaries.  Sustainability and creativity.  Advocates for law and order and rebels.  The world needs them both.

I was born in 1932.  I have never imagined I would live to be 81 years old.  If you live long enough, as I have, you are bound to cross paths with famous people, not necessarily because of whatever you have done and deserve such an honour.  I am amazed, so do people who have found the persons I know, how many famous people, prophets, or visionaries I was fortunate to share the same paths with.  I take no credit for this.  I just stumble into them and got to know them, some of them rather well.  There are two Nobel Peace Prize recipients, one as a very close colleague and the other now a saint with whom I worked briefly.  Two martyrs who died for the cause.  There are two one time heads of the major Canadian Christian denominations.  I got to know them because of various positions I held in the bureaucracies of an university and the Church.  They can be called mavericks, therefore, quite frankly, they were bureaucratic nightmares.  Let me describe my encounters with fame.

One time I was contacted by Mother Teresa from India by telephone.    During the late 1990’s, I was working for the Canadian Council of Churches.  I held a position responsible for the administration of a fund to pay for the overhead cost of the programs jointly supported by the member churches and Canadian government.  There were three in Africa and one in the Middle East.  In the telephone call, she asked me to pay for the cost of a heart surgery of an important person for her.  In a  heavily accented English, the caller introduced herself as Mother Teresa.  She said that the person, a doctor, was indispensable in her work in Calcutta.  He was already on his way to Toronto and the surgery had already been scheduled.  She must have realized that the Ontario Health Insurance did not cover the cost of a surgery for a non-resident, hence her phone call.  I had no idea how she found out about me and the money.

I did not have a program in India, therefore such a cost was totally out of the mandate of the fund I managed.  She did not accept “no” for an answer.  Besides, he was already on the plane bound for Toronto.  I wrote a cheque: tens of thousands of dollars.  It’s a miracle I was not fired.  I guess nobody dared to speak against Mother Teresa’ request.

Archbishop Ted Scott, former President of the Canadian as well as the World Council of Churches, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Commander of the Order of Canada, did not carry a date-book, at least on a surface he did not appear to do.   Later I found that he carried a thin month-at-a-glance type of pocket date book, which was not much of a help for a busy person like Archbishop Scott.  It was a nightmare for any administrative person working for him, I being one of them.  An example,  one time he did not show up at an important meeting of a nation-wide significance.  He was the Chair.  We found later that he was helping an old woman hauling coal into her basement.

Steve Biko was beaten to death in a prison in King Williams Town, Eastern Cape, South Africa in 1977.  He was a leader of Black Consciousness Movement during the 1970’s while Nelson Mandela was in prison.  In Mandela’s absence, Biko was a real threat to the Apartheid regime.  His life and death became a Hollywood movie: “Cry Freedom.”.  I met him in 1972 in Johannesburg at an annual conference of  the University Christian Movement of South Africa.  After I was made a persona-non-grata in South Africa, I move to Geneva, Switzerland, and worked for an organization that supported his programs financially, funded mainly by Scandinavian governments.

At one point, all his organizations were banned, finance and property confiscated, and all workers were placed under the banning order, a virtual house arrest.  Steve told me that at this point he spent all the funds in the organization’s bank account to buy a luxurious Italian sports car in the name of one of the staff members.  South African government could not touch a private property.  What a nightmare that was for a person like me who had to account for all the government grants!  Their grants paid for a Ferrari which was given to a staff person!  Bureaucratic nightmare!  The movement continued underground, obviously a Ferrari produced sizable funds enabling its continuation.  Does a bureaucracy understand it?  Normally I would be fired for misappropriation of public money.  Fortunately the Swedish Embassy had a way to know what was happening in Sotuth Africa, and I was not fired.

I don’t want to mention my experiences working with people like Desmond Tutu, who was a teaching colleague at an university in Southern Africa and Lois Wilson, who was a president of the World Council of Churches, where I worked.   They are still with us alive.  I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable because of my exposure.  But I can say that they also fit nicely into the model of a prophet or a visionary: creative visionaries.

Institutions need two components to be effective and sustainable: Good administration and vision, sustainability and creativity.  They need each other though they exist in opposite poles.  They exist in tension.  They must respect each other without compromise.  They are prophets and priests, Popes and Curia, elected politicians and civil servants.  If one tries to continue at the expense of the other, both die.  Empire and priests murdered Jesus, but in the end the empire died but the vision of the Kingdom of God still lives.  Time is fluid, therefore any institution must undertake metamorphosis to survive in the rapid of time.  Otherwise it dies trying to defend itself.



Learning another language is difficult.  I have been speaking and working in English for more than a half a century.  But I still have problems with English.  For example, the Japanese language does not have articles.  So I still have problem in the use of articles.  The Japanese way of thinking is that life is full of ambiguity.  Trying to be definite or precise about life is futile.  We have to live with ambiguity.  Who needs a definite or indefinite article?  When I was at the United Church General Council in Fredericton in 1992, the assembly spent a half a day hotly debating whether the Bible was “the” authority or “an” authority.  I had no idea what the fuss was all about, neither I suspect many Japanese speakers.

In Sesotho language in which I preached in Africa, there are two ‘e’ sounds.  A French speaking person can pronounce them distinctively ‘e’ with an accent grave and ‘e’ with an acute accent.   But I can not hear the difference between those two “e” sounds nor produce them distinctively.  In Sesotho, ‘body’ is ‘mele with an accent grave and woman’s breast (or tits) is ‘mele’ with an acute accent.  For the first two years, every time I gave out “body of Christ” in the communion service, people giggled.  I didn’t understand why it was so funny.   It so happened that I was giving out the breast (or tits) of Christ.  In John Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath”,  there is a scene of a young woman, who lets a starving man on a verge of death suck on her breast.  I heard of a retired teacher who received a complaint from parents  by speaking about that part of the novel  in his highschool English class.

Lately as I was thinking about the meaning of communion, I began to develop a deeper meaning from my mistake because of my inability to distinguish “body” from “breast”.   If you look at Renaissance paintings and sculptures, by Michelangelo and Donatelo and others, you will notice the only exposed female body part is Mary’s one breast, nursing Baby Jesus.  The word ‘Christ’ is not Jesus’ last name, it’s a title.  The proper way to address him should therefore be “Jesus the Christ.”  It means the anointed one. In Hebrew, it is Messiah.  Christ is a Greek translation of the word “Messiah.”  King of Persia, Cyrus was called the anointed one in the Isaiah, because he defeated Babylon and freed Israelites.  The anointed one- Messiah is a generic name, therefore, can also be  male or female.  If the anointed one was a woman, isn’t it meaningful to receive her milk when a minister gives out communion by saying like I said in Lesotho, “this is the breast of Christ” through which we receive life’s sustenance?

After all, the meaning of the word ‘communion’ is sharing.  In communion, we remember that Christ shared his own life.  So why not through the breast.  Recently, I was reading a book about the development of Mary’s status as the mother God in the early Christian church.  The status of Mary we know today is not from the Bible.  It’s an invention of the early church.  It comes from the yearning of new converts, who missed a female divine figure because they were used to worshipping goddesses.  So Mary as a mother of god, a mediator between Christ and people, was a theological compromise.  When you hear people who believe in Mary as the ultimate mediator between Jesus and people, you could feel a tremendous adoration for her almost equal to that you give to Christ.  I am not saying that we should replace Jesus for Mary.  All I am saying is that my mistake in pronunciation gave me an opening into a different kind of understanding of the Communion and how we may be nourished by God.  Try to think of communion as an act that is as intimate and basic as a baby nursing at mother’s breast.

In order to understand the deeper meaning of the breasts of Christ, you have to switch your mind into the way hungry people think about the communion.  In Lesotho, communion services are held only once or twice a year.  Because the church is poor and often could not pay a full time minister, one ordained person looks after at least three or more congregations, sometimes in the mountains, thirty congregations.  Each congregation is looked after on Sundays by a part-time trained and certified lay preacher called an “evangelist” who is usually a teacher in a city and/or a farmer in the countryside.  So if an ordained person has ten congregations, for example, communion services are held jointly once or twice a year with a few neighbouring congregations.  A host congregation holds fundraising events in order to sponsor such an event.  They have to have sufficient funds to  feed the crowd who may walk hours to come to the special joint communion service.  It is called ‘mokete’ meaning “Feast.”  It’s a joyful occasion.

When I went to administer a communion like that for the first time, I had a few surprises, not only the breasts of Christ I gave out unknowingly.  They used home-baked hearty bread and sweet South African wine in a common cup.  Bread is held by the minister which each communicant tear away a chunk, and a cup of wine is held by an elder from which each person has a sip.

But what surprised me  was that the a group of elders surrounded me and the cup holding elder like the honour  guards.  What surprised me even more was that their role was to make sure people didn’t take too much of bread and wine.  They pushed them away if they thought someone was taking too big a chunk of bread and drink too much from the cup if they stay there too long.  People were hungry.  For them, even a bit of bread and a drop of wine were food.  It never dawned on me, since I came from an affluent society, that communion could mean  food when you are hungry.

In Communion Service, we remember that Christ shared his own life, the most precious thing any living person has.  Food is precious for a lot of people in the world.  By taking communion, we must remind ourselves that this symbolic act is a beginning of our action to try to eradicate hunger from our world.  In conclusion, I wish to go back to John Steinbeck.  The communion is a remembrance of an event as intimate and embarrassing as the young woman’s act who had nothing else to give except what she had.




I lit a candle at the alter of the Church of Reconciliation in Berlin last summer, 2012.  We were there on holiday for gallery hopping.  I light a candle when I am overcome by a profound emotion which no word can adequately express .  The chapel was built with crushed stones from the millennium old original church building which was blown up in 1985 by the Communist East Germany, because it was located by the wall.  Many people died trying to climb over it seeking freedom.  The Wall came down in 1989 when Communism itself fell.

I could not help but think of a few other walls in history.  The Great Wall of China, Roman Walls that dot  England, the Sea Wall in Hakata in Kyushu, Japan built against Mongol invasion, the Wall in Israel and Palestine, and the Sea Wall outside of the Fukshima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power station against Tsunami.  Did they effectively stop the menace they meant to stop?  It is debatable. Isn’t it.

The guide book says: The Great Wall of China never stopped Mongoianl invasion.  In stead, it acted as  an useful East-West highway.  I don’t know what role the Romans walls played in England, but the sea wall in Kyushu was never useful against Kubla Khan’s navy.  It was a powerful typhoon that sunk the Mongolian warships.  Not the wall that stopped the invasion.  The word Kamikaze was invented to describe the event: it means “Wind of God.”   The wall in Israel Palestine did not stop the Palestinian terrorists.  I lived there at the height of the suicide-bombing spell.  It did not stop the bombers.  They had other ways to go around it.  It was a change in the policy of the Palestinian authority that stopped it.  We know what happened to the sea wall of Fukushima Nuclear Power Station.  They thought 8 metre was high enough.  It wasn’t.  13 metres high Tsuami caused the unprecedented nuclear melt down.

Walls are expensive, but never effective.  Good neighborliness is the most effective deterrent against the menace from bad relationship.  In case of Fukushima, living in harmony with nature will deter such catastrophe.  Then why we keep on building them?



We were enjoying a company of family and close relatives after Christmas dinner; soft Christmas music was in the background, playing Crossword Puzzle or just chatting with a dram of Scotch in hand.  A lovely time indeed.  At one point my brother-in-law asked us to  turn off the music.  We didn’t understand him.  Why could he not enjoy a nice soft  music in the background?  Nonetheless we felt we should respect his wish, for a while anyway, and turned the music off.  He is a musician – a classic guitarist.  At that moment suddenly I remembered similar situations where professional musicians did not want background music.

A sister of mine is a church organist.  She played organ at the church or taught music all her life.  Her home is often very quite devoid of the sound of music.  When music is on, she does not do anything else but listen to it.  Recently, my wife Muriel and I had a lovely visit with a couple of good friends who are both professional musicians.  She is a flautist and he a composer.  Music is their calling, their life.  While enjoying tea and conversation, I suddenly felt total silence as loud as any auditory sensation we can detect.  Even our hushed voices were interruptions.  I asked her if hers was the same disposition as my sister’s.  She said, “yes.”  She said that art of creating music is her calling, a serious business indeed.  Her mind is full of sound all the time.  For her music can not be a mere backdrop.  I now realize that I have changed since I was a child growing up in Japan.

When I was growing up, music was very important in my family.  We made music together, Mom at a cranky old reed organ.  We could not afford a piano nor a gramophone with a Methodist minister’s salary.   Dad led us singing hymns and Stephen Forster’s “Old Black Joe” or some such American old time favourites.  We still remember many Japanese folk songs Dad taught us.  We made music.  We listened to my sister playing piano in the church hall after she practised hours for a recital, critically but respectfully.  We listened to music not as a background but as an art that deserved a serious attention.

There is an old movie about the life of Frederick Chopin played by Cornel Wilde. One scene described a scene where Chopin was playing piano at a dinner for an arch-duke from Russia or somebody like that who was a foreign occupier.  Chopin angrily walks out in the middle as no one was paying attention to his music.  He becomes a marked man since then and had to go into exile.  I always feel bad for a musician playing at restaurants providing background music.  Music is their calling but it is diners’ mere backdrop.  It is like preaching at a soup kitchen.  I did that once, in front of homeless people eating dinner.  What an useless and unrewarding experience.   Understandably eating was the most serious preoccupation for them.  A sermon was an annoying nuisance in the background.  Consumer culture has made art into a mere backdrop, not an uniquely human act of creation.  We hardly make art anymore, we consume it.

I can not pinpoint an exact time when music became a mere mood creating background for me.  I think it was after Americans brought the kind of soft music that was played in the background, during the fifties.  I remember calling it “mood music.”  It took a little while for me to learn not to pay serious attention to the music in order to continue uninterrupted whatever I was doing.  Of course, background music has always been with us, in movies, in theatres, and in restaurants, but “mood music” was something else.  It is meant to be ignored but to help us do something else more efficiently  like wall paper.  It took some work, but now I mastered the art of ignoring the mood making backdrop.  Now our home is full of music, all the time.  I don’t even know what’s on a lot of the time.  We have become consumers of art hardly knowing how to make art.  Art has become something professionals make not us.  We consume what they make.

Likewise, we don’t do many things ourselves anymore, what we used to do them ourselves: such as sports, religion, cooking, entertainment, and art.  In the meanwhile we, have lost opportunity to exercise our own creativity.  We are losing joy of creating things and of participating in them.

Sports for us is not for our health: we watch them.  We sit in front of a television set on a couch eating junk food and consuming gallons of beer.  Sport has become bad for our health.  Religion has become an entertainment industry.  People look around like we do at a supermarket and pick the one that entertains us well with good preaching and music. Leaders of religion are now performers.  Like entertainment, those churches and religions that attract more people hence better income are considered to be “successful”.  Those don’t are failures.  It’s a business model.  “Love thy neighbour” no more.  We don’t understand the meaning of commitment, dedication, and service, no more sacrifice.  Religion has become a way to pursue happiness.  Others be damned.   We are saved, fulfilled, and happy, thank you very much.

I do love beautiful and soothing music in the background.  It’s one way to appreciate artistic creation.  However, when you love making music, you can appreciate other people making it more.  When you play a sport yourself, you appreciate the dedication and the skills of professional athletes more.  Art is not just a backdrop like wall paper.  Music is not a mere background.  Religion is not entertainment.  It’s a calling.  It’s life itself.

CANADA: A Letter from Howick – My last pastorate – 1995 to 2000

Dear Mike:

You asked me to write a story of Howick United Church.  But I cannot think of just one story that could cover the whole of this place.  On the surface, it looks like any small pastoral charge you would find anywhere in a farming community.  Yet, I think that this is a very unique place.  I thought about what you asked me a lot.  I decided that the only way I can give you some sense of what this place is about is to write many little stories.

This is my first-ever white Anglo-Saxon congregation since I was ordained in 1958.   My only pastorate in Canada before Howick was a Japanese-Canadian congregation, which I left in 1968 to work in Lesotho, Africa. I shared a university chaplaincy  there with Desmond Tutu, mostly working with black Africans.  Between 1975 and 1995, I was doing church administrative work exclusively, six years in Geneva and later in Toronto and Montreal.  When I was asked to fill in after my retirement, it was to supply a vacant pulpit during the unexpected illness of the regular minister in Howick in Chateauguay Valley in Quebec.  I asked George MacDonald, who as Secretary of the Presbytery had appointed me to this temporary, part-time position, about Howick. The only thing he said was, "They are nice people."  I soon found that they were.   And how!

When I came to Howick, I was burnt out.  This place restored my health. Sure, there could be some skeletons hidden away as in any other community, but still…   When Prof. David Lochhead of Vancouver School of Theology heard that I was appointed to Howick United Church, he told me, "It’s a spot of sanity in the midst of a crazy world." David had spent his sabbatical from Vancouver School of Theology several years before me providing pulpit supply in Howick. Coming from a cynical academic, his words were reassuring.

I came to a congregation basically made up of families with eight Scottish last names.  I was afraid.  When I came to meet with the Official Board, I also found that they were singing from the "blue book", a United Church hymnal that has twice been superceded.  "Oh dear!" I thought.  When I asked a question so carefully constructed it took five paragraphs to articulate, the folks were the type who would answer with one straight- forward word, "Yap."  In a Ministry Personnel Committee meeting, I raised a question about the job descriptions.  The response was, "You love us.  The rest will work out." And it did.

I must say something about Eric.  He is one of those seven-year-old boys who can see through fakery and keep the minister honest.  When the only possible answer can be "No", he asks, "Why not?" He is honest, like any farmer.  No political correctness convinces him. People here are like Eric. It is so refreshing for me after spending 16 years in church bureaucracy.  I am not saying that people lie in a bureaucracy, but you know there are many different ways of saying the same thing.  You can even say nothing in a well-articulated, two-page letter. Instead of talking about global justice, human rights, international debts, and systemic analysis, people in Howick simply love their neighbours.

The average attendance in Sunday worship is around 80 people, about a half  of them children.  It has been a long time since I saw a congregation with families, three generations deep, sitting together in the same pews.  Four-year-old Thomas” grandmother was the organist on my first Sunday. There are six organists on rotation. Thomas could not sit next to the organ during the children”s time; another kid got there first.  He was convinced that it was this rookie minister”s fault that he could not sit next to Grandma.  His unforgiving glare at me lasted a couple of weeks. I am forgiven now.  After all, "The guy is only new and doesn”t know how things work."  This place works on its own – despite the minister.  The minister just has to learn how things work here.

One choir number everybody looks forwards to on special occasions, is "Joan Knox and the children."  Joan is normally a lead alto.  For children, she belongs to their grandparents” generation.  If Amy plays the guitar with the kids, which she does often, the choir is a three-generation event: Grandma, Mom, and the kids.  The chemistry is magic.  An Easter number "Run, Mary, run!" was like a dialogue between Grandma and the children by the fireside.  The interaction between Joan and the children was so spontaneous that it sounded to me better than the choral dialogue between Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp children in the "Sound of Music."  Trust like that can not be built up in a few rehearsals.

On one of my first Sundays, a woman shook my hand at the door and said,  "Come over for lunch on Wednesday."   "Thanks, I will, " said I.  She told me where her place was, " the first house on Highway 203."  I am sure she said more but she had to speak very quickly, as the next person was already shaking my hand.  So she went.  But who was she?  I was too new to know and too embarrassed to ask.  I went to my office and looked at the congregational address book and the map, trying to guess the name from the approximate location and her description, "the first house on 203."  After studying the list and the map, I decided that the invitation must have come from Thyra.  On Wednesday, when I was ready to lunch with Thyra, Evie, the treasurer of the congregation, walked in.  I decided to ask her just to make sure I was going to the right place.  I went to the pew where the woman in question sat, and asked, "Who is the woman who sat here last Sunday?"  Evie replied, "Marjorie Templeton."  "Thanks,” I said. “I nearly went to Thyra”s for lunch. But it was Marjorie who invited me."  Evie said, "Probably Thyra wouldn”t even blink, and give you a nice lunch.  And you”d be forgiven by Marj if you explained what happened.  She will give you supper instead."  I was not used to such unaffected grace.  They are, like Secretary MacDonald said, "nice people."  Indeed.

It has been like that ever since.  Many lunches, and suppers in other homes, zucchini and corn arriving at our door to feast on at home.  But I am not speaking about just meals and vegetables:  I am speaking about good old-fashioned common decency and hospitality.  People are so very ready to help you.  One day, I could not find the psalm ( the prayer book is the old one, which is no longer used in other congregations, at least that’s  my excuse if anyone asks).   A hand appeared from behind and opened the book for me.  It was Rita in the soprano section.  No one has mentioned anything about this, ever.

When we were planning a vegetable garden in the backyard, Brent, a busy dairy farmer, drove up to  the door with a spreader full of manure behind a tractor. "Where do you want this?"  Our tiny vegetable patch became a foot deep with manure after Brent left.  We harvested forty tomatoes a day that summer.

A sushi chef from a Montreal Japanese restaurant wanted to be married to his fiancée who had just arrived from Japan in Howick United, because I was the only minister in Quebec who could speak Japanese. They invited the congregation to please attend the wedding, because  they knew very few people in Montreal and it would be sad to show the parents in Japan a picture of a tiny wedding party.  A whole bunch of people showed up to celebrate the union of the chef and his bride, even though it was in the middle of the busy ploughing season in May.  Nobody knew the couple, nor did they ever see them again. The people of Howick United are not the type who frequent Japanese restaurants.

After the horrible ice storm in 1998, the congregation had celebrated with a "We beat the ice storm of the century" dinner in the church basement.  We enjoyed talking about not taking a shower for two weeks, dead frozen house plants, etc.  "It could be worse,"  we agreed.  People spoke a lot about the nice feeling of living in a community that cared.  Was it typical Scottish denial?  I don”t think so.  I think that the sentiment was genuine.  I for one had had a good time living with friends in a home with a wood stove and a generator.  It was like camping.

From the way they love their neighbours, I am sure they know how to care globally.  This is what Doug Hall calls, moving from the particular grace to the general.  If you dearly love one person, you will know how to love the whole of humanity, Hall would say.

I can write a whole lot more about Howick: the Ormstown County Fair, the annual Chicken Pie Lunch, the Mitten Tree, and all that.  It is indeed a rare spot of sanity, as David Lochhead discovered earlier.  But this will do for the time being.  I may write more about Howick later.

We still subscribed to the local weekly, The Gleaner from Chateauguay, after we left Quebec. We call it the news from home.  It is home indeed, now that my ancestors are buried there.

Take care,

Yours truly,   Tad

JAPAN: Exodus – 1945

The war ended on August 15, 1945 in Japan.  I was thirteen.  It was a very hot summer.  The Emperor spoke to the nation on the radio to inform us that Japan had surrendered to the Allied Forces.  Our family by then didn’t have a radio, so we heard the news from other people.  The emperor spoke in the ancient form of Japanese language and some people didn’t understand exactly what he meant.  But everybody knew that the war had ended.  It didn’t matter that we had lost.  I remember feeling very relieved.  I couldn’t imagine how things could get any worse.  Most of us were starving and sick.  I was happy that now we could go back to Tokyo and live with Papa – together as one family.

In early September, Papa came to take us back to Tokyo.   But as soon as he arrived, a typhoon struck Honshu – the main island of Japan.  Ferocious rains washed away many parts of the highway system, and the buses stopped running.  During the war, the military had clearcut many mountains, so there was no tree to stop the run-off.  Trains were running, but there was no way to reach the station except on foot.   Since we could not stand the thought of living in the village even a day longer, now that the bombing of cities had stopped, we decided to walk.  It was about 30 kilometres walk to the Kofu train station.   We had no idea how long it would take us, but we felt that we could not just wait in the village and starve. 

With so much moving around, we had  lost most of our belongings, so the moving back to Tokyo should have been relatively easy.  We had nothing to carry but ourselves.  Even so,  it was not easy.  We were all hungry and weak.   During the last year of the war, food had disappeared from the stores.  Food rations worked well in the beginning, but towards the war’s end, with nightly incendiary bombing, the infrastructure of the country gradually became dysfunctional.  Food distribution became erratic, and coupons meaningless.  Rice was almost non-existent.  Food ration became very bizarre.  Whenever food came, there was usually only one item.  Sometime just sweet potatoes, some other time only barley, etc.   My sisters and I walked around fields and mountains collecting edible plants to supplement the food rations in desperate attempt to make our diet as balanced and as palatable as possible.  Food preparation became a full time preoccupation for the whole family.  But we were not so successful.  Our diet was unbalanced, and we were always malnourished. 

For some reason, there were lots of soybeans.  We ate soybeans in many different forms – boiled, roasted, roasted and crushed, roasted and crushed and ground, etc.  The problem was that soybeans were too rich for a weakened stomach, the result of months of the unbalanced diet.  So we suffered from almost perpetual diarrhea.   Months of loose tummy had made us very weak.  We could barely walk a mile at a time, and had to have a long rest before moving on.

Another serious problem with walking a long distance was the foot-wear.  Clothes we managed because Mama loved to sew.  She turned every piece of cloth into clothes for us growing kids with her cranking sewing machine.  But our shoes had worn out a long ago.  So we all had straw flip-flops called “waraji” on our feet.   They wore out in a very short time  about two weeks.  But they were cheap and easy to make if you could not buy them, as long as you get hold of a bunch of straws.  The problem was; they were hard on bare feet.  They were rough.  Constant rubbing broke the skins, and walking became painful within a few hours. 

Mama took that hand of my nearest sister, Taeko.  She was 11.  Dad carried Junko, who was 5 on his back, and I carried Kokko who was 4.  It was a difficult journey.  The roads were rough and dangerous.  But Papa always had songs to walk with.  That made our life on the road so much more bearable, even fun.  He loved to sing.  His favorite in those days, which became our favorite too, was a song about a traveling monk called “Basho”.  He was a famous 16th Century Haiku master who became known as a sojourner.  He traveled constantly on foot all over Northeastern Japan, and wrote Haiku about nature and historical events that happened at places he visited.  The first verse went like this:

“It is so precious,
    Traveling has become my home. 
    I follow a narrow path
    Covered with tall green grass.
Straps of my back pack
Are hard on the tired shoulder bones of an old man,
    But my staff is ever so comforting.
    Futara mountain in May
    Is full of young green leaves
    Dancing in the sunbeams.”
    [The first line and the last constitute Basho’s Haiku.  The rest is an interpretation by another person.  Forgive me, Venerable Basho, for the butchery of your masterpiece!]

In many places, highways had been cut off by landslides.  Some parts had been washed away by a swollen river.  By mid-afternoon of the first day, we were too worn out to go any further.  Luckily, there was a small inn by the road.  Papa knocked on the door and found that the inn keeper was willing to put us up, but could not give us food.  We decided to stay there until our strength came back.   We collapsed on the tatami floor.   Mama went out to look for food.  She came back with lots of sweet potatoes.  She found farmers who allowed people to dig them for free, because they had all been spoiled by flood water.  They looked OK to us.  So we cooked them, and soon enough found out why they were no good for the market.  No matter how long we boiled them, they stayed hard.  So we ate them raw.  Still it was something to fill our stomachs with.  What sustained us, in retrospect, was a huge bottle of Vitamin B supplement Papa brought from Tokyo.  We took one Vitamin pill everyday.  Papa said that an US Army chaplain had given it to him.  The chaplain was a former student of Dr. Charles Eiglehardt*, Papa’s Theology Professor when he was in a seminary.  Dr. Eiglehardt had asked the chaplain to seek out his former students when his regiment landed in Japan.

*Dr. Eiglehardt came to Japan after his retirement, to teach at my Seminary.  I took Missiology from him.

The next day, Papa told me that he and I would walk to Kofu train station, to check the road conditions, to see how long it would take to walk, and to find if there were any hotels or inns on the way if we had to stay the night.   Mama and Papa must have talked about this while we were asleep.   It took us all day to reach Kofu city.  It was easier to walk without carrying a child on my back.  Maybe a day of rest and sweet potatoes had given us some strength.  We reckoned that it would probably take two days with small children.  Kofu city had also been completely leveled by incendiary bombing.  After making sure that the train was running, we looked up a family Papa had known through the church work.  They were a wealthy family who owned a large vineyard.  We found them living in a bomb shelter*.  We were happy to see friends, any friend, because we were never sure during those days who was still living  and who wasn’t.  We had a wonderful dinner!  I couldn’t believe my eyes when white rice appeared.  We all slept in one small bomb shelter that night.*

    *The government had required every household to build a bomb shelter.  But they turned out to be dangerous death traps. Bomb shelters killed many people who went into them during the incendiary bombing.  When the house above was burning, the fire sucked out oxygen out of the shelters and killed people by suffocation.  So we started to use the shelters only as storage to save household items, and not for people.  Ironically, they provided temporary shelters for those people who lost their houses after the bombing.  Many people lived in the bomb shelters for many months after the war until they could afford to build the houses. 
In the morning, our friends packed for us bag lunches to last the day.  It was a glorious autumn day.  It took us more time to go back;  I don’t remember why.  Probably it was because the river had swollen over night.  It might have rained more in the mountains.  I remember hearing the roar of the swollen mountain river all the time we were walking.  At times, the noise was deafening.  We had to overcome more washed out roads and landslides.  We didn’t make it back before nightfall, so we kept on going in the dark.   It was a dark moonless night.  I climbed over boulders, feeling the way with my hands.  We also slid down many sandy hills, which took us by surprise.  I thought we were being very careful not to go near the river.  But suddenly Papa cried,  “Stop.  Don’t move.”  We were on top of a large boulder about the size of a small house.  The roar of the river was deafening.  Papa said, “Look around.”  I looked and saw that we were surrounded by the howling river.  I have no idea how we ended up there.  Walking one step at a time, looking only one step ahead of you, does that, I guess.  Papa said, “Don’t you ever move.  It’s too dangerous.”  We stayed on that rock until dawn.  Papa didn’t sing; we were too scared.   Next morning, as we started to walk, we saw many bodies washed up on the river banks.  We could easily have been among them.  It was so close. 

After only an hour more of trekking, we reached the inn where Mama and my sisters were staying.  They were fine, we started walking towards Kofu.  The rest of the trip was kind of fun.  We knew what we were doing, and Papa had lots of songs and tricks to entertain us kids all the way to Kofu.  We got on the train and reached the church in Tokyo late at night after two days.  Papa’s church was a big downtown church.  So  though much of the building was a burned-out hollow, there were some rooms that were still quite usable.  I was surprised that the power was already restored and there was light.  We put cushions from the pews together on the floor and slept on them that night under a huge drape Papa brought from somewhere to use as a cover.

One thing I can never forget on that first night in Tokyo was Smarties chocolate.  Papa produced boxes of Smarties and gave each of us one box.  I didn’t know what they were.  They didn’t look like chocolate.  They looked to me more like some kind of toys than something edible.  Papa told us to eat them.  I never would have believed that there was anything so delicious.  I remembered chocolates, even though I had not tasted it for years. But I didn’t realize that it was so delicious.  My younger sisters didn’t even know what chocolate was.  It was a taste of the heaven.  Peace at last.  We were home.


Tad Mitsui
November 9, 2000

CANADA: My first marriage

MY FIRST MARRIAGE, 1956 – 1984 I married Chieko Fukushima in 1957 and divorced her in 1988. I married Muriel Mellow in the same year. What happened? I still think that it is best to be left alone, untold. Pierre Trudeau wrote in his MEMOIRS 1993) “Anyone who has gone through the break-up of marriage ……….. will understand why I choose to write no more about the matter.” However, I also feel that it has to be dealt with to make me honest and complete.

An easiest way to explain what happened is, like St. Augustine, to make it all my fault and say, “I got tired of my faithful and good wife of 26 years, fell deeply in love with another person.” But this explanation is completely unacceptable on two accounts. I don’t feel that I was so irresponsible. It was not all my fault. Secondly, I am now married to an absolutely wonderful person. To make the whole affairs my fault will insult Muriel. I would never do that. I now have an incredibly good marriage. Also, it must be said that Chieko was a good person. It is not right to make her less than a good person. So like Trudeau, it is best not to analyze it nor mention it any further.

I chose to deal with it by quoting three poems. Chieko’s and my daughter Evelyn’s were written on our 25th Anniversary of my first marriage. The other one was by me at the time of separation.  I post my daughter’s first.

Happy Anniversary! by Evelyn Mitsui, 1981

                                                         A silver kiss for a

Silver Day

for two

silver people

Mommy and Daddy,

I love you.



It takes a whole life time

to find out what you are

…..all about..

Would life be easier together?

Let the tears run down

for the good time

and the bad

‘cause you can cry when

your happy like

when you are sad.

Laughter is rapturous.

Life is for you and me






A dove





Momma, will you come back

With an olive branch?

This land below is for you and me.


Daddy – Mother Gaea will never change

– Mother Gaea will never change

Stand high! Fight! Left! Right! Left! Right!

You took on the world.

(I think you won the war.)

But Mother Gaea will never change.

Daddy, your squirming worm grew to be a fine butterfly

and now knows how to fly.

This dove is up to fly.

But Daddy the skies are yours.

Threat no more, the war is won.

Papa, your world is our world

And the skies are but one.






By Chieko Fukushima, 1981


No, I’m not coming with you to Geneva.

You will enjoy your study leave

Five and twenty years of

accompanying, that

started with our honeymoon

to Osaka.

It was my first air trip, too.

Waiting and sitting,

A bit of you in between.

Accompanying you was my career

waiting, smiling and listening.

To Vancouver for a decade of

accompanying you

to teas, to suppers, conferences, ordination,

summer schools.

to weddings, to church meetings

on the trip to be interviewed to accompany you

to Paris’ winter,

to seven short years of Africa, then

four long years of Switzerland,

to Toronto,

to many countries in between.

Helped with Sunday Schools,

women’s groups, seniors, youths,

mothers and babies, young adults,

young immigrants.

Our long waited baby came!

Then, less accompanying but more

sewing, knitting, staying behind,

Then driving here, driving there,

east-end to west end

to dance lessons,

piano lessons

English lessons,

Northe to South, Camps & PTA’s.

Painted walls,

laid carpets,

potted plants,

bottled fruits,

made jams,

bought furniture,

got rid of furniture,

packed and unpacked,

Hobby courses of


cane chair weaving



study groups

English lessons

French lessons

Latin lessons

Doing those things filled my time.

We experienced coup d’etat,

police raid

met a king, a prime minister

espionage, refugees,

murderers, gamblers,

Saw suffering, saw joy

more suspense & poignant than

the war memories of my childhood.

Visitors came from East

” ” ” West

” ” ” North

” ” ” South,

Visitors passing through

each with fascinating stories.

I accompanied you,

trying to be proud of being supportive.

I even believed in it.

Our life was full, wasn’t it? Was it?


Yet, …..yet,

though it is not that it wasn’t enough,

but of different kind

As if it always belonged to

someone else.

I was a spectator,

“I was there”

But then,

I would have been a spectator

All my life, just watching, waiting.

Oh, yes, I did my bit in Africa.

But I was not the commissioned me.

They liked what I did

because it was unexpected.

And, I had to face it

during those long four years.

Yes, so that I can

really turn to face you and say

“Here I am, I’m your partner,

I want to be with you,

I want to share my life with you.”

Not a trip to Geneva accompanying you,

but your patience to watch

a middle age student struggle

and to wait for me to be really me

Is a biggest silver gift

to celebrate proudly our quarter of

a century together.





– I wrote these lines in 1984 just before Chieko and I separated.

We had the well,

that had given us clean, cool, and delicious water

for a quarter of a century.

We had to change the pump from time to time,

wait for murkey water to clear after heavy rains.

But good water it gave most of the time.


You wanted to find out what”s in it

on the bottom.

Why?  I said.  We had to, you said.

We emptied the whole thing.

What a mess!

Junk, dead animals, muck of all sorts.


I could no longer drink of it.

I could not bear the though of it.

I had to give it up.

So I did.



My last name, “Mitsui” stands for Japanese word for “three wells.”  The night before we separated, we went to hear a concert by Gordon Lightfoot.  We cried throughout.  I hardly remember what I heard.



Ethiopia, Lebanon, and South Africa: My Heroes

by Tad Mitsui – recipient of Honarary Degree of Doctor of Divinity

United Theological College, May 13, 1992

I was expelled from South Africa in 1972.  The authorities did not give me the reasons.  I could as well have been a drug smuggler.  A few years later the Canadian Ambassador advised me that it was a case of guilt by association.  He discovered that my expulsion was due to the company I kept, with people like Desmosnd Tutu and Steve Biko that bothered South African Government. I was not a particularly articulate and powerful demagogue, nor was I effectively subversive.  I was not a dangerous person, but I had bad friends.

The honour you have given me today must be of the same nature.  Honour by association.  I was lucky to have met many brave Christians in my life.  Principal Goldberger wrote in his letter that the United Theological College was giving me the Honourary Degree, and that in doing so the college wanted to emphasize the communal aspect of ministry.  I took that to mean that this is an honour given to a community of people, who were important in my ministry.   Many of them have remained nameless, so I am receiving it on their behalf.  Of those people, today I wish to mention five persons.   All of them are dead now and have no chance of receiving any recognition otherwise.

J”aimerais rappeler en cette soirée le souvenir de cinq amis décédés, mais qui ont vécu en accord avec l”Évangile.  Ces amis ont été d”une grande importance dans mon ministère, que vous honorez ce soir.  Ils sont trois Sud-Africains, une Ethiopienne, et un Palestinien.  They are Maphetla Mohapi, Steve Biko, Abram Tiro, a name-less Ethiopian peasant woman, and Emil Aghaby.

Maphetla Mohapi and Steve Biko were murdered in the same South African prison but one year apart.  Abram Tiro was blown to bits by a letter bomb while exiled in Botswana.  I met those three in Lesotho, where I taught Religion with Desmond Tutu.  They were leaders of the University Christian Movement.  Abram was killed because he was exiled General Secretary of SASO, a black students organization, after it was banned in 1974.  Mapetla was tortured to death.  He was alleged to have taken part in teenagers” up-rising in Soweto in 1976.  I am convinced that the allegation was wrong.  He lived in King Williams Town under a Banning Order unable to go anywhere, and students rioted in Johannesburg, thousands of kilometres away.  Steve”s death in 1977 needs no explanation.  They did not mean to be martyrs.  They were too busy doing things they had to do for Shalom in Hebrew, Salaam in Arabic, and Khotso in Sotho.  They never had time to finish even first degrees.

In Ethiopia, I met this peasant woman in a feeding camp in Makele in 1985, during the height of the famine. We never had time to take the names of victims down.  We had no staff nor time. Thousands died everyday.  I was working for the World Council of Churches as the coordinator of famine relief in Africa.  She was nearly dead by the time she reached the camp.  What struck me was her appearance of dignity and pride even though she was in rags that looked like wounded flesh.  Staff at the camp were having difficulty helping her because she kept insisting that she could do things on her own.  Farmers are like that all over the world: independent and too proud to receive charity.  The reason why she came in such a bad state, was because, even after most of the villagers left in search of food, she stayed behind.  She insisted that she still had something in the house to sell to buy food.  She represents in my mind one million other Ethiopians who died during that period.  She was, like most of other Ethiopians in Tigray, a devout Orthodox Christian.

Emil Aghaby was kidnapped in 1986 in Lebanon.  A mistake: they thought that he was someone else.  Nevertheless, they killed him and dumped his body on a highway.  He was one of the fifty thousand nameless victims of kidnapping.  Only a handful of Western kidnap victims became celebrities.  Western media do not report the names of Arab victims.  He was a Palestinian Christian, Director of Palestinian Refugee Programme in Lebanon.  And I was a liaison person for the Canadian Churches which supported this programme.  I used to meet with him every year for annual programme review.  He was a man of means, and could have comfortably retired in Montreal or Paris surrounded by  grandchildren, who are all well to do professionals.  But he was passionately committed to the welfare of underprivileged Palestinian exiles, overseeing health clinics, vocational schools, and other projects in the refugee camps, which are cesspools of poverty and sickness.

You are honouring those five people today, and many others represented by them.  I am glad that I could do this for them by still being alive.  I was no where near harm”s way because I was a Canadian, not a black South African, an Ethiopian, nor a Palestinian.  I was like a Roman passer-by.  I was an on-looker at the foot of the Cross on a hill.  The hill in Jerusalem.  I was there, but as a witness: privileged, protected, and safe.

It is for me to tell their stories.

JAPAN: My Genesis : in the beginning – 1932 to38


The book has been with me so long as I remember – evidently ever since I was born.  The covers are missing, and pages are beginning to flake.  There are graffiti in many pages.  I remember drawing them myself as a child.  It is almost a miracle that I still have this with me after all the moves I have made in my life.   Produced in 1928 by the Osaka Institute of the Research of Children, it is titled A History of Our Child.  It’s a parents’ self-help record of a child from birth to six years of age.  The Preface on page one says that by filling the blanks on every page according to the prescription, parents can contribute materials to fill six years’ worth of blank pages for their child’s autobiography, as few people know and /or remember what happened to them in their earliest years.  You create a story of a child by filling the empty pages.  So, this one is my story  from birth until the day I started school.  Most of the pages were written by my father: I know his hand writing.  Some were written by my mother.  There are a few pages written by my aunts.  I can not tell which aunt, for I have many aunts.  The following is the translation of those pages.  From time to time, I will add my own comments in brackets.

Family Motto:

“Truth from first to last.

Preach your faith not your doubts.

Let your life say more

Than your words.”

By Henry van Dyke

[This page was written in English].


Born at home on February 25,  in the seventh year of the Reign of Emperor Showa 1932 at 2:00 p.m.

Snow was coming down by the tonnes from the morning.  It was the second heavy snow of the year in Numazu.
Father canceled his visit to Dohi – one of his missions.  He ran to the midwife – Mrs. Kohase to report the condition of his wife, because she started a tummy ache in the early morning of the day before.  The midwife predicted that it would probably be late afternoon.  So he sent a cable to Tokyo.
(Obviously there was no telephone in the manse.  In fact, few homes had telephone at that time in Japan.  My mother’s family, hence my father’s adopted family, lived in Tokyo.)

Labor pain started at about 11 a.m in earnest.  Water broke about 2 p.m. and he came soon after.  Grandmother (my mother’s grandmother) was so happy she cried.   He greeted the sun and the world with a gutsy cry.

Father at the time of the child’s birth:

Age: 26
Occupation: Minister of Numazu Methodist Church

This was his first pastorate after his ordination in April, 1931.  His hopes and aspirations for the ministry were huge.  He was extremely busy trying to realize those dreams.  Preaches two different sermons every Sunday, in the morning and in the evening.  Monday: committee meetings for “Kingdom of God Movement”.  Tuesday: Hirai Mission.  Wednesday: Prayer Meeting.  Thursday: Dohi Mission.  Saturday: Kanaoka Mission.

Numazu Church is planning to start a Kindergarten.  Other items on the agenda are: Ebara Memorial Service, Special Event for the Christian Endevours Movement for Ginza Church with Imai and Morinaga, Preaching Missions with Manabe and Yanai, Kingdom of God Movement with Mr. Gakuga, Farmers’ School of Evangelism, Workshop of New Hymns.

A busy man!

[I don’t know what the “Kingdom of God Movement” was.  It sounded like some kind of  Evangelistic organization.  All the names belonged to the Methodist ministers.  I often heard about them when I was a child.]

Mother at the time of the child’s birth:
Age: 25
Occupation: Kindergarten teacher

She was brought up like a princess.  But suddenly she became very keen to learn dressmaking and child care after she found that she was pregnant.   She was determined to bring up the child in the best way she knew.  She had many good ideas partly because she had been working on the plan for the new Kindergarten.  But soon reality set in.  Many good ideas had to be put on hold.  She had good reasons, of course.

She teaches organ,   and is a district leader of the “Association of Friends” and is also Church Organist, on top of being a very busy mother.

During the pregnancy, she took up Art Appreciation, because she believed that it would give the child a head start.  Of course, she played organ more intentionally for the unborn child.  She believed that education began in the womb.

People who were there at the time of birth:

Father of the child: Isamu Mitsui
Mother of the child: Natsuno Mitsui
Grandmother of Natsuno: Toshi Mitsui
Houseboy: Toshiro Shizuka
Midwife: Shiu Kohaze
Assisting the midwife: Maid: Fujino Sano
and Fumie Tokunaga
Mother (of Natsuno): Takeko Takeda
Brother (of Natsuno): Nobuyuki Takeda
The above two came from Tokyo by train.  Birth was predicted to be at about 4 p.m., so they arrived at 4 p.m.  They were late to help the preparation but not late for celebration.  They were a bit disappointed but not too much.

[The things I remember about some of the people mentioned the above:

Toshi Mitsui was the matriarch of the Mitsui clan.  My mother was adopted by her at birth. Because her two boys were killed in the Russo-Japan War at the turn of the Twentieth Century and there was no other boy, she claimed the first born of her married daughter, Takeko Takeda, back to the Mitsui family, who was my mother.  My mother was expected to marry someone who would change his name to “Mitsui” so the family name would continue.  So, the birth of a boy was a special joy to her.  She provided money for a houseboy and a house maid to help my mother who had been brought up like a princess, as my father put it.  Presumably she did not expect that my mother would marry a penniless preacher.

Toshiro Shizuka was a high school boy earning his room and board by helping my mother with heavy housework and in the garden..  I remember him.  He must have played with me a lot.  I remember him wearing his serge navy blue uniform with brass buttons all the time.  Maybe they were his only clothes.

Fujino Sano: I used to have a picture of her holding me in her arms.  She was wearing a Kimono and a white apron in the picture.  But I have no memory of her.

Mrs. Fumie Tokunaga was a dentist’s wife, whose whole family became good friends of the Mitsuis.  I remember her as an elegant lady with elegant kimonos.

Takeko Takeda was my mother’s mother.  By the time her two brothers died in the war, she was already married to Dr. Yukichi Takeda, an army vet.  I remember her delicious food.  I still use some of her recipes when I cook Japanese food.
Nobuyuki Takeda was my mother’s youngest brother.  He was only five, when I was born.  He always treated me like his own brother since neither of us had any male sibling.]


Sister – Taeko born in Numazu in 1933

Sister – Junko born in Yokohama in 1939

Sister – Toshiko born in Yokohama in 1940

[Taeko is a musician and plays and teaches organ.  She was married to a Minister, Rev. Yoshikiyo Ito.

Junko has been educated as a kindergarten teacher in the same training college as the one which trained my mother, Yoyo Eiwa, which was founded by the Women’s Missionary Society of the Methodist Church in Canada.  She is a kindergarten teacher and is married to a journalist,
Minoru Tanihata.

Toshiko is an artist who specializes in designing jewelry, married to Tatsuo Sato, a business man.]

The house where he was born:

The manse of Numazu Methodist Church.

The church building and the manse had a red roof, which was unusual during those days in Japan. Between the church and the manse, there was a big yard, which was made into a beautiful flower garden by Toshichan [the nickname of the house boy – Toshiro Shizuka.]

People who received the announcement:

Yokichi and Takeko Takeda , Shibuya District, Tokyo     [My mother’s parents]
Tamihachi Hiroe, Kutami cho, Kumamoto Prefecture
[My father’s father.  There was no mention of my grandmother. I think her name was Tami.]
Kiyoshi Hiroe, Seoul, Korea.
[ My father’s brother.  He was very close to us and visited us often.
He became a Christian with my father.]

The following printed announcement was sent by post to 150 families.

[It is a pity that Dad did not record the names of the recipients of this announcement:]

“We hope that this finds you well despite the severe winter.  Even though it is the time of national mourning, [I don’t know what the reason for national mourning at this time was.] I wish to make a happy announcement.

On February 25 at 2 p.m. a boy child was given to us.  We name him Tadashi (the Chinese character which means Justice was adopted.)  Both mother and child are doing very well.

Wishing you good health.

February 29, in the seventh year of the Reign of the Emperor Showa 1932)

Isamu Mitsui”

Presents received:

The book, “History of our child” from Kiyoshi Hiroe
Woolen hat and a cape from Katsu Terayama
Box of pastsries from Kazuko Inaba
Crib from the Numazu Church
Many pieces of baby underwear from the women of the parish
Baby outside clothes from Mrs. Yanagihara, Tokunaga, Fujii
And 36 other items that include mainly clothes, cotton, wool, and silk material, eggs in the boxes of dozens, a hampers of fruits, a play pen, a  photo album [Most gifts were from people whose names I don’t recognize.]

46 Telegrams were received:

[Many of these were from family members and relatives.  There was one foreign name –  Rev. Drake-but I don’t know who he was.  Other notables are:
Tomihichi Toda, Reizo Sawada, Kohei Goshi were Dad’s class mates in the seminary.
Antei Hiyane was a Professor of Comparative Religion, who taught me also.]

Naming the child:
On February 27, 1932, we named him “Tadashi” (Justice in Chinese character).  It was my (father) suggestion.

In the Bible Study groups in Numazu and Dohi, we have been studying the Letter of Paul to the Romans.  I was very much attracted by the notion of “Justified by faith.”  I was struggling to understand the meaning of the life justified by faith, and trying to live a justified life.  I hope that our child will grow up to conduct a just life.  I had played with the idea of a name which had a combined meaning of faith and justice, or mere ‘faith’.  But considering the sound of our family name, ‘Mitsui’, I decided that giving him a name with a Chinese character which had the meaning of Justice and pronouncing it in a Japanese way “Tadashi” would be most appropriate.  I pray that he would always by the grace of God be acceptable to Him, and live according to the principles of justice.  We are such imperfect parents.  Our effort to bring him up to be as good as he could be would be a hopeless one.  But by faith, I hope that he would be acceptable for his name’s sake.

May God be generous in his grace upon Tadashi


10 yen       Fee for the midwife
3 yen        For her transportation
2 yen        Fee for her assistant
1.50 yen   The midwife’s expenses
1.70 yen   A basin
0.36 sen   A bucket and a dipper
0.35 sen   Two metal bowls
0.40 sen   Grass mat
1 yen         A hot water bottle, a hot plate

[1 yen during those day was ½ of a US dollar.  My father’s salary then was 40 yen a month.]


At birth:          2700 gram
1 month:        4500 gram
3 months:      4600 gram
4 months:       4800 gram
5 months:       5000 gram
9 months:       5600 gram

Umbilical cord:
It came off on the sixth day.  Bowel movement has been regular.

The first outing: [This was written by mother.]
My Bible Study group meets on Tuesdays at Dr. Tokunaga’s home. (Dentist) I have decided to make this Tadashi’s first outing, because there are other young mothers who come with their babies.  On the day I marked as the day, April 19, wind was strong in the morning.  I almost gave up the idea.  But at noon, it suddenly died down.  So I bunddled him up and put a woollen cap on, and went to the Bible Study.  As soon as we arrived, Grandma Tokunaga took over Tadashi.  He slept through the meeting in her arms.  Everybody wanted to carry him, as we were going home.  So I never had a chance until we came back to the manse.  As soon as we came home, he woke up and started to cry.  He must like the Bible study.

First clothes:[ (Also mother’s writing]
Before the birth, my mother sent to me three of her own hand sewn baby kimono.   Because there were always more girls than boys in my family, mother sewed two girl’s kimono, and one boy’s.  So he wore the one and only boy’s kimono on the first day.  But he wore girl’s clothes more often afterwards.

First Toy: [Aunt’s writing.]
A red celluloid ring with bells attached.  He loved it.  He held it in his hand, shook it ringing the bells, and laughed.

First turn in bed: August 2nd.
First laugh: April 7th
First crawl: October 1st

First word he spoke: [Aunt’s writing]
Some time in December, 10 months after birth, he said, “Ta-chan”.  [Ta-chan is a diminutive form of Tadashi.  I was always called Ta-chan even after I grew up by friends and relations.]   Everybody was surprised that he spoke his first word so early.

First tooth: [Mother]
On September 25th, two lower teeth appeared.  He didn’t have any fever.  But he was in a bad mood for a few days.

First walk:
On February 22nd, 1933, he went to Rev. Hirabayashi’s home with Papa.  Papa had lunch with Rev. Hirabayashi and spent all day at his home discussing business.  Tadashi had no problem playing with other members of the family.  He walked a few steps on his own on that day.

First friend:
Mother had a friend Mrs. Miyajima (nee.Ootomo) who had her first child on the same day as  Tadashi.  The baby’s name was Akio.   Whenever Mrs. Miyajima came for a visit, Akio and Tadashi got along very well.  When they were together, there was no trouble.

Kindergarten: [Aunt’s writing]
Airin(Love thy neighbor) Kindergarten
June 2, 1935
Teachers: Miss Winifred Draper, Miss Hori, Miss Murakami

Airin Kindergarten was attached to Tobe Methodist Church where Isamu was transferred.  As soon as he found the kindergarten which was located a few blocks away from the manse, he started to visit the children who were playing in the play ground of the kindergarten.  He made many friends in that way long before he was officially allowed in.  So his delight was impossible to describe when he finally was officially admitted.  He hardly slept the night before his first day at the kindergarten.  He went out early in his pyjamas in the morning before anyone was awake and created some scenes because nobody could find him in the house.  Mama saw him walking towards the kindergarten, and had to bring him back for change of clothes and breakfast.  He never missed even one day.  One day there was a heavy snow.  Miss Draper closed it for the day, but Tadashi went all by himself.  That day, he had the attention of all teachers.

When he was two: [Writer apparently was a man and signed his name.   But the signature is illegible.  I can not recognize his name.  Judging from what he wrote, he must have been someone who used to hang around the manse in Numazu.)
Ta-bo (This was another diminutive form of my name, which was used by people very close to me, closer than those who called me Ta-chan.] In the third year his life was really stubborn and full of mischief.  He rarely listened to Papa.  But he was always straightforward – he was what you saw.  He was growing like a bean sprout.  I often took him to the Beach of Thousand Pine Trees on my bicycle.  As soon as he saw me, he wanted me to take him to the beach, because he loved to watch peacocks on the Imperial summer resort ground.  (In Numazu, there was a Imperial Summer resort, where the Emperor and his family often took summer vacation.)  He was never cheeky.  And everybody loved him.  He loved to wear serge long pants with suspenders making him look like a miniature labourer.  Looking at Ta-bo who was raised with a minimum of restrictions, free spirited, daring, mischievous, and yet straightforward and fair,  I could see how important it is to raise children in a spiritual atmosphere.  (Signature, July 16, 1934)

[Mother wrote]  He was mischievous and very reckless.  He had no fear.  Already, he broke his arm twice.  Once he jumped from a high fence.  Second time, he was watching someone on the ground from a window.  She said, “Hello,” and asked him if he wanted to come down.  He jumped down from the second floor window into her arms.  She and Ta-bo had to go to the hospital.  Mama’s daily prayer was that Ta-bo would grow up with all parts of his body intact.  In May, he learned to pray.  No matter how sleepy he was, he always wanted someone to say prayers before he fell asleep.  I just hope that he would continue to love prayer all his life.  Now he could pronounce almost all the words.  Once he hears a word, he never forgets it.  Aside from his occasional loose tummy, he is a very healthy boy.

The first song he sang:

“If you close your eyes,
You can hear the bells on the sleigh.
Ding, ding, ding.
It’s the sound coming
All the way from the North country.”
[I have no idea where it comes from.  I could not find this song anywhere.]

When he was three: [Mother wrote]
On April 11, 1935, when Tadashi was in his fourth year of his life, Papa was transferred from Numazu, where Tadashi was born, to Yokohama.  For a little while after the move, he kept on demanding that we go home.  Mama didn’t know what to do until he found the kindergarten.  Because he was missing Numazu so much, mother was worried that Tadashi might take a long time to get used to the kindergarten.  How wrong she was.  It is already June, but Tadashi is loving the kindergarten, which makes Mama so happy.

When he was four: [Aunt wrote.]
Ta-bo became four and his mischief quadrupled.  He loved the kindergarten and learned all the songs and all the games and all the dances.  Often at 6 a.m. he woke up everybody in the house singing songs cheerfully and loudly, demanding that he have breakfast, so he could go to the kindergarten.  Papa worked often until late into the night, so he was Tadashi’s worst victim.  His mischievous deeds were quite phenomenal, which at time even depressed his parents.

One day, when Mama was busy doing laundry, Tadashi and Taeko were very quiet for a long time, which pleased Mama.  But how wrong she was.  When she finished the laundry, she went into the kitchen and found Taeko completely covered in white.  Taeko was giggling and happy enjoying the whole incident.  Tadashi had mixed the whole 10 pounds of sugar with ashes from a hibachi on the floor of the kitchen, and was showering Taeko with the concoction.

On another day, he found a bunch of tickets for an important fund- raising concert in Papa’s desk.  He used all of them to play streetcar.  The tickets were all used up for his playmates to get on the imaginative public transport.  He found an ink bottle and changed the color of Papa’s desk top with his hands and his shirts.

When Mama spent all day re-doing the screen doors with expensive rice paper, Tadashi found that he could make holes very easily when he wet his fingers.   New screen doors had thousands of holes, when parents came home.  Scolding him was an exercise in futility.  We often wondered how and where he got all those ideas from.  Mama and Papa were often in despair.  They didn’t know what to do.  After being scolded severely, for example, he cries a little but recovers quickly and asks for sweets.  Miss Draper said one day, ‘Ta-chan is as bad as an American boy!”

One often wonders how Ta-bo manages to be so bad and so innocent at the same time.

Serious illness:  [(Aunt wrote]
On March 10, 1936, he went into the hospital for diphtheria and stayed there for ten days.  He made everybody very worried.  But he came out unscathed and returned soon to his naughty self.

Elementary School: [My own writing]
Ipponmatsu (One Pine Tree) Elementary School, Yokohama
Teacher: Mr. Nakamura
Entered on April 1, 1937

[The above item is the last entry in “the History of Our Child.”]

MY LIFE IN AFRICA: “It snowed before Christmas” – Summer of 1971 in Lesotho


It snowed just before Christmas in 1971.  This is not incredible if it happened in Canada, but it was in Lesotho in Southern Africa.

Christmas comes during the hottest time of the year, in the middle of summer.  So when it snowed in December, it was an extraordinary event.  Two students were selected to go to Malawi to attend the WSCF (World Student Christian Federation) Southern Africa Workshop from the Lesotho campus of the University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland.  I was then the Regional Director of the University Christian Movement of South Africa (UCM) for Lesotho and the Orange Free State of South Africa.  I agreed to drive them in my car to Johannesburg.  Altogether, it was a four day overland journey to Malawi.  The chosen students to represent our university were Gloria Mamba, a Swazi, and Glory Makwati from Zimbabwe (then it was still called Rhodesia both leaders of the United Congregation – an Ecumenical campus ministry which I ministered to jointly with my Anglican colleague, Desmond Tutu.  Neither Gloria or Glory belonged to the UCM, but we had no choice.  All UCM members were in prison for being subversive, after the Prime Minister of Lesotho declared the state of emergency in order to stay in power in 1970, after he was defeated in an election.

Let me first describe briefly my position at the time.  I went to Lesotho at the end of 1968 as a Missionary from the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society (PEMS) – la Societe Missionaires Evangelique de Paris on secondment from the United Church of Canada.  My ex-wife and I had a child of four.  We spent three months in Paris for orientation at l’Ecole Missionaires on Boulevard Arago near Jardin Luxembourg.  The life in Paris was our first culture shock.  We come to realize that Europe was different from North America. We finally arrived in Lesotho just before Christmas.  The heat was quite a shock to our system flying directly from the cold damp winter of France.  We spent several months in different Mission stations lodging with French and Swiss missionaries on what the French Mission called a “stage” or being probationers learning the language, looking at different kinds of work being done by missionaries of PEMS.   My first assignment was supposed to be the minister of a parish in Morija.  In that village, there were the local headquarters of the PEMS, the Secretariat for PEMS schools, and two teacher’s training colleges – one for men and the other for women.  I only preached in Sesotho only a few times in Morija.  Then, the Protestant position at the university suddenly became vacant, due to a banning order by the South African government slapped on to my predecessor – Dr. Marie-Louise Martin.  It sounds strange now, but then it was considered to be impossible to live in the land-locked Lesotho without being able to go to South Africa for some basic services.  The church decided to appoint me to the university position, because of my ability in English and a graduate degree.  My ministry in Lesotho began officially in early 1970 at the University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland as a Protestant Chaplain and a lecturer in Theology.
Now back to the trip to Malawi in the summer of 1971.


We first drove to Johannesburg to meet with 10 South African students – a day’s journey.   A Swiss missionary colleague, Robert Bezencon, who was living in Johannesburg serving the Basotho miners’ congregation, took us to Soweto to deliver Gloria and Glory to the house where they were expected to spend the night.  During those days of apartheid in South Africa, Blacks were not permitted to stay the night in the white part of the city.  So we left the students in Soweto and I stayed with Robert in his house in the white part of the city.  (Being a Japanese by race, I was legally a honorary “white” in South Africa at the time due to an important trade link with Japan.) Robert was visibly nervous driving through Soweto.  I assumed that it was because it was after sunset, but didn’t know exactly why.  He worked in Soweto everyday.  He should know.  Perhaps he knew crimes were rampant at night and whites were easy targets of criminals at night.  I never found out why.

At the head office of the UCM in Braamfontein near the University of Witwatersrand, I met up   with 10 South African students – nine Blacks and one White.  It was the time when multi-racial organizations were often declared illegal in South Africa.  Some years previously, the Student Christian Movement of South Africa (SCM) was ordered to split up into white and black organizations.  So Blacks inherited the name “SCM” and Whites created the “Student Christian Association” known as “SCA”.  But most of the “non-Evangelical” blacks and whites – in fact, the traditional mainstay of the SCM, didn’t join either of them and formed the University Christian Movement of South Africa (UCM).  All former SCM students in Lesotho in high schools and the University joined the UCM.  The government of South Africa took some time to process UCM’s application to register it as a non-profit organization.  So when I was active in the UCM, the organization did not have a legal status.  

When I was appointed to be the Protestant Chaplain and lecturer at the University in 1970, I automatically inherited the position of Regional Director of the UCM for Lesotho and the Orange Free State.   My first participation in the winter conference of the UCM in July in Johannesburg was a baptism by fire.  That was where I met Steve Biko.  The conference met in a retreat centre in the white part of the city, so Blacks were bussed in from where they slept in Soweto.  Anger was palpable, and particularly among blacks.   It was in such an atmosphere, the blacks staged a walk-out during the 1968 conference and began the Black Consciousness Movement.  The leader was a certain medical student Steve Biko.  But the blacks, while belonging to a black only student organization, never stopped attending the UCM gatherings.  So anger dominated the atmosphere.  Frustrations poisoned the working relationships, though their anger should have been directed to the system, not at each other.  Occasional discoveries of police informers – both black and white – among the delegates, and much too frequent police raids, ostensibly for checking papers, exacerbated the already difficult conference proceedings.  I later discovered that my room-mate at the conference centre turned out to be a police informer.  He claimed that he was a Rhodesian studying in South Africa at the University of Pietermaritzburg.  I should have know that only those white students, who didn’t want to study in the racially mixed Rhodesian University, came to South Africa where universities were segregated.  I felt cold all the time during the conference.  South African buildings and houses are not built for Canadians who are used to insulated buildings in winter.  But I don’t think it not only because of the cold temperature that I was cold all the time.  Winter that chilled humanity to the bones had lasted a long time in South Africa.  Now back to our trip.

We piled into a Toyota Hiace van, and drove to Salisbury (now called Harare) to join 23 more students from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) at the University of Salisbury.  We left Johennesburg at about 9 am.  The one and only white student and I took turns to do the 12 hour drive.  There were others who could have driven, but it made life a lot easier for a pale-faced driver to carry a whole bunch of blacks faces.    At The Beitbridge gate – the Rhodesian and South African border, the policeman gathered up all passports including mine and said, “I will give them back to your master.” – meaning the sole white student.  And he did.  If it happens today, I will say to him something like, “What is your name and serial number?  I will see you in court.”  But I didn’t, because by then I had been in South Africa for a few years and got used to hearing the same kind of insult from time to time.  


Night fell as we drove off the Beitbridge frontier post.  But the Rhodesian road north was dry, flat and straight.  It was a beautiful and easy drive even in the dark. We drove through a typical African savannah with endless stretch of acacia, baobab, mimosa and many many ant hills – some of them ten foot tall.  The highway was paved with black top but was only a lane wide in the centre.  When you ran into an oncoming car, you were supposed to slow down and get your left side wheels off the pavement and pass each other.  ( In South Africa and Rhodesia, they drive on the left side of the road.)  Overtaking a slow moving car ahead of you was more tricky.  The driver of the car ahead must agree to yield.  Otherwise, you have to follow it in a snail speed forever.  It was, also, during the height of the guerrilla war, so driving at night was more complicated.  There was hardly any civilian traffic. The vehicles we ran into were mostly military.  They were carrying black troopers led by white officers.  I never understood why blacks served in the Rhodesian Army.  South Africa never recruited black people into the army to fight other blacks.  In Rhodesia, there were much fewer white people.  Probably the blacks were forced into the Army.  Or for lack of alternative employment, they went into it for money.  Either way, they could not have made good fighting soldiers.  Luckily, we were not stopped by any of the military vehicles, so we managed to get to the Salisbury campus for a late supper.

Mr. A.P.Knottenbelt met us and directed us to the dining room and bedrooms.  He was Dean of Residence and a Lecturer in Mathematics.   He was called  “Knotty” by everybody and was loved by many African activists.   In fact, I never found what “A.P” stood for.  Knotty and I became good friends after I moved to Geneva, because he was administering the scholarships provided by the World University Service International Headquarters.  He was an Afrikaaner and a Methematics professor. He came to Rhodesia because the racial policy of the British colonial authority seemed to him to be tiny bit more acceptable then the South African one.   He became the principal of a prestigious Flecher Highschool.  But at the time of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) by the white Minority government led by Ian Smith, Knotty refused to fly the new Rhodesian flag, hence fired from the position, and came to the University.

We were surprised that we could eat together at the same dinning room and stay in the same residence.  I took us a little while to realize that Rhodesia, though ruled by a white minority government, was not a racially segregated society as strictly as South Africa was.  The University also was a racially mixed institution.  This took our South African friends by a bit of a surprise.  Some of them didn’t know what to do when they ran into white students in the washroom, for example.  But they didn’t make too much fuss about it and kept their cool.

We got up at dawn, had a quick breakfast and left for Mozambique when it was still dark.  We were joined by 23 Rhodesian students, all blacks except a white middle-aged woman, who was the National Secretary of the Rhodesian SCM.  Her name was Mary Austin. Apparently most of the white students left SCM after the unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) by Ian Smith.  The Rhodesian SCM was oppose to the UDI.


We traveled by bus into Malawi via Mozambique.   It was the summer of 1971, 10 days before Christmas.  It was the time when South African government was gearing up to clamp down on the UCM for being anti-apartheid and subversive.  There was a guerrilla war going on in Rhodesia and Mozambique.  Snow in the middle of the summer was a fitting start for an eventful journey.  The plan was to reach Malawi, where the WSCF was holding the Workshop at the retreat centre run by the church on Mulanje mountains by Lake Chilwa.  The shortest way to reach Malawi from Rhodesia was through Tete Province of Mozambique, about a 500 kilo metre drive.  By the time we reached the Mozambique-Rhodesia border, it was closed for the night.  So we had to spend the night at the border town called Zinto.  We had no other place to sleep except in the bus.  Throughout the trip to Malawi, the sole white student, whose name I remember only as Haime, had been stuck with me.   In the beginning, I thought that he must have felt closer to me because we shared the driving from Johannesburg to Salisbury.  Or perhaps, I wondered, he felt uneasy being the only white male in the group.  He said he was a university student from Pietermaritzburg.  Though there was something odd about him, I never thought anything of it, least of all, I had no suspicion about him.  I was still naive, I guess.  Starting a friendship with suspicion is not my habit.  It was only after I went back home to Lesotho, I was told that he turned out to be an informer for the Bureau of State Security (BOSS) – a South African version of the Nazi Gestapo.

At Zinto, the bus was full of people sleeping everywhere including the floor.   Many people were taking two or three seats, in a pathetic attempt to try to stretch out.  Haime and I decided to walk around the town of Zinto.  A lovely small town with Portuguese flavors.  But it was full of drunken Portuguese soldiers.  They were a demoralized pathetic bunch of young men.  They didn’t know why they were risking their lives for a hopeless cause, just like black soldiers in the Rhodesian Army.  I don’t remember why we were able to roam around a Portugese Mozambican town without going through any frontier formalities.  It might have had something to do with the fact that both Haime and I were not dark skined.  We went into a bar, had some beer and broiled shrimp.  They welcomed South African money, and everything was so cheap.  Shrimps were delicious.  If you know Mozambican shrimps, you know they are the size of large prawns, seasoned with something green and red and very piquant.  It was fun.  But we were tired, having driven all day and not having enough sleep the night before.  So we went back to the bus, and decided to sleep on the roof of the bus.  We crawled under some canvas sheeting and slept soundly until sunrise.  Conditions were far from comfortable, but at least we could lie flat on our backs.   And it was a beautiful, dry, cool summer night.   Strangely there were no mosquitoes or maybe we were too tired to notice any.

It took a lot of time for our bus to become a part of an armed convoy.  Until I saw the complicated organization to form an armed convoy, I didn’t realize that there was a serious war going on in Mozambique.  Of course, Portugal had to give up all African colonies in a few years later in 1974.  The press, not only the South African but also the Western press in general, reported very little about the war in Portugese Africa.  Portugal was a member of NATO, and was fighting wars on three fronts in Africa – in Angola, Guinea Bisau, and Mozambique.  A member of NATO using American weapons to protect their colonies:  I guess, this wasn’t a good public relation for the West.  So the press covered very little about the war in Portuguese Africa.  I found that the whole of Tete Province was the most fiercely contested region in Mozambique since it was the gateway to the celebrated Cabora Bassa Dam on the Limpopo River – one of the most strategic targets for the FRELIMO guerrillas (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique).  The roads did not seem to be maintained at all.  In fact, there was hardly any pavement left.  In truth, it was a dirt road with many pot holes, a poor excuse for a so-called highway.  It was like driving on a rutted country road.  We were told not to get off the vehicle for the risk of stepping onto a land-mine.  There were armored vehicles in front and back of the convoy of about ten or so buses, cars, and trucks; and soldiers in some of the vehicles.  It was hot and slow going.  We were now in a rain-forest country, with many giant trees including bananas, coconuts, mangoes, and palm trees.   It was so hot and humid, and beautiful and green.  So many colors all around.  I don’t remember feeling scared or tense.  The atmosphere in the bus was no different from any school outing.  A lot of fooling around and singing, and sleeping.  We didn’t stay long in Blantyre, the Capital, after reaching Malawi, and arrived a retreat centre at the foot of the Mulanje mountains very late at night.  We dropped into bed after a simple supper of soup and bread.

MALAWI – The WSCF Workshop for Southern Africa

Next morning, the regional leadership team met with Jose Chipenda to agree on the plan for the workshop.  We met on an outside porch overlooking a spectacular  view of the lake and mountains.  Colors were not only green, but red, yellow, purple – a typical birds-eye- view of African rain-forest and mountains.  It was not easy to work in such a beautiful setting.  Jose, at the time,  was the Regional Secretary of the WSCF for African, and was based in Nairobi.  It so turned out, Jose was well known person in United Church circle in Canada since he was a minister of the Congregational Church of Angola, a partner church.  I was told that by a South African colleague at the workshop that Jose’s brother – Daniel Chipenda was a famous guerrilla commander of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA and had been labeled as “Marxist” in the west.  Jose and I became good friends while we both worked in Geneva afterwards.  I was a bit surprised to find that the plan for the workshop had to be discussed on the day it began.  But in retrospect, it is understandable for Jose and local leadership not to have communicated the details by post and telephones.  The whole region was a war zone, and the black intellectuals were seen as enemies of the colonial and white minority regimes, and were closely watched.  

The only country in the region under independent African government was Malawi, hence the decision to hold the workshop there.  But oddly there was no participant from Malawi.  There was someone from the Youth Work Department of the Presbyterian Church in Malawi attending the opening worship, but no Malawian participants.  Hasting Banda was the President of Malawi, by then the self-appointed President-for-Life, He was a dictator and was running a very tight ship.  He didn’t create an army for fear of a coup d’etat.  Instead, he created the Youth Brigade which acted like a goon squad carrying six foot sticks to beat up any opposition to the regime.  I was told that the SCM program was considered to be too risky under such circumstances, and the Malawi SCM had voluntarily disbanded.  

We affirmed the original idea prepared by the UCM that the core program would be a three day simulation game of the South African situation, interspersed by Bible Study, reflections, and discussion on Christian responsibilities in given situations.  We had such a good time playing the game and shooting our mouths off saying whatever we had in mind, which we could not do in the home situations, even in Lesotho.  It rained a lot.  But when it was not raining the whole terrain lit up with fresh green dotted by flowers in primary colours.  It was absolutely gorgeous – dream like.  We jumped into a pond within the confines of the retreat centre for a swim during the breaks.  Rhodesians and South Africans were not used to such natural beauty.  Their countries were either dry savanna grass land or rocky mountains, if it was not desert.

There was a person by the name of Crosby (I forgot his first name) sent as overseas personnel by the Presbyterian Church in Canada.  He was working at the retreat centre as the temporary coordinator with a Malawian pastor as his partner.  One day, the Crosby family invited all of us to join them in the baptismal Service of their baby girl.  It was held outside by the pond.   It was so beautiful, a magical occasion.  Many guests attended from outside of the conference, but a well-dressed young white woman, whom I had thought to be one of the guests, stayed behind and sat in a discussion group after the baptism.   It looked innocent enough.  I didn’t think much about it.  I thought she was simply curious and decided to listen in for a while.  She was good-looking, blonde and stylishly dressed in a Southern Californian way.  But during the break, Colin Collins, the General Secretary of the UCM called an emergency steering group meeting.  He looked upset.


Colin said that she was an uninvited observer and claimed herself to be from the SCA, a white Christian Students’ Association of South Africa.  She flew in from Johannesburg.  She asked Colin to be allowed to sit as an observer from a sister organization.  He didn’t believe her story.  He was convinced that she was sent to spy on South African participants.  What could we do?  We believed in democracy as an important Christian principle.  We believed in operating in an open and free environment.  Kicking out someone who flew all the way from Johannesburg without any proof of a malicious intention sounded like a draconian action, out of character for a democratic Christian organization.  But South Africans were set on kicking her out.  In the end, Jose was delegated to ask her to leave on a technicality: all the students were carefully selected by each University SCM or UCM, and observers also were nominated by the churches.  All this was true.  Since She was no chosen in this way, she was asked to leave. So, she left.  I still don’t know if she was a government spy for sure.  But it is highly unlikely that she was what she claimed to be.

As I said earlier, to start a friendship with a suspicion didn’t agree with my disposition.  Nor did it agree with the gospel values I held dear.  But as it turned out, my South African colleagues were right.  There were not only Haime and the “woman from the SCA”, but also a few other black students planted by the Apartheid authorities.  Some of them exposed their true identities at the frontier police station into South Africa on the return trip.   For example, suddenly some of them were seen standing on the other side of the counter!  Colin Collins and Basil Moore told me all this later.  Apparently, these spies didn’t know who their other colleagues were.  So they were often spying on each other.  One of them I remember was Timothy Moloto, a cousin of the traveling Secretary of the UCM.  We had trusted him because he was a cousin of Justice Moloto..

I had to realize the limitation of pacifism, non-violent resistance, and liberal Christian ethics in a violent and extremely oppressive situation.  It was a Dietrich-Bonhoefferesque conversion for me.  It was difficult for me to accept a need for some violence in an extremely repressive situation.  I grew up respecting my pacifist father, who paid heavily for his beliefs during the WW II.    He died very young as a consequence of the physical and psychological abuse he received at the hands of the Japanese military.  In the simulation game at the workshop, it became clear that liberal values can be detrimental for a radical transformation of a society under the rule of a diabolical power like Naziism or Apartheid.  In the game, people who played the role of the members of Black Consciousness Movement ended up assassinating liberal white friends of black people.  Some time later, Justice Moloto who was Traveling Secretary of the UCM told me to get out of South Africa, if I wanted to stay friends with him.  I don’t think he was speaking rhetorically.

The WSCF Workshop for Eastern Africa

Towards the end of the workshop, we had to deal with a difficult technical problem.  Jose Chipenda wanted two representatives from Southern Africa to attend the Eastern Africa WSCF Workshop in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.  But neither Rhodesians or South Africans would be permitted to enter Tanzania.  All African countries boycotted those two Southern African nationals in order to isolate the white minority regimes.  So Jose’s question was if Southern African students would allow Mary Austin and me to represent them in Dar es Salaam as observers.  Mary had refused to hold a Rhodesian passport and held a British Passport.  I had a Canadian passport.  We were the only ones who could enter Tanzania.  It was a very awkward question.  I was very embarrassed.  There we were, two pale faced foreigners asked to go to a meeting of African students representing Africans who were discriminated against and oppressed by non-Africans.  I don’t think there was anyone who liked the idea.  I still think that it was a bad idea.  Anyhow, we felt we had to honor the group decision, and we flew to Tanzania with Jose Chipenda.

The Eastern Africa WSCF Workshop was held at the University of Dar es Salaam campus.  It was a hot and sticky time of the year.  There were Kenyans, Tanzanians, Ugandans, and Zambians: mostly from English speaking countries.  Ethiopians and Sudanese delegates added a different cultural flavor, in that one came from an Orthodox Church tradition and an indigenous African Christian culture, and the other from a very Evangelical piety with Arab cultural roots.  It soon became apparent that this group was a gathering of people who were mouth-pieces for their governments.  Tanzanians spoke about Julius Nyere’s Self-Reliance, Kenyans about Jomo Kenyatta’s Uhuru (freedom in Swahili Zambians about Kenneth Kaunda’s African Socialism, etc.  Having just left a gathering of Africans students who were basically against everything that had to do with their governments, it was a paradigm shift.  I soon became very tired of hearing students towing their party lines without listening to each other.  I was skeptical.  Governments couldn’t possibly be so good and always right.   I began to question the intellectual integrity of those university students, especially of the Christians among them who were supposed to be beyond the atraction of the worldly powers.  But I kept my mouth shut.

What bothered me most was the uncritical expression of support by their nationals of well-known repressive regimes such as Ethiopia under Haile Selasie and Uganda under Idi Amin – two of the Africa’s infamous  most brutal dictators.   An exception was, however, one silent and thoughtful Ugandan theology student, who stood out among others due to his pregnant silence, which he maintained throughout the conference.  He later turned up in Geneva, in an Anglican priest’s outfit, as the administrator of the World University Service (WUS) Scholarship Program for Rwandan exile students in Uganda.  He was above the world of opportunism, superficial patriotism, and hypocrisy.  

It can easily be explained, of course.  By the early 1960”s, most of the European powers had given up the idea of maintaining colonialism, and were ready to give independence to most of the African countries.  With a few exceptions like Kenya’s Mau Mau guerrilas, most of the African elites were given power without a fight and any popular preparation for democracy.  Ordinary Africans had not realized that their leadership could be as bad and unaccountable, if not worse, as European colonialists.  African tyranny by African elites was in its early stages, and people were still in denial by refusing to identify their leaders as corrupt dictators.  They were going through a difficult process of realizing the universality of power and greed, even among their own people.  It was only Southern Africans who knew the truth about power, and a need for checks and balance.   But most of the university students in other African countries were in denial, especially because they knew that they could be next in line to the seat of power.

Then, an expected thing happened.  Suddenly, a group of Ethiopian students remembered one uniting slogan of the Organization of African Unity (OAU)- “Struggle against Apartheid and racism.”   The OAU had its headquarters in Ethiopian capital, Adiss Abbaba.  No matter how much difference there was among African states, they always agreed that abolishing Apartheid in South Africa was their priority.  And there were two pale faces from Southern Africa sitting among them.  The Ethiopian students decided to turned on Mary Austin and me.  They asked where the oppressed brothers and sisters from South Africa were, and what two oppressors were doing there.  They demanded that Mary and I be expelled from the conference.  Nothing unifies better than a common enemy, real or imagined.  I was expecting something like this.  Most of the students looked embarrassed but didn’t say anything.  How can you speak against motherhood?  The most hypocritical ones, like Ethiopians, were the spearheads of the attack.  Since I had expected something like this to happen, I was not embarrassed nor did I feel threatened.  Mary and I volunteered to vacate the premise.  Jose Chipenda and Bethul Kiplagaat – a Kenyan SCM leader told us not to, and tried to explain the conference the reasons why we had to be the ones who had come to represent the Southern Africans.  The Ethiopians were not happy to accept their explanation, but since the others were ready to accept the reason for our presence, they did not pursued the issue.  But there was no denying that I was uncomfortable staying on in the conference.  I felt restrained to speak or to socialize.  So I often skipped the sessions and walked around the campus and the city of Dar es Salaam.  Probably I should not have behaved as I did.  But I can not deny that I was a reluctant participant of the conference.  In retrospect, the WSCF East Africa Workshop gave me a seed of a belief that once a free South Africa was achieved, it would offer a strong leadership to the rest of Africa in democracy.

The University of Dar es Salaam was newly built outside of the city among the gentle green hills overlooking the Indian Ocean.  There were many tropical plants.  I often spent time looking at the blue sea, watch fishing boat with a typical Arab style square sails coming and going. It was lovely.  But I was alone and terribly missing Christmas and New Year with my family and friends in Lesotho.  This must have increased the negative feeling about the whole conference.  <

Torture is an unreliable way to obtain information


Since the terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York City on September 11, 2001, many western governments have been found to be resorting to tortures as a way to obtain information. The U.S. used questionable methods such as water boarding, which is a torture but deny that it is; or using information from the countries that still practice it. I can say from my own experience that torture is not only immoral but it is not an effective way to obtain reliable information.

No, I was not tortured. But being detained for three days in a windowless locked room was bad enough. I would have said anything they wanted just to get out. I wished they asked me what they wanted to know. Nobody came to speak to me. I had no idea why I was kept there. I went crazy. It was in January, 1972 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

I was on the way back to my home in Lesotho where I taught at an university. I get off the plane, pick up my car, go home and cook supper for my 8 year old daughter: that was the plan. Her mother went away that morning to a conference. As soon as I got off the plane I was picked up at the gate. The man took away my passport, and took me to a room and locked the door behind him. The room had a proper bed, sort of, and the toilet had a toilet seat. So it wasn’t a jail. Nobody came to talk to me for three days. The thought of my little girl waiting alone in a house wondering where her Dad was drove me absolutely nuts. I just wanted to get out, I would have said anything they wanted to know. I didn’t need any physical discomfort or pain to say things. Could I have said the truth? I didn’t care. Call me a coward, fine, I am a coward. I love my child. I just wanted to get out.

It so turned out, I found out a few years later, that I kept a bad company as far as the South African government was concerned: Desmond Tutu was my faculty colleague in the Religious Studies Department; Steve Biko was a student at the University Christian Movement, etc. But me? Like I said I am not brave: I didn’t say anything dangerous in public; I wasn’t a terrorist. I just kept bad company by default.

I am sure I am not an exception. Not everybody is dangerous nor brave. Like me, they will say anything to get out of pain.

CANADA -Reconnecting with a foster son after 44 years.


– Reconnecting with the foster son after 44 years –

He phoned me out of blue in one Fall evening in 2011. I hadn’t seen him nor heard from him for 44 years. He asked, “Are you Tad who had a foster-son in Vancouver? You called him Butchie, didn’t you. It’s me, Henry.” How did he find me! Yes, we had him, a foster child, for nearly five years in a house on 14th Avenue East in front of the lovely Clarke Park, between Commercial and Clarke. He and our daughter, Evelyn, grew up like brother and sister. Evelyn was born when Butch was two years old. We could watch them playing in the park between holly trees on the grass from the front window. About ten years ago, Evelyn found him on the internet and had a few exchange of email. But he stopped, according to Evelyn.

I don’t remember why we called him “Butch” while his real name was Heinrich Haruo Lichtwer. Now he calls himself Henry. He came to us, my ex-wife Chieko and me, when he was 18 months old. His father, Gary, came and left him with us with one suitcase of clothes. His mother Suzie left father and son for another man or, maybe in retrospect, could have been kicked out. Gary was working as a lumberjack on the Vancouver Island and had no way of looking after the boy alone. That must have been in 1962 or thereabout. We took care of him until he was 6 years old and loved him as though he was our real son. We started to talk about adoption, if Gary’s personal situation was unchanged a little bit longer. We were devastated when Butch went away. Gary found another person and got married. Of course, we had no choice but let him go back to live with his birth-father.

After he left us, he came to visit us on the way home from school a few times. He inspected every corner of the house, helped himself to snack, and kept asking, “How come I don’t live here any more.” One day he stayed until it was almost dark. So I drove him to his new home. But he stopped me a few doors away from home and wanted to get out. It was obvious he didn’t want to be seen with me, coming home in my car. Gary came one day after that and told us sternly to send Butch home immediately if he came again, which he never did.

Gary and Suzy were introduced to us by Kathleen Greenbank, who had been a long time missionary in Japan working as Principal at Yamanashi Eiwa Girl’s School in Kofu, a couple hours train ride North of Tokyo. She wanted us to help them making friends in Canada. Gary was a German immigrant who met Suzy in Japan when he went there for holiday. He worked in the interior B.C. at various lumber camps and often left Suzy alone. She didn’t have any friend in Canada.

During those days, I had a thriving group of Japanese speaking young people at the church who recently came back to Canada. Suzy fit right in. She made many friends among the Kika-Nisei (Returned Nisei Canadians.) They were the peculiar group of Canadian born young people who were shipped to Japan immediately after the war from internment camps with their parents. The scheme was called “Repatriation.” They grew up in Japan. The went to school in Japan and spoke only Japanese. They needed to get together for support each other in the still hostile atmosphere of Canada. They did not fit into the group of Canadian born and bred young people – called Nisei, because they spoke English only and were Canadians in all intents and purposes, while Kika-Nisei were more Japanese than Canadian.

When the WW II ended, the Canadian government devised a scheme to send the Japanese Canadians, who had been living in the appalling conditions of the internment camps in the interior British Columbia, to Japan. It was called “Repatriation” but designation was a misnomer. Many of them were Canadia born Canadians, and Japan was a foreign country for them. The government offered internees two options: going to the Eastern Canada to resettle on their own expense, or going to Japan on Canadian government expense. A majority chose to go to Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg. But many others really didn’t have much of a choice financially, considering the appalling treatment they received and the hostile environment in Canada. About three thousand were shipped to the war devastated and starving Japan before it was stopped by the Senate which repealed the law. During the late 1950’s, they were allowed to come back to Canada. Many young people, though they were Canadians, didn’t have English language because there was no English language schools in Japan when they were growing up.

Suzy learned to drive from Kika-Nisei friends and went to a trade school to become a hair-dresser. Now she had her own money and friends, she began to have her own life in Canada. That in the mean time was the cause of friction between her and Gary. In 1962, they had Henry. They moved to Vancouver Island soon after. I had no idea what happened there.

When Butch arrived, we had no child of our own. We had not idea how to change diapers when the need to do so was urgent and obvious. I remember looking at the little guy all wet and smelly, screaming his head off. We didn’t know what to do. We looked into the suit-case and found what we thought to be diapers and tried to figure out what to do with them. This was the pre-disposable-diaper days. Feeding was no problem. He had enormous appetite.

A first few month, he cried a lot missing parents, went to the window crying “Mommy, mommy.” He insisted to go out to look for her. So we walked a lot with him. Rain or shine, day and night. Whether this became his habit or by nature he loved outdoors, he loved to go outside for a walk. In his bed time prayer, he always added, “God bless outside.“ We had a dog called Dinah, a chocolate coloured mut with some Pomeranian. The dog was, like the saying goes, the boy’s best friend. She was always with Butch every time we had a walk. The city was not requiring leash on a dog during those days.

One October day Butch and Dinah disappeared. That was not the first time, but it was the longest time he was away without adult’s accompaniment. We called the police and one of us walked around the neighbourhood looking for them. At one point, a policeman came to our house to check if they returned. They hadn’t. When we described how the boy and the dog looked like, he said, “Ah, I saw them.” He told us where he saw them. It was quite far away. It was getting dark by the time they came back, on their own, and like a typical Vancouver autumn day a thick fog came down. Without making fuss, Butch said, “I’m tired.” He wanted to eat something right away. I asked him where they were. He said, “I knew where we were. Dinah knew.” The dog and the boy were inseparable. Probably the dog led him home. Not long after Butch left us, Dinah died being hit by a car. Dinah was buried under an apple tree, because she liked eating apples.

Butch loved outside anytime all the time. We tried everything to stop him making a get-away: locking the door, put a harness on him, everything. He was too clever and crafty to be stopped by whatever we devised. It all started when he came to us, wanting to go out to look for Mommy. Even if he was not looking for the parent, he might have liked outdoors anyway. We were lucky that we lived in the house with a park in front. Many large trees, grass, tennis courts, etc. We tagged him with a piece of cloth, name, address, and phone number in every piece of clothes.

One day, a man from a service station phoned and asked, “Do you have a boy named Henry? He is here.” It was near the house, but a couple of blocks away on Commercial Drive. So I rushed there to pick him up. The man at the gas station told me, “He asked me to fill up his tricycle.” He cycled that far without us. At one point, it became quite a handful. So when Chieko became pregnant with our own first child, we asked my mother-in-law to come from Japan to help us.

Butch loved to sing, whatever the song was. When there is a music playing, or whenever anybody is singing in record or in person, he joined in. Words and music didn’t match, of course, but didn’t matter. He sang his heart out. So he loved the church. One year, I was on Sabbatical working on my Master’s thesis and was going to church as a member of the congregation, not as a minister. He always came with us and fully participated in the service, singing or praying. His hymn didn’t sound like anything others were singing but no matter; he sang his heart out. His “Amen” after the prayer was the loudest in the congregation.

One song that made sense was “I love you yeah, yeah, yeah” by Beatles. I remember him singing it on the swing with the boy next door, back and forth, high and low, “I love you yeah, yeah, yeah…” forever. By then he must have been four or five. It must have been Spring time. Birds were chirping. Flowers were blooming. Dinah joined the celebration, “Bow, wow, wow – I love you yeah, yeah, yeah” in dog language. He was a happy child.

One summer we drove to Sacramento, California in our station wagon. I was going to take a summer course at the Pacific School of Theology at Berkeley. Chieko, Butch, Evelyn, and Dinah stayed at the home of Chieko’s sister-in-law in Sacramento. We divided the back of the car into three sections. Front, of course, was the driver and a passenger. Immediately behind us was a play pen for Evelyn, well padded of course, and the last section, again well padded, was Butch’s own play area. It was the days when no seat belt or baby seat was required. We left the back window slightly down for ventilation.

In a motel, we noticed a few missing pieces of clothes on Butch but didn’t take too much attention; he lost his pieces of clothes anyway. Next day, when we stopped for lunch, he was missing one shoe. Not serious until at one point while going in full speed on a highway I heard him shouting, “I’m fishing.” I looked at him on the mirror. He was letting a skip lope flying from the open window. So I stopped the car to confiscate the rope, and noticed he had no shoe.

It was on the road about ten metres behind. He was throwing away his clothes one by one. He was bored. What a rascal! He was an active child, couldn’t stand the boredom.

In March, Muriel invited me to join her for a trip to Victoria, B.C. where she attended a conference. So after the conference, we took a ferry to the mainland to see Butch, Henry, When I propose this reunion, he was not sure. He was scared. When I saw a big man just like a man I saw in a photo at the exit of the ferry landing, I saw a man of mixed emotions. He and I hugged, but a moment later he looked away crying. As soon as we went into the car, the first thing he said was, “They never apologized.” I assumed he was referring to his father and step-mother. He never stopped talking about his abused childhood. I do not want to go into the area outside of my own experience. But it was a horrific story. It is almost like a miracle that he ended up normal. We met his wife, Claudia and two shy sons. We had a wonderful time starting with a pub lunch, good chatting session at his home, and a walk on the beach.

He told us later that he was scared of seeing me again, because I might be disappointed to find how he turned out to be. Nonesense! I was so happy to see him.

Yesterday, he phoned me from Surrey, B.C. where he lives wishing me “Happy Father’s Day.” I have a son? He is now 50 years old, married to Claudia, and two sons, Cameron and Brendan, 21 and 19. Wow!

June 19, 2012

Reading the Old Testament – Flood


Obviously, the story of a catastrophic flood and Noah’s Ark in chapters 6,7,8, and 9 of the book of Genesis is not a description of a specific world-wide event that actually happened. There was no such event recorded in any archeological finding. It might have been based on a historical experience in a place like Egypt, Babylon (present day Iraq), or Armenia (Mount Ararat is in Armenia). In highschool history lessons, I learned that experience of frequent flooding caused rapid development of civilization in places like China and Egypt. They had to cope with and survive repeated natural disasters, thus helped them to develop science and technology in the earliest human history.

Algebra and Trigonometry were invented and developed in Egypt in order to ensure property rights after devastation where everything was wiped away. Food production was enhanced enormously because floods brought fertile soil from high-lands. Food became abundant. Economy grew fast and population as well. People became affluent. Thus many forms of culture a mark of the civilized society such as artistic and literal culture developed consequently. This is the reason the earliest civilizations were found in flood prone regions of the world, such as China, Egypt, India, and Mesopotamia.

Noah’s Arc represents such a development; building of a big ship and food production. The dove brought back an olive branch when rains stopped. Do you know that this story is the earliest mention of ‘wine’ in the Bible? Olive and grapes are still major cash crops in the Middle East. Noah got drunk and boys were so ashamed of their father’s drunken nakedness. He probably left the left-over grape juice over-night, which became alcoholic. He probably didn’t know.

I want to encourage you to think about the meaning of what the Bible deals with natural disasters. The insurance industry calls it “Act of God”. Why God allows such tragedies to happen Or does God have anything to do with it? Think about the recent catastrophes: earthquakes in Haiti, New Zealand, Japan, and Turkey; or tsunami in Indonesia and Japan, or hurricane in New Orleans. Was God responsible? Were they the sign of the wrath of God for corruption of people?

The ancient Hebrews obviously thought so; the act of God, or punishment. Some fundamentalist TV evangelists like Jerry Falwell suggested that: “Indonesians are Muslims. So God punished them.” Or “New Orleans is a sinful city.” Etc, etc. Do you really believe that natural disasters are punishments from God? How do you answer people who ask, “Why does God do this to me?” If you don’t, how should you understand Noah’s story?

There are other tidbits that may be interesting to think about. What about angels (or heavenly beings) falling in love with beautiful human girls, which God obviously didn’t like? Were the animals who perished with sinful people in the flood also sinful? It sounds so unfair! Or what about the ages of people. Did Noah actually lived more than 600 years? If you believe the account of the Bible is the historical facts, you have to struggle also with the question of incest. How did Cain and Abel produce their children? There was no other humans other than their parents, Adam and Eve.



CANADA – Remembering Rhea Whitehead


The world is not the same without Rhea. It does not mean we crossed our paths often, but she was there at some important junctures of my life as a most trusted ally and a dear friend. Her presence was so comforting and reassuring knowing that we shared the same view of life, in dignity of all people, in justice and peace. We shared the good things in life too; fun and games, good food and wine, laughter and conversation.

When I was seriously contemplating a return to Canada after a decade overseas, it was Ray, her life partner, who told me about a job at the Canadian Council of Churches and urged me to apply. I didn’t know Rhea and Ray all that well at the time. What did they see in me? When I was short- listed and interviewed, Rhea was a member of the panel. After a few months at the Canadian Council, I heard someone quoting Rhea about my presence in the organization as “a breath of fresh air.” How reassuring that was when one was so uncertain about one’s place in the universe on a new job! That comment was more worth than the dozens of sessions on an analyst’s couch. At the time of my personal crisis, Rhea and Ray invited me to their dinner table, just to chat and check in.

We ran into each other, at the Canada-China Program, the Canada-Asia Working Group, the Human Rights Consultative Committee, and some other such things, during this period at the Council. I think she came to stay with us in Geneva when she was attending the UN Human Rights Commission. When I was Executive Secretary for the Montreal and Ottawa Conference of the United Church of Canada, Rhea was General Secretary of the Division fo World Outreach (DWO). We ran into each other frequently as the senior executives of the church. I could always trust her as an ally with the same views on the matter of faith, of society and the world.

After my retirement, I still saw her regularly at the DWO meetings. She kindly invited me to attend some international meetings on behalf of the DWO and the United Church. Although I never doubted that she trusted me, as a retired person who can easily feel useless and forgotten, her gestures of trust in those assignments were such a booster for my ego.

I thank God for Rhea and her life.

Tad Mitsui

* Rhea died on June 14th, 2011 in Toronto

Lethbridge, Alberta


World Council of Churches Pastoral Visit to Japan

by Tad Mitsui


I was asked to join a team of visitors from the World Council of Churches to tour the affected region of the March 11 triple disaster in Japan. It took place between May 9 and 14, 2011.

The most intriguing to notice first was near total absence of Caucasians in the flight bound for Japan. This was the first time for me to see the Air Canada flights to Tokyo only two third filled enough space to stretched out to sleep. Likewise Tokyo streets were almost devoid of white faces. My nephew who works for the Nissan Motors told me that all foreign employees went home.

In contrast to the absence of foreigners, outside of the affected region, life was normal. Azalea that lines every street was in full bloom. Lights were slightly dimmed and a quarter of escalators were not operating – an attempts to save energy. Billboards were everywhere saying, “Courage, Japan! We will recover and rebuild!”

To be sure, the destructive power of the earthquake was unprecedented. The Prime Minister Kan termed it, “The most serious since the Second World War.” The rough figures of total victims, at the time of our visit, were about 13,000 confirmed dead, 9,000 still missing, and 150,000 in the temporary shelters. However ruinous the above figure may be, it pales the unfolding damage by the nuclear accident in Fukushima, because its enormity is still unknown.

The most up-lifting event in the affected region was the frequent visits by the imperial family. The Emperor and Empress, and the Crown Prince and Princess, knelt down on the floor to talk to the evacuees who were sleeping on the gym floors for two months. Another important visitor, almost as important as the imperial family, was Placido Domingo. He was the only foreign artist who did not cancel the scheduled concert tour. He was truly a huge star everywhere he went, and made the audience weep with gratitude.

The first place we went was a small United Church of Christ in Japan (Kyodan) building in Ohfunato of 100,000 people. The city lost all of the commercial and industrial sectors by the tsunami. Visited next was Rikuzen Takada, a bedroom community next to Ohfunato, a population 80,000. It was completely wiped out. Only remaining buildings were schools, used as evacuation centres. Thousands of survivors were staying in the shelters in Ohfunato sleeping on the floors of gyms and schools. Many were still missing.

The young pastor at the church was newt in the community. The church building was next to the community hall housing a few hundred people. The pastor confessed that he was a complete stranger to this kind of social ministry. He was trained to teach the Bible and preach the Gospel. However, he surprised the visitors how quickly he had gained insightful wisdom.

He pointed out how costly gifts-in-kind were. It costs money and person time to collect, transport, and distribute the goods. How often inadequate and inappropriate many of the donated goods were. He realized that cash donations cost little and were flexible and efficient. It is good for the local economy too. He also predicts enormous social problems soon created by a sudden gap between the have’s who did not encounter tsunami, and the have not’s, who lost everything. He also mentioned PTSD as a major challenge facing the community. People are traumatized.

After Ohfunato and Rikuzen-Takada, we went to Sendai, a major city in Tohoku (North East region). What a beautiful city! Tall evergreen trees line the streets, and cherry blossoms were in full bloom, a month late from Tokyo. We visited the Tohoku District Office of the Kyodan where the Christian Alliance Disaster Relief Network is located. This organization was doing excellent work in relief, counselling, and coordination of volunteers.

We also visited Sendai YMCA, which was an important centre as a temporary residence for dislocated people, a distribution centre for relief good, and coordination of volunteers. At the end of our stay in Sendai, we visited the Anglican Diocese office housed in the Cathedral. Cathedral itself is off- limit, as the building could have been damaged structurally. However it is interesting that most of the high-rise buildings were not damaged even after the 9 magnitude earthquake.

We went to see the Sendai coastal plain which was a mixture of farming, residential, and recreational areas. It was totally wiped out. Only a few houses remained standing. We met many volunteers helping people to clean up their homes. Tsunami was stopped by the highway, which boarders the costal area and the city centre. Many damaged cars were piled up at the foot of the highway. We were told that many drivers were caught by walls of waters and drowned or suffocated. It was also a recreational areas for the city people with beaches and parks, eateries and stores. Parks were now used to dump the debris.

It will take the whole of this year to clean up. It will take more to rehabilitate displaced and traumatized people, and it will take decades to rebuild Tohoku (North East). It is estimated that the estimated cost will go over $50 billion. The cost of the accident at the nuclear power station is unknown, because it is still unfolding disaster (probably a few more billions.) But Japan will recover. Spirit is strong. Solidarity of the global community is firm.

JAPAN: My Adolescent years, 1945 – 1950

ADOLESCENCE:  Japan,  1945 – 1950 (On the right, me at the age 18)



I still don’t understand why I have taken so long to start writing about my adolescent years. I don’t think I had an unhappy adolescence. Maybe it is because of the fact that I was not a serious student in highschool and seminary. I was too busy with friends, later increasingly with girls friends. I ended up marrying one of them and divorcing her after 25 years. In retrospect, it is a story of a normal adolescence, but it took many years to accept that I was normal. I wonder if memories of those years are too guilt-ridden. I can not decide. However, when I went to my first and last class reunion of the seminary in June, 2010, one man commented of my student years, “You always seemed to be enjoying life.” I guess I did O.K. I should not feel guilty. After all, I did O.K. with my life. I was happy and must have looked so.


Five years after the Second World War, which Japanese prefer to call the War in the Pacific, were the years of dire poverty and hunger. Many people in Tokyo lived in shacks, wearing rags, and were always hungry. I remember feeling very cold and very hot in the summer. In winter, we warmed ourselves burning broken or half burned furniture. We cooked with that fire too. When it was unbearably hot, we climbed to the bell tower of the church and cooled ourselves in the breeze. It was windy on the tower which stood on top of five story building. !3 families lived in the half-burned out hollow shell of a concrete building that was my father’s church. We still worshipped in that building. It became slightly better when American soldiers began “GI Gospel Hour” in my father’s church. The chaplains, who must have been mainly Evangelicals. The U.S. Army cleaned the building, wired it, and brought in wood stoves for heating. They met every Saturday. That was my first encounter of the spoken English.

We were hungry all the time. Food was still rationed, but was never enough. Everybody survived buying food in the black market. One honest judge was reported to have starved to death because he refused to have anything to do with black market. It was touted as a stpry of the model citizen in the news papers. It was rather strange that one has to starve to death if one has to be a model citizen.  Because people were not used to question the system, it was a moral dilemma for honest citizens.  Food shortage was caused by the break down of infratructure and distribution system, not the shortage as such. Farmers were reluctant to sell their produce to the official food distribution system, because the orice the official price was unreasonably low.  the authorities had to tolerate the second tire market.  Food actually was plentiful.  A 5 minutes walk from Yurakucho station to Ginza church was lined with people selling food, bags of peanuts, boiled eggs, dried sweet potato, etc. They are all illegal black market but there was no visible law enforcement.  Everytime I found a ten yen coin in my pocket, I bought a bag of peanuts, a thirty yen, I ate a bowl of Ramen. Most of the venders were veterans, wearing torn army uniforms.  There was so few employment in industries.  Women on the streets who had nothing else to sell but themselves, in many cases to American G.I.’s.

In 1950, everything began to change drastically. The Korean War broke out, and industries suddenly perked up. Japan became the production and supply depot for the war. Anybody with grade nine education could find employment.  I learned I my early age that wars were good for economy, especially in the neighbourhood.


My family was always short of cash but I never thought we were poor. We always had cash-flow problem not because of small income. After all, my dad was a minister of one of the biggest church in Japan. He must have been receiving a not-so-bad salary. We felt poor because my parents were lousy managers of finance. Basically they really didn’t care too much about money. They must have thought money was there anytime we need it.  We ate sufficiently, and I was under the impression that we always paid the bills. My mother always fed other people at our table, because the manse was always full of people. My parents spent carelessly and gave away money.  When they ran out of money, they borrowed. My father never hesitated to help people. And people never hesitated to give or lend money to him. When my father suddenly died in 1956, we were horrified to find how much debt he left behind. It was all forgiven before his funeral. They knew he went into debt helping other people. When we had to leave the manse and had to find a house to live in after his death, my father’s friends launched a huge fund raiser to pay for the down payment of the house. So that’s how we bought a house. The income from the rent of that house supplemented my mother’s retirement in a nursing home in Canada until she died in 2003.

I had a glimpse of how my parents raised funds at the time of need. Once I was selected to join the World Council of Churches program for youth, a work camp in the Island of Mindanao in the Philippines. I think it was in 1955. I was never worried how my portion of travel expense for would be paid. I grew up thinking that money would come around somehow. One day before the trip, my mother took me to a home of a member of my Dad’s church. It was not unusual for my parent to take their kid along for pastoral visitation. My Mom did quite a bit of visitation too. We had a nice visit with tea and lovely conversation. However, before we left, the woman of the household gave me an envelope without any comment nor explanation. There was enough money to pay for the trip. It was all pre-arranged. It was done with dignity, as though it was a normal occurance.

There were two things that made me feel a little bit humiliated. I never had sufficient pocket money: maybe nobody does. When I went out into town with friends, girl friends included, somehow I was always with people who were willing to pay. Another thing I felt slightly sad about was clothes. For a few years after the second world war, I didn’t had change of clothes. I felt ashamed about how I looked; shabby and probably a little smelly. I was always cold for not enough warm clothes on my back. It was a miserable thing for a teenager who was gradually becoming self-conscious. I hated to look shabby. The situation became better when we began to receive American second-hand clothing from my parents’ friends in the states. My mother was proud of her skills in sewing, and always willing to fix oversized clothes to fit me. My sisters hated wearing my mother’s work, but I didn’t care. The sisters didn’t think Mom was good in sewing. But I thought I looked O.K.   However, all in all, those were minor problems. I never felt I had unhappy adolescent years. I felt loved and was a happy boy.


My social life was always in the church, except once. People came to church in droves during those days. When the war ended, the church became suddenly a place overflowing with people, particularly young people. They just hung around in the church building all the time. I was never conscious about it, but the church must have been open, unlocked, all the time. People came in and out any hours of day and night. The manse was in the church building. It was an apartment built within the church. Friends came to our home just to hung around. Perhaps that was the reason I didn’t feel deprived, being rich in friends but cash poor. I will come back and speak about my friends, but I should mention about this one and only time experience of social life outside of the church. Like any teenage boy, I was very conscious of girls. But relationship with the boys was more important until I met this girl. Her name was Reiko Kezuka.


It was a girl who launched me into the one-time social life outside of the church. And it was my first romance, such as it was. It happened like this: My father started English language classes in the church soon after the war, because there was so much demand to learn English. I never paid any attention to those non-church people who came to the classes. They were not my friends. So I didn’t pay too much attention to those people who stood around the piano when I was practising. We didn’t have a piano in our home, so I used the one in the church hall to practice. Before Christmas one year, my last year of high school, a girl gave me a little package. That was not unusual. People gave each other gifts before Christmas in the church often, because Christmas was not observed in most of the Japanese homes. So they did it at the church. It was a Christian celebration in a non-Christian country. I got presents from lots of people because I was a family of the minister. In the package was a small notebook, which was the kind people would keep in the pocket to write ‘thing to do’. In it was a hand-written poem.

I was not a lover of literature, neither was I much interested in poetry. So, reading the notebook, I didn’t understand what the girl was saying. It was all about flowers and insects. I had no idea what she meant in subtlety with full of nuances. So this dim-wit casually showed it to a friend, who said right away, “Oh my god. Don’t you know she is in love with you?” Oh my God, indeed. However, I could not quite identify which of the young women who stood around the piano did this. But one day one of them gave me a bouquet of pink sweet peas. So that was the one. She was in the grade eleven and was always with a group of high school girls from the volley-ball team of a commerce school. She was not what you might term ‘beautiful’, but was an attractive and healthy looking sporty type of a person. She was a daughter of the owner of a shop specializing model aeroplanes in Ginza. Ginza still is a high price shopping area of Tokyo. It was a shop for people who spent big money on model aeroplanes. It had mainly American clientele, so I guess she needed to learn conversational English to help in the shop. I got to know her name, Reiko Kezuka.

We went out for maybe a year, more or less. In the beginning she always came with a bunch of girls, as I said before. It was not unusual for people to hang around in the church and in the manse. We did the usual things for teenagers, going for a walk in Ginza, had coffee, window shopping, etc. Then she started to come by herself, always to our place to my room. Once she invited me to come to her school after their volley ball practice to go for coffee in town. Again, I remember being surprised how much pocket money ordinary kids of my age had. I never paid for anything, movies, restaurants, etc. I might have been attracted to her, but I can not say I was crazy with her.

By then I began to realize that there was an invisible barrier between my friends in the church and the ones outside of the church. Frankly speaking, ordinary kids outside seemed to me to be so dumb. In the church, my friends and I were discussing issues, and outside gossiping. No wonder I was never comfortable with my peers at high school either, especially when they were giggling in dirty talks. I could not stand it. They sounded so below my dignity and stupid. I was interested in opposite sex just the same but differently. My high school is known even today as an elite school, but even then I thought those kids in my school seemed to be so dumb. I now realized the nature of Christian churches in Japan. The church in Japan is an institution for the elite and is generally speaking puritanical.

Just before I started the Tokyo Union Theological Seminary, Reiko was picked to be a member of Japan’s first women’s professional baseball league, and she invited me to visit her at the Spring training camp. It was in a warm Pacific coastal region near my birth place of Numazu. I watch the training for a few hours, and was totally bored. She took a room in a hotel for me, and came to see me. I had no idea what I was expected to do. It was a beautiful time of the year, flowers blooming, ocean was blue, a perfect time for romance. But we sat and just talked. How naive could I get! She didn’t insist. I broke up with her soon after, and she cried. A strange thing was: just before I came to Canada, by then I was already married to Chieko, she wrote to me. She was also married and lived in the western coastal region by Japan Sea. I didn’t understand what she wanted. So I ignored it and forgot about it.


There were three boys close to me throughout my teen years. We were so close that other church people called us “three crows – Sanba Garasu.” I think the term came from a legend of three young samurais, which extolled the virtues of friendship. Eiji Ooshima was a son of a diplomat, went to the elite Tokyo University and became a university professor in Physics. Masao Fukai was raised by a single Mom, known as a famous geisha madam in Ginza. Nobody gossiped about his mother nor his origin in the church. Only the Japanese would know that Geisha is a special class, cultured and respected. We certainly didn’t care nor question about his background. He also went to an ellite Keio University and became an editor of a political magazine. We were confirmed together.

They came often to the church after school just to hung around in dusty rooms of the concrete church building. Often we would just sat and chat. We organized the boys and girls who came to the church, summer retreats, picnics, come springtime hikes in the green hills in the country. We edited the journal for the kids in the church and compiled and printed camp song books. We organized Christmas Carols visiting church members at their homes, and created a Junior Choir. We were busy. We thought we organized the whole church. We attended the AGM, and joined the discussion about the budget. We did all this before we went to university. In retrospect, we were extraordinary group of teen age boys. I am also surprised that the adults let us do all this.

At the time we were preparing to go to the university, “Three Crows” gradually disintegrated. I began to feel the distance from two others; was a more accurate way of to describe the dissolution.

I can not quite pin-point the reason for this. Ooshima started to go out with my sister, Taeko, could be one of the reasons. I was not jealous, but I didn’t like to see the relationship btween my best friend and my sister. It was too close to comfort. Also, I started to hung around with another group of boys who all came from Keio University as Fukai. To me they were much more fun.

It is this group who still keep in touch with me even after fifty odd years, I lived almost entirely outside of Japan, Canada, Lesotho, and Switzerland, and most of them stayed in Japan; with a few exception of them who had a successful lives overseas, in New York, London, Switzerland (he still lives there.), and Eastern Europe. Tokyo University is known as an institution that produces the elite academics and government bureaucrats, while Keio produced the elite business class. Keio crowd is the one who still get together whenever I go to Japan.

The closest friends among the Keio crowd were three, or four if you include me. The leader of the group was Atsuo Ishiwara. He worked his entire life for the Mitsui Trading Company, no relation of mine, in Asia and in Eastern Europe. He was smart, knew he was smart and behaved like one. He became friends with an American businessman, attended his Bible class and started to attend my father’s church, Ginza. He brought his best friends at the Keio University to church, Takehiko Nozaki and Yasutake Nambu. I joined the group and four of us stayed life time friends. Nozaki became a banker, and when he retired he was a branch manager of one of the most important Mitsubishi Bank in Down Town Tokyo. Nambu joined me at the Seminary and became a minister of the United Church of Christ in Japan. He went to the Union Theological Seminary in New York to do his doctrate. We got together and discussed theology, and often listened to Ishiwara’s lament about girls. Ishiwara was always in love, but never succeeded taking any of them out. It is strange that any of them married the girl who was in the group, except me. They all married in a traditional way, arranged marriage. Strange that I am the only one who failed in marriage.

During the first year of the university, one more joined in a tight circle of friendship. He is Reiji Yuminoke, who turned out to be my closest friend. However, until Yuminoke (we called him Noke) four of us were cash poor. We called ourselves “Waterman’s Club.” When we felt the need for a change of scene, we went out and went in any coffee house, chatted a long time sipping water without ordering anything. We normally didn’t have money for coffee. After a while, enough chatting done, we went out. So the name, Waterman’s Club. But Noke was a boy who was no short of pocket money. No more waterman’s club. He always paid. No question was ever asked about this rather unfair arrangement.

It came to be like this: Noke needed help in his academic work. So we often stayed at his home to help him, in writing papers and in preparing for exams. Ishiwara was a literary type, so he helped in Literature. Nambu was a philosopher, I did English, and Nozaki French and the rest. We had good times at his home. Besides, Noke’s mother was a good cook. We ate well and had a whale of good time. Noke’s father owned a small book binding business, not a millionaire but had more money than any of our family. It is the best memory of my youth. We talked about everything. Often we talked about Ishiwara’s latest love, rather we listened to him lament; he was always in love. Poor fellow. I always had a girl friend – different one every time. All of them knew them but never spoke about them. Odd!

We talked mainly about Theology, and girls. We planned outings, retreats, parties, special worship services, choir. We published regular papers for our age groups. We attended the AGM for the congregation. We thought we ran the church. In retrospect, it is amazing that the elders of the church let us do all this.

Girls were all from Christian girls’ schools. They were required by the schools to attend the church. They were from the Methodist school (Aoyamagakuin), the Disciples, (Seigakuin), the Anglican (Rikkyo), the Canadian Methodist – later United (Eiwa), the Quakers (Friends), you name the church, we had them. Another odd thing about my friends at the church, the only ones I made friends were at the church, is the fact that girls came from Christian schools, and boys were not. Even I went to public schools all through teenage years. Boys I made friends with were mainly from Keio, a secular ivy league elite school.

Another odd thing about the circle of friends at Ginza Church was the fact that, though we were very close and hang around together all the time, none of them married each other, except me. I guess there was a kind of ‘brother-sister’ psychology working. They were so close that after sixty odd years, they still get together regularly, a few times a year, for re-union for dinner in expensive restaurants, with former Sunday School teachers as honoured guests. I don’t go because of distance, except twice when I just happened to be in Japan.

After the university, Nambu went to my alma mater, Tokyo Union Theological Seminary and became an ordained minister. Ishiwara was hired by the Mitsui Trading Co., and spent most of his life oversea, the Philippines, Eastern Europe, etc. Nozaki became a banker and became a branch manager of one of the most prestigious branch of the Mitsubishi Bank in Ginza. Noke succeeded his father’s book binding business and became the most successful business man of the group in terms of financial gains. He continued to treat me every time he had a chance, allowing me to use his house in Hawaii, took us to holiday resorts, and taking us to expensive restaurants..

This pattern of the circle of friends at Ginza Church continued until I left Japan for Canada in 1957. By then I was married to one of the girls from Seigauin (The Disciples school), Chieko Fukushima. She was my first wife.

CANADA: I lived on the right side of the street, 1988 – 1990

What a difference a street makes to your social standing!  If you live on one side of the street, you are in.  But on the other side, out.

I lived on Gifford Street three doors north of Gerard in Toronto.  When asked where I lived, I always said, “Cabbage Town.” It was a good name; where many CBC types lived, including the former Governor General before she was appointed to that position.  It was not a lie but the one hundred year old former nurses’ residence was not yet gentrified and looked a bit dilapidated to be called “Cabbage Town.”

When I first came to Toronto in 1968, I did a study of life in Cabbage Town in a program known as the Canadian Urban Training for downtown church workers.  At the time, it was known for decaying old brick houses where people who could not afford to move to the suburbs remained. They lived in horrible conditions.  There was a new housing development on the South of Gerard Street, which became known as Regent Park, Toronto’s oldest public housing development.  When I came back in 1987 from overseas and looked for a place to live, I was surprised to find the old Cabbage Town had become mostly gentrified with sand blasted beautifully restored Victorian houses.  It was now known as the place where up and coming people lived.  Luck had it that I found an apartment in a still not yet renovated brick building, which was built as the nurses’ residence for the first Toronto General Hospital.   So we lived in Cabbage Town, not quite but sort of.   But we didn’t take a short cut through Regent Park.

I cycled to work to St. Clair Avenue East at Yonge Street.  The best way to avoid climbing the steep hill between Bloor and St. Clair was going through Rosedale where Toronto’s old monies lived.  Commuting between a hip Cabbage Town through palatial houses in Rosedale to Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue, where Prof. Northrop Fry used to live, on a bicycle was a source of my great satisfaction.  Hip and politically correct.  Vanity of vanities!

I loved it.  There were many good eateries, fashionable shops, organic groceries, stores for ethnic foods and goods too.  They served people on both sides of the street.  Depending on how you dress or look, you get treatments accordingly.   One time in early summer we had a brisk walk in the neighbourhood and stopped for a drink at a Bistro with a French name.  We were thirsty.  It was a mid-afternoon, and there was nobody in the establishment.  We were told that all seats were reserved.  At 3:30 p.m?  In 1989!  In Toronto!  We should have gone home to change.  Maybe my partner should have gone in alone first.  She is white.  

In winter, it was too cold to cycle.  So I took the famous red rocket, the street car, to work.  When I was on time for work, just before 9 in the morning, my fellow passengers were mostly Cabbage Town types with a sprinkle of those on the way to Bay Street.  Well dressed or expensively casual hip.  Most of them were reading the Globe and Mail or the Toronto Star, or even the New York Times, sipping Second Cup coffee.  On occasion, I had to go to the office early like before 7 a.m.  Interestingly, there weren’t many white faces in the street car.  They wore boots and sneakers, some of them wearing clothes with yesterday’s white-wash dust on the back.  If they read newspapers, they read the Toronto Sun.

One hot steamy summer evening, the police were knocking every door asking questions in our neighbourhood.  They asked us if we heard or saw anything unusual in the night before.  They didn’t tell us why they were doing this.  We found next morning that there was a murder in a house on the corner of Gerard and Gifford,  on the North side of Gerard – the Cabbage Town side.  The headline was “A Murder in Regent Park.”  But it was not strictly correct.  The house where it happened was technically on the South end of Cabbage Town.

Interestingly, on the next day it became “A Murder in Cabbage Town”.  It so turned out that the victim was a black man, therefore initially he had lived in Regent Park, of course.  What was discovered as the police investigation progressed, it was that he was a high-class hair-dresser working in a fashionable beauty salon in downtown.  Furthermore he had many rich gay lovers.  It was a case of the lovers’ quarrel gone wrong.  So he had to live in Cabbage Town.  He did not move from Regent Park to Cabbage Town after he died.  Though he did not move geographically, his status moved from one side of the street to another.

CADANA: My name is George, the cat, 2010

My name is George.  

I am a cat.  I live with the staff of a female and a male humans who serve me food and clean the toilet.  In return, I do my best to help them keep their sanity. In this way, they save the cost of  an analyst.  They require a lot of work; because they live in an insane world of greed and vanity, gizmo and useless junk.  Reading the sad stories of my species on this newspaper every week, I felt compelled to write this letter.  

Human minds are so barbaric and primitive that to convince them to change their behaviors may be hopeless.  But I don’t give up.  I am making a male staff person transcribe what I need to say.  He, though basically a dimwit, seems to understand a little bit of our language.

Some humans throughout their history have apparently known that the cat family of the life forms have a far superior inner quality.  One of their holy books, I believe it is called the Revelation, compared their god-on-earth figure to a lion.  Lion is a cat.  What I don’t understand is: why did they choose the big predator among our species?  Size and violence are not the highest attributes of life forms; wisdom is.  We, the cats, just look at humans with contempt and disdain without word to make them realize of their idiotic tendency to resort to violence and self-destruction.  

We endure their cruelty to show them of their evil ways.  A story has it that one of their holy men died on a cross just to show humans of their evil nature and the way to salvation?  Didn’t another holy man gave up titles and wealth to show how to achieve Nirvana?  But humans don’t get it, do they?  They still think that power and violence, money and war, and other negative ways can achieve an ideal world.  I think they are doomed.  Guess, I will go with them, because I love them.

George the cat, transcribed by Tad Mitsui.

CANADA: Sexual scandals in the church, 1990 -1995

-Learning from two court cases in the United Church of Canada –
During the last few decades, the authority of many venerated institutions has increasingly been challenged.   No longer do people accept the dictate of the government, the police, the religious or scientific institutions without question.  The latest spell of revelations of sexual crimes and predatory behaviours by the clergy is one of the indications of this trend.  Basically I believe it is good that despite many attempts of cover-up their false images were exposed.  I have not done a sociological nor statistical study of this development.   But I can depend as a primary source on my own experience of working within the church bureaucracy during this period.

In early 1990’s, the United Church of Canada found itself preoccupied in dealing with a number of sexual harassment charges against the members of clergy.  I walked right into this turmoil as a member of a United Church bureaucracy called “Conference” or “Synode”.   I wish to begin my remarks by describing two court cases.  Then, I would like to ask ourselves three questions:  Are we looking at exceptions – a few rotten apples?   Or are we looking at an institution rotten to the core?  And lastly what have we learned and what must we do?  These two examples may sound different from what you hear and see in the media.  But they are what I witnessed personally.   They show the complexity of the issue.  

Case number one:
A woman complained to the Ontario Human Rights Commission that she was sexually harassed by a minister during the course of pastoral counselling.   She also reported of the action she took to the Presbytery.  In the United Church of Canada, the Presbytery has the primary responsibility to oversee the ministry personnel.  The fact that she went to a secular authority first shows her distrust of the church process.  Upon receiving her report, the presbytery suspended him without pay not waiting for the outcome of the Human Rights Commission process.  It launched its own investigation by a committee.  Meanwhile, the respondent minister took the whole United Church to the civil court.  He complained that the Presbytery did not follow the due process prescribed by the United Church Manual.  The Manual is the United Church book of rules.  The court ruled against the church, and ordered the church to give back his job.  The church had to pay the income he lost also the cost of the court.  The judge termed what the United Church did was contrary to natural justice.  I was not involved personally in the Ontario court case, because it happened in another jurisdiction.  But a call was extended to him by a church in my jurisdiction.  Even though I did not want to see a man like him in my conference, I had no way of prevebting him to get a job in my conference by blocking the call process.   It was a court order.

 Case Number two:  
            A nude photograph of a young male minister was featured in a gay magazine centre-fold.  The secretary of the Montreal Presbytery invited him to explain himself as to how this came about.  The minister did not see how this could be an issue.   He pointed out that there was no victim.   He also insisted that the photograph was a work of art. The secretary, however, thought that such a visual image of a minister of religion would create a problem in the performance of his pastoral work.  So the presbytery, on the advice of the secretary, suspended him with pay, and required him to see a counsellor.  The presbytery offered to pay the cost of counselling.  However, he took the whole United  Church to  the Quebec Superior Court claiming that he was treated unjustly without a due process.  I was summoned by the court to represent the Montreal and Ottawa Conference of the United Church of Canada.  The conference is a supervisory body of the Presbytery.  The church argued that to be seen in such a photograph was an inappropriate behaviour for a pastor and it would affect his pastoral work negatively.  However, the case came to an abrupt end, because he lied before the judge during the discovery.  He was convicted of perjury, and the case was dismissed.  He was put on the Discontinued Service List (DSL).  In the United Church lingo, it means he was fired, and was no longer considered to be an ordained minister.  Perjury is a felony, and the United Church Manual prescribes that the minister convicted of felony will automatically be put on the DSL.

It would have been an interesting precedent, had the court reached the conclusion.  Defining what art is, would have been useful vis a vis pornography.   Also, defining what an inappropriate behaviour for a pastor could have been extremely useful.  

            Now then, here we have to ask ourselves if those cases were isolated incidents by a few rotten apples, and should be dealt with as such, case by case.  Or are they a tip of an iceberg of a much deeper and serious error in the self–understanding of the church?
    There are many people who defend the church by taking the fist proposition.  In other words, they think those and other offenders are rare exceptions not the norm.   I have some sympathy with that view.  For the sake of comparison,  you certainly cannot condemn the whole Armed Forces form the Russell Williams monstrosity.  I am proud to be a citizen of the country with professional and dedicated men and women in the armed forces.  Likewise, I believe that a vast majority of men and women in the church are dedicated, caring, and selfless people who are committed to the service of God and humanity.  I am proud to be a part of it.  It is totally unfair to condemn the whole body because of a few sick members.  Sick parts must be dealt with according to the rules of the church as well as by the laws of the land in a decisive manner.  But you can not condemn the whole institution because of them.

    However, I also take the view that those predatory individuals who had managed to live in the system with impunity for such a long time is a symptom of the much more profound error existed in the church itself.   I believe it is a serious sickness of the Christian church.  A Swiss theologian Emil Brunner kindly called it a “glorious but serious misunderstanding.”   He was referring to the notion of Christendom and the church’s  arrogant assumption of divine authority.   It had existed within the church since a Roman Emperor Constantine made Christianity the established religion of the Empire in the fourth century.  Since then, for far too long the church had assumed the divine right to determine what’s right and what’s wrong.  Only God could do such a thing according to my belief, not a human being or a human institution.  But the church had behaved as though it was a god therefore could set its own standard without checks and balances.  Hence, its custodians, the church hierarchy and the clergy class, were considered to be above the law, and often escaped a normal scrutiny by the society and the laws of the land.  The offenders were disciplined internally hidden from the eyes of the public, thus maintained a false image of an infallible institution.  Now our society is going through a paradigm shift.   Because of democratic, multi-cultural and secular nature of our society, the church no longer can pretend to possess the divine right to dictate the ethics of the whole nation.
It was a sign of the time when the authority of not only the church but also all established institutions is challenged.  Not only was the church embroiled in court cases, so were other institutions, like educational, legal, and medical professions.   I believe this is a good thing that the church had to be brought down from its pedestal and its authority and power questioned.

 I used to hear those scandals as gossips and in whispers, but now I was hearing them openly and with victims demanding justice.  The church was learning, and still is, even though slowly and reluctantly. The recent revelation of the abuses the First Nations children suffered in the church run residential schools brought decades of such scandalous behaviours of church personnel into the open.  This is cleansing and a good thing.  I say this because it is important to affirm that no human institution has the right to claim the exclusive divine authority.  Historically far too many people were killed for heresy and/or immorality defined by the religious institutions.  Even acts of terrorism were committed by Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus, even by Buddhists, by those who assume the divine authority to dictate doctrines and ethics.  They killed innocent lives in the name of Allah or God.   Not to mention the two millennia of persecution of the Jews by the church, culminating in the holocaust.  They all claimed the exclusive knowledge of the divine will.  This is a totally unacceptable apostasy.

Another important lesson the church has to learn is to distinguish a professional relationship from a romantic relationship.  A romantic relationship is beautiful and is to be celebrated when two equal partners enter into such relationship.  On the other hand, relationships based on one partner exercising power over the other in the name of love are not acceptable.  No longer can a member of the clergy take advantage of his or her position over parishioners.  We must all be equal.  Sexual relationship between two unequal partners is exploitation of one by another, and should be proscribed.  Consent between unequal partners even between adults is not a genuine consent.

This is why sex with a minor by an adult is a statutory rape.  Likewise, sexual relations between professors/students, doctors/patients, lawyers/clients, and ministers/parishioners should all be prohibited.  My brother-in-law, who worked for the Manitoba Auto-insurance – AUTOPAC, told me that the sexual relationship between an adjuster and a claimant will result in immediate dismissal of the adjuster.  The church has to learn from other disciplines, because some of them are ahead of the church in this.  Many people lament the decline of the status of the good old patriarchy figure, and blame this for the decline of public morality.   But I happened to believe that in order to re-establish a new order in a secular, democratic and multi-cultural society, the old power structure which was based on erroneous assumption of authority, must be brought down.  The church, or any institution, must give up a claim to the exclusive and/or divine rights.  No minister, priest, imam, or ayatola is god.  All believers of religion must accept that the only the Supreme Being has the right to determine the fate of the other, not human.

CANADA/JAPAN – Remerber all war dead


Tad Mitsui

“We owe it to everyone who perished to say, “Never again.”

I was a child during the second world war in Japan, and I had a simple faith.  Perhaps that’s what sustained me throughout the war.  In June, 1945, I had been evacuated from Tokyo and lived in the fishing port city of Numazu at the foot of Mt. Fuji.  One beautiful day, I was walking home with my friend from school.  The streets were covered by a canopy of fresh green leaves.  The “all-clear” siren had meant that bombers had left the area.  We were happy, kicking stones, fooling around.

Suddenly there was the sound of a bomb falling.  We hit the ground and covered ears, eyes, and the nostrils with our hands as we were all trained to do.  After a  huge shock that shook the ground, silence fell.  When I got up, I didn’t see my friend.  There was only a long piece intestine hanging from a tree branch.  He had been completely blown away.  It was a direct hit.

War is ugly.  No wonder many veterans don’t want to talk about their experiences.  I survived this.  I had my faith but also my nerves were numbed having seen many charred bodies and body-parts.  Death was everywhere.  The dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and the second one on Nagasaki, led to a quick end of the war.  It was a relief, we were exhausted.

Since coming to Canada in 1957, I have served the United Church.  But I have always felt a tiny apprehension participating in the observance of Remembrance Day, though I believe it to be an important part of ministry.  H have never been able to honour the war dead in my family except in silence, because they died fighting for Japan.  When the vanquished are not included in remembrance, it takes away their dignity as people who mourn them, and a faith that sustained them.  Only by remembering all of the war dead can we mean what we say: that we prayer for peace.

My granduncles Masao and Shiro both died in 1900 in the Ruso-Japan War.  They were my grandmother’s brothers.   Masao, a navy lieutenant, died while leading a fleet of old cargo ships to seal the port of Yingkon (Port Arthur), where the Russian Pacific fleet was based.  He was ordered to scuttle the ships and sink them at the mouth of the port.  But his boat was blown up by a land-based artillery with him on it.  Shiro died of dysentery in a field hospital.  They were twenty-eight and twenty-three respectively.

My uncle Mitsugu was my father’s youngest brother.  He was briefly my Sunday School teacher and was my favourite relative.  He was conscripted and lost in the battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands in 1944.  He is still missing officially but presumed dead.  Nobody knows whether he died at the sea or lost in the jungle and starved to death.  Only a few in the regiment came home.  He went to war most reluctantly, because he was a pacifist.  He was eighteen.

All those uncles were Christians.  The Mitsuis have been a proud Christian family for four generations, since the late 1980’s when Christianity was till prohibited.  In my family there was no problem fighting Russians, but the World War II was a big problem.  My family was all Methodists, and all women went to the Canadian Methodist schools and my father went to an  American Methodist Seminary in Japan.  The kindergarten I went to was American Methodist, and my favourite teacher was Miss Winifred Draper.  My father became a pacifist.

I believe that war is evil, and all those who died are victims.  Perhaps this is the lesson in Christian pacifism I learned from my father.  The Memorial at the Peace Park in Hiroshima simply says, “Rest in Peace.  We will never repeat the same mistake.”  That pledge should be made to all who lost their lives, regardless of their nationality or loyalty, whether they were soldiersor civilians, men or women, elderly or children.

JAPAN: What I learned when I was Grade One, 1938

The Japanese writing system has two streams: one using Chinese characters called Kanji, and the other,  phonetic signs called Kana.  The latter could be seen as an counterpart of the European alphabet.  It has 51 characters.  One eleventh century genius in Japan, probably a Buddhist monk, wrote a poem using all phonetic signs without repeating even one character, describing the whole of Buddhist philosophy.  We used to sing it in the grade one class, not so much to learn the Buddhist teaching but to learn alphabet.  I have come to love its depth and simplicity.

“Colours fragrant but fade.
Is anybody unchangeable in our world?
Today, I shall overcome the jungle of hustle and bustle,
Without getting drunk by their shallow dreams.”

CANADA: The day of the cats, 2010

Life with a cat in Lethbridge
– Respect all life forms –

People who rescue abandoned pets and pay for the vet’s bills so that they can be adopted, are heroes in my book.  We adopted a stray male cat from such an animal  rescue group in Lethbridge three years ago, 2007.  He had apparently been horribly abused.  He has a broken chest bone and F.I.V. (feline version of H.I.V.)    His ears are deformed probably from frostbite.  But we love him dearly.   According to a vet, a cat normally falls on four paws and seldom breaks a chest bone unless it is thrown from a fast moving vehicle or kicked hard.  Every time I look at our poor cat, I wonder how could any human be so cruel to a small helpless animal.  

Albert Sweitzer, a physician, a theologian, a scholar of Bach, and a renown organ virtuoso, who ran a leprosarium in Gabon, said, “respect for life” is the highest form of ethics.  True, we have to kill other lives in order for us to live.  I hear that the First Nations people treat the animals they kill for food with gratitude and respect.  We should do the same: respect for life.

A century ago, a famous Japanese humorist and a writer Soseki Natsume wrote a hilarious satire titled  “I am a Cat.” (Available in English from Tuttle Publishing.)   It is a life of an academic in a story told from a point of view of a cat.  It exposes a life full of hubris and of vanity in academia.  Natsume was a professor of Literature at the prestigious Tokyo Imperial University.  Hence it is a self-mocking fiction.  In it, every time the cat suffers cruelties done to him by humans, our hero, the cat, mumbles, “Just wait till the Day of the Cats.”

Considering the way humans are driving many species into extinction because of our insatiable greed for wealth and comfort, the day of judgement may come not only to evil people, but to all humanity.  Many religions have a concept of the ultimate event.  Buddhists wait for Nirvana, Jews wait for the Messiah, Christians for the Second Coming, etc.   But judging from the way humans trample on other life forms without respect, it’s easier to imagine the “Day of the Cats.”

Respect for animals is not a luxury afforded to the middle class, it’s a harbinger of love and respect.  More importantly, it could be the only way for our survival.  We live in a world of interdependence.  The life of a cat matters.

JAPAN: I went to the Philippines , 1956

War against Guerrillas requires different strategy – not Regular Armed Forces
– A lesson from the Japanese experience in the Philippines –

In May 1956, I went to the Philippines as a volunteer to work in a school reconstruction project in a village called Balinbing on the island of Mindanao after a huge earthquake.  The project was organized by the World Council of Churches for university students from many countries in the world.  I had a 24/7 police escort while I was there.  This was because there were still many people who had vowed to kill the first Japanese they saw.  Stories after stories, I heard terrible incidents of brutalities and  massacres committed against Filipino civilians by the Japanese military.  General Yamashita, then the Supreme Commander of the Japanese Occupation forces and many others were tried and executed for the war crime.

During my stay for the volunteer work in the Philippines, I made some good friends.  They gradually opened up and told me of the circumstances under which the butcheries were committed.  The Americans came to the island of Luzon to liberate the Phillppines under General MacArthur, but not to Mindanao.  The battles there were fought mainly between the guerrillas called the Huks, made up of mainly Moro people,  and the Japanese regular army.  The problem for the Japanese was that those guerrillas were indistinguishable from villagers during the daytime thus invisible (because many of them were villagers), but they took up weapons at night and attacked the occupiers.  Japanese couldn’t tell who their enemies were.  So they tortured and killed many non-combatant civilians as well as some fighters.

It’s the same stories where-ever wars are fought between the regular armies and the guerrillas.  It is repeated again and again, for example, in France – Germans killed innocent civilians together with the French resistance, “Maquis”, in Viet Nam by Americans, and now in Afghanistan.   And the record for the regular armed forces in such wars is not very good.  Mighty armies are defeated by ragtag collection of rubber sandal-wearing and poorly clad people whose weapons are often just AK47 and homemade bombs.   It has a sophisticated name like “Improvised Explosive Devise”, but it’s a homemade bomb.  This war in Afghanistan is not working.  Such a war never works for the regular army where the guerrillas have popular support.  Find other ways.  And save the lives of our magnificent young people in the armed forces.  They are in the wrong place.


July 13, 2010

CANADA: Life in Lethbridge – Happy as a chicken head, 2000 –

Life in Lethbridge – Happy as a chicken head

I must confess that having lived in big cities most of my life before retirement, the idea of moving to Lethbridge felt like a let-down.  Compared to Tokyo or Toronto, Geneva or Montreal, Lethbridge seemed such a back-water.  After ten years, however, it may not be a paradise, but it feels to me to be a very good place to be indeed.  There is saying in Chinese, “It’s better to be a head of a chicken than a tail of a cow.” I feel like that.  I was nobody, but here I can be somebody.  A tail of a cow can be a great place to be; big, prestigious, and more valuable.   A tail can perform important tasks, but you have to live with what comes out of the end of a body.  The bigger the  organizations, the more politics than substance.   And you are often nobody in a big political scheme of things – just a cog.  I got tired of it.

I am serious when I say, I became more cultured in Lethbridge.  I had never attended as many concerts until I came to Lethbridge.  My friends are performing with whom I can chat about it afterwards.  He may not be Yo Yo Mah, but I have no sophisticated enough ears to hear the difference anyway.  It is more important to hear music that makes me feel I am participating in the creative process that makes me content.  I have never seen so many Contemporary Art until I came to Lethbridge.  Again, they are my friends, and I got to know some of the creative processes and struggles.  So I understand now what his or her art means as never before.  I found that Lethbridge is well-known as an important centre for contemporary art in Canada.  The political party I committed to has absolutely no hope of getting into power in Alberta.  But my contribution counts and is visible and appreciated.  Thus I don’t feel powerless.  I am a head, or somewhere near the head , of a chicken.  And I am happy.  I am glad that I am not a tail of a big and powerful cow.  At my age, I have no stomach for shit.

A small community allows one to be relevant, because one does not feel alone.  There is a saying in Lesotho in Southern Africa, “A person is a person only amongst people.  (Motho ke motho ka batho.)”  How true!

July 12, 2010

SOUTH AFRICA: Letters from South Africa, 1994



Tad Mitsui was appointed to be a member of the Ecumenical Monitoring Program for South Africa (EMPSA) in 1994.  It was a program organized by the World Council of Churches to enable the South African Council of Churches, which was an official member of the Independent Electoral Commission for the first democratic general election in South Africa involving the total population, to fulfil its obligations.

The following are the journal he wrote in Johannesburg and Durban.

By Tad Mitsui

We are staying at a hotel in Johannesburg for a week, being briefed about the tasks ahead of us in the WCC sponsored n Ecumenical Monitoring Program in South African. I am writing the following to make sure that I know what I am doing.

We are 15 Canadian church persons among 320 chosen from Ecumenical partners from all continents. Canadians came from coast to coast, women and men, Lay and Ordained, young and not so young, activists, journalists, politicians, and a retired RCMP, and are from Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian, and United Churches.
But I have forgotten completely that we belong to different churches until now. When we have a common agenda, denominational affiliations become meaningless. Politically, we are Reform Party on the right to NDP on the left. That distinction also lost meaning in the face of daunting tasks in front of us, united in our solidarity with our sisters and brothers, who are determined to create a democratic nation with a minimum of violence.

We are all committed to accompany our South African brothers and sisters in their efforts to build a democratic country peacefully.
After all, it is their country and their mission. And it is they who are creating a new country, and who are in the forefront, often endangering their own lives. We are with South African Christian sisters and brothers to monitor the process of transition to a democratic state.

We monitor and support their efforts to educate people for democracy in their voters’ education programs, encourage and mediate in the situations of potentially violent situations. This calls for, sometime, standing between two groups of thousands of hostile crowds. Many churches created Peace Committees in their communities, trying to avert potential violent conflicts. We don’t know how many lives those brave church people saved in this program. I feel frustrated that the Press ignore those Good News.
I suppose it is our job, as Evangelists, to bring those Good News (Isn’t that what Gospel is called?) to the attention of people.

We will also observe the election process by being at the polling stations and at the vote counting centres. We will learn the skills to do that by the Independent Electoral Commission. This may not take place in Natal, because of the objections raised by the Inkhata Freedom Party (IFP). (It is wrong to call them simply “Zulus”, as Canadian Press do, because there are many Zulus those do not belong to IFP, I am told.)

We will be divided into groups of four persons, no 2 persons from a same country in a group. I have been assigned to station in Durban, and will monitor the situations in Kwa-Zulu region, a stronghold of IFP. Sounds fun?
Tomorrow, Sunday, we will attend the Worship Services in Soweto, and attend Rally to commemorate the first anniversary of Chris Hani’s assassination.

Thank you for your prayers.

Johannesburg, April 10, 1994


I crossed the barrier for the first time in twenty two years. At last, I saw what I had missed all those years on the other side. It was just ordinary airport scenes; carousels, customs, foreign exchange, etc. But I was almost in tears, as a flood of emotion overcame me. My fellow travellers asked me how I felt. I could not answer, in any language!!

In 1972, January 2, I was stopped at the passport control in the old terminal building of Jan Smuts Airport, Johannesburg. It looked as though they were waiting for me. All I had in my mind at the time was a thought of picking up my car and driving home to Lesotho 360 miles away, where Evelyn, who was seven, was waiting for me to prepared supper. Her mother had gone that morning to a conference in Botswana.

A security man came to the passport control officer, and asked me to follow him. He had my passport in his hand already. He took me to a room on the second floor, told me to wait, and went away. Three days of hell began.

No, nobody did anything to me. That was the worst part  Nobody showed up, except a frightened blackman in a blue coverall who delivered stale food from greasy-spoons.  I had no idea why I was held. I still don’t.

The thought of Evelyn alone in that house in Lesotho, not knowing where her dad was and wondering when she could eat supper and go to bed, drove me crazy. There was nothing to read, listen, nor write with. The door, of course was locked.  The only window, which could not open, was facing another brick wall.

Ingredients of hell are the situations where you have absolutely no control nor knowledge of you own future. I would have said anything to anybody just to get out. I was an easy torture victim. Of course, I could not sleep during those 3 days, until the same security man came to give me a piece of paper ordering me get out of the Republic of South Africa in 6 hours.

Since then, of some friends Movement of South Africa, a few were killed under mysterious circumstances or murdered. Tiro, Mohapi, Biko, Turner, Roza, etc. One man, whom I though to  be a trusted friend turned out to be a spy for  the police, Craig Williamson.

Many South African friends asked me, not knowing anything about those 3 days in 1972, when I would come to visit them. I answered, “When freedom comes to your country.” Now I am here. It is a miracle.

Johannesburg, April 12, 1994


As we drove into Kwa Zulu/ Natal, after a few hours of drive, my travelling companion from Belgium observed, “It looks so normal.  I can not believe it!!” He expected armoured vehicles allover the country, perhaps bullets flying, having to duck a few times.  He could not believe how many cars there were on the road. No check points nor curfew at midnight. I am sure that there are places where you find them. But perception of danger in Natal was so prevalent that it was blown out of proportion.

In fact, one Canadian withdrew from the program when he discovered that he was assigned to Natal. His wife said to him on the phone, “Natal? You are not going, not on my life!!” Why do we continue to believe that CNN tells absolute truth? He could not believe in the guarantee given by the South African sisters and brothers about our safety. What a pity!!

Of course, there is a serious problem in Kwa Zulu/Natal. People are being killed everyday. Houses were burned. It is not, however, so called “Black on Black” tribal conflict as our media put it. It is a conflict between the followers of two political parties, combined with old feuds of many years. Of course, there are certain places we do not go. There is State of Emergency in force and Natal is under military control. It is serious. Unless this impasse is resolved, credibility of the election will be diminished. I am not minimizing the danger that exists nor the seriousness of the problem.

I believe, however, that we have to look at the situation in perspective. And avoid seeing the South African situation more serious than what actually is. More importantly we must realize that, by exaggerating the problem like sensation loving media do, we are not giving due credits to those courageous South Africans who worked so very hard to reach this point in their history. The country is on the verge of actually moving into a Democratic society. It is like a miracle, for those like me who watched the struggle for freedom for decades.

Just before I left Canada, in a peaceful street of Ottawa, a British engineer was shot to death for no reason by a group of teenagers. A month before, a couple of Japanese students were shot in Los Angeles. And President Clinton had to apologize Japan for this senseless killing. How many foreign tourists were targeted and killed in Miami? On the other hand, how many foreign observers were killed in Kwa Zulu? Zero!! Was any of the candidates in South African election assassinated like Robert Kennedy or Colosio in Mexico was? We had to buy an extra War Coverage in our travel insurance to come here. Why are not all those who go to Miami required War Coverage?

We foreigners complain about inefficient infrastructure in South Africa, like telephone service, banking system, bureaucratic organizations. We forget that South Africa was let behind because of the sanction we imposed. We prohibited them to buy new management systems and technology.

We must be more objective and give due credits to South Africans.  Yes, there are so many problems. However, in the face of a huge task before them, what Independent Electoral Commission and Transitional Executive Council have achieved in such a short time is nothing less than unprecedented. I don’t think the bureaucracies in Canada would accept to implement such a huge amount of tasks in the time given to the South Africans. I wouldn’t, and I am an experienced bureaucrat.

Changes in the attitudes towards other racial groups, to me, seems almost surreal compared to the times I remember, coming from more and more racialistic society in Canada. Black preachers in Soweto speaking about forgiveness after so many deaths and suffering, probably will be laughed at in the similar situation in our more and more litigious society. You may call it ‘being realistic’ . If so, what should we call senseless racist things we sometimes do in a democratic and free Canada? Stupidity?

The most important lesson I learned in this type of trip is how much our Christian partners value our solidarity and bend backward to guarantee our safety. In my days in Ecumenical work, I have been a guest of the partner churches in many Civil War situations.  I have been to Angola, Ethiopia, Gaza and West Bank, Mozambique, Lebanon, Sudan, and Zimbabwe during civil strife. When I followed the advise of my host partners, I never felt that I was in danger, even at the height of Israeli/Lebanon War of 1982 in Beirut. I was mugged and robbed when I did not, in Dar es Salaam and in New York City.

So I cry with the widow of a man who was hacked to death in her burned down home, admire the courage of those Peacemakers who stood between warring groups, and enjoy the Sun of this beautiful city of Durban. I trust and follow the advise of our coordinator, a Baptist minister whose church recently was burned to the ground.  He hold no grudge against whoever did it, and work for the Peace that only can build the new South Africa. I feel safe.

Tad Mitsui
Durban, April 13, 1994


A group of 21 people coming from 21 countries are staying in this beautiful former convent “Glenmore”, divided into five groups to monitor Peace process in and around Durban. We are also expected to observe the election process on 26,27, and 28 April.

Our groups are running around allover the place, mainly in Kwa Zulu, attending political meetings, looking at mainly the aftermath of violent incidents, and learning to observe the polling stations. All exciting stuff. There will be “Jesus Peace Rally” on Sunday in the city stadium, to show the unity of all Christians for peace.
Tens of thousands are expected to attend.

But here I am, stuck in the office looking after communication by E-Mail and FAX, and by telephone and walkie-talkies, summarizing reports from the groups, and getting messages. My wife and friends should be pleased to know that I am safe, because I am bored to death in the office.

How have I got here? Don’t laugh. Because of my (alleged) ability in English. And also, (don’t laugh, David Shearman) because I am the only one in the group who has handled E-Mail. Yes, it did take two days to fix a FAX machine. Yes, after 3 days of struggle, I did get to Johannesburg by E-Mail programme called “Co/Session”.  I finally figured it out. I am beginning to realize that this sort of doing boring things may be the lot Canadians are destined to.
Honest but boring broker.

My good friend, Jim Hodgson has been stuck in Johannesburg, taking charge of Communication in Khotso House for the Ecumenical Monitoring Program National Office. Sure, he is an excellent journalist, but stuck in Johannesburg? I also know that a few other Canadians are assigned to the similar kind of job, like mine, in other parts of the country.

Today, a young German came back completely frustrated, because his group missed all the important but tragic events. He wanted to bypass our local co-ordinators to plan the group’s movement, so that he could be where action is when it happens. Fortunatelyanother German, a slightly older and wiser man, persuaded him to believe that this is South Africans’ show, not the Europeans.

In the meantime, killings go on in Natal. 7 Voters’ Education worker who were distributing pamphlets were shot and hacked to death. It is tragic. But it is coming to be clear that who are for democracy and freedom, and who are not.

There was a live TV debate between Mandela and de Klerk last night.  White papers claimed de Klerk’s victory, and the black paper claimed otherwise. So what’s new? I am glad that even in South Africa, a banality show called ‘election’ has come into town. Does that mean also democracy is coming? I hope so.

 Tad Mitsui
Durban, April 15, 1994


There were approximately 40,000 people Evangelism attending, about 113 white. It was organized by African Enterprise, a Billy Graham type of an Organization for Evangelism, based in Pietermaritzburg.
All the mainline church leaders of Durban endorsed it and were present. And we were encouraged to attend and show our solidarity.  The leaders of all political parties also endorsed the event.

I saw hardly any police force around the Stadium, which was quite remarkable in the Province which is in the State of Emergency and where large meetings and demonstrations were not allowed without permit. It is remarkable in a country where the government used to even ban the church services sometimes and bombed the headquarters of the Council of Churches. It seems that the authority at last realized that the church could be a force to help bring about peace.

Another remarkable thing about this rally was that it was run very much in the style of Evangelical meeting, even of Fundamentalist gathering. A Belgian Roman Catholic Priest sitting beside me looked stunned watching a spectacle he had never seen, except on the American Tele-Evangelists’ program. It was very much like that. Shouting preachers, spontaneous Amen’s and Halleluyah’s, “Thank you sweet Jesus”‘s. Raising hands, dancing with choir, even speaking in tongues.

What was different from what we know as Evangelical meeting was that the content of message was Justice and Peace like that of the United Church. We were asking God for forgiveness of the sins of Apartheid in which many participated by commission or omission, by trampling on the sisters and brothers in Christ. We asked God’s help to be an instrument of His peace so that killing would stop.  Those are the kind of prayers that are not normally heard in the North American Evangelical meetings. As though to say that the prayer included action, many Peace Monitors from the Peace Committees were very much present.

Today’s rally reminded me that Evangelicals do not have to be conservative and right wing politically, like they normally are in North America. We forget the fact that Martin Luther King was a Southern Baptist, spoke very much in a style of an Evangelical preacher. None of our local coordinators is from so-called mainline churches. Zion Pentecostal Church, etc. Our own coordinator would be the closest to a mainline church by being a conservative Baptist. I remember a Zimbabwean friend of mine told me one time about many of guerrilla fighters went out to fight after all night prayer meetings during the liberation war of that country.
I also remember that during my days of the University Christian Movement of South Africa, some of the most fiery revolutionaries were from African Independent Churches, very much in the tradition of Pentecostal churches or of African Spirituality. In fact, one of the most prominent Anti-Apartheid Christians, Beyers Naude was one of the strongest supporters of the African Independent Churches, and helped to start their Theological School.

Perhaps, we should change our mind about Evangelicals. They can remain theologically conservative, but can also be strong on social messages of the Gospel.

Incidentally, I ran into an old acquaintance of mine at the rally, a former PC MP, Rev. Walter McLean. He was also here as a part of the Commonwealth Observer Team. Walter was the Chair of the Commission on World Concerns at the Canadian Council of Churches, when I was the Executive Secretary of the Commission. It was good to see him in a good shape. He said he recovered, or did he even run? What was interesting was that he is now working out of Bob Rae’s office keeping his eye on African and UN matters for the Province of Ontario. Bob Rae? What’s going on? Walter was a Red Tory, but working with Bob Rae, NDP?

But why not. If the Evangelicals can pray together with me to heal the nation, why not Bob Rae, NDP with Walter McLean, PC.
Tad Mitsui
King’s Park Football Field, Durban, April 17, 1994

-that we don’t know, really-

If, God forbid, our planet should be destroyed because of our stupidity, it will probably be the collective fault of Europeans, Japanese, and North Americans. Certainly not the fault of Africans. Just as much as we are capable of producing weapons which can destroy the earth several time over, our efficiency and good organizations can do the same through other ways, through destruction of ecology, very efficiently.

Then, what in heaven’s name we think we know better to run South African election? I confess that I do get irritated by different ways our African colleagues run things. But I get very angry when some of us Europeans and North Americans think that we know better than Africans because of our efficiency and organization. We must remember time and again that it was African blood spilt in the struggle for liberation that brought about finally this freedom, not our hesitant solidarity actions from outside, though it helped.
I always remind myself of the fact that the worst thing happened to foreigners like me was to be kicked out. I was safe. But my friends paid for what we professed together with their lives. My words were cheap. Their words were their lives. Some of them, though much small in number, were also whites. Those whites were traitors to their class. Beyers Naude, Ruth First, Rick Turner, etc. I admire them very much.

Last night, on the day the Inkhata Freedom Party decided to participate in the election, we decided to invite my old friend, Jeff Guy to tell us about the history of Zulu. He and I lived on the same Campus for several years, he teaching Zulu history, and I theology. I did not know he returned from exile and was teaching here at the University of Natal. We chuckled watching Desmond Tutu, who was also a lecturer in the same Campus, commenting on Buthelezi’s decision on the TV news, remembering good old days.

We were so happy to know about Rolland Hunter’s release from the prison. Rolland was a few years older that Evelyn. She was six when we started to live on the University Campus. His dad was Professor in Education. He came to stay with us in Geneva, when he was bumming around Europe trying to avoid military service. He came back to South Africa, probably money running out, and was drafted into the army. It did not take very long for him to be caught giving military secret to ANC, tried for high treason, and sentenced for many years.

They risked their lives and some whites also.

So what right do we have, criticizing the way this election is run when they are doing their best under incredibly difficult circumstances. And some of us have nerve to criticize the way this monitoring exercise is run. Especially we don’t seem to understand the way they run things by consensus. We think it is waste of time
and very disorganized and inefficient. Just as I predicted, getting along with my colleagues from the Northern countries is more difficult problem for me, than the alleged danger due to conflict or the challenge of gaining trust of people.

It is interesting, isn’t it, the person, who remained after Kissinger and Callaghan and co.- so-called International Mediation Team left, and helped to bring about the accord between ANC, IFP, and the Nationalist Government was a Kenyan? Yes, there was a dancing on the street last night. Many people including us feel a little bit safer. People who were most happy were those involved in the Peace Committees. One of us saw them crying with joy. They deserve to be rewarded. They are risking their lives for peace.

In the same token, I believe that the South African Churches are today the most credible Church in the world, not because many people go to church, that is true too, but because what they risked for the sake of Justice and Peace. I am here to witness their costly faithfulness and their joy. I am grateful that theyallowed me to be with them to share their anxiety and joy.

I feel like a passer-by watching that Man on the tree on the hill.

Tad Mitsui
 Durban, April 20, 1994


I am happy being here, doing what I am doing at this crucial time in the history of South Africa, perhaps of the world. I get frustrated by arrogance of us outsiders, but that is a minor problem, because this is definitely a South African show, and they are in charge.

However, one big frustration I have is: I can not find out anywhere in South Africa to tell me what’s going on in Palestine.
Of course, they are busy, putting all their energy into this historical development. They have no time to worry about other people’s problem.

But it is a pity that there is no stronger tie with the Palestinian people’s struggle than there is now. No TV nor any Paper have reported anything about the crucial event that mayor may not have taken place last week, withdrawal of Israeli Defence Force from Jericho and Gaza. As a person, who followed Palestinian and South African issues passionately for a long time, this is a funny place to be. I am right in the middle of a crucial time in one country, and yet I have absolutely no access to the news about the other.
As a person who went to Gaza and West Bank for a honey-moon during the height of Intifada, it is frustrating. My wife wanted to see the country, which was so much part of me.

After living in Southern Africa for nearly 8 years, and working furthermore 4 years in Geneva on the issues related to Apartheid, I went back to Canada. I worked for the Canadian Council of Churches, where I discovered that I had to work as a liaison with the Palestine Program. I walked into the work with a bit of trepidation, because at the time Palestinians to me were still  “terrorists”. But quickly, after attending only one meeting in Gaza, I could understand the situation much better.

It was like the ANC was called a terrorist organization in Canada only until a little while ago. I was able to see how PLO mistakenly became a terrorist. I could apply the same analytical skills I acquired in Southern Africa to find out what’s going on, economically, politically, and socially in both situations. It was not primarily the question of racism as such. Racism was a tool.
And racism was not as strongly applied in Israeli/Palestinian situation. It was easy for me to follow 2 issues simultaneously.

But it was very difficult to persuade some of my Church friends to understand that both issues belong to the same category. It may have to do with guilt towards the Jewish people. It was difficult for my friends to understand it as the problem of right wing nationalism. Anti-Likud government policy is not antisemitism. It is a simply logic, like I would never have identified myself with Mr. Mulroney’s government though I am a passionately loyal Canadian. But they, as I previously, could not separate government from people.

Some white South Africans suffered from the same mistaken attitude. Clive Nettleton, who ran an excellent popular education program on a News Paper called “The World” in Soweto, got himself banned together with the News Paper itself. He came out into exile and succeeded me in Geneva. But he had to leave the job, because of the pressure from people who would not tolerate a white South African on the job. Problem with racism is that it blinds us from seeing real issues and real people. And it cut both ways.
It victimizes black and white.

I do believe that Palestinian and South African issues belong to the same category. Those both people can strengthen their positions if they form an alliance of solidarity. The crowing moment was when Mr. Mandela and Mr. Arafat hugging each other, after Mr. Mandela was released from Prison and visited many countries, including Egypt where he ran into Yasir Arafat. And I wondered then why I was stupid enough to think, at one time, that they were terrorists, the extended hands of USSR.

There are many Christian among the PLO leadership, likewise in the ANC. Think of Albert Lithuli, one of the prominent former leaders of the ANC, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and a dedicated Christian. Allan Boesak, Sibusiso Bhengu – former Director of Studies in the Lutheran World Federation, and many other prominent Christians are running on the ANC ticket, both Nationally and Provincially. An ANC Rally I attended today began with a Christian prayer.

One unexpected spin-off of the end of cold war is that Israel and South Africa no longer are needed as the anti-Communism frontiers. Thus the West could afford to be more vigorous in being moralistic and principled. So Apartheid had to come to an end, and Israeli occupation of Palestinian land had to come to an end. They became too costly for the west to help maintain. I am sure media hype about those 2 countries will end soon – maybe within five years at the very most, like they dropped Namibia and Zimbabwe as boring subjects.

Then the solidarity between Palestinians and South Africans become a very important bond in terms of their survival, and perhaps for the sake of lessons to the world.” During the long struggle for liberation and suffering, they forged themselves to be politically sophisticated peoples, patient peoples, and most importantly forgiving peoples. It never ceases to amaze me that after equally long struggle and suffering, there was not a single execution of former white enemy in Namibia and Zimbabwe. And I am sure that the history will be repeated in South Africa and Palestine.

Shouldn’t some Europeans learn from this, like in Ireland and in Balkans – Bosnia’?

Tad Mitsui
Durban, 22 April, 1994


Today, we put on a different cap, and an arm-band, to indicate that we are accredited Election Observers for Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). But many of us prefer to continue to wear the light blue cap and jacket, showing that we are volunteers for Ecumenical Monitoring Program in South Africa (EMPSA.). Now that we have been here as EMPSA for three three weeks, we know that we have more credibility than any governrnental organizatior, including UN, and feel safer in this blue outfit. Isn’t it an irony that today 2 of the most respected and credible persons in South Africa are Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, one former convict and an Old Testament scholar who spoke like a prophet, a voice in the wilderness?  They were lone voices for Peace and Justice when such ideas were outlawed.  We feel honoured to be wearing this blue, this Ecumenical blue.

On Sunday, we saw the power of an instrument of peace, which the churches in 5outh Africa had become. It was stronger than the guns carried by company of South African Defence Force (SADF) soldiers.

We ran into a group of refugees returning to their homes, those who were afraid of repeated attacks by the opposing party members and village thugs. We noticed a company of SADF , escorting those people, obviously happy returning home now that peace seemed to have come, dancing and toi-toyjng (Special South African way of marching with accompanying noises.) We decided to abandon the idea of going to a political rally and to follow them. It was a day-off for me at the office, and I decided to accompany one of the teams in their excursion to the field. It was a real privilege to experience what my colleagues experienced everyday.

As they approached the home village, there was a band of men with sticks and some guns waiting for this group of refugees. They did not want a large number of members belonging to the other party to return. We ended up sandwiched between two hostile groups, one ready to assault the refugees who came back to their homes. SADF encircled those groups Including us in their armoured vehicles. I wonder what the soldiers could have done, if the attackers decided to advance on the refugees or on us.

Our co-ordinator, who was the only one who spoke Zulu among us, decided to speak to the leaders of both groups. A mini shuttle diplomacy began, while four of us stood between them.  After a few minutes later, a soldier, who was also a Zulu speaker decided to join the negotiation. Chanting, dancing, singing became louder and more ominous.

It was like for ever. After about an hour, singing died down, and would-have-been attackers began to leave in twos and threes, leaving only the tough guys – village thugs behind. Then SADF decided to move in. Thugs turned out to be a bunch of cowards and ran away. The refugees went home singing and dancing. We were so very proud of our Co-ordinator.  I wonder now how he is going to face the same crowd after we, foreigners, leave. We will be safe back in Canada or in Germany, but what about him who lives here?

I believe that now IFP is participating in the election, in Kwa Zulu / Natal violence occurs much less frequently. I hope that I have not spoken too early. Our worry now is the bomb, exploding in urban centres. A Right wing element of Afrikaners phoned in to claim responsibility. They have vowed to fight on to protect what they believe to be their right’.’ to remain the master of their own land. They are demanding their own white state. They pledged never to live in a country ruled by ANC. So far, 14 bombs have exploded mainly in the urban areas, causing about 20 deaths and many more casualties. [all deaths were attributed to only 2 bomb incidents – SJ.)

The teams have phoned in to report that there were delays in opening the Votjng Stations, boxes have not arrived, police officers are late, etc. Today is sort of like a dry run, allowing elderly people, those who are in hospitals, and prisoners to vote helped by the institutions.  Tearns reported that some elderly persons have been waiting in front of the Voting Stations since 5:00 a.m. It seems to be starting OK. Bombs SO far have not intimidated the people around here. Good sign! It is probable that black people are feeling safe to vote, but not the whites in urban centres.

The churches are forefront in Voter Education. Evensong I went to in an Anglican church, turned out to be a session on Voting. Churches officially fought hard for this day to happen.  Of course, like in the case of many other causes, not all the churches and congregations were’ as keen on this as the others. However, generally speaking, the South African Churches were’ forefront of struggle for freedom for all peoples. And they are on the way to achieving that goal. They paid dearly, but they won this time around.

At the end of Christendom, when the Churches are no longer a significant factor in the society as it used to be in the West, there is one church in the world, which risked itself for the sake of Justice and Peace, stands out. And I am in their midst. We are riding on their coattai1s, sharing their moment of glory. They are not afraid to stand in between warring factjons stopping the fight, like our co-ordinator I an ordinary local Baptist pastor. I am grateful for the privilege.

I am sitting here in the communication centre alone/ in between reports and requests for action coming In from mobile telephones that the teams carry, I am writing this riot being able to stop tears of joy. I am so happy to be here.

Tad Mitsui/ Durban, 25 April, 1994


At midnight, 26 April, 1994, the old South African flag came down and the new flag went up, which is a combination of old colours of Dutch Orange and British Blue with African Green, Black, and Yellow. I rather like it not just colour combination but the idea of it.

The first person who walked into a Voting Station in Inanda was Mr. Nelson Mandela, followed by one of our coordinators, Rev. April Mbambo, pastor of Pentecostal Zion Church. As he was coming out of the station Mr. Mandela declared to a reporter, “We have moved from the era of pessimism to the era of hope in South Africa.”

Almost at the same time in Cape Town, Desmond Tutu shouted “yippie!” and walked into a voting station in his usual purple Archbishop’s cassock. He then proceeded to the voting booth with a walk almost like a dance with his typical twinkle in his eyes saying, “Wonderful, wonderful”.

But fifteen minutes after the opening of the voting stations, a powerful car bomb exploded at Jan Smuts Airport Departure level parking lot, shattering all the glasses of the International Departure lounge, miraculously injuring only 17 people. This was a desperate attempt of the white right wing extremists to scare people away from the voting booths. Were they successful? No way.
In fact, enormous logistics problems were caused because an unexpectedly large number of people turned up to vote. Some people waited in front of the station since 3:00 a.m. Line-ups in some places were several kilometres long.

There were happy beaming faces, thousands of them waiting hours on end under he hot sun. Temperature was about 28, South African sun is strong, can kill you if you have no cover on your head. Despite this, people were ecstatic voting for the first time in their lives. One 91 old man died of exhaustion while on a queue, too much excitement, too much sun. Our man who reported this to me said, the old man didn’t mind. He was almost there. He must have voted in his dying moment.

There were enormous administrative and logistic problems, short of ballot papers, IFF stickers (because IFF agreed to join in the election only a week before the election day, the idea of putting stickers on printed ballots was agreed upon.), boxes arrived late, etc. But to my opinion, those were the minor problems compared to the almost miraculous job that Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) achieved in such a short time to prepare for this election.

Imagine, 6/7 of population never voted before thus must be catered for in a few months. Nobody knew how many would vote where.  Anyone can vote anywhere so long as one can produce a legitimate ID. Virtually tens of thousands of Electoral Officers had to be trained. And suddenly a week ago as one major party decided to join in the process, a whole new set of infrastructure had to be created in six days. A nightmare for bureaucrats. No wonder there were shortages everywhere. I think it is grossly unfair to blame IEC, like the press are doing.

Because of these problems, one party, a spoiler, is threatening to pullout. And I say also, “Not fair.” Give freedom a chance.  Besides, there are other means to address grievances, if there is any allegation of any improper process. Maybe, the spoiler does not want real democracy.

It was an extraordinary day.  And it is to be continued tomorrow.

I once worked with Don Ray, former General Secretary of the General Council. He has a Military Cross for flying something like 36 bombing missions during the last War in Europe. But he never saw anything of the war, as he was the navigator. He told me that once he walked into a tiny cubicle behind the pilots, he never came out until the aircraft landed back in the Home Base. But he knew exactly where the plane was all the time. He felt the plane trembled, every time a flak exploded nearby. I feel like that sitting in the Communication Centre for Durban EMPSA office, receiving minute by minute report through mobile telephones from the teams in the field, peeking into the TV room from time to time.
But I am right in the middle of action. It is a funny feeling. Do you remember Radar O’Reiley in the TV Series “M.A.S.H.”?

Tad Mitsui, Durban, 27 April, 1994

LESOTHO: Christmas in Africa, 1968 – 75

– Celebrating love without Christmas tree nor turkey

I lived for eight years in Lesotho, Southern Africa.  During Christmas, if  someone comes to your door and says “Kresmese! (Christmas!)” he is not wishing you a “Merry Christmas.”  He is asking for a hand-out.  It wrecked my romantic image of Christmas in Africa.  But soon I realized that my idea of Christmas needed a revision.  Birth of Christ was not nice nor neat.  There was no romance, but there was love.

Christmas comes in the middle of the summer in Southern Africa.  Temperatures can go up to the 40 degrees C and above.  The celebration awaits the cool air of the night.  “Carols in the Candle Light” is a very popular community event in the whole of Southern Africa.  Summer nights in South Africa are very dark but the skies are full of stars because there is no pollution.  People gather in town squares and soccer fields, sing Christmas Carols in the light of candles, and stage the Christmas pageants.

The pageants performance looks truly authentic.  The scenes described in the Bible must have looked like that of the one in Lesotho.  Animals are everywhere: Cattle, donkeys, horses, goats, pigs, and sheep roam everywhere in the soccer field.  Mary rides on a real donkey.  When the Bible mentions a stable the Basotho know it isn’t a pretty sight with a smell of  hay, stale milk, and manure.

Shepherds come with real sheep.   The audience knows how shepherds look like. Shepherds are everywhere in Lesotho, in the mountains, in the fields, or passing through the city streets.  They look like homeless people: rags on their backs, dirty, smelly, and always hungry. They are shunned by decent citizens and chased by dogs like thiefs.    They wear no bath robes.

The wise men of the East arrive on real horses.   In Africa, well dressed educated intellectuals are often seen as opportunistic and arrogant as they ride around in Mercedes.   When ordinary folks in Lesotho hear of wise men giving up everything to pursue what they believed to be the truth, they have a tremendous respect for such men.  For them, it is one of the miracles of Christmas.

The women know how to give birth without professional help, because that’s what they do with grannies and girls doing whatever they can.  When I saw the little girls play a nativity scene in a church, I was a bit taken aback.  They knew exactly what a birthing scene was like, so they played as it should look and sound like.  However, they also knew about an adept use of blankets to provide privacy, as blankets are integral part of their daily attire.  There was nothing inappropriate to stage a birth in the church.

As for dinner, Basotho meals are simple.  Their staple is “millipap” – white corn mill cooked into solid lump and eaten with yoghurt.   When they have extra cash, they can indulge in “stompo” – grains of white corn stewed slowly with beans, beef fat and salt with a bit of  curry.  Our
Christmas dinner doesn’t work so well in Lesotho.  Remember, Christmas comes in South Africa in the middle of extreme heat.  By the time the turkey is cooked, one gets sick of the
heat and the smell.

Gifts were mostly hand-made.  There was no store nearby where we lived first in Lesotho: we had no car either.  Our-4-year old daughter got a hand-crafted model car made of wire and wood from discarded crates.  A local village kid made it.  I paid a few cents for it.  I felt so bad for her remembering tons of store-bought toys she got the year before, in Canada.  But she didn’t see any problem.  A present is a present, she enjoyed it just the same.

Christmas belongs to all people, particularly to the poor.  For not so poor, like me, it is a celebration of love.   I enjoy presents and having turkey dinner with loved ones very much.  However, without love, food and presents don’t mean much.

“Blessed are the poor.  Yours is the Kingdom of God.”   I learned a lot about the true Christmas in Africa.

Johannesburg to Jerusalem, 1968 – 2003


-A journey in search of peace-

With a newly obtained graduate degree, I went to Lesotho in 1968 under the United Church of Canada and ended up teaching at the University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Lesotho is a country surrounded by South Africa. I was young, naive, and probably stupid thinking that I had all the answers. Almost immediately after arrival, I became involved in the struggle against Apartheid. The reason was simple. The university had many students from South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) who didn’t want to be educated in the racially segregated universities in South Africa and Rhodesia. Many faculty members – my colleagues, both black and not-so-black, were from those countries also. In 1972, I was detained by the South African Security for three days, and expelled from the country with 2 hours notice. But I could stay in Lesotho, so I did. After eight years in Africa, I went to Geneva, Switzerland to work for an international organization working for development and continued to support Anti-Apartheid movements. In 1979 I came back to Canada to work for the Canadian Council of Churches. This was when I began working with Palestinians in refugee camps in the occupied territories in a program of the World Council of Churches. And Jerusalem became a city of my frequent visits This was how I kept in touch with those two places and peoples ever since. In 1994, I was a member of the international election observer team for the first democratic election of South Africa. In 2003, I went to participate in a human rights watch in a program sponsored by the World Council of Churches in a Palestinian village called Jayyous. The program was called the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) That village was divided from its fields, orchards, and its only source of water by the separation barrier.

People say that Canada’s problem is too much geography and too little history. We have to pay more attention to our history in respect to our First Nations. On the other hand, in Israel and Palestine, the problem is reversed. It has too much history and too little land.

After nearly forty years of involvement, I came to believe that if there should be peace, we should pause from the debate about history for a while and concentrate on figuring out how two distinct peoples can share the same land. I am tired of the blaming game talking about different versions of history according to their own understanding.

Because I was a Protestant Chaplain as well as a Lecturer in Theology in the university in Lesotho, I was drawn into the Student Christian Movement (SCM), aka known in the right-wing Christian circles as “Socialist Christian Movement” because of its left-leaning tendency. My regular visit to Johannesburg in South Africa began. The SCM had its offices there. I was the Regional Director of Orange Free State and Lesotho until I was expelled in 1972. For a while, I worked in two places, Lesotho and South Africa. By 1970, South African Government ordered SCM to be separated into a white and non-white organizations. Many people in the organization complied but some of us didn’t. Those of us who did not join the new groups, remained racially integrated and changed our name to UCM. (University Christian Movement). Thus in South Africans’ eyes the UCM became a subversive organization, leading to persecution, imprisonment, death in prison, and expulsion of its members. In 1977, the organization itself was banned and became an illegal entity. I once travelled from South Africa to Malawi with ten other students and faculty in a Toyota min-van to attend a conference. Upon return, within a year, two foreigners, a Canadian and a New Zealander, were expelled from South Africa, two students turned out to be spies for the South African government, three were murdered in prison, and the rest were banned (house-arrest). I became the first Canadian to be expelled from South Africa.

I will briefly explain what Apartheid was for those who don’t really know what it was. Here’s how Apartheid worked . Apartheid is a Dutch word for separateness, but adopted as a word for a set of policies implemented by the Republic of South Africa from 1960’s until 1989. In theory, it was based on the idea that races are all equal, but they must remain separate in order to protect cultural and ethnic identity. People who advocated Apartheid were mainly from the Protestant Reformed Calvinist tradition. Accordingly, no racial mixing was allowed in terms of areas of residence, association, job categories, marriage and relationship, facilities, etc. It was a total segregation of races. Cultural and racial purity were the cardinal dictum of human condition. No two races could live in a same area, jobs were reserved according to races, no racially mixed association was permitted including the church, and any sexual contact was illegal across the racial divide. However, the way system developed resulted in a total break down of the notion of justice, and created a society of the exploiters and the exploited. Racially segregated ghettos, non-whites cheap labour who had no right to live with their family in the place where they worked, etc. were all justified according to the Apartheid laws. It was enforced by brutal measures of banning orders on persons and organizations, expulsion of individuals and groups of people, imprisonments, tortures and murders in prison.

Most of the Africans were against Apartheid, and some people, though not enough, of European descent were against them. But the opponents were not large enough group to oppose them in the policy making process, because Africans and other non-whites did not have the right to vote, and the white opposition vote was not big enough. The UCM was one of those mixed race organizations which worked hard to oppose Apartheid laws. It became one of the prominent organizations which was banned in 1977. I met and became friends of those activists like Desmond Tutu, who was my colleague in the same university department, and Steve Biko, who was a prominent leader at the UCM. He was tortured to death in prison in 1977. His story became a Hollywood movie, “Cry Freedom.” Many of my friends were killed. Steve Biko, Mapetla Mohapi, Griffith Mxenge, Rick Turner, and several others were murdered.

Among the whites in the movement were many Jewish South Africans. Harry Oppenheimer was a generous financial supporter of Anti-Apartheid organizations. A capitalist like him was never in favour of Apartheid, because racial segregation restricts free market principles and did not make any business sense. Helen Suzman was the only anti-Apartheid member of Parliament for many years. Mark Kaplan and David Adler were colleagues and my personal friends. Mark was arrested and tortured, and had to go into exile. David was banned, and placed under house arrest. Joe Slovo had been a loyal colleague of Nelson Mandela as a partner in the law office and a comrade-in-arms all his life. He spent two decades in prison. His wife Ruth First, who was also a prominent activist was assassinated in Mozambique where she was an exile. All of those individuals were Jewish South Africans.

You may wonder why I am speaking so much about my Jewish colleagues in the struggle for freedom in South Africa. It’s because I want to make a connection with my next destination, Jerusalem. There I met many Israelis who are also fighting for freedom and the human rights of all people side by side with Palestinian peace activists. This is because I believe it is important to make a distinction between criticising the policy and practice of the state of Israel and anti-Semitism. I hate many things that the current Canadian government does. But I do not Canadians, I married one. It’s the same thing. I learned the importance of this distinction in South Africa. I loved South Africans, but I hated Apartheid. I was convinced that it was an evil system which was bad for the future of the country. And as many others, I was right in this conviction. Realization of the same type of distinction regarding the state of Israel and the Jewish people came to me also in South Africa.

During the 1970’s a few events happened to make me start questioning a few assumptions I held about Israel. You must understand that, before I went to South Africa, I, as many other Japanese Canadians, always had a warm feeling about fellow Canadians of Jewish descent and this led to my unquestioning admiration of Israel. When Japanese Canadians were rejected by the Canadian government and people and were removed and interned during the Second World War, the Jewish people in Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg were the ones who gave employment to the Japanese, and the Canadian Jewish Congress was one of the four organizations who fought for the rights of the Japanese Canadians. Others were the Canadian Labour Congress, CCF (now NDP), and the United Church of Canada. It seemed logical to me because of my understanding of Judaism and its prophetic tradition of justice. My Jewish colleagues in South Africa and their passion for justice re-enforced my image of them.

Two events shocked me into critically analysing this assumption during the 1970’s. One was the terrorist attack on Israeli Olympic team members by Palestinian terrorists and the resulting deaths of those athletes in Munich in Germany. Another was a military alliance between South Africa and Israel. The massacre of Israeli sportsmen horrified us. But to our even greater horror and shock, students of my university staged a demonstration praising the “courageous Palestinians” for their sacrificial act of heroism against Western Imperialism. I realized then that there was a world view I had no idea existed. It was an African’s deep resentment of the Western domination of the world. I still don’t condone cowardly and senseless acts of violence. But until then I didn’t know that there was a such strong view in the non-western world that saw Israel as an outpost of the Western Imperialism.

This realization was strengthened when then Israeli Defence Minister, Moshe Dayan, started to make a regular visits to South Africa. Many signs of unofficial military alliance between two countries became apparent. It culminated in a report of a nuclear weapon test staged in Indian Ocean jointly by Israel and South Africa. I was forced to re-examine my view of Israel. The attitude of my Jewish colleagues was a revelation and a valuable lesson to me also. They absolutely condemned Israeli corroboration with the Apartheid regime, while remaining convinced about the importance of the existence of the Jewish state. In later years in Jerusalem, I found many of my Israeli friends working with Palestinians in solidarity organizations, like B’Tselem, Bat Shalom, Yesh Gvul, Women in Black. They all held the same views. Other Israeli groups we worked with were: Rabbis for Human Rights, B’Tselem – the Isarel Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information, and Hamoked. They say that many of the things the state of Israel is doing to Palestinians now are against Jewish values of justice, and bad for the future of Israel.

Former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter wrote a book on the Israel-Palestine issues, and called the current Israeli policy Apartheid. I haven’t read the book. But it is a provocative comparison. Let’s see how Carter’s analogy fits the picture. There are many features of the current practices of Israeli government that look like Apartheid. Occupation of Palestinian land resembles the way South African government exercised its power over so-called autonomous Bantustans. The West Bank and Gaza, until Israel withdrew, were so divided up by the patch work of Israeli settlements and by the access highways serving only Israeli settlers, that West Bank is hardly viable as an economy and a country. Check points made the movement of goods and persons within Palestinian territories very difficult if not impossible. The way Palestinians are treated at those check points is so harsh it’s impossible to endear Israelis to the ordinary Palestinians, who are otherwise peaceful. There is an Israeli women’s group who watch the behaviour of Israeli soldiers at the check points. They said that check point is a terrorist making mechanism where peaceful people become terrorists. The barriers, a combination of concrete walls and barbed-wire fences in reality is so porous that it clearly shows security is only an excuse for future land seizure. It reminded me of the practice of Group Area Act of Apartheid that designated only patches of barren lands for Africans and reserved urban and productive lands for Whites. I don’t know what other features Jimmy Carter speak about in his book, but these are a few examples I can think of in comparison to Apartheid.

I can say for sure is: any attempt to make the separation of people, who are bound together by a common geography into an absolute dictum, never works. Trying to enforce separation by use of force not only generates hostility and violence, but it ultimately fails, as history proves. The world is full of such tragic examples: Northern Ireland, Basque in Spain, Korea and Japan, India and Pakistan, Balkans, etc. Wounds created by history of violence and bloodshed take centuries to heal. This is what I am afraid is happening in Israel and Palestine. We must support those who are working very hard to be good neighbours on both sides. We must renounce violence on both sides. Where cultural and national identities are important, good neighbourliness is the way to live together and thrive together.

However, I must qualify my use of the word “Apartheid” as applied to the situation in the Middle East. I already mentioned the similarities. But there is a fundamental difference. South Africans didn’t want to be separate. “South Africans” are one people with different cultures and races, like Canada. If you want to apply that Dutch word Apartheid to anywhere else for its ill effect, our own “Reserve” system for the First Nations is much closer to the South African Apartheid model. It was imposed by newly arrived settlers who want to take their land. There maybe some peoples who must preserve their identities, in terms of culture, language, or religion, and choosing separateness in order to do that could be necessary. For this reason, there are demands from oppressed minority people for separateness and autonomy in various parts of the world. I could first think of Ainu in Japan, who are almost exterminated; also possibly Quebec; and Scotland. Israelis and Palestinians have strong arguments for separateness because of past history of oppression and persecution done to them by others. They do have a claim for their own state. The world is still xenophobic place. But if there should be a border, it should be like a fence between good neighbours. If two peoples are determined to kill each other, no steel or stone walls can prevent hostility from doing its worst. Israelis and Palestinians must find a way to be good neighbours and friends. That’s the only way for them to survive.

My wife Muriel and I were back in South Africa last year to see my old colleagues and friends and former students. I had a wonderful time with them. Some of them have achieved such prominence that I could not see them. They were a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, a Prime Minister, a President of a prominent university, etc. I could not believe how fast the wound of Apartheid healed. And the people of South Africa are thriving, no matter what nay-sayers are saying. South Africa is a success story. And Israel and Palestine can also be a success, if we all concentrate on peace-making in the present and the future instead of same-old same-old repetition of bad- old-days stories. In order to do that I would like to see all peoples to concentrate on helping peacemakers on both sides of the conflict. Just like I found peacemakers on both Blacks and Whites in South Africa during the 1970’s, I found many unsung heros of peace in Israel and Palestine who are often below the radar screen of media. It’s time for us to find them, give them strength and voice. Thank you

(This is a speech I gave to a group of students at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta on April 8, 2009)

CANADA: Growing up in retirement, 1995 – 2005



By Tad Mitsui

I retired in two stages: officially, from full-time ministry in 1995, then from a half-time supply ministry in 2000. There was a period of two months in 1995 when I had nothing to do before taking up the half-time ministry with a rural pastoral charge in Quebec. I cannot forget the sensation of dislocation on the first day of retirement in 1995. It was a lovely spring day in Montreal. Birds were chirping in the trees as I woke up with the seven o’clock CBC news as I had done for years. Suddenly it dawned on me that I didn’t have to get up at all. I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do. There was nothing I had to do except washing and breakfast. After that, what?

Happily, that morning we needed some groceries. So I walked to a supermarket. Half a block south and two blocks east. The maple trees lining the streets were still bare. The air was nippy, but smelled like spring. I had never been to a supermarket at 9 a.m. It used to be called “Steinberg,” but that old Quebec institution was gone. It was now “Metro”. Even the red of the Metro store seemed disturbing, compared to the soothing olive green of the Steinberg. I was surprised by how many men were there shopping, all looking like me, retired, looking comfortable with hush puppy shoes and light blue wind breakers, or some similar attire. They seemed to be in no hurry, looking more as if they were just hanging around than shopping, leaning on the shopping carts like they would on walkers. Some of them were just talking, visiting friends. I had never seen men just hanging around and visiting friends in broad day light, except in and around coffee shops in Little Italy on College Street or St. Clair Avenue in Toronto. But, unlike the Italian men who look like they live for those moments of visiting buddies, those men at the Metro store in Notre Dame de Grace – the English-speaking part of Montreal- looked sad.

Suddenly, I felt depressed. “Is this what the rest of my life will belike? Cheer up,” I said to myself, “I don’t have to answer to anybody. It doesn’t matter what I do; nobody will come after me or fire me.” But I felt I was nobody because there was nothing I had to do. Nobody cared if I was not there. I had to learn the first thing about life after retirement that morning in a supermarket between lettuce and celery: it doesn’t matter what I do indeed, but it does matter that I am. That day, I began to learn the lesson I should have learned during my forty years of growing up.

My mother and our cat have taught me a lot in this process. Some people may think it is insulting to my mother that I mention a cat and my mother on equal terms. But on the other hand, cat lovers will understand this comparison totally. Importance of being I look at our aging cat, who sleeps most of the time. A famous writer – I think it was T. S. Elliot – said something about a cat having three things to tell humans: ‘Feed me. Love me. Leave me alone.’ Our cat, Estra, lives exactly like that. It doesn’t bother us if she doesn’t catch mice or doesn’t go after her tail like a cute, cuddly little kitten. But Estra gives us so much pleasure. She makes our life richer just by comfortably being herself. We pray that she will live for a long time, if not for ever. She teaches me so much about aging, and about life in general, like my mother does just by being who she is.

My mother celebrated her 96th birthday in June, 2003 and passed away on Christmas Eve of the same year. Her memory was almost gone. Only rarely did she recognize me. Even on a good day when she knew who I was, she asked things like why I didn’t have to go to school that day. She didn’t see a grey-haired retired man but a school boy of fifty years ago. She was not interested in eating much any more towards the end nor was she doing anything about her appearance. She had never used to allow herself to be seen by other people, including her children, without make-up. She sleet most of the time, but she looked happy when she was awake. She raised her right hand like a queen and said “Hello” with a beautiful smile to anybody who happened to be nearby. “It makes my day when I see her smile,” saids a kind woman who visited her regularly. My mother and my cat teach me how important for an aging person, or for anyone, to keep on living fully no matter how little he or she can do.

This is an almost impossible thing for a normal Japanese person to understand. Japanese truly believe that we are what we do. If you can do nothing, you are nobody. What’s the point in keeping on living? When I announced that I was going to retire, one of my sisters, who lived in Tokyo, refused to accept such a notion. “No, brother. You do no such thing!” In Japan, there is no acceptable way to completely retire. A person who ‘retires’ there usually moves on to a job in another organization which has no mandatory retirement age – usually a small NGO or a small firm connected to the organization you are retiring from. A person with no positioni s nobody in Japan. Any respectable person in business, after retirement, would move to a position in a smaller corporation, which belongs to the “Keiren” – agroup of smaller, related corporations – suppliers or sub-contractors, which have a special connection with the ‘parent’ firm, the “Oyagaisha.” Such a job shift is called “Amakudari”. Literally it means “descending from heaven to livean earthy life among the mortals.” This expression means taking up a positionin an organization of lesser importance. There really isn’t a respectable way to completely retire in Japan. Those who cannot find a position by Amakudari could not have been a person of any significance before retirement.

So what do you do if nobody wants you? You create your own organization, often a consulting firm, set up an office some where cheap downtown and go to the office every day. Not having any position in any organization is unthinkable, unless you are a famous artist, a writer, a freestanding theologian who does not have a pastorate or a teaching job, or a well-known sage or a philosopher. My sister almost succeeded in finding me a job in Japan. It was a position of “Chancellor” of a small junior college in Shizuoka – an honorary position, of course. I was even interviewed, kind of. This is how it went: I was asked to preach at a chapel service of the college. After the service, I had tea with the entire teaching staff and lunch with the Principal and Registrar in a chi-chi restaurant with a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji. When I found later that they were serious about giving me a position, I was horrified and respectfully declined. I really wanted to retire, as I felt burnt out. My sister didn’tunderstand me. She was offended that I didn’t appreciate her effort to help me.

I spent several years working for the Church in Lesotho teaching at a university in Southern Africa. In contrast to our western way of thinking in the western society, among black Africans, a person is considered to be a full person deserving of all respect no matter who he or she is or what he or she does. In this way of thinking, the amount of money one earns or the positionone holds has nothing to do with a person’s worth. Every man is addressed as”Ntate,” which literary means ‘father,’ but it is an honorary title like ‘sir’. Every woman is ‘Mme’ (mother). “Think about flowers of the field. They are more beautiful than the riches Solomon ever produced. Yet they can be thrown into fire when they wither. Think about the sparrows. God does not allow even a single one of them to fall without his consent. And yet two of them can be sold for a mere penny.” (Matthew 6: 25 – 34) God loves us as we are, not so much dependent on what we do and how much we do it. That was a very valuable lesson Africans taught me.

But this lesson had unfortunately remained dormant in me until I retired. It scares me to think how much damage I might have done to others without putting the lessons I learned from African friends into practice in my dealings with other people. When I was thinking about retirement, I had resolved to follow a life with a set of regular activities. I was hopelessly task oriented. I had to have a “ToDo List.” My spouse, Muriel, and I have known that she would be in full-time pursuit of her career as a university professor, and I would be a house husbandafter I retired. So my time would be divided into regular pattern of physical exercise, learning, volunteering, and writing. I am realizing as I began tolive under a new regime that many things I am learning now are things I shouldhave learned long ago. I shiver when I think now what an insensitive person Imust have been without knowing those things. However, I must confess that the model for living I see in my mother and our cat is still very far from me. It will take some more time of learning to reach ‘Nirvana’ – the state of complete understanding. So I am not in my consciousness what I am, but what I do. I hope that in time I will learn to be what I am, because those things I do seem to be good lessons.

Here is what I do, and what I am learning:

On being a house husband:

As I began preparing meals, cleaning and keeping the house, I was surprised to find how time consuming those chores are. I realized that keeping the house is not an occasional project, as some men think, but it is a full time job. No, housekeeping is more than a job. It is almost like a set of regular life-sustaining body functions such as breathing and eating. You can not call in sick or take a holiday from it. It is not an option. But unlike breathing, housekeeping takes attention, energy, and creativity. Like many other men, I used to think that because a housewife is not paid, her work is pretty close to worthless – not a value-adding activity. Now I realize it is priceless.

I was planning to write after retirement, to leave some written record of my life behind for my family and for the sake of posterity. I was not necessarily thinking about writing a book. But amazingly, I could hardly find time to write. Planning and preparing meals and shopping for groceries simply take up a lot of time. I always liked cooking and cleaning the house. I used to be quite proud that Icould say I loved cooking. Cleaning the house was not my strength, but I enjoyed a sense of victory when dust balls were vanquished from the hard wood floors. Again, it was a revelation to me how time consuming cleaning the house is. I know it is late in life to realize this.

I can’t imagine how career women with children manage to take care of the household. Many men don’t feel in their heart of hearts that they really have anything to do with it. They view household chores as a favor all good men would do willingly for their spouses -from time to time. “I don’t mind, really,” we say. It is incredible to me that I had never realized how hard housekeeping is until I retired and became a house husband. And I don’t have a young child hanging on to my apron strings!

Physical exercise ;

It’s important for me to exercise regularly. I had an episode of angina in 1999. I spent a few days in hospital for observation. Nothing serious was found, but it was a wake-up call. Thus began a new regime of proper diet and regular exercise. I fell into swimming daily. I say “fell into” because I could have chosen walking or cycling, but didn’t. By default, swimming has become my regular physical activity. I used to cycle regularly. When I had full-time work in church bureaucracies in Toronto and Quebec, we didn’t own a car. Instead, I cycled to work, in Toronto from Cabbagetown through Rosedale to St. Clair Avenue, and in Montreal, forty minutes to the office in Lachine and one hour home up-hill to Notre Dame de Grace. I enjoyed cycling along the beautiful north shore of the St. Lawrence River. Muriel and I cycled quite a bit in the dairy farming country of Chateauguay Valley when we lived in Howick. Since arriving in Lethbridge, our bicycles have not been repaired from the damages of moving.

Earlier in our life in Lethbridge I walked in the coulees, but the icy conditions in the valley made me hesitate to walk there in winter. Hence swimming became my regular routine. I can still walk in the coulees, and will probably enjoy it enormously. The changing colors of different seasons, the amazing array of vegetation from cacti to wild roses, the variety of birds from Canada geese to magpies to pelicans. Yes, pelicans. I couldn’t believe my eyeswhen I saw them; even the bird watchers’ guide books do not mention them. There are also deer, jack rabbits and gophers. I will for sure enjoy walking in thecoulees.

The university swimming pool gives me a reasonable rate as a family member of the faculty. Every morning, a variety of interesting regulars appear. A dozen faces of swimmers and friendly life guards now are as familiar as the smell of chlorine. Most of them look so fit. I don’t understand why Idon’t see more unfit people like me, for whom regular exercise is a requirement.

The 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. period at the university pool is a scene from’Reality TV’. They all wear tight-fitting swimsuits, looking fit and beautiful. And they all swim like dolphins. I was amazed how many people there were at that ungodly hour swimming back and forth in silence as if obsessed. One hardly hears a human voice. It is a bit eerie. They must come before breakfast, do 20 (Olympic distance) lengths, then go to a Second Cup for latte and bagels before donning their business suits and going to their offices. No one swims like me – a slightly improved version of the dog paddle. I’ve only seen two men my age and an overweight man among the regulars so far. And I have been swimming for nearly three years.

Where are people like me, elderly or unfit, those with heart conditions who have been told by their doctor to doregular exercise? Maybe they come in the afternoon or evening. It ispossible that those elderly and/or unfit people go to specialized classes like a seniors’ exercise class with bouncing balls and stuff like that. No wonder even those reasonably fit thirty-something professors avoid the university facilities and go to the local YMCA or a community pool so as not to be seen by the beautiful people, or worse, their fabulously fit young students. Fitness is a good thing, but I’m very ambivalent about its becoming a commercialized fad.

Those few unfit-looking people who come to the swimming pool in the morning are inspirations. They have lived long enough to be unashamed of themselves; they don’t feel the need to hide anything. One morning, I saw a long line-up of primary school kids before the cubicles in the washroom waiting for their turn to finish changing. Why? Is it a kids’ culture or the influence of their parents? Why should they feel ashamed of their bodies? Is it a man’s thing? Those old or unfit people who enter the crowd of beautiful must have achieved a state of innocence like Adam and Eve before they ate the forbidden fruit. They see their reality, accept it, and are comfortable with it.

On learning the beauty of Creation:

I decided to do take up art. I had toyed with the idea of taking academic courses in political science or sociology, but decided they were too close to the way I used to think in my job. I wanted to explore unknown territory. I took up drawing. I take lessons in the basics of drawing from an instructor in the Faculty of Fine Art. I was lucky to have been introduced to an instructor and practicing artist who is gentle and patient. I also go a studio to draw with other artists. I am grateful that those people, who have dedicated their lives to making art, allow me to hang around with them as they practice their calling.

The first thing I was obliged to learn in drawing was to observe realities as they are. I realized, as the teacher forced me to look at the minute details of what is in front of me, how much I had assumed what was there. I learned that reality is not always what the left side of the brain tells you; it is not always linear and rational. I am learning to depend on the right side of the brain to acknowledge and accept what is often chaotic and irrational.

Another important lesson was that every object – live or still, nature, landscape, or human face and figure – is beautiful. There really isn’t ugliness in Creation. Ugliness is what we read into a piece of Creation from our assumption, a creation of our mind. Often our assumption is wrong. There is a book I should read cover-to-cover – I have just skimmed through it – titled, “Anatomy of Disgust.” The author makes the point that a disgusting thing to one person can be another person’s delicious food. It is a wonderful feeling to see beauty in an unexpected object. Beauty, indeed, is in the eyes of the beholder, and is in everything if you keep an open mind. I am still in a stage of discovery. I expect that it will take me years to learn to re-create the beauty of reality and indeed of God’s creation. I am even farther away from creating art as an expression of ideas. But in the meantime, I am enormously enjoying learning to re-create what is in front of me as faithfully as possible. I now shiver to imagine how I used to think, conclude and argue based on assumptions and on imagining, rather than on the realities of beautiful creation.

On seeing a rainbow in all people ;

As for volunteer work, Muriel found an advertisement for volunteers to help theat a horseback riding stable for handicapped persons. I phoned right away. The organization is called Lethbridge Handicap Riding Association – Rainbow Riding Stable. I have been happily going there once a week since early in 2001. I love horses – I think they are the most beautiful animal. I rode quite a bit in Lesotho between 1970 and 1975 and in France from1975 to 1979. Horses are a popular mode of transport in the mountainous country of Lesotho. The Africans ride a type of pony probably related to or descended from the Arabian horse, the tough little ponies that can climb mountains like mountain goats without ever needing horseshoes and can live from grazing alone. Because they are so numerous in Lesotho, horses are cheaper than bicycles. With other horse lovers on the university campus, I used to help paraplegic children from the Lesotho Save-the- Children Fund shelter learn to ride. Horses made better sense than wheelchairs in a country where a smooth surface is a rarity and where wheelchairs are probably more expensive than horses. Rainbow Riding Stable brings back happy memories; the smell of sweaty horses and manure make me forget my frustration with Alberta politics.

The stables are located outside the city limit east of Lethbridge. It takes only 20 minutes from our house by car, passing the agricultural research station of the Federal Government and a large pond surrounded by tall reeds and trees -a rare site in this part of the Canadian prairies. Many Canada geese hang around the pond. I pass the red brick buildings of a federal prison and meadows where cows lazily graze. Rainbow Stable keeps a couple of dozen elderly horses for handicapped people. They are gentle – lazy to some people – but ideal for those with less mobility. There is an instructor who was trained in the art of hippo-therapy, a woman who aspires to be a professional rodeo rider. Of course, she has a long way to go to make a living out of the rodeo circuit, if ever, so she teaches at the Rainbow Stable. Up to three learners at a time usually come for the one-hour sessions.

I help out at two sessions per day. There are paraplegics, mentally handicapped persons, persons with Down syndrome, of all ages and backgrounds. On days when it is rainy, windy or snowy, or too hot or cold, they ride in the cavernous arena. Each rider is accompanied by a person on either side, one to lead the horse and to make sure that the animal behaves, the other person to watch the rider, ready to grab the safety belt around the rider’s waist if necessary. It is intensive work. The instructor stands in the middle of the arena and gives directions. Each rider is expected to brush the horse, bring the tack from storage, saddle up, and warm up the horse by leading it once around the arena, and finally, mount. A lot of work, but enjoyable. It is wonderful to watch an unsure, frightened person develop confidence as well as skills.

Toward the end of a six-week term, the rider often has developed so much confidence and is having so much fun that we have difficulty persuading him or her not to keep trotting. Accompaniers have to run with the horse, you see. One can almost believe that anyone can learn to ride a horse, given a chance. However, one type of handicap I still have difficulty accepting is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I feel angry at the parents that a beautiful child of any background, any race or class, has to bear the burden of their parent’s weakness all his or her life without any hope of a cure. Not fair! Of course, if you scratch the surface of our society, such unfairness is found everywhere. That is another reason for all of us to take responsibility in caring for such disabled persons. At one of the Volunteer Appreciation Day potluck suppers, I sat in front of Michael, a long-time client of the Rainbow Stable. I was a little taken aback, because this was a supper for volunteer helpers, while Michael is a paraplegic. In our conversation over spaghetti, I found that he became such a good rider that now he is a volunteer. I didn’t ask how he could do it in a wheel chair. It didn’t matter to me really. To me, he is an inspiration just being on a horse by himself.

I can almost believe that life begins after retirement. There is so much to learn and so many ways to grow. Didn’t Socrates say something like to ‘know thyself’ is the ultimate form of knowledge? I have a long way to go. And if I have to accept that self, I have an even longer way to go.

Spring, 2003.

Basho and me, sojourners


Furuikeya(An old pond)

Kawazu tobikomu (a frog jumps in)

Mizuno oto (a sound of)


A sound of a frog

Jumping into

An old pond

I don’t pretend to know many Haiku poets. In fact, I know one – Basho. And I like the one above the best. I don’t feel the need to know any other.

I imagine an old pond in the back of an old, apparently abandoned, Buddhist temple. It’s been there for ever. Silence dominates. Its stagnant murky water is green,alive with algae, larvae, and god-knows what else. Suddenly, there was a soundbreaking the peace rudely, something jumping into the water. A frog. Not much splash though because water is syrupy. Wakes lingered only a few second. Silence returns. It seems like a description of my life in the world of eternity.

Aratohto (How precious is it)

Aoba Wakabano (Fresh green leaves)

Hinohikari (In the sunlight)


How precious is it!

Fresh green leaves

Dancing in the sunlight

Basho loved to travel. In fact, he traveled all his life, and died while traveling. Like him, I have been a sojourner all my life. I lived in many places. I loved every place I stopped, but I moved on. It is like exquisite beauty of a fleeting sunlight dancing in the fresh green leaves of early summer.

My father wrote a song about this Haiku and sung it for us often. He began with the first stanza, and concluded it with the last two stanza.







How precious is it:

Traveling is home:

Groping my way

Onto a narrow path

Among tall grass

In a back country.

Okinaga Katano Yasehoneni

Furiwake no nimo Itaitashi

Tsueni Sugarite Wakeiran

The backpack on the tired old

Shoulder bones is painful :

But I keep on

Leaning on

My walking stick.

Yamawa Futara ka Uzukinaru

Is that Mt. Futara in May?

Aoba wakabano


Fresh young green leaves

Dancing in the sunlight.

 It sounds like a summary of my entire life.


I want to be like him

My father, Isamu Mitsui, loved the poem by Kenji Miyazawa.  He often said, “I want to be like him.”  The following is the one he cited often.


by Kenji Miyazawa

Rain beats me not, nor wind beats me,

Neither snow, nor the heat of summer,

I have a healthy body.

I’m never greedy, never petulant, always smiling quietly.

Eating two cups of unpolished rice a day,

With a bit of miso and some vegetables,

I do not count myself in any matter,

I listen well, observe and understand,

I forget nothing,

I live in a little thatched roof cottage,

In the shadow of a small pine grove in a valley.

If there is a sick child in the east,

I would go to take care of him;

If there is a tired mother in the west,

I would go to carry her bundle of rice straw.

If there is a dying man in the north,

I would go to tell him “Don’t be scared.”

If there is a quarrel or a court case in the south,

I would go to tell them, “Don’t be a bore, stop it.”

Shedding tears in a drought,

Wandering aimlessly in a cold summer,

Everybody calls me, “Dimwit,”

Nobody praises me,

I bother nobody.

I want to be like that.

JAPAN:The best Christmas of my life, 1945


The war ended in August, 1945. Tokyo was pretty well flattened by nightly bombings. My family lived in a half-destroyed concrete church building. My father was the pastor. We slept between mosquito-nets and a heavy silk drapes that used to hang behind the organ. I saw the first American soldiers on September 2nd, fully armed and looking scared. But after a week, they were no longer armed.

American soldiers started to come to worship with us. All were fluent in Japanese. They were intelligence officers. We hardly had enough to eat; our dream was to own shoes and have change of clothes. But we were extremely happy. No more bombing. “Peace was here!” We were worshiping together with former enemies.

Winter came. We made a fire, for warmth and cooking, under a hole in the roof made by a 500 lb incendiary bomb. We burnt broken furniture.

Just before Christmas, an American came by on a big Jeep and told us to get on, because, he said, “There is a Messiah concert at the University of Tokyo Auditorium.” We couldn’t believe it. But we got on anyway, my parents, my sisters, and I. It was a windowless Jeep.

The auditorium was the only one left in Tokyo with a big seating capacity. It was warm inside despite no heating system, because of people’s body heat.

The orchestra and the choir were a mixture of Japanese musicians in their worn out army uniforms and Americans. Only the soloists had the proper outfits. The conductor was a composer of Gospel music and a preacher in a local Pentecostal Church. When the tenor began, “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people,” tears started fill my eyes. In the end, there was no dry eye in the whole auditorium.

It could not have been a good quality concert. They could not have had a proper rehearsal. We had no decent food, no change of clothes, no present, but we had each other. We had family, former foes and friends to warm up the auditorium. And the best of all we had PEACE!

It was the best Christmas of my life!

CANADA – Let us remember them.

I WILL REMEMBER THEM – For Remembrance Day

– I knew those soldiers-

I remember them; one German, five Canadians, two Japanese, and one American. They were all soldiers fought during the World War II. But the most important thing about them that I remember is: they were all good humans. Most of them are dead now, but some may still be alive.

I met Gerhardt at Bowman Art Centre. I never got to know his last name. He was a good artist. He saw beauty in every human, male or female, young or old, and had skills to put it on a piece of paper. He was a soldier in the German Army during the WW II, and spent sometime in a prisoners of war camp.

Garth Legge was my life-long mentor and the role model. He was the Africa Secretary of the United Church when I went to Southern Africa. He was a gentle and kind soul but a brilliant theologian. He was a fierce fighter for human dignity and worked closely with people like Desmond Tutu and Beyers Naude in South Africa. He was a pilot on the Spitfire during the WW II. And he walked like one; always his back straight.

Don Rae was General Secretary of the United Church and was briefly my boss. He was a navigator on a Lancaster bomber and did many missions to Germany. He knew exactly where he was, but never saw anything outside cooped up in a tiny cubicle behind the cockpit. He was a model of an administrator with humanity. The kindest man I knew.

I met Ian MacLeod and Frank Carey in Japan when I was still a student in 1951. We traveled together and visited many small parishes in rural communities in Nagano prefecture. Ian was a Spitfire pilot and Frank was a foot soldier. By the time I met them, they were members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (a Quaker organization), and committed pacifists. Until I met them I didn’t know Canada was different from America. They sure let me know it was. In fact, Frank recruited me to come to Canada.

Jack Mellow was my father-in-law. He was a Air Force mechanic looking after Spitfires in Southern England. When his daughter Muriel and I met, I heard that he had a few seconds of hesitation, me being a former enemy. But that didn’t last long. He loved me and I loved him. He and I spent some time once parked outside of the Winnipeg Airport just watching planes coming and going. He loved airplanes. Nevertheless, he maintained until the end that Spitfire was the best airplane, ever.

My uncle Mitsugu died when he was only 17. He is missing-in-action, and is presumed dead. He was shipped to the Island of Guadalcanal and was never found. He probably got lost, starved and rotted in a jungle. He taught me briefly in Sunday School. He was, like my father, a pacifist. Did he have a choice not to go? No way.

Hideo Katayama was also a Sunday School teacher at my father’s church in Tokyo. When he was drafted into the navy he became a language officer: Many Christians became language officers-interpreters, because many of them went to Christian schools where they had more exposures to English language than other Japanese young people. In 1948, Navy Lieutenant Katayama was executed by a firing squad as a war criminal. Many allied prisoners testified that Katayama was responsible for cruelties and deaths. In fact, he was simply relaying orders in English. His superiors did not come out to claim responsibility. They were in charge of the running of the prisoners of war camp but remained free. Katayama was a scapegoat.

Jacob de Cesar was an American airman who was shot down over Tokyo. He spent a few years in a prisoner of war camp in Tokyo. He suffered cruelty and torture, and nearly starved to death. After he was liberated, he went to a seminary in the U.S., became a minister of the church, and came back to Japan as a missionary. I met him when my father was acting as his interpreter in the beginning of his ministry in Japan. At the time, it seemed incredible to me to hear his story. Forgiveness personified. I kept thinking, “Is he real?”

Wars are fought in most cases by ordinary decent people. They are just cogs in a machine. Let us not demonize them just because they were enemies.

CANADA: This war is not for the army, 2003


Another soldier died in Afghanistan ( Sgt. Scott Shipway, Sunday, September 7). I mourn the death of every Canadian soldier; the number is getting close to one hundred. We need those brave magnificent young people alive for Canada. It’s time for the NATO allies to make a radical change in a manner of execution of the war in Afghanistan.

We must win this war on ‘terrorists’ for sure (I don’t understand the term “War on Terrorism.” How can you fight a concept?) But I think the way NATO forces are going about the war is wrong. We are in a no-win situation. There are very few historical precedents where a regular army successfully fought irregular fighters i.e. guerrillas or terrorists, whichever you choose to call them. It’s like trying to get rid of bedbugs in a bedroom with a sledge hammer. There are bound to be unnecessary destruction – which is called collateral damage but it is in fact deaths of non-combatant women and children.

War against irregular combatants is a work for the Intelligence Service and the Police. For example, it is now quite clear that 9/11 was the result of a massive failure on the part of CIA and FBI. They knew something like that was going to happen but their warning was not taken seriously by higher authorities. And those agencies behaved like lackeys.

What was the response to the 9/11? Send in the army. In the case of Iraq, into a wrong country which took no part in 9/11 atrocity. Yes, Afghanistan accommodated Al Qaida thus Talibans had to be dealt with. But Talibans are a bunch of irregular fighters, a bunch of out-laws. We have the police to deal with outlaws, and the intelligent services to do the sleuth work to find them. Let them do the work properly. We know that people of Afghanistan don’t want Talibans. Let us help them to establish the credible Afghan police force, and stop our young people to perform a hopeless job.

JAPAN AND CANADA: My Mother, 1907 – 2003

NATSUNO MITSUI: 1907 – 2003



Natsuno Mitsui was born in 1907, on June 25 (Year 40 of the Emperor Meiji’s reign) in Shinsen, Shibuya district in the city of Tokyo as the first child of Yukichi and Takeko, and died on Christmas Eve of 2003 at Griffith-McConnell Residence, the United Church of Canada Home for Elderly Persons in Cote St. Luc in Montreal, Quebec. Early morning, she breathed the last breath holding a hand of the cleaning lady who happened to be there. She was 96 years old.

“Mitsui” was Takeko’s name before marriage. Because her two brothers died during Ruso-Japan War of the early twentieth century, the first born daughter, Natsuno was adopted by Toshiko, the surviving matriarch of the family and mother of Takeko to continue “Mitsui” name. Toshiko was a devoted Christian. So, in order to continue Christian tradition of the Mitsui family, she arranged Natsuno’s marriage with a Christian when Natsuno was still very young. By the time an engagement was publicly announced Natsuno’s would-be husband already changed his surname to Mitsui.

Natsuno went to the highschool for girls at Aoyama Gakuin – a comprehensive educational institution established by American Methodists. After graduating highschool, she was trained as a kindergarten teacher at Toyo Eiwa School for Girls founded by Canadian Methodists. During those days, the Mitsuis were a well to do family, who owned many properties near the center of Tokyo – Shibuya district. As Toshiko Mitsui grew old, not only adopted daughter Natsuno but also the whole family Takeda moved into the Mitsui property to look after the aging matriarch and to manage the property. However, because Natsuno was a Mitsui and the legal heiress of the estate, though she lived with her own fresh and blood, while Toshiko was alive, she was treated differently from her siblings. She was the only one who went on to do post-secondary education (rare during those days for a girl,) and was sent to learn piano and singing, flower arrangement, etc. as a young woman of a wealthy family. She was spared from chores like cooking and cleaning like her sisters. I remember my father excusing mother’s lack of skills in the kitchen saying, “Mama was brought up like a princess.” There should not have been any problem if she married the fiancé of the same class arranged by the matriarch. The complication was that she fell in love with a poor Theology student who came to the family as a tutor for her sisters.

For the matriarch Toshiko, because keeping Christian tradition was very important for her, giving up a wealthy fiancé she had chosen for a poor theology student who was a love in Natsuno’s life was not a huge problem. Her concern was if Natsuno could cope with a life in a manse and of poverty without any servant. My father Isamu married Natsuno after his ordination in 1931 and was adopted by Toshiko as well. His first pastorate was in Numazu. Next year, first child – a son was born: it was me, and the year after my sister Taeko was born. During those years in Numazu, Toshiko often spent time with my family in a manse, and paid for servants – a maid, a nanny, and a house boy. I remember the maid and the nanny who often carried me on her back. But such life style did not last long.

After Toshiko’s death, Grandfather Takeda (Yukichi) failed miserably in his enterprises and lost all Mistui fortune. So my mother lost all domestic help, and had to learn to cook, clean the house, and to do the laundry. She never got the hang of any of them. One of the childhood bitter memories was my aunts making fun of my mother for her clumsy housekeeping skills. I also remember that mother was always doing dishes when grandmother and/or aunts were around. She used to say that she didn’t like cooking and rather be doing dishes. We lived in a chaotic house, and ate drab meals most of the time. Our house became clean and orderly, and ate good food when Grandmother and/or aunts were around, which was quite often. That was because great grandmother, Toshiko, told them to help Natsuno as much as possible.

Meanwhile, our house – manse was always full of people. Often, they were more often than not young people who seemed to enjoy just hanging around. Table was always full of people. It seemed to me that those young people liked to be together at the manse spending endless hours chatting, playing games, wrestling sumo, or singing together with mama’s organ, etc. This life-style continued even though our family’s size increased with the addition of my two more younger sisters, Junko and Toshiko (a.k.a. Kokko) until my father’s untimely passing. I grew up assuming that a pastor’s home was like that. My mother’s less than perfect house keeping skills did not seem to bother my father. That could be the reason why mother was the most suitable partner for my father, because she enjoyed the company of people.

After the WW II, we lived in the half burned church – a shell of a building. But that didn’t deter many young people to congregate in the living quarters of the minister. Some among them later became ministers of the church. Others have become important members of churches. Downtown Tokyo was full of homeless people, and a few of them joined the crowd at the manse. There was a man named Mr. Toyota, who was picked up by my father on the street one winter, when he was suffering pneumonia. He became a resident cook and handy man around the household. He died a few years later. There was a man who was released from prison and joined us briefly. He was a member of a criminal gang and went to prison for murder. He became a Christian and hang arpound our home for a while. When one of the regulars stepped on the Bible which happened to be on the floor, he grabbed my friend by the neck and shouted, “Apologize or I’ll kill you.” Obviously he was a bit deranged. My friend later became a physician.

Father might have thought he was doing anything extraordinary, but all the work to looked after those people fell on mother. She fed them, took cared of their lice filled rag of clothes, spent time with them so long as they stayed around our home, while father was busy doing what his work required of him. She was never a house keeper, but she loved people and enjoyed their company. So though she grew up like a princess not knowing exactly what a woman was supposed to do in a home, she was a good minister’s wife according to a traditional old fashioned role of a”minister’s wife.” At least that was what father must have thought.

One wonders how such a life-style was possible with a meager minister’s salary. This was how. When father died suddenly, we were horrified to find that father had debts all over the place in downtown Ginza. Father owed so much to Kawakami Tamio Law Firm, Hakuhodo Advertising Agency, for example. My parents must have believed that God would provide. When mother and I went around asking them to delay repayment, most of creditors told us that all was forgiven because it was all for God’s work.

In her nineties, she lost almost all her memories, often she didn’t know who I was. She spent the last twelve years of her life in an United Church of Canada residence for Seniors in Cote-St-Luc in Quebec. But she was always smiling and friendly to everyone. She wanted to shake hands with anyone who passed by. She was always happy, so much so that the women who came to visit mother regularly from Howick United Church (my last pastoral charge) said, “Visiting mama made us feel happy every time.” On Christmas Eve in 2003, a cleaning lady who came to sweep the floor of my mother’s room found her smiling at her as usual. She wanted to hold her hand as usual. But she didn’t let go of the hand a few minutes later. It was only when the cleaning lady tried to get her hand loose, she found mother already in another world still smiling.  She was ninety-six years old.  Her ashes were devided into two.  One part went back to Japan and was burried at Ginza Church Cemetery in Tokyo with her husband – my father.  The other part is now burried with my ancesters in St. Louis-de-Ginzague United Church Cemetery in Quebec.



JAPAN: My School Years – 1938 to 1944

Although life in the church, not in schools, dominates memories of my childhood, for the sake of marking the periods in my life, for convenience, I will describe my school experience.  I will deal with church life in another chapter.  As a child, I must have been unconsciously aware that my country was foreign, if not hostile, to my religion.  I was never comfortable in schools.  I never had close school friends; my close friends were always from the church.  I guess it was indicative of the reality Christians faced and still do in Japan.

When I  was in grade seven, there was a survey of parents’ occupation.  In the middle class neighborhood of Tokyo, most parents were engaged in the corporate and civil service sectors.  At the very end of the questionnaires was a category for Religion.  Another boy and I raised hands.  My schoolmate came to me afterwards and asked, “Where is your dad’s ‘Tera’?” Tera is a colloquial word for Buddhist Temple.  I told him what our religion was and where my dad’s church was located.  He looked at me as though I came from another planet.  I suppose our society looks at the children with turbans or yarmulke and side locks in the same manner.  Anyhow, the school to me was an uncomfortable place.  There were many Christian schools that I could have gone to, but my parents never sent any of us to Christian schools, except kindergarten.  I don’t know why.

AIRIN YOCHIEN  – “Love Thy Neighbor” Kindergarten – 1935-38

I liked Airin Yochien.   Airin (Love they Neighbor) Yochien (Kindergarten) was an easy walk of one block south and one block east from the manse of my father’s church in the port city of Yokohama, a half and hour west from Tokyo by train.  Cherry and oak trees lined the streets and furnished canopies where we lived.  Cherry trees blossomed into bright pink blooms in the spring and turned into fresh green after.   In the fall, fruits scattered all over the ground.  Then pavements were covered in dark purple from fallen cherries, and with acorns and brown leaves from the oak trees.  Both the church and the kindergarten were on the hill overlooking the port.  Cranes and ocean-going ships were familiar sights as I walked to and from the kindergarten.

Women missionaries of the American Methodist Church founded Airin.  When I went there, the head-teacher was a middle age American woman by the name of Winifred Draper.  I remember a grey haired person who spoke Japanese with heavy accent.  She was kind, always smiling, which, in retrospect is amazing considering how I behaved in the kindergarten.  After the WW II she sent me a pair of real leather red shoes.  I had no shoes then.  I tinted them black before I wore them to school; Japanese boys didn’t wear anything red during those days.

Now that I know how missionary societies were run, I wonder if the whole Airin enterprise was a Draper family venture, nominally associated with the Methodist Missionary Society.  I say this because I remember seeing Miss Draper’s parents and a sister at their home all the time I was in the kindergarten.  I didn’t get the impression that they were just visiting; they were definitely living with Miss Draper.  They lived in a huge (at least in Japanese standard) house in another part of Yokohama city where many foreigners lived.  Every year the whole kindergarten went to their home for a picnic and sports day.  That was where I saw for the first time a big back- yard with lawn.  Japanese gardens of the middle class families have hills, ponds, cedar and pine trees, and moss covered rocks,  but no grass.

I liked the kindergarten.  I think every child at Airin did.  Where else can you find a kindergarten where old friends get together for reunion every now and then, even sixty years later?  Airin was on the south side of the road surrounded by the hedge of evergreen bush.  On the back of the building away from the street was the play ground with a spectacular view of the port.   There were sees-saws, swings, a jungle gym, and a sand box.  There was a large cage many pigeons.  I must have liked, and spent a lot of time in the playground, because I remember it better than the inside of the building.

Speaking of pigeons, I remember a near disaster episode.  I always felt sorry for the caged birds.  One day when nobody was looking, I opened the gate and let all the pigeons fly away.  The whole kindergarten was in an uproar.  The whole kindergarten was in an uproar.  The children were told to stay inside.  The birds stayed on the roof of a large mansion on the other side of the street.   All the grown-ups, the teachers and the caretaker –  did everything possible to attract them to back into the cage, spreading bird seed everywhere in the play ground.  One young woman, probably a childcare student on placement sitting on the ground with both hands full of birds’ seed.  I knew that none of these measures would work.  And it didn’t.  By noon, they gave up, and came inside to do afternoon activities.  But by evening, the birds were all back in the cage waiting to be fed.  Miss Draper once told my parents that I was as bad as American boys.

I remember other incidents, though I never thought I was being bad.  At a Christmas concert, I was in a group of children singing in a choir.  At one point, I decided that I had to be the conductor, so I got up in front and started conducting.  When another group was singing, I appreciated the performance so much that I went onto the stage and danced.  My aunts said I had a reputation.  When the caretaker found that somebody varnished her new piece of furniture – I think it was a sideboard, everybody decided that I had to be the culprit.  Caretaker didn’t like the colour.  I didn’t do it, but I was not harshly spoken to or punished.

I remember two teachers besides Miss Draper.  They were Hori Sensei and Murakami Sensei (sensei means teacher.)  They both wore kimono with hakama (long pleated culotte-like trousers) and hair in the buns tightly done in the back.  I can’t imagine anyone working in those uncomfortable kimonos, but in those days kimono was the norm as a working clothes.  Miss Hori wore her hair a little bit more loosely and a little bit more stylish, while Miss Murakami smiled kindly but had an air of “ I-don’t-suffer- nonsense.”  Miss Murakami played piano when we sang.  They both must have graduated from the Canadian Methodist Women’s Missionary Society’s Junior College in Tokyo, “Toyo Eiwa”, the only childcare training college around Tokyo at the time.  My mother and a sister, Junko, both graduated from the same institution.

On a Christmas day one year, Miss Hori and Miss Murakami invited our family to their upstairs living quarters for a “proper” American Christmas Dinner.  Miss Draper sent turkey dinner so we could have a taste of American Christmas.  We all sat on the tatami mat around the low table, and put a large cardboard box which had in it everything for Christmas dinner on a huge plate.  I remember the sight of thinly sliced dry white meat, some carrots, mashed potatoes, and something brown and gooey – it must have been gravy.  We ate it with chopsticks.  I didn’t think too much of it, though it was sort of OK.  Meat was too dry and tasteless.  So I ate lots of carrots, the only thing I could relate to.  After I left Airin, both Miss Hori and Miss Murakami get married and left.  It is unthinkable today that marriage means the end of a woman’s career.  But it was a norm during those days.

It was fashionable among the middle class Japanese families to send their children to kindergarten in those days.  My friends came mostly from well-to-do families.  I remember being very impressed by colorful and stylish kimonos mothers wore when they came to the kindergarten for special occasions.  My mother didn’t have expensive kimonos, being a wife of a poorly paid minister.  I could smell expensive perfume too.  I felt humiliated on show-and-tell days when my friends brought to show off the kinds of toys we couldn’t afford.  I didn’t know that my parents couldn’t afford them until Santa Claus failed to bring me what I asked for – the same toys my friends brought to the kindergarten.  I began to hate being a minister’s kid already.

In spite of this doscomfort, Airin Yochien was much better than any school I went to afterwards, because it was explicitly Christian.  I could relate to the language, customs, and stories of the place.  Most of my friends were not from Christian homes, but Christianity was the norm in Airin Yochien.  I went to three elementary schools and two high schools afterwards, but some friends from the kindergarten were the only ones who still keep contact with me.


Loose tummy and me

“One Pine Tree” is a strange name for a school even for Japanese.  But it was the name for the elementary school I attended in Yokohama.  Even funnier was the fact that despite the name, there was no pine tree in the school compound.  Instead, there were many cherry trees.  The Japanese school year begins in April, so it was a spectacular sight with all the cherry blossoms in full bloom when I went to the school for the first time..  So it was the season for the cherry blossoms.  I walked four city blocks south through a residential district clutching to my mother’s kimono sleeve.  The school was huge; two stories U shaped long wooden building with about one thousand children.

Classes were segregated into boys’ and girls’, but I had a woman teacher.  She had about 50 boys in my class.  I don’t remember her name, but she looked smart and tough and  I was scared of her.    I tried everything possible to avoid the school.  One day, I had a bad case of loose stomach.  The teacher told me to go home.  It gave me an idea.  Often, I had to ask to be sent home because of loose tummy, but sometimes I lied.   On one of those untruthful moments, the teacher smiled and said, “I guess you got tired of me already today.”  I was found out but was allowed to go home.  I sweated a lot.  It was no longer fun to stay away from school lying.  I never repeated the same mistake.  The teacher earned my grudging respect.  It was about this time my life long affliction with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) began.

At any rate, I don’t know how my IBS actually started.  According to one of my aunts, I had a bad case of diphtheria when I was four, and stayed in a hospital for ten days.  And she claims that my life-long bowel problem began with that episode.  Funny thing is, I don’t remember being so sick.  Besides, I would have thought diphtheria had nothing to do with the digestive system.  Anyhow, how to cope with a sudden attack of diarrhea has been a life long challenge for me.  I became familiar with friends’ homes between my home and school, where I could borrow their bathrooms in emergency.  Now I know that a sudden drop in the barometric pressure triggers an attack.  That explains why I have so many memories of running and looking for the next nearest friend’s house in the rain or snow.  Likewise, after traveling to many major cities of the world, I can boast my amazing knowledge of bathrooms in those cities.

Dawn of sexuality:

Ipponmatsu became a tolerable place a year later after a girl who came to the Sunday School found me in the playground, and decided to pick on me and have fun.  She was a couple of years ahead of me in the school but in the same class in the Sunday School.  I was smaller than average boys, that didn’t help.  She and a gang of girls started to chase me around the playground yelling something menacing.  When they caught me, they surrounded me and gave me a hard time.  It wasn’t anything close to what might be called bullying but wasn’t honorable for sure.  There was no physical abuse, but was all verbal.  This went on all through the spring.  The girls enlarged the target group beyond me, and to some other boys in my class.  The buys who started to help me get away became prisoners themselves. I began to enjoy it, even though I had to pretend to be horrified by such humiliation.  The memory is that of sweet rather than bitter humiliation.  It is mixed with the memories of springtime at Ipponmatsu,  a beautiful time with cherry trees all in full bloom.  You might call it my sexual awakening.  Some of those girls’ homes became my vital rest stops.
Speaking of sexual awakening, I have a puzzling memory during those early school days.  I remember two earliest occasions when I had a ‘hard-on’.  One of them was of a homosexual nature.  I must have been in grade three.  A classmate of mine, who was sitting a few seats ahead and two rows on the right, tilted his head back touching the desk behind him.  The boy who was sitting behind him began to stroke his hair.  I watched it and had a hard-on.  The boy hose curly hair – unusual for Japanese –  was small and good looking.   He wasn’t my friend nor was he an object of my sexual fantasy.  I consciously tried to stay away from him after that, probably because I was embarrassed.  I still don’t understand my reaction.  It could be my awakening of sensuality; hair is a sensual thing.  But I don’t remember any consciousness that comes close to homosexuality afterwards, ever.  I have always been heterosexual.

The other experience is easy to understand.  Someone took me to a revue, and we saw a chorus line of dancing girls.  It was the first time I saw women in skimpy clothes kicking up their heels showing their underwear.  But this too is puzzling, because during those days at hot springs in Japan, mixed bathing was a norm.  Seeing naked women at the hot spring was anything but erotic. Nobody in Japan made fuss about mixed bathing until the American occupation forces stopped it.  I guess sexual awakening begins with fig leaves not nakedness.

At the end of grade three, my father was transferred to a downtown church in Tokyo.  So my sister Taeko, who by then was finishing grade two, and I moved to another school in Tokyo.  Before I left One Pine Tree School, my teacher gave a little speech with me standing beside her in from of the class.  Her comments surprised me a little.  She said something about my gentleness, generosity, and kindness.  I was not a bully nor was violent for sure, but not even mischievous?   What a difference from kindergarten days!  I guess I was a little apprehensive about the school all the time.  Saying ‘good-bye’ to Ipponmatsu was not a tearful affair.

TAIMEI (Advancing Enlightenment) ELEMENTARY SCHOOL 1943, April)

A taste of high society and I hated it.

Taeko and I were in Taimei School only for a month.  It may not be worth mentioning about such a short stay, except for an overwhelming and unforgettable sense of humiliation I felt while I was there.  Taimei was a famous elite school in Tokyo, located in Ginza, the best and most fashionable business center, like Fifth Avenue by Central Park in New York.  We were able to attend the school thanks to the Universal Education Act, which was just passed into law making all the public schools available to everybody free of tuition.  The alumni of Taimei was like a  “Who’s Who” of Japanese literary and entertainment world.  The school was a smart looking concrete building with artistic murals with decorative tiles.  There were many trees, which created an atmosphere of green oasis in the middle of downtown Tokyo.  It had everything a school should have, well-equipped gym and auditorium, tennis courts, art and sound studio, in fact everything and more.

All children wore smart, expensive uniforms, and practiced snobbish customs, many of which were expensive to follow.  My parents never bought us uniforms, which by then was not required as schools were free and compulsory .  I hated to go to school without the uniform looking so different from other kids.  But the school administration couldn’t insist on uniforms, even though the old regime probably wanted to keep the old system despite the new law.   I forgot most of the strange rules because our stay was so short,  but I remember well was a prescribed menu for nutritional home-made lunch.  Teachers spot checked our lunch boxes to make sure our parents followed the instructions.  We came from a poorly paid minister’s family.  So, my mother had to cut corners from time to time.  One day, I left my lunch box somewhere in the school; another child picked up, and turned it in to the school office.  So the teacher told me to go and pick it up.  The school secretary inspected my lunch in view of many people in the office, because there were a few other lost-and-found lunch boxes.  I felt humiliated, because it was not up to Taimei standard.

After staying in the manse in downtown for only one month, we moved to a rented house in Setagaya, a suburbs on the western edge of Tokyo.  Taeko and I entered another school.  I don’t know why we moved.  But I was so happy that we didn’t have to go to Taimei.  It was only after I grew up and our family started to live in Ginza, I realized that the many of the school children at Taimei were children of geisha or of concubines of prominent people in business and politics.  Nonetheless, I hated the stuck-up atmosphere of high society.

SAKURA (Cherry Blosom) ELEMENTARY SCHOOL ( 1943 – 46)

Discrimination, persecution, and the beginning of the World War II

The school was called Sakura Elementary School.  Today, Setagaya is a bustling business and residential center.   Tokyo is made up of many centers, Ginza, where my father’s church was, being the best known.  However, when we moved to Setagaya, it was still very much rural.  We rented a newly built house which must have been a part of the beginning of suburban development; it was still surrounded by farmland and woods.  In front of our house was a large patch of market garden vegetables.  I often watched the farmer plowing the field by hand and fertilizing it with compost and manure.  I still remember the pungent smell of nourishing mixture he spread in the early spring time.  He often grew cabbages and soybeans there.  Whitish-yellow butterflies covered the whole cabbage patch.  It was dream-like scene.  There was also a huge wooded property beyond the market garden field.  On this property, there stood an old manor of the former feudal deputy governor.  The house must have been a few centuries old.  There were still many old fashioned thatched roof houses in the neighborhood.  Old pine, cedar, zelkova, camphor, and oak trees covered the whole area..

The Sakura School was old and more poorly equipped than Taimei.  It was an old U-shaped wooden building.  It was so old that wooden floors splintered.  We had to be careful with bare feet.  Japanese do not allow outside foot wears to be worn inside.  The norm in many public buildings like schools and churches is to change shoes at the entrance and wear soft-soled inside footwear in the building.  By the time the Second World War began, everything became suddenly so scarce and expensive.  I still remember the despair when I saw all candies disappeared in the candy shop.  Many children from lower income families didn’t have spare pairs of shoes and were barefoot in the school building.  The school had no auditorium or gym, neither was there a swimming pool.  The building itself smelt musty.  But there were many huge trees, cherry, ginkgo, and oak trees in the school compound.   School playground was bare earth, unlike the tarred surface of Taimei School.  The ground was muddy during the monsoon, dusty the rest of the year.  So we must have been dirty most of the time; but I didn’t care; boys aren’t bothered by dirt.  My mother cared less about dirty feet than my aunts.  When I went to my grand parents’ home a few houses away, my aunts were often after me making sure that I washed my feet before I went into the house.

My class mates came from mixed background.  There were farmers’ children, new suburbanites like us whose fathers commuted to government offices and businesses in the city centers, rural poor who lost their jobs as farm land was turned over to developers, and some ghetto children of mainly Korean background. There were even a very few Europeans.  In terms of social classification, we fit in quite well, because we were only one of many minority groups.   We were happier in Setagaya, because the population was mixed.  But still being a Christian in an increasingly nationalistic Japan was not a pleasant experience.

World War II began with an attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1945.   Militarization of the whole country suddenly became visible everywhere including in the school program.   It became more difficult to be a Christian even as a child in an elementary school.  The chapter on the persecution and mass execution of Japanese Christians during the 16th century in the history text book often triggered abuse of Christian children by class mates and sometimes even by teachers.  One time, my sister became ill because of such treatment by her teacher.  When a spell of abuse by class mates was especially fierce, I skipped the school pretending to be sick.   I was lucky to have a very nice teacher for three years, who must have known how I was treated by some classmates.  He was subtle but protective of me.  He was a good looking man and was very popular among girls, even though he was a boys’ class teacher.  He got married while he was my teacher, and a while later he brought his new-born baby to the class.  I liked him.  I even when to visit him at home.  In retrospect, I realize now that such an unannounced visit of a student must have been annoying to his family.  But I didn’t know.  I stayed a long time and ate a lot of rice crackers and drank cups of tea.

The great persecution of Japanese Christian converts in the 16th Century by the Shogun authorities was taught as a Japan’s way to fight back the advancing the western colonialism. Christianity was termed in the history lessons as a .precursor of western imperialism.   In retrospect, I am in agreement with such a view, especially of 16th Century Roman Catholic counter-reformation represented by Society of Jesus.  Christianity was brought to Japan by Jesuit priests; among them was Francisco Xavier.  The Jesuits were remarkably successful.  The speed with which the Roman Catholic Church gained massive converts, especially among the nobles,  must have been frightening to the Shogunate, which just secured the total control of the country after a nearly century of internal strife..  Protestantism, which was allowed in during the 19th Century, did not have such blatant imperial intentions, but it did represent a further incursion of westernization and hence another blow to the Japanese spiritual tradition.  The military very much wanted to spread such a view of Christianity, hence determined the tone of history text books.

Racism against Koreans and Chinese people was at its worst during this time.  Many Chinese and Koreans were brought to Japan by force as laborers.  Korean children in the school from a nearby Korean ghetto had a terrible time.  People said Koreans smelt bad and were dirty.  They smelt garlic and they dressed poorly.  Their diet, in fact, included kimchi which had a lot of garlic and is nowadays considered a delicacy.  Of course, they dressed poorly, because they were paid pittance.   They lived in poverty.  However, it is interesting that Korean children attended the same schools as Japanese children.  In that sense, there was no discrimination.  But they were so often the targets of the racist insults and ill treatments.  In other parts of Japan, there were Chinese children in the schools who were under the same circumstances.  The worst insult one child hurled to another was, “Omae no tosan Shinajin!”  – “You dad’s a Chinese!”  One thing I admire about Korean kids in my school was that they fought back.  They organized gangs and often bullied the weak Japanese kids, me being one of them.  Nevertheless, as a member of another abused minority group, namely Christians, I secretly envied their guts.  Forming a Christian gang was not possible, because there were too few of them, perhaps less than ten in a school of one thousand children.

Some schools had tiny groups of Jewish and White Russian refugees children, whose families had come to Japan via China after the Bolshevik Revolution.  I remember one particular White Russian boy.  He was admired because he was physically bigger, faster, stronger, and taller.  Also according to the lingering racial stereotype of the ‘liberal 20”s Japan’, he was seen as more beautiful because of white skin.  I never knew any Jewish child, but I suspect they were treated like the White Russian boy was treated – not  too badly.  After I came to Canada, I met a Jewish woman who had grown up in Japan.  Her first language was Japanese.  She had married a Canadian after the war and came to Vancouver.  I felt strange speaking in Japanese with a white woman.  She spoke the language like a Japanese person, unlike Miss Draper who spoke like a foreigner – with accent.  She didn’t have any bitter experience in Japan even during the difficult time of war.  She wanted to be our friend because she didn’t want to lose her Japanese language. I personally wasn’t aware of Anti-Semitism during the war years in Japan.  I found much later that the military had tried to emulate Anti-Semitism in order to harmonize with the Nazi policy.  But Japanese populace saw only color white, and continued its admiration of the white race.


On December 8, 1941 (according to Japanese calendar, which is a day early we were called out to the playground for an emergency school assembly.  The principal read something we didn’t understand.  It was an address by Emperor Hirohito announcing the declaration of war against the allied nations – Britain, China, Holland, and the United States.  It was written in an ancient form of Japanese language, incomprehensible for ordinary people.  The principal had to explain what it meant.  It was a cloudy day, damp-cold.  And I felt chill in my bones, because I was dreading this day for sometime.  For a couple of years since we moved to Setagaya, I often overheard my mother talking with my aunts about the possibility of a war with America.  They didn’t seem to understand what was going on politically, but knew that Japan was going to fight our friends – people we loved.  Another reason for their dread was that they knew there was no way Japan could win.  So they were talking about bombing, fighting on the streets, people killed, etc. in despair.  So while the principal was reading the news clip about the “glorious victory” at Pearl Harbor, my mind was totally dark.  “Miss Draper, help me!” was the first thing that came to my mind.



Because I always felt inferior in school, when the day of the entrance examination for the middle school came, I had absolutely no confidence in being admitted into any public middle school.  I could have easily entered any Christian School, which at the time was considered to be easier and inferior in academic standards.  I do not know why my parents didn’t send me to a Christian School, but I know that I was good enough for any good school..  There were 48 public middle schools established by the Tokyo Metropolitan government.  Students were admitted into appropriate schools, based on the result of the entrace examination.  The best went into the First School as was named, the next best into the Second, so on.  I was so timid that took exam at the 48th School, only to find myself admitted into the Tenth.  When I saw the result, I could not believe my eyes.  So I asked my mother to come with me to see the result again which was posted on the bulletin board.  So I started my high school at theTokyo10th Middle School, which later became Tokyo Nishi High School, because the US Occupation Forces did not like the elitism and discrimination inherent in ranking the schools.  However, the elitist practices of the first ten schools still continue today in many latent manners.  Teachers still advise students that only the cream of the class apply the schools which used to be the first ten elitist  high schools.
I still remember a question at the interview: the cause of the war against the Allied countries.  I just memorized the page on the history textbook and recited it.  I did not understand what the text meant, but it was something to do with expelling the western imperialism from Asia.

The school was run like a military boot camp.  We all wore military type of uniforms and had to salute the teachers on the streets like soldiers.  As a part of the school curriculum,  an army officer – a lieutenant – and his sergeant ran military drills twice a week. I was never good at drills, in fact I always got ‘F’.  I am glad that the war ended before graduation, because Military Drills was dropped as a school subject .  So those F’s didn’t affect my average.

Of course, there were other school subjects taught by regular teachers.  Some of the teachers were fanatical nationalists, but others were not.  I remember a history teacher.  He was very funny; his class was always full of laughter.  In retrospect, he was very critical about a lot of historical accounts in the textbook.  But he always told us funny and often juicy stories, about such things as Chinese emperors’ concubines or sex life of Napoleon, etc. He never referred directly to the events in Japan in the same fashion.  But he taught us a healthy critical attitude towards authorities.  Few of us understood the subtlety of his critical views; nevertheless he was playing a dangerous game.

NUMAZU MIDDLE SCHOOL – April – July, 1945


By early 1945, the war was near the end.  The US Ai



I Uncle Masuo Maruyama (Back thord from the right in the photograph)

I think it was in my last year of university in 1955. One day I received a big check from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture. I don’t quite remember the amount. In the hundreds of thousands perhaps. It was extraordinarily huge at any rate. I had no idea how I got such a big fat reward from the government. It said that it was a payment for the service I rendered in translation. I never did any such thing. I didn’t cash it, because I was convinced that there was a mistake somewhere somehow. I had nevertheless a warm and fuzzy feeling that by some slim chance I may have made a fortune and became a rich man.

A few days later, uncle Masuo Maruyama, husband of my mother’s next oldest sister, showed up in my house and asked me if I got a check from the ministry. “Yes.” I said and asked, “What is that for?” Uncle said, “It was a mistake. You have to give it to me.” He worked for the Ministry of Agriculture. It made sense; so I gave it to him and didn’t think too much about it.

A few months later, a news about a big scandal in the Ministry of Agriculture broke in the media. Many big shots in the ministry, including the minister, were involved in stealing billions of yens from the government. Several of them went to prison. Nowhere appeared the name of my uncle. He must have been a small fish. I don’t remember the exact nature of scandal, but I had surmised that somehow my uncle was involved in it because he lost his job at the same time. It was too embarrassing for me to ask questions about such a scandal in the family.

That was not the only time he got into trouble. After he lost the government job, he was employed by King Record, a huge music label in Japan. A cousin of mine was working there as a producer and he needed a person fluent in languages. My uncle had a few languages, fluent in English and French. He used to be in diplomatic service during the WW II, but lost the job when Japan surrendered to the Allies. I think it was because of a purge ordered by the occupation authorities prohibiting all civil servants , military personnel, and politicians to engage a certain number of areas of the society. I remember seeing pictures of my uncle in some tropical countries, all in white and a pith helmet – a dashing figure. He was involved in establishing the Japanese colonial authorities in Southeast Asian countries, which were occupied briefly by Japanese Imperial Military. He worked mainly in French Indo-China because of his proficiency in French language.

When he was being considered for a job at the record company, he came to my office to use my type-writer to produce a sample of his language proficiency. Obviously he lost his type-writer somehow. He didn’t last very long at King Record. I heard that he defrauded the company and stole hundreds of thousands of yens and was fired. But he didn’t go to prison. He settled out of court and paid the money back. The youngest uncle of mine mortgaged the house belonging to the remaining Mitsui estate and lent it to him. He never was employed again and died in poverty. My uncle who had lived in the house lost his place to live, and I lost the last bit of my inheritance. That’s how the last remnant of the Mitsui fortune finally vanished. I was already in Canada and didn’t hear about it for a long time. Everybody was too embarrassed to tell me about it. Maybe, they were afraid that I might sue them.

This uncle, Masuo Maruyama, was a brother of my mother’s best friend at a ritzy private Aoyama Girls’ School, which was founded by American Methodists. Mom’s friend married a naval officer. Once when I was a child, my father took me to see the battle ship, Nagato. Mr. Tamura, mom’s friend’s husband, was Captain. At the time, Battleship Nagato was the biggest in the Imperial Japanese navy. He looked so dashing on the bridge in his captain’s uniform. When he had lunch with us, he had the ship’s brass band playing music for us. I was mightily impressed. The point is that my uncle who was married to my mom’s sister came from a well connected family with the Japanese military. This also explains why he rose high in the diplomatic service quickly during the war. And how fast he fell. The captain went down with his ship in the sea of the Philippines.


II Grandfather, Yukichi Takeda – mother’s father (Second row second from the right in the photograph))

When I was in grade five, a strange thing happened in my mother’s family, which nobody bothered to explain to me. I used to think until then I was the oldest among cousins. But one day, a year older boy, a big muscular guy, appeared in my maternal grandparents house and was introduced to us as a cousin from a country , who came to Tokyo for a better school. I had never heard of him until then. In the meantime, Grandma disappeared. We were told that she was visiting her home, the Mitsui’s in a country of Nagano. Nobody told us what exactly was happening. Neither were we interested in finding out the meaning of those events.

I found out after I grew up that my maternal grandfather had had a common-law wife and a child in a back country mountain village called Ambata in Yamanashi Prefecture on the northside of the Mt. Fuji. Grandfather Yukichi was born and grew up there. As soon as his parents passed away, he sold the family property, abandoned his wife and the child, and went to Tokyo. He wanted to get a higher education. In the meantime, she with the help from her family, moved to the next village worked hard and raised the boy alone. As soon as the son became an adult, he started to work in the bush, hunting bears, deers, pheasants, and the like. He was a hunting guide also, and in the end managed to buy a hunting lodge.

In the meantime, grandfather, Yulkichi Takeda, went to a university and was qualified as a veterinarian, joined the army and became a horse doctor. He fought in China against Tsarist Russian Empire. He met a woman from a rich family and married her. That was my maternal grandmother, nee Takeko Mitsui. Takeko was a sole custodian of the Mitsui property, because her two male siblings died in the Japan-Russo war of the early twentieth century. She was supposed to hand it over to her first daughter, Natsuno – my mother after marriage. My mother was adopted by her grandmother to inherit the Mitsui name and the fortune. During those days, women had no right to own property. So grandfather Yukichi ended up being a custodian of the Mitsui property.

No one who are still alive could tell me the size of Mitsui fortune. All I remember is that there was a large property in Sinsen section of Shibuya district in downtown Tokyo. It is now a very much a metropolitan commercial center in one of the densely built-up sky scraper areas of Tokyo. There was, at the time, a large house on a hill surrounded by bushes and trees. On the bottom of the hill, there were several two story tenement houses. They were rented by business people and professors. (One of the professors was my father’s teacher at Aoyama Gakuin Methodist Seminary, Dr. Takeshi Muto, through whom my father met my mother’s family.)

After he retired from the Army, Grandfather Yukichi never had any job until he died in the early sixties. I remember him always sitting in his study reading, chanting old Chinese poetry, practicing or teaching martial art. His room always smelt like rubbing alcohol. I now suspect that he was on some drugs and/or suffering difficult disease. From time to time, I saw him dressed up in a three piece suit looking like he was going to work, but at odd hours, like early afternoon. Nobody told me what kind of work he did, neither was I interested in a grown-up’s work. He definitely showed all signs that he never like Christianity, even though the Mitsui’s were a very old Christian household, rare in Japan, and his every other member of the family was a baptized Christian.

By the time, my father was transferred to Ginza Church in the middle of downtown Tokyo, my grandparents and my mother’s unmarried siblings moved out of the old Mitsui estate, built a new but much smaller house in the suburb of Tokyo, Setagaya district. There was no more tenament houses. Setagaya, at that time, was still very much undeveloped fringe of a city, and looked like a country-side. There were many farmers’ fields around. Rice paddies, trees and forests surrounded our houses. There was no services. We had our own well, hand pumps, and no plumbing in the house. There was an old feudal sheriff’s estate next door; a huge property with impressive gate and gate house. Many tall trees grew in the property, and there was an archery.

As soon as they settled in Setagaya, we also left the manse, which was an apartment in the church building in Ginza, and moved into a rented house near the grandparents’. It was at that time, a country cousin, Shizuo, appeared in my life. Shizuo and I became good friends, and spent many happy summers at his home in the mountains. I loved it there: there were tall green mountains, a roaring river with white water rapids, and delicious wild fruits everywhere. We fished, swam, did all sorts of things in the mountains. It was a real back country. Two hours from Tokyo by train, transferred to a branch line – a milk run, two more hours by bus, and a few more hours on foot. My grandfather’s family comes from a well known feudal clan, which was defeated in a long feud with another powerful family. The remnants of the clan who survived the massacre went into a back country to hide. That’s where grandfather grew up.

At Setagaya, I began to see my father going out with Grandfather often. It was a bit strange sight to me in the beginning, because I used to have the feeling that Grandfather didn’t like Dad. For one thing, he was a Christian minister. Secondly, my mother fell in love with a pennyless theology student, who became my father in place of a long standing fiancé arranged by the family. Why did they suddenly become close? An aunt was heard as saying that it was a court case. What I gathered only recently was: my grandfather gambled everything in an ambitious enterprise and lost it all. I don’t understand why my father didn’t sue grandfather.

It was when all this was happening, my country cousin appeared and grandmother left for her home. She eventually invited all her unmarried children to her unmarried home and spent war years there away from grandfather. Uncle Maruyama and my aunt moved into the newly built house in Setagaya in order too cook for him and Cousin Shizuo. That means my grandmother didn’t know that her husband had had another wife and a child. On top of that, by then he had wasted all her family fortune. No wonder she left him.

Before I was going to Canada in 1957, I went to Grandmother to say good-bye. She kept saying by showing my then wife Chieko things around the house, “All this should belong to you.” I had no clue what she meant, because nobody had told me anything about the Mitsui fortune and what happened to it. In 1955, grandfather died. However, before he died he sent for my father and asked him to show him the way. That was exactly how he asked him to be baptized. So Dad baptized him. His ashes are buried in two places. One part is buried in Ginza Church mausoleum. Also another part is buried in a Buddhist cemetery in the mountains in Yamanashi. Evidently, his first son forgave him and allowed that to happen. So he remains a half Buddhist and a half Christian. All for conveniences. What a crook!

It is interesting to notice that both crooks of my family were connected to the Imperial Japanese military. I often wonder what kind of culture they lived in. Pride and vanity of the Samurai, but they were without honor and integrity?




GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: A Friend who was a Spy – 1975 to 1980


I met Craig Williamson one day in July, 1975 at Johannesburg’s Jan Smuts Airport in South Africa.  For the next five years, I never had any doubt that he was a trusted ally, a comrade-in-arms  in a common cause, a valuable source of information and wisdom, and even  a friend.  But in 1980, I found out  that he had always been a mole for the South African Security Authority with a rank of something like captain. Though at first I felt betrayed by him, “betrayal” was not exactly the right word to use for Craig Williamson, because truthfulness for him had never been in his job description.  Deception was his nine-to-five job. He was very good at it.  Very few people suspected him of being anything other than what he was pretending to be – a dedicated fighter against apartheid.   A  few women I knew thought that he was a bit creepy, but even those who didn’t like him did not suspect him of being so monstrous as to be a spy.

I must be honest; I liked Craig Williamson.  He was always good to me and very helpful. My nature is to trust people. I don’t begin  a relationship with doubt.  I am a sucker in that was, I guess.  I feel sorry for a door-to-door fund- raiser or sales person.  Besides, Craig was out to charm me.  I was  game – a sitting duck.  My experience with Craig Williamson taught me to be a little bit more careful about people.  I suppose that is sad.  But the reality is: we have to teach children not to speak to strangers on the street.  Still, I feel sad about such reality.  I should have known better the dubious quality of human nature.

When I first met Craig, I was on my way to Lesotho from  Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). I had just spent a night at the transit hotel in the airport building.   Since I had been made a prohibited immigrant in South Africa  in 1972, I always had to stay in the airport building to wait for a connecting flight . I had been what South African Government called a prohibited immigrant and had never been admitted into South Africa since 1972.  My association and friendship with those whom South African Government considered to be subversive, with people like Desmond Tutu, made me a threat to the security of the state.  Desmond was a colleague in the same Theology Department in the University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, where I taught Theology.  So, I had to arrange the meetings with South African program partners either in Botswana or in Lesotho. But before leaving Rhodesia I learned that Karel Tip, President of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS had been arrested a few days earlier. Tip was one of the people I was supposed to meet in Lesotho.  So, I had no idea what awaited me in South Africa, now that he had been arrested. I must say I was scared.

Though Williamson and I had never met, he spotted me as I was lining up to check in for the flight to Maseru, the capital of Lesotho.  A heavy-set man with a bearded round face, he came to me and asked, “Are you Tad Mitsui?”  Then he said, “I’m Craig Williamson,” and introduced himself as Vice-President of NUSAS. I was glad to meet him. He said he had come in Karel’s place and that he’d fly with me to Lesotho.  He was with another heavy-set man by the name of Barry Streek, who introduced himself as a reporter for the Daily Dispatch of King Williams Town.

In May, 1975, I took up a job of Associate Secretary for Eastern and Southern Africa at the international headquarters of the World University Service (WUS International) in Geneva.  During those days, WUS International had a huge program in southern Africa, mainly in Rhodesia and South Africa.  At the time, Rhodesia was known by its colonial name even after  Prime Minister Ian Smith had declared unilateral independence.  South Africa, of course, was ruled by the racial apartheid laws.  WUS International had many projects to support anti-Apartheid activists, often student groups, and to assist black students in universities through scholarships.  In July, 1975 I began a six-week sojourn, touring Eastern and Southern Africa to meet the people who were implementing WUS programs there.
The last stop before Lesotho was in Salisbury (now Harare  Rhodesia. WUS International was spending millions of Swiss francs to sponsor black African students at the University of Salisbury, who otherwise could not afford to get university education despite being  academically qualified..  The situation was different in South Africa, where universities were segregated according to race.  Because of the WUS scholarship program, the University of Salisbury had more black African students than whites.  I was staying with the Dean of Residence, . A.P. Knottenbelt (many people called him Knotty on the university campus.  

The night before I was to leave for Johannesburg and  Lesotho, Knotty, his wife Peggy and I were listening to the radio in their living room, just to catch the weather forecast. We were thunderstruck by  the news report of  the arrest of Breyten Breytenbach and Karel Tip by the South African Security Police.  Breyten Breytenbach was a well-known and much loved Afrikaaner poet who had gone into exile in Paris and joined the banned African National Congress.  Apparently, he had come back into South Africa in disguise and under a false passport to visit activists and recruit white members.  Karel Tip was one of those who were on Breytenbach’s  itinerary.  The authorities knew of Breytenbach’s  visit to South Africa from the beginning, most probably because of Craig Williamson, and followed him everywhere.  Near the end of his tour in South Africa, they arrested him and  those whom he had visited.  I was again amazed by how efficient the South African security apparatus was.  I thought that my plan to find out more not only about NUSAS but also about other projects was ruined.  It was particularly important at the time to find a rationale for a white organization to keep implementing programs for the liberation of  blacks, because the Black Consciousness Movement  was gaining strength, and young black Africans were beginning to take control of the programs that were intended to benefit them.

NUSAS had scholarship programs for African students.  One of them was the South African Students’ Education Trust (SASET which was helping to finance the university education of African students through correspondence at the University of South Africa (commonly known as UNISA.)  UNISA was favoured by many black students, because the educational content was not segregated by race and provided the same curriculum to all students regardless of race.  Another program was the South African Medical Students’ Trust (SAMST which helped qualified  black students who could not afford the medical school education.  Finally, there was the South African Prison Education Trust (SAPET which made it possible for  political prisoners to take university courses through UNISA.  WUS provided most of the required funds for those programs, mainly through government grants from Denmark and Sweden.  

However, beginning in the late sixties, just as in the United States’ civil rights movement with the rise of Black Power, the Black Consciousness Movement  began in South Africa first among  university students.  The most prominent leader of this emerging movement was Steve Biko, who, as a third-year medical student, led walk-out of all the black students at the Annual Conference of the University Christian Movement in Pietermeritzburg in 1968.   It is interesting that they chose a forum like the University Christian Movement to make a statement. It was a declaration of intent for the Blacks to take charge of their own liberation.  They no longer believed that liberation was possible through multi-racial organizations.  With better education and available resources, whites always had advantage over Blacks to be in the leadership positions.  They had to see what blacks could do by themselves.  They launched the South African Students’ Organization (SASO)  for blacks only and left NUSAS in 1968.

Back to Jan Smuts Airport. Craig told me that Barry Streek had come to see me on behalf of his wife, Laura Schultz, who had been the administrator of the three scholarship trust funds – SASET, SAMST, and SAPET.  I still don’t know if Streek was  part of Craig’s spy team, or another victim.  In Lesotho, I was staying in the O.M.I.. (Oblates of Mary Immaculate) Monastery on the university campus.  All the meetings with our South African partners took place there.  Williamson and Streek came to see me there also.  They were aware that the emergence of Black Consciousness Movement was a significant development, and that a  shift in policy might be necessary.  But they pointed out that it was a reality of South Africa that the Blacks were more exposed and vulnerable to  pressure from the authorities than the Whites.  Where money was involved, such a practical consideration had to be taken seriously.  I thought they had a point.  As for the three scholarship trusts, Streek  informed me that they were in the process of becoming independently incorporated trust funds, independent from the NUSAS.  This again made sense.

Meetings with South Africans in Lesotho took place a few more times.  I was careful to meet with whites in Lesotho and blacks in Botswana.  Geographically Lesotho was completely surrounded by South Africa.  So Blacks considered Botswana more secure than Lesotho.  I also didn’t want to embarrass either groups to run into each other.  This was the kind of sensitivity we had to exercise since the birth of the Black Consciousness Movement.  I met with Craig once more in Lesotho.  That was when he agreed to carry some cash with him across the border into South Africa.  For some time during those days, the South African government was trying very hard to make life difficult for activist organizations.  The Welfare Organizations Act defined non-profit organizations as such very narrowly hence made it very difficult for many non-profit organizations to receive funds from overseas.  The Affected Organizations Act meant that a certain number of non-profit and non-governmental organizations were deemed contaminated by foreign seductive and/or subversive ideas.  A cash transfer was one of the ways to circumvent the obstacles created by such  legislation.  But it was fraught with pitfalls, such as lack of accountability and corruption being obvious examples.  The rule of law is often the first victim of revolutions and war.  Immoral or unreasonable laws legitimize irregular actions such as guerrilla warfare, which are defined as terrorism under the normal circumstances.

A year or so later, I saw Williamson again in Geneva.   He arrived with the new President of NUSAS, whose name escapes me.  WUS put them up in a cheap hotel near downtown Geneva.  Their itinerary in Switzerland was arranged by two organizations, both based on student activism.  They were WUS and the International University Exchange Fund (IUEF).  WUS began as a service branch of the Student Christian Movement, whose international body was called  the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF).  Its offices were in  Geneva’s historical la Vieille Ville on the hill near St. Pierre Cathedral on rue Calvin, where Protestant Reformer Jean Calvin had lived in the 16th century.    Our South African guests said they wanted to become familiar not only with us but also with other organizations which were working against Apartheid in South Africa, such as the World Council of Churches  and the United Nations.

I don’t remember too much about their visit except an interview I arranged for them with Paulo Freire, the Brazilian guru of popular literacy.  He at the time was in exile in Geneva and employed by the World Council of Churches as a consultant in the Commission on Education.  Another thing that remains in my mind was their opinion of Steve Biko.  The emergence of  the Black Consciousness Movement hit all the white progressive people hard.  They felt excluded from the liberation struggles.  Many accused  black militants of being reverse racists.  .  However, despite their complaints about the emerging black activism, Williamson admitted that Steve Biko was exceptional.  “He is extraordinary,” they said.  In view of Williamson’s important role in Biko’s death a few years later,  it was a significant comment in retrospect.

Williamson didn’t stay in South Africa too much longer after his first visit to Geneva.  We thought  he had become a valuable contact in South Africa because of his insightful knowledge of situation in South Africa.  We valued the information he had sent to us very much.   In fact, because of bits and pieces of information Craig sent to us in various ways, the Executive Director of the IUEF a Swede by the name of Lars-Gunnar Ericson  and I began to have a weekly morning coffee in each others’ offices to compare notes based on Williamson’s intelligence.  But this arrangement didn’t last very long, because Craig decided to come out into exile.  In retrospect, I wonder what kind of insignificant pieces of information Williamson fed us in order to gain credibility with us.  My memory has faded to allow me to analyze this more deeply.

One day in one of those coffee breaks, Ericson informed me that Craig had decided to leave South Africa.  Apparently, Craig had told Ericson that he’d been drafted into the army and didn’t want to fight Black brothers.  When this conversation took place, Craig was already in Botswana.  He walked from Kimberly, through the South African desert into the capital, Gabarone.  This escape route was a very well used one for exiles. Ericson  also told me that he had hired Craig as Information Officer for the IUEF.  Many government aid agencies got hurt very badly, including  the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA  when Williamson  was exposed in 1979.  IUEF was directly blamed for the fiasco, and was forced to disband.  In its report, the International Commission that looked into the scandal prominently listed lack of accountability in the management structure of the IUEF as a major cause.  I was so close to be tempted to make the same mistake as the one Lars-Gunnar made.

While he lived in Geneva, Craig and I became close friends.   We had meals together regularly at my apartment and in restaurants.  He particularly liked a Japanese restaurant called “Kyoto” near Palais des Nations, the European headquarters of the United Nations.  It was our custom to up-date our news from  South Africa and check the project proposals coming out of South African activist organizations.   I was never invited  to his apartment.  Even after his wife, Ingrid, joined him, he always invited me to Kyoto.  He said  the food was much better than anything he or Ingrid  could ever prepare.  Even after he was promoted to  Deputy Director of the IUEF, he appeared to me as  candid as he always had been and did not  hesitate to share information and ideas with me. Whenever he touched on tricky subjects of the advantage the IUEF might have over the WUS in a subtle rivalry over government grants, he always said, “the cause is more important than an instrument.  An organization is only an instrument for the cause for me.”

Ingrid Williamson arrived in Geneva a few months after her husband.  She carried a Danish passport, so she was able to come out of South Africa and  into Switzerland legally.  As soon as she joined Craig, she registered in the Medical School at the University of Geneva.  She used to work out with a close colleague of mine – Marco Gramegna – at the university gym.  He liked her, which was quite an achievement, as Marco was a Chilean refugee tortured by the Augusto Pinochet’s police.  He knew the ways of the oppressive regimes and their agents.  Marco had a sharp nose to sniff out suspicious characters.  Marco did not trust some of my South African guests.  In fact, at one meeting which was held in Lesotho, Marco kicked out some South African guests who came asking for me in my absence.  I was very angry with him.  But even Marco didn’t suspect Ingrid.  She was a typically Scandinavian looking woman, handsome and always well dressed.    Perhaps she was a bit too well-dressed for the wife of an NGO employee.  She often traveled  back and forth  between Switzerland and South Africa, something she could do easily because  of  her nationality.  In retrospect, just because she could travel easily isn’t a reason for her doing so.  But we thought that she was helping Craig carrying information back and forth.   Unlike Craig, who  had a natural and self-possessed look, Ingrid looked uneasy, tense, and perhaps scared.  We thought that she was just shy, part of being a inrovert Northern European.

It is interesting to recall the organizations Craig recommended  as worthy of our support and the ones which weren’t, in his opinion.   One time a request came to us  through Desmond Tutu, who at the time was General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches,  from a new organization calling itself  the  “Domestic Workers Project.”  The project was headed by a white woman named Sue Gordon  and was an attempt to organize maids and nannies who were working for white families.  I thought it would be a powerful instrument.  There was no white family in South Africa without at least a black woman working as a maid, cooking and cleaning, and as a nanny looking after their children.  Many white women didn’t know how to cook or clean the house or change diapers.  If you could organize those domestic servants, it would be a terrible threat  to the security of the white community and  knock them out of their complacency.  Craig didn’t like it.  He thought that the workers were so domesticated  they would never be a revolutionary force.  He said it would simply make black women better maids and nannies.   

I am now convinced that I had been right initially.  The organization was later taken over by Leah Tutu, Desmond’s wife.  But I was almost been persuaded by Craig.  I met Sue Gordon in Lesotho.  Sue’s upper class British accent made her sound like a school mistress at an English public school.   Her appearance was that of an upper-class do-gooder.  So I had reason to believe Craig’s word.  I have to admit now that I had prejudice against a ceratin class of people.   But fortunately the WUS was very much a democratic and student- run organization, and the Project Committee approved funding to the Domestic Workers Project.  It may be slow acting but manifests its common sense wisdom in the end.  So WUS began supporting Domestic Workers’ Project.  And I am glad that Craig’s words about Sue and the group was wrong.  Other organizations Craig questioned were an interesting mixture. For some reason, they included the South African Council of Churches, which was perhaps  too theologically sophisticated for him.    Another one was the South African Committee for Higher Education (SACHED).  Likewise, perhaps SACHED was too professional.  So he said they weren’t revolutionary enough.  But they both turned out to be some of the most effective organizations in keeping  the momentum going against the system within the country.

One group Williamson recommended very highly was the  “Environmental Development Agency” (EDA).
I even asked the United Church of Canada to give it a helping hand,  which it did.  The person in charge was a man by the name of Karl Edwards, a white man claiming to be a student at the University of Witwatersrand.  The EDA’s aim was to train black people living in what was called “Black Homeland” or “Bantustan”  in what we would call “sustainable development”.  It was supposed to sabotage the government’s effort to impoverish  the black homeland.  I don’t think  the project  was a scheme invented by the state security apparatus, but  Karl Edwards  turned out to be a spy who got himself  hired by the organization.  I don’t know how he managed to do that.  Edwards held a lower rank than Williamson in the Security Forces.   I believe that he was a sergeant, while Craig was a captain.  Edwards and his girl friend once came to visit me in Geneva..  He stayed at my apartment.   I did not find him very bright.  I don’t think he was a university student.  Later, he embezzled money from EDA.  Other people in the EDA didn’t know that Edwards was a mole until he quit.  It was the South African police that fired him from the Security Force, thus losing his job as a spy.  

It does make some kind of sense for a puritanical Calvinistic government to be intolerant of a theft of a few thousand dollars, while approving and initiating assassination, murders, and tortures.   I don’t know how the police found out about Edward’s embezzlement.  Certainly the EDA didn’t know that money had been siphoned off.    Marco Gramegna was the one who never trusted Edwards.  He told Edwards to leave, when he came looking for me during a meeting of the Executive in Lesotho.  The police fired Edwards from the security force and returned the money to the EDA without any conviction for embezzlement in the court of law.  It was one of those strange and even stupid things that happened from time to time in South Africa.  There were so many informers, for example, in the University Christian Movement that they were often informing about other informers without knowing their hidden identities.  I am not sure why Craig commended Edwards highly.  I wonder if Craig recommended the EDA highly because he wanted a second informer with him.  But certainly Edwards didn’t live up to Craig’s standard.

One last project Craig and I collaborated on was a plan to establish a dummy company in the tiny principality of Liechtenstein which bordered on Austria and Switzerland.  For no better reason – than my own procrastination, the WUS never joined the venture.  If we had, the results would have been disastrous.  As I mentioned before, sending money into South Africa to support the anti-apartheid activists  was increasingly difficult.  In retrospect, it is interesting and revealing that we had no difficulty supporting long established organizations like SACC, SACHED, or the Institute of Race Relations.   They were competent, professional, and their integrity was beyond reproach.  They always insisted on doing everything openly, even though the South African government was openly hostile to them and harassed them in many ways including a bombing of the SACC headquarters.  It was also interesting that Craig Williamson steered clear of those above-board organizations.  At any rate, we were in search of different ways to transfer funds.   Craig came up with the idea of a dummy company in Liechtenstein.  For years, Switzerland has been known for allowing  numbered bank accounts for those people who wanted to hide their money.  But Switzerland was getting more nervous about the numbered accounts  because the country was now affluent and valued its good name.  It no longer wanted to be known as a country where dictators and organized crimes could hide their money.  In the meantime, many other small countries, including Liechtenstein,  were stepping into Switzerland’s place and began imitating the ways of numbered accounts.  So the idea was to create a dummy company Lichtenstein in order to transfer funds into South Africa.  It should look like a pure business transaction, which might be difficult fot for South African authorities to crack down, because South Africans themselves were using those dummy companies to circumvent the international sanction.  At least, that was the idea.  It was difficult for me to sell such an idea in the WUS, because the WU was an open and democratic organization.  The bureaucracy was kept on a short leash by the students on theExecutive .  Governments who provided a large proportion of funds demanded strict accountability too.  So I hesitated, and my time at the WUS  ran out.  I came back to Canada in late 1979 to take a job with  the Canadian Council of Churches.  But apparently, the IUEF went ahead and created a company called “ Southern Cross, S.A.” (Societe Anonyme) in Liechtenstein.   

In December, 1979, I was shocked by a telephone call from Richard Taylor from Geneva telling me that Craig Williamson had always been a South African spy.  Richard wanted to know the nature of  my relationship with Craig Williamson   He particularly wanted to know how much I told Craig about Steve Biko.  That disturbed me more than anything else.  I did introduce Desmond Tutu to Williamson.  We had a dinner together at a restaurant called l’Avenir on Avenue Louis Casai near the Geneva Airport in Cointrin.  But I don’t think Craig did anything about the connection with Desmond.  SACC for some reason was a “no-go” area for Craig.  But as for Steve, yes, we did talk about him a lot.  But I don’t think I added anything new to what he had already known.  In fact, Craig Williamson was a major source of information about Steve – what he was doing and his whereabouts.  In fact, when Steve Biko died it was Craig Williamson who phoned me at my apartment only a few hours after his death.  I remember vividly that evening.  Ray Whitehead, the Coordinator of the Canada-China Programme at the time, was staying at my apartment.  When I heard of Steve’s death, it was such a big shock that I nearly collapsed.  

Steve Biko for me was the hope for South Africa.  ANC had been a banned organization so long as I was involved in the anti-apartheid movement in Lesotho and in Switzerland.  I was never involved in the clandestine activities.  Among the young activists who were still working above board, Biko represented the brightest hope.  He was creative, brave, energetic, charismatic, articulate, and best of all full of humor.  I liked him a lot personally.  I felt like all my hopes were dashed.   Ray whitehead remembered that dreadful evening.  He told me so when I finally reached Toronto and started to work for the Canadian Council of Churches.  Ray came to Geneva for a WCC meeting but stayed with me partly because he wanted to persuade me to apply for the job at the CCC.   I could not work for about a week because of the shock of the news.  Now I am convinced that Craig Williamson played a major role in the arrest and murder of Steve Biko.

Coming back to “Southern Cross S.A.”, I don’t know what Williamson’s real intention in suggesting such a real cloak and dagger stuff was.  But I can say that it did create a beginning of the end of his career in Geneva.  It also ended the life of an organization – IUEF.  According to an IUEF staff person by the name of Chris Beer, who lost his job due to the dissolution of the organization, Craig Williamson disclosed his real identity by attempting to blackmail Lars-Gunnar Ericson in order to make him an agent of the South African spy network in Geneva and Scandinavian capitals.   Many anti-Apartheid organizations were based in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.  Almost they were the major source of funds for anti-apartheid activities.   Chris speculated that Craig knew there were enough irregularities in the administration of funds apparently, for Lars-Gunnar to fear a full disclosure of the financial operation of the “Southern Cross, S.A.”  I ran into Chris in a bar in Khartoum in July, 1980.  I was then already employed by the Canadian Council of Churches, and Chris by another NGO in Geneva.  Secrecy does not encourage accountability, and lack of accountability provides opportunities for corruption, I guess.  According to the press when Craig’s real identity was exposed, the meeting between Craig and Lars-Gunnar took place in a bar in Zurich in the presence of another higher officer of the South African Bureau of State Security (BOSS).  To his credit, Lars-Gunnar refused to be co-opted, and threatened two South Africans in turn to report to the Swiss Authority.  In Switzerland, violating  bank secrecy is a serious offence, and Lars-Gunnar used that argument to scare the South Africans.  Two South Africans immediately took off to return to their country, where Craig was welcomed as a hero, I was told.

I have no idea about the extent of the damage Craig Williamson caused.  I am now sure that he was the main instigator and planner of the murder of Steve Biko.  Some of the people who were injured or killed by letter bombs were reported to have received parcels or letters from “IUEF”.  The press reported that they were all expecting post from a supporter in Geneva.  Abram Tiro was blown up by a parcel from IUEF in Gaberone, Botswana.  My close friend John Osmers, an Anglican priest from New Zealand lost his right hand and his genital when he was opening a parcel from Geneva in Lesotho.  He claimed that the bomb did not cause too much inconvenience on his part.  “I am left-handed.  And I am a celibate monk,” he said.  Michael Lapsely, another Anglican monk from New Zealand was also injured by a letter bomb in Zimbabwe.  Ruth First, a South African journalist and wife of Joe Slovo, both of whom were very close friends of Nelson Mandela, was also killed in Mozambique in the same way.  I also heard the news about a raid into an ANC camp in Swaziland led by “Captain Williamson.”

What I know and can speculate about the extent of damage this episode caused is mainly personal.  I know that IUEF could not survive.  But there must have been a great deal more damage done to the governments’ programs.  An international governmental commission of enquiry was instituted chaired by David MacDonald, who held an important position in the Progressive Conservative Party at the time.  I believe it was the time when Brian Mulroney was in power, and MacDonald was a member of Parliament.  I asked a CIDA official later if I could see the report of the commission.  I was told that it was a top secret document.  It must have been a very embarrassing incident for many governmental aid agencies.  One concrete result of the Craig Williamson incident was much more strict accounting procedures for the Scandinavian governments.  From my own experience of dealing with Canadian money from CIDA, I could tell that Canada already had a fairly strict set of procedures and requirements, which incidentally could not have prevented the fiasco created by Williamson.


I understand that Craig Williamson appeared before Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  I wondered if Desmond remembered that dinner we had with Craig at l’Avenir on Avenue Louis Casai.  I have not heard how much he confessed.  I have not heard if he was officially forgiven.  But one thing I know: he is alive and well in Johannesburg, in fact doing rather well in an import and export business with Mozembique.  When I was in Johannesburg as a member of the International and Ecumenical observer team for the first General Election in 1994, some friends in Johannesburg thought that I should see Craig Williamson.  One of them, who happened to be a journalist, found a telephone number and address.  Alas, I did not have guts to pick up the telephone.  Besides, what could I say if I see him?  I still have the telephone number.

JAPAN: My father 1: Papa”s Songs – 1940 to 1956

Papa loved to sing.  He had an enormously resonant voice.  I remember often hearing Papa’s  voice distinctive from a congregation of hundreds.  He was aware of that too and wondered aloud if he should donate his vocal cords to a medical school.  He should have said that in his will, because his death was so sudden and unexpected that nobody thought of anything like donating his organs.  He was only 50 years old when he died in his sleep.

As I said, Papa loved to sing, and he taught us kids many songs. He often sang for us as we walked.   There were many of Papa’s songs.  But unfortunately, I can remember only four.  I looked up some old song books – children’s and otherwise –  and  tried to find the origins of those songs.  I also hoped that I would be able to remember forgotten ones if I looked at old songs in those books.  I could not find any of them.  Sometimes, I wonder if some of the songs he sang were his own creation.

Just before World War II began, the Mitsuis lived in the minister’s  apartment in Ginza Methodist Church.  It stood right in the middle of downtown Tokyo.  But after a few months, we moved from the apartment in the church building to a rented house in the Setagaya District of Tokyo.  Setagaya today is very much in the heart of urban Tokyo.  But in those days, it was still outside of the urban sprawl.  I don’t know why we moved.  Probably it was because my parents thought Ginza was too much downtown for children to grow up.  In the woods in Setagaya, there still stood old feudal estates, which had probably belonged to a magistrate or a sheriff during the feudal Tokugawa period a century before.  My uncle used to practice archery in that estate.  Farms and barns stood in the fields.  New housing developments  were just beginning here and there.  We had no bath in our newly-built rented house.  So, we went to a public communal bath house.   I remember that going to the bath-house was a lot of fun.  We could see the moon between branches of huge zelkova trees as we were walking back from the bath.  Papa sang this song in those moonlit evenings

Mr. Moon, are you traveling
Alone in the sky tonight?
There are sardine clouds
In front of you.
There are flying fish
Behind you, too.
Help yourself when you are hungry.
They make delicious dinner. *

* Note: This is, and other songs in this chapter are, a literal translation of the original Japanese lyrics.  I attempted to be more faithful to the meaning of the lyrics rather than to the rhythm of the music.  In other words, the words do not necessarily match the music.

There must have been a few more verses, but I don’t remember them Papa was a romantic and enjoyed traveling alone.  He loved people but he enjoyed solitude too.  He also loved to eat very much.  Maybe that’s why I remember this song.  It reminds me of Papa so much.

When Papa was transferred from Tobe Methodist Church in Yokohama to Ginza Methodist Church in Tokyo, he was in his early thirties.  He was young and inexperienced and did many outrageous things.  That’s why I remember him being lots of fun during those days.  I remember the week he got high school boys together and held a Sumo Wrestling tournament in a largest room in the manse.  At the end of the week, the floor was a total wreck; tatami mats, floor boards and supporting beams, the whole thing.  I don’t exactly remember why it had to be held indoors.  It must have been winter.  Next week, he mobilized the same boys to fix the floor.  At another time, he pushed all the pews to the corners of the sanctuary and stacked them all up to make room for a Kendo (Japanese Fencing) tournament.  On another occasion, there was an almighty commotion on the roof of the church.  My great grand-mother found kids playing up there.  So she told them to stop instantly and come down. To her surprise, the first one who came down the ladder was Papa, the minister of the church.  It’s a wonder that the bishop let him stay  in that church for a full term of four years.

This is why his appointment to a famous church in a big city came as a big surprise, even though it was in a position of mere Assistant Minister.   Many people came to congratulate Papa for his promotion.   The tone of their comments were sort of like, “How did you pull that off?”  But it sounded as though it was  an unexpected surprise for him, too.   It was before the church union, still in the time of the Methodist Church in Japan with its episcopal system like that of the Methodist Church in the United States.  I wonder if bishops made such surprise appointments from time to time.  At any rate, he was to be Assistant Minister to his former teacher, Dr. Saburo Imai, who was known for his stirring oratory and great sermons.  My father might have decided to accept the appointment to Ginza Church to help his old teacher and as a temporary stepping stone to get into Tokyo, where his adopted family lived.  But Dr. Imai died suddenly after only a few months, and Papa ended up being the Minister-in-Charge.  He must have then resolved to be a little bit more cautious and respectable.  He stopped being fun in Ginza.  I wonder if it’s just a coincidence that a song he taught us during those days seemed to be dealing with the question of real versus fake prophets.

There is an old clock
On the  tower of an ancient castle.
Everyday, the clock loses a minute or two.
Villagers know nothing about this.
Looking at the clock on the castle
In the morning and in the evening,
The villagers correct theirs.

Eventually, the Moon begins to shine
In the dark sky, at noon.
And the working day ends
Before dews have yet dried.

Villagers know  nothing about this still.
Looking at the clock of the castle,
They correct theirs just like
They have been doing for years.

It’s only the swallows
Who know what’s going on.
But, though they know
What’s wrong with the clock,
They are only birds.
They loop the loop in the sky
Not telling anything.

Another reason my father may have accepted the job in Ginza was to be closer to where his adopted family lived.  My father was adopted by my mother’s grand parents to continue the Mitsui’s family name.  He left his birth family and quit medical school against the wishes of his parents to go to the theological school.  My maternal great-grandparents had lost their sons in the Russo-Japan War at the beginning of the 20th century.  They adopted my mother at birth.  She grew up as a Mitsui and married my father who changed his name to Mitsui, and became an adopted son.  This is a common practice in Japan even today when there is no male heir to continue the family name.  The Mitsuis were a relatively well-to-do family.  I remember the big estate in Shibuya in the centre of Tokyo, where my grand parents, aunts and an uncle lived.  There were several tenement houses within the estate.    By the time I came to Canada, we did not own any property nor any money.  How we lost everything is a mystery which nobody of my parents’ generation spoke about.  So I never asked.  But I remember, when we lived in Setagaya, my father went to the court often with my maternal grandfather.  I have no idea if my parents’ decision to move to Tokyo had anything to do with the demise of the Mitsui fortune.

As the war neared the end, Papa’s pastoral work became very difficult.  By then, we were living in Setagaya, somewhat away from the centre of the city in Ginza, and were not fully aware of what was happening to my father’s life.  I was told later that he was often called to the Special Police Unit.  This was a special security police force that watched citizens for their seditious thoughts.  Papa did not come home from time to time.   Rumors had it that he spent quite a few nights in the detention centre.   He never spoke to us about it.  For the reason I mentioned the above and for other reasons, the time we kids could spend with Papa became very precious.

During those days when Papa was home, all six of us – Papa, Mama, three sisters, and me often sang the following action song.  We made a circle holding hands, and walked around in the circle singing, “It’s opening, it’s opening.”  We made the circle bigger as we sang “It’s opening.”  As it became smaller we sang, “It’s closing” until the circle was so small we were almost hugging each other.

“It’s opening, it’s opening.
What is it that is opening?
A lotus flower is opening.
Soon, evening comes,
And it closes in no time.

It’s closing, it’s closing.
What is it that is closing?
A lotus flower is closing.
Soon, morning comes,
And it opens in no time.”

We sang this song going around the circle over and over again.  We did this until we began to perspire.  I must have been 8 or 9 years old, when the boys of that age normally should not have been seen playing with girls, especially with one’s own sisters.  Taeko was a year younger, Junko six years younger and Kokko seven years younger.  Kokko must have just started to walk.  I now wonder why this is such a fond memory for me.  I can think of two reasons.  For one thing, we were so happy that Papa was at home with us.  Another reason is the fact that Taeko and I did not have friends outside of the Sunday School.  Because we lived away from the church, the Sunday School friends were not nearby to play with us on weekdays.  At school, teachers and class mates called us “American spies” and bullied us.  On many days, I didn’t want to go to school.  I lied a few times faking a stomach ache, and stayed home.  The situation became a little better after I became friends with the boy next door, whose father happened to be a navy captain.  When my aunt married a widower lieutenant colonel army doctor, the abuse stopped.  But I never made friends at school during the war.

The war was coming to its inevitable  conclusion and the nightly air raids became more devastating than ever.  The government decreed that all school children must be evacuated from the large cities.  Those who did not have any connections with the countryside through friends or relatives were moved to the make-shift boarding schools, which were set up in many large buildings in the mountains or country villages.  My sisters moved with Mama to my grandfather’s village in the Yamanashi Prefecture, on the west side of Mount Fuji.  I moved to Numazu City, where Papa had served his first pastoral charge, because there was no Grade 7 in  grandfather’s village.  I stayed with a family of former parishioners of Papa’s – Mr. and Mrs. Wada.  Mr. Wada was blind and a massage therapist.

Many children who were moved to the temporary residential schools were homesick.  Mothers of those children became nervous wrecks from worrying about them.  So Papa began to visit those schools for evacuee children.  He carried a paper picture show with him called “A Narrow Path in the Back Country.” *

* The paper picture show was sort of like the slide show to tell stories with still pictures – photographs or more often painted pictures.  It was a popular form of entertainment for Japanese children during the early 20th Century.

It was the story of a 17th century Haiku master, called Basho – a monk who loved to travel.  In fact, he traveled all his creative life on foot and wrote Haiku about the places he visited.  Papa showed the picture show to the children everywhere.  There was a song that went with it which he sang.  The song was based on Basho’s Haiku and his journey.  The song became my favorite.  Unfortunately I remember only the first verse:

“It is so precious!
Traveling has become my home.
I follow a narrow path
Covered with tall green grass.
Shoulder straps of my back pack
Are hard on my tired old bones,
But my staff is ever so comforting.
Futara mountain in May
Is full of young green leaves
Dancing in the sunbeams.”

Papa’s life was like the life of Basho – the life of a sojourner.  Basho traveled many places writing Haiku as he did.  Papa traveled through his life singing.  Eventually, he went back to his real home probably singing all his favorite songs.

Tad Mitsui
February 6, 2001
Lethbridge, Alberta



June 24, 2006 is my father’s 50th anniversary of his death. On this day, I wanted to remember him by reciting the poem, by Kenji Miyazawa, he liked very much. My father was my hero; gentle, kind, and unassuming. He was much loved by many people. He died much too early at his age 50, while in his active ministry at Ginza Church in downtown Tokyo. The following poem humbles me when I realize that my father had such a humble life as his role model.

Tad Mitsui, June 25, 2006


by Kenji Miyazawa


Not beaten by rain, nor by wind,

Neither by snow, nor by heat of a summer,

With such a healthy body.

Not greedy, never petulant, always smiling quietly.

Eating two cups of unpolished rice a day,

With a bit of miso and some vegetables,

I do not count myself in any matter,

I listen, observe, and understand well,

Forgetting nothing,

Living in a little thatched roof cottage,

In the shadow of a small pine grove in a plain.

If there is a sick child in the east,

I would go to take care of him;

If there is a tired mother in the west,

I would go to carry her bundle of rice straw.

If there is a dying man in the north,

I would go to tell him “There is no need to be afraid.”

If there is a quarrel or a court case in the south,

I would go to tell them, “Don’t be a bore.”

Shedding tears in a drought,

Wandering aimlessly in a cold summer,

Everybody calls me, “Blockhead.”

Nobody praises me,

I bother nobody.

I want to be a person like that.



On the day just before he was executed by a firing squad of the Australian Army, Navy Lieutenant Paul Hideo Katayama of the Imperial Japanese Navy wrote a letter to Rev. G. H. Young, the Chaplain of the War Criminals Compound in Rabaul in the Pacific Islands. It is dated 23rd October, 1947.

“Dear Rev. Young:

I am sorry that I could not have my funeral service conducted by you, so I asked Mr. Sato to do it. Mr. TAKAHAI, a member of church, will also be executed. We are very calm and have a great hope to see our Lord face to face. We are very happy that we can die as “Christians.”

I wish you every success and happiness in His name.

Yours sincerely

                    Paul Hideo Katayama”

A photocopy of this extraordinary letter was given to me by Ms Hiroko Imamura, a journalist working for “Gospel for the Millions” – a Japanese evangelical monthly, who found it at the Australian War Memorial when she was researching for an article about Lieutenant Katayama in 2006. (Ms Imamura studied theology at Regent College of the University of British Columbia.)

Ms Imamura first contacted me in early 2006. She was looking for any information about Lieutenant Katayama. She thought I could shed some light on his church life, because he was a member of Ginza Church, part of the United Church of Christ in Japan in downtown Tokyo where my father was the minister during the war. While Katayama was on trial in Rabaul and subsequently waiting for execution, he entrusted my father, Rev. Isamu Mitsui, with all his correspondence for delivery. They were his letters to his wife of a few months, other family members, and friends in Japan. So Ms Imamura asked me if I remembered anything about Lieutenant Katayama.

Though, I didn’t have any memory of any personal contact with him. The only thing I remembered about him was a reference my father made in his sermon on the day after Katayama’s execution. He said something to the effect that Mr. Katayama was like Jesus: he died for the crimes other people committed. However, I don’t remember any mention made about him in the church after that sermon. I suppose 1947 was not a good year to speak too often about a church member who was a war criminal and was executed by the victorious Allied Forces. At the time, my father’s church was full of American soldiers, who came to worship with us. So the subject was dropped completely. But during all those 60 years, I had from time to time wondered what the story was all about. Then Ms Imamura contacted me.

I was not able to provide any new information beside the memory of my father’s sermon about Katayama and the names of some people in Ginza Church who might have known him more. That was the extent of my contribution to Ms Imamura’s research. The special issue of the “Gospel for the Millions” to commemorate the end of the World War II in the Pacific was published in August, 2006. Ms. Hiroko Imamura kindly sent a copy to me. In it, Lieutenant Katayama’s story was featured prominently. I was astonished by the amount of work that went into a short magazine article. She found survivors of the Rabaul War Criminal Compound, letters, his diary, photos, including materials from the Australian Archives at the War Memorial Museum. She also interviewed a former Australian military policeman who participated in Katayama’s execution. There was even a movie made in Australia about Katayama in 1990. She wrote to me that she had so much material that she decided eventually she would like to write a book about him.

What emerged from her investigation was a cover-up scheme by the Japanese military to protect the officers in high command which included a member of the royal family. It made a junior officer, Lieutenent Katayama, the sole scapegoat. The alleged war crime was the execution of a few Allied Forces airmen, who had been taken prisoners when their plane was shot down, and were charged for the deaths of civilians. They were summarily tried, sentenced to death and immediately executed. It was probably the case of what today’s military euphemism would call “collateral damage.” Katayama was supposed to be one of a group of seamen who had carried out the execution. He was probably an interpreter who read the death sentence, as his job in the navy was a language officer.

During WW II, many Christian Japanese soldiers is that because of their better command of foreign languages, they were assigned to the communication and/or the intelligence unit. They were often interpreters and/or translators. This was the case for Lieutenant Katayama. He was in the Tokyo University of Foreign Languages when he was conscripted. He was particularly proficient in English. Having an uncle who was married to an English woman must have made English part of his life. He was a language officer in the Communication Unit, and often acted as an interpreter. He had access to much military information. This is why after repatriation to Japan, he did not hesitation to voluntarily report to the Allied Occupation Forces War Crime Investigation Unit, when he heard that witnesses were being sought in a case of the killing of Allied airmen in the Pacific. He was surprised that he was immediately arrested because he was the only one who reported in for the particular case of war crime. He was sent back to the Pacific and interned at Rabaul War Criminal Compound of the Australian Army on the New Britain Islands off New Guinea. He had just married to his long time fiancé only a few months before.

During the trial, it became clear that Katayama was to be the only culprit charged in the case. As soon as he discovered that no one else had reported, he was puzzled and dismayed and spoke about this with Rev. Tamezo Harada, who was a minister who guided Katayama into Christian faith and baptism – a father figure. Just before Katayama was shipped back to the Pacific for the trial and subsequent execution, Rev. Harada came to visit him all the way from Kyuushu (the Southmost island of Japan) at the Tokyo Detention Centre where he was held. Katayama recorded the conversation with his beloved minister in his diary. They spoke about giving one’s life for a friend as the highest form of love. Reading the diary, one is struck by the almost surreal lack of bitterness on the part of Katayama.

During his detention in Rabaul and while waiting for the execution, he became friends with the Australian Chaplain for the War Criminal Compound, Captain G.H. Young. He became Rev. Young’s interpreter. Eventually, two men organized a church in the compound with regular worship services, a Bible study group, a prayer meeting, etc. Katayama became a lay preacher for the congregation doing a lot of pastoral work and teaching. It was during this period of waiting, many Australians became convinced that Lieutenant Katayama was innocent – a scapegoat setup by his superior officers. Don Ball, a military policeman, was one of then. They started to work hard to appeal his sentence. But there just weren’t enough days, as the Allied Forces became anxious to conclude the operation of the B & C class war crime courts. Even the chief prosecutor of the Rabaul War Crime Court became uneasy about the Katayama’s guilt. But it was too late.

Don Ball, one of the Australian military policemen who participated in Katayama’s execution was then only 19 years old at the time. Katayama spoke to him while he was tying him to the chair. Kataya didn’t want a blind. He said, “I’m not afraid to die.” But Ball persuaded him that it was for the members of the firing squad, so that their trauma would be lessened. Ball also remembered Katayama saying, “Thank you.” to the medical officer who marked the heart with a white piece of cloth. When his eyes were covered, he asked for a moment to say the Lord’s Prayer. Ball joined him holding Katayama’s shoulder. When the prayer was concluded, Ball ran and hid behind a rock. He could not bear watching the man shot with whom he just said a prayer. A few seconds later, Ball heard the word, “Fire.” He could not hold back tears while wrapping Katayama’s body with a blanket on a stretcher. Lieutenant Paul Hideo Katayama was executed by a firing squads on October 23, 1947. Exactly sixty years ago.



CANADA:50 the Anniversary of my Ordination, 2008



on the occasion of my 50th Anniversary of ordination


Jesus broiled fish on charcoal. This was breakfast he prepared for Peter and others after his resurrection . I like this story, because I like fish for breakfast: Smoked salmon on a bagel, Lake Winnipeg smoked gold-eye on toast, grilled mackerel on Japanese rice. Yum! Besides I am a practical person. I don’t understand spirituality all that well. But I understand food. For me spirituality is a practical matter like overcoming hunger or working for justice. Jesus prepared a breakfast by barbequing fish for Peter and others. Jesus’ resurrection diminishes death to just another passage in our lives; it’s the end of hopelessness. It means we can start a new chapter with a good breakfast – fish on bread by the lake with friends. It sounds so happy, and indeed it was a happy time. It was a celebration.


Another reason I like this story is the ‘letting-go’ aspect of it. Jesus totally let go of the sad past, and behaved as though nothing had ever happened between him and the disciples a few days before he died. Remember, the disciples behaved shamefully. Where were they when Jesus needed friends? Where were they when Jesus was arrested, tried and killed? They were nowhere; they ran away. Peter, the leader of the pack, even denied that he ever knew Jesus at all. He was so scared of being seen as having had any connection with the person who was on trial. Just a few hours before Jesus’ arrest, he had sworn to Jesus, “I will go anywhere with you, I will even die with you.” What a liar, what a coward, what a scumbag! Who needs enemies with friends like that? But on that beach, Jesus behaved as though nothing like that ever happened. The story of “Fish for breakfast on the beach” is about letting go of the shortcomings of others and of forgiveness.


When I think back on my fifty years, I am overwhelmed by the amazing grace that allowed me to be a part of God’s on-going project of spreading love to the whole creation. I am a man of many shortcomings. I could very well be any one of those cowardly disciples, who were invited to that breakfast. God gave me many privileges to be a witness for amazing people doing amazing things. The people I met were brave, committed, and totally faithful to those they loved and to the causes they believed in. They were truly martyrs.


Here I wish to explain a little about the words ‘witness’ and ‘martyr. The Greek word for ‘witness’ is ‘martrion’, which became the English word for ‘martyr’. It came from the stories of brave acts of early Christians, who never denied what they saw even at the risk to their lives. They never ceased to be witnesses to the amazing life of Jesus Christ. This is how the word ‘witness’ came to mean ‘martyr’. They didn’t seek death. They were simply determined to be truthful to what they witnessed.


An example of such a witness is the captain of the company of Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus. He supervised the execution and saw how Jesus died. After Jesus died, he said, “Truly, this man was a son of God.” The captain was not a follower of Jesus. To him, Jesus was just another condemned prisoner. The soldier was simply following orders to execute a criminal. He had no idea who the prisoner was.


When I think about many people I encountered in my life, I feel like this captain. Perhaps this is very clear when I think of going to Africa in 1968. I wasn’t volunteering to do anything extraordinary or dangerous. I just wanted to go to Africa. There I met Desmond Tutu, teaching in the same department with me. I met Steve Biko, in the Student Christian Movement. But most of the people I met, courageous though they may have been, nobody knows their names. But they were amazing people and did amazing things.


Many South Africans remained nameless. Mapetla Mohapi was one of them: he was a treasurer of an organization Steve Biko ran, and I, as a supporter of Biko’s cause, had many contacts with him. He was strangled to death in his cell in King Williams Town near Durban. Nobody remembers his name. He worked just as hard as Steve Biko for the dignity of Black people in South Africa. I taught at the University in Lesotho, and worked with Student Christian Movement of South Africa during the 1970”s. After I was expelled from South Africa, I worked from Geneva, Switzerland to continue to support people who were working to change the unjust system. I think, for example, of students who were shot by the police in Soweto in 1976. I was a Canadian, I was safe in Switzerland or in Canada, but those South Africans risked their lives. It was those nameless people – as much as the Tutus or Bikos – who fought injustice, and brought down the Apartheid regime.


Another such heroic person was an Ethiopian woman. I saw her walking towards of a feeding camp in the city of Makele in northern Ethiopia. At the time, I was the coordinator of famine relief for the World Council of Churches during the 1980”s. She was so emaciated and weak, and could hardly walk. A few people tried to help her and to hold her by the arms. But she kept shooing away the helping hands. She was proud and looked dignified like any farmer around the world. Farmers are proud people anywhere. They think receiving charity is a humiliation and a shame. Probably that’s why she stayed home trying to feed the family anyway she could during the severe drought and famine, after her crops failed. She should have given up and started to walk towards charity much earlier before she got so weak. I saw her later in the camp lying on a floor looking at a digestive cookie: the usual first easy to digest food given to extremely malnourished persons, just to give them sugar. She didn’t even have a strength to lift it to her mouth, so she was just looking at it. A nurse had to put it between her lips. She probably died a few hours later. She had a cross around her neck, like many Ethiopians who are Orthodox Christians. But I still remember her act of defiance as though to say, “Go away, I can do it by myself.” She was a witness to the power of human dignity.


I think of the Japanese Canadians I worked among when I first came to Canada in 1957. You may know that most of Japanese who came to Canada beginning 1892 were not Christians. Those who joined the church did so rightly or wrongly believing that becoming Christians was the way to become Canadians. They believed that Canada was a good country and they gave up the old tradition and embraced a new religion despite an accusation by fellow immigrants for being traitors to their heritage.. The test of their faith came during the Second World War. The country they believed in to be fair and just betrayed them, and called them “enemy aliens,” even though there was no such evidence. All cars, fishing boats, all property, even radios, were confiscated before they were removed from the coast. I did research on this when I was working for my Master’s degree in B.C. But they held on to the Christian belief and didn’t abandon the church, believing that Canadians would eventually see the light. Now they are a part of the fabric of Canada and most certainly of Southern Alberta.


I remember Palestinian Christian Doris Salleh, Kameel Nassr, Elias Khoury, and Alfred Noursi, in East Jerusalem, people I met when I was working for the Canadian Council of Churches during the 1980”s. They were much younger than I was. They all died young. Their daily stress of working for the well-being of Palestinian people under Israeli occupation in West Bank and East Jerusalem took a big toll on their health. Their lives were and still are incredibly difficult. But they never stopped. Many Christian Palestinians migrated to the western countries like Canada, but those friends I mentioned were determined to stay to work for their people and have paid the price.


They are the people who expressed their spirituality in practical terms, in their struggle for justice and human dignity. They taught me so much about ministry, about being a faithful witness, about forgiveness and letting-go, and about the importance of having time for a celebratory meal together, of not giving into hopelessness. I am so honored to have known them by name, by being able to say, “They were my friends. I don’t know why I have been privileged to have met them. I guess I just happened to be there like the soldier who happened to see Jesus crucified. I was doing a job, and they were there, we often ate together, and I saw what they did. The least I can do is to tell their stories.