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Students talk peace at global Catholic university conference in Hiroshima

Students discuss what countries need to do as part of their peace efforts at Hiroshima Orizuru Tower in Hiroshima, on Aug. 25, 2018. (Mainichi)
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui responds to questions from students and faculty members after delivering his speech at Elisabeth University of Music in Hiroshima on Aug. 24, 2018. (Mainichi)

HIROSHIMA -- An annual meeting of Catholic university students from faculties around the world was held here in western Japan from Aug. 21 to Aug. 25, encouraging participants to think about the young generation's role in peace initiatives.

The 26th such conference was held in Japan for the first time in seven years. Some 200 students and faculties from 8 countries in Asia gathered at Elisabeth University of Music in Hiroshima to participate in various programs under the theme "Catholic Education and Peace Initiatives."

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui attended the conference as a guest speaker on Aug. 24. Matsui talked about what happened in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped on Aug. 6, 1945, and each country's current attitude toward denuclearization. In his speech, he also mentioned that one of Hiroshima's initiatives is to act on the atomic bomb survivors' wishes for peace. To promote the initiative, he emphasized that it is important to educate youths.

A female student asks a question to Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui after hearing his speech at Elisabeth University of Music in Hiroshima on Aug. 24, 2018. (Mainichi)

"I would like young generations to keep Hiroshima and Nagasaki's tragedy in their minds, and share the values of peace that you learned from your experiences here," he concluded.

Participant Cassandra Entico, 17, from the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines commented, "I think it's time to share what I learned here. Peace has different meanings, but we share the same values."

The conference included a visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in the city's Naka Ward. Some of the attendees listened to 81-year-old atomic bomb survivor Keiko Ogura, a director of Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace, at the park on Aug. 25. Ogura talked about her unforgettable memories as an 8 year old after the atomic bomb was dropped. As she lived in the Ushita district which was close to the city's devastated area, she saw a lot of people suffering from severe burns desperately roaming the city in search of water.

Ogura emphasized, "The trauma we have is that we didn't know how we could help the victims." She confessed that she saw two people die after she gave them water but she kept that a secret for many years. However, Ogura struggled to overcome the trauma for a long time and now says, "Children ask us what happened in Hiroshima. We have to do something for them."

After hearing Ogura's speech, Peta Sanderson, a professor at the University of Notre Dame Australia said, "We must learn from history. I will share the story with the next generation, with my 11-year-old daughter."

At the last event of the conference on Aug. 25, 101 students in 17 groups gave presentations to faculty members under the theme "Peace" at Hiroshima Orizuru Tower next to the park. The students discussed about the theme from different points of view, including the definition of peace, what students should do for peace and how to build peace in the modern world.

One group consisting of six students from South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and Japan made a presentation about how to build international relationships after World War II. A female South Korean student said, "We have studied the history of Korea and Japan and continue to learn more. I think that the relationship between the two countries has been improved."

After the presentation, one of the group members ChiaChe Liu, 20, from Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan talked to The Mainichi, "I learned to respect people from other cultures." Shoya Asano, a 20 year-old student of Nanzan University in Nagoya in the same group also said, "Japan was the country attacked by the atomic bomb, and there were countries occupied by Japan during World War II. I now know different perspectives from other countries."

Looking back at the conference, YeeJee Kim, a 20-year-old student of the Catholic University of Korea, said to The Mainichi, "This is a good chance to see other countries' different cultures and histories." Finsen Prayoga, 21, from Atma Jaya Yogyakarta University in Indonesia added, "I would be grateful if we share peace without any discrimination."

(By Richi Tanaka, The Mainichi staff writer)

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