This year marked the 75th anniversary of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. On December 7th, 2016 PBS Hawaii aired an NHK documentary titled Road to Redemption.
It is a story of how two men from opposite sides of the conflict came to realizing the error of their ways. Mitsuo Fuchida was the chief commander of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Jacob Deshazer was a US army air force corporal, part of the Doolittle raids on Japan. During the war both vowed to kill as many of the enemy as they could.
But they had a change of heart. Deshazer was captured in Japanese occupied China. When one of his fellow prisoners died he requested a Bible to conduct a funeral service. The Japanese guard was able to get him one. Deshazer was awestruck by this man’s kindness. The guard didn’t have to give him a Bible. But he did.
Deshazer was also struck by a verse.
Forgive them. For they know not what they do.
For some reason that verse convicted him of his hatred for the Japanese.
The guard doesn’t know why he does what he does. He’s just following orders. I should forgive him.
After the war was over he was released. He went to Bible college in the U.S. before moving to Japan as a missionary.
Meanwhile Fuchida had returned home to a country that had blamed him for their loss. The allies had just detonated two bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thus ending the war.
On a visit to Tokyo Fuchida happened to pick up a flyer. It was a flyer about Deshazer and his experience as a prisoner of war.
How can a man who once hated his enemy all of the sudden forgive his enemy?
This sparked his interest in Christianity, so much so that he got a Bible.
Forgive them. For they know not what they do.
That same verse that spoke to Deshazer also spoke to Fuchida. As a pilot he did not know what he was doing. He was just following orders.
He too, became a Christian and forged a friendship with Deshazer and served as a missionary to the U.S.A. giving speeches about his faith all over the country.
I found this documentary to be very appropriate for today’s world. We have just elected a man who has advocated banning Muslim immigrants from entering the country and has even toyed with the idea of creating a registry for Muslims, thus fanning the flames of hate.
I’m fortunate that I live in a small town. I have not personally witness any hate crimes against anyone.
But I’m also fortunate to have Muslims as my friends.
Living in a foreign country changes you. It exposes you to new ideas and changes your perspective. I grew up in a Christian environment. As I was growing up I was taught the Ten Commandments, especially the commandment thou shall not have other gods before me.
I am a literal thinker. My pastor would interpret the phrase “other god” as things that are of importance in one’s life such as a job or money. But to me it also meant that I was forbidden to enter a non-Christian house of worship because if I did, and that place had an image of a god, I’d be breaking that commandment. An example of this there is a Japanese mission temple next to the Baptist church I attended. I never set foot in the temple until February of 2013 for my hometown’s Cherry Blossom Festival.
Because of this narrow minded thinking I was not exposed to other ideas until I moved to China. I went on school field trips where we visited temples I went in these places just to learn about the culture. But I did not kneel to pray, donate, or burn incense to these gods.
But perhaps the best inter faith experience I had is with a family that I have mentioned in my book Banana Girl and two previous blogs Two Peeves in a Blog and A View From Abroad. That family is the Mu family.
Mr. and Mrs. Mu, their two sons, and their two employees were all from Qinghai Province. They are all minorities and they are all Muslims.
The Mus are the owners of a Lanzhou la mian shop or a Lanzhou noodle shop. Anytime you see a Lanzhou la mian restaurant it is most likely owned and run by Chinese Muslims. They are noticeable. They make no bones about what they wear. Men proudly wear the skull cap and women wear the hijab. The Mus were no exception and their Han Chinese customers didn’t give a damn about their faith. All they cared about was that the food was good and the prices were reasonable.
I have been to Lanzhou la mian restaurants before meeting the Mus. While living in Xi’an, land of the Terra Cotta Warriors, I would frequent the Muslim Quarter of the city for some tasty treats and good street food. One of them was yang rou pao mou or mutton with noodles and bread chunks. It’s such a hearty meal especially in the dead of winter.
So when I saw the Mu’s restaurant I thought maybe they have yang rou pao mou. I inquired about it. They said they can make it but they didn’t have lamb. If I came back the next day they could make it for me.
I took them up on their offer and returned the next evening. That is when I met Mr. Mu and his family.
As I have stated before, Mr. Mu like talking about Obama and jokes about traveling to the U.S. with me. But he is a devout Muslim and a family man. The restaurant is literally a part of his home.
At one point they even allowed me to use their washing machine because I had no water on my side of the street.
That was their extent of their hospitality.
Every time I ate in their restaurant I kept thinking wow! This is my personal inter faith moment. If my fellow Americans could meet the Mus, then perhaps their perception of Muslims would change.
Not all Muslims are hell bent on killing Americans. If there were true then I should be dead. But I’m very much alive and I’m living proof the not all Muslims are Jihadists and that they are decent human beings and deserve to be treated as such.
When I hear that Mr. Trump is seriously thinking about creating a Muslim registry I feel he he is throwing us back into Deshazer and Fuchida’s pre-conversion days of hate. He’s taking us back to the days of Nazism where people were given stars and the word camp does not refer to sleeping in a tent.
I hope that we take the path to redemption just like Jacob Deshazer and Mitsuo Fuchida. I hope that we can be just as charitable and hospitable to others in need just like the Mus.
That is my greatest hope.
For more information on NHK’s Road to Redemption check out https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/tv/documentary/201610140600/