#Imagine Japan, through the lens of Natsu

Natsu

My name is Natsu. I was raised in Japan, but born in Australia. I left Australia at the age of 7, and lived in Japan ever since, so probably I have lost most of my Aussi­ness (except love for vegimite A MUST for breakfast). In my short time in Australia, I did not face many occasions that made me think about the relation of my two home countries, but there was one when I was 5 years old, which has been a kind of a trigger in making me take the path on studying Peace Studies now.

The 25th of April is the ANZAC day in Australia, and at school, we have events in the memory of the fallen at war. Old soldiers would come to talk of their war experiences. I remember sitting in the assembly hall with all my other kindy mates, listening, intrigued by the horrific events that the old man talked about, and whispering excitedly about how evil this enemy was. It was almost like sitting watching a movie, until I heard him name the terrible, evil enemy, the Japanese. I remember looking up from my whispered conversation, and looking at the man. I was shocked, never knowing that there was a war between my two beloved countries, and more so with the hate pulsing out of the man as he spoke about the Japanese, Us. I realized, ignorant as I was, that the memories, suffering and the hurt of war will never fade from this man nor from others, and in that sense, war has never ended.

Living in Japan, I feel that the war is increasingly becoming mere dates and names on history Textbooks, something that is disconnected, something that has ended in 1945. That war, which the Japanese had started and lost, is not something we are proud of, a topic that raises tension between our neighboring countries and even within, a memory we do not know how to face. It is so much easier to look away, wishing for the memories to just disappear. But, that hate and hurt in the voice of that old soldier reminds me that the memories will never disappear.

I don’t believe that the Japanese must bow down forever. During these almost 70 years, Japan has apologized, and is seeking reconciliation (whether that has been enough or not is another problem).  But, I believe that the attempts to face and embrace the memories of that war of within and that of the outside has not being enough. How? I still have no answer. I cannot even imagine what ‘facing’ or ‘embracing’ really means. I just feel this strong need for change.

I love Japan, it is my home. It is one of the safest countries. There would be bending machines with beer on the corner of a quiet street, and as far as the ones I know, they have always being standing there peacefully without being harmed.  The people I know are loving and polite, hardworking and caring (sometimes too much perhaps). And because I love Japan, I imagine a country ‘facing’ and ‘embracing’ the memories of that war, not only for what had happened, but for the future too.

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#Imagine the United States, through the lens of Ross

Ross

-Imagine a World with No Fear of War-

Ross Wood is from the state of Virginia in the United States. Over the last five years he has spent time working in support of marginalized people in Morocco, Israel, Kenya, and South Sudan. Most recently he served as the Area Coordinator of the Yida Refugee Camp on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Currently, Ross is pursuing a Master’s degree in Conflict, Security, and Development at the University of Bradford’s Peace Studies Center as a Rotary Peace Fellow.

 In the winter of 1963 my grandma begged my granddad to move away from their life-long home in Columbia, South Carolina. My grandma was terrified that the eastern seaboard of the United States would be the first place to be hit once nuclear war broke out, and she wanted to give her two children a chance to live in the mid-West of the country where she thought bombs could not reach. My granddad, not wanting to leave his home, tried to soothe my grandma’s fears to no avail. Finally, as my grandma was packing suitcases to make ready for the trip to South Dakota (or so the story goes), they came to an agreement. My granddad hired a crew of five men to construct a solid concrete bomb shelter that sat fifteen feet underneath the foundations of their house.

 Beyond being afraid of mushroom clouds and nuclear winter, my grandma was afraid of what such a devastating explosion on American soil, no matter which city it obliterated, would do to the collective psyche of her community. She envisioned a scenario in which her Sunday tennis partners would transform from sweet, chatty ladies into hardened survivalists that would not hesitate to seize the safety of a known bomb shelter by force. With that grim thought in mind, my grandma insisted that the work crew dig in secret. She made sure that the entrance to the shelter was out of sight from the neighbors. Once the shelter was complete, she would stock it during the cover of night with enough canned goods to last four adults for a year.

 The bomb shelter became my grandparent’s greatest shared secret. No one, not even their two children, knew of its existence until November 9, 1986 when the Berlin Wall fell.

 From the perspective of a civilian living in the United States, fear and uncertainty characterized the state of global security during the period before the end of the Cold War. Civilians trembled at the thought of a powerful enemy with the ability to take out entire cities with the push of a button. Growing out of that fear, global security issues were considered in terms of the Cold War. The drug trade was thought to fund communism, and so the United States presented itself as justified in intervening in Latin America to stop narcotics trafficking. Civil wars in Africa and East Asia were deemed “proxy” wars and warranted intervention as remote Cold War battlegrounds. Put simply, before the end of the Cold War a fear of communism was a clear point of focus for the imaginings, both hopeful and terrible, of Americans.

Now that the Cold War is over, my grandma no longer trembles at the thought of a looming nuclear blast. The future that she hoped for, one in which the Cold War ended without a shot fired, went from an imagining to a reality. New fears, though, have materialized in the wake of that war. As for me, I imagine a world in which there is no fear of war. I hope that my imagining, like my grandma’s, will some day become a reality.

#Imagine Congo, through the lens of Furaha

 Furaha

My name is Furaha Mussanzi; I am a 23 year old Masters student in African Peace and Conflict studies at the Bradford University. Prior to doing this Masters, I did my undergraduate in Interior Design at Liverpool John Moores University, where I got heavily involved in pursuing activism in a few social justice issues in my spare time and in my final year, myself and a few other students organised a week long campaign to raise awareness about the Congo crisis, as part of the annual Congo Week movement! It was the most challenging and rewarding highlight of my university life, and it was in one of the last evaluation sessions that a student in the room said what would change everything, it went something like this: “a lot of us here are aware that these things (injustices/war/hunger/ etc.) happen in the world, but not many people step out to do something about it, all you’ve got to do is just go out there”. That was it. Short and sweet, but those words had unveiled a deeply seated passion in me that was just waiting for the perfect time to burst out. Thereafter graduating, I embarked on an internship as a Community Organiser with my local Church St James in the city for a year which was such an eye opening opportunity that helped me to nurture my passion in a practical way.

Here’s a little something I’ve put together, imaging DR Congo, I hope you enjoy my contribution to the blog!

Imagine a Congo that is not synonymous to conflict, or the heart of the darkness

I wonder if you can

A prosperous country, able to fend for its citizens’ basic needs

Not plundered and raped for the good of the rich and powerful

A humble servant for a leader, one who truly deeply loves my beloved country

NOT the greed for power

No need for child–soldiers,

Where the only weapon they possess is a pen, not an AK 47

But rather an opportunity for education, so the young can not only dream of a better future but come to watch its reality unfolding in front of their very eyes

Imagine no tribal tension,

Where communities of people, from every tongue live in harmony

Imagine freedom, the ability for one to express themselves,

Being able to participate, to share, to give and to receive

Living the Ubuntu dream

Imagine peace, where people can sleep without fear of attack

Imagine; just imagine a Congo where women and girl’s bodies are not brutally abused as a systematic strategy of war

Where they too can exercise their right and speak out of the unspeakable trauma they have endured, physically, mentally and psychologically

Imagine Democracy, where people are free to choose their leader

Imagine Justice, where perpetrators are no longer operating with impunity

Imagine development, where the country can begin to finally move forward

Because the future is bright…only to those who can dare to dream such dreams

—–

DR Congo has been bruised for far too long, exploited for her riches

Her children, well they are left for ruin.

Scattered all across the globe…longing for the day they will feel her warm embrace again

Longing to see long lost family and friends, who have become the product of war

Sleepless nights, crying for freedom – anticipating change, praying

Praying so hard, for only God is their source of Hope.

Hope is what keeps them going, when all around them is failing; they look up to the sky

And envy the dove, which flies so freely up there as if it had no care in the world,

As if it had no clue what hell they have to live in,

But then, it dawns on them – that the only hands God has is ours

That WE are the only ones who can make a difference

So today, in the midst of their darkest hour,

They weep, but are reminded that ‘Joy will come in the morning’

So they press on, taking each day as it comes.

Confronting the multitude of issues they face each day,

And certain, more than convinced that the day will come,

When ALL men will be free

It’s been 12 years, I miss thee DR Congo. One day, we will meet again,

And I know you will heal my brokenness heart

 ***

Imagine the youths of DRC carrying a pen and not an AK47. I attended the event #CrisisIntheCongo and it was filled with sad stories that brought tears to my eyes. I pray Furaha’s dreams become reality.