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Interfaith group seeks end to US bases

Aims to galvanize national support for 'long-suffering' Okinawa residents

Bishop Oshikawa discusses the Okinawa problem before an assembly of about 200 people of various religions Bishop Oshikawa discusses the Okinawa problem before an assembly of about 200 people of various religions
  • ucanews.com reporter, Tokyo
  • Japan
  • June 27, 2011
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A new interfaith lobby group says it is time for the US presence on Okinawa to end and has pledged to galvanize the nation into pressing for the closure of military bases there.
“Japan has enjoyed peace for over 60 years, but the war has still not ended in Okinawa,” said Bishop Toshio Oshikawa of Naha, a founder member of the Assembly of Religious Persons for an Okinawa Without a Base.
He was speaking recently at the group’s inaugural gathering in a conference room at the House of Representatives office in Tokyo.
Around 200 people from various religions attended the group’s gathering, including 13 other Catholic bishops, members of other Christian denominations and Buddhists.
About 75 per cent of American forces in Japan are based in Okinawa and are often criticized for having a negative influence on an island many feel is still under post-war occupation. The new group aims to end what it calls indifference to the issue by people in other parts of Japan.
“We bear a sense of responsibility, after having ignored this situation until now, to convey the voices of Okinawans to a greater number of people through conferences, assemblies and meetings,” Bishop Oshikawa said.
He said the group also aims to make the cries of the Okinawan people heard in the Japanese government.
Daily life is being disrupted, Bishop Oshikawa said.
He recalled attending a recent Mass at Futenma Church near the U. S. Marines’ Futenma Air Station where the service was interrupted a number of times by the noise from fighter aircraft.
“That is the reality we are living in,” he said.
Bishop Oshikawa, a Franciscan, also drew a parallel to the situation on Okinawa and the accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
“If the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company [which operates the power plant] were to form a secret agreement to build another reactor right there in Fukushima, how would people react? Okinawa has been subjected to this kind of behavior ever since it was returned to Japan 40 years ago,” he said.
“Okinawa is Japan, too,” he asserted.
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