‘We need to … protect the rights of our Muslim brothers and sisters’

Rev. Hiroko Suzuki

Editor’s Note: The Rev. Hiroki Suzuki gave the following message at the Community Memorial Day Service in Colma, Calif. May 28.

Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I’m thankful that we have been given another opportunity to celebrate and remember the lives of Japanese and Japanese Americans who worked for the foundation of today’s Japanese American community. They have taught us many important lessons, and one of the things I’d like for us to be reminded again this morning is their courage to fight against the injustice of the Japanese American internment of during World War II.

As many of you may already know, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in 1942, which authorized the internment of tens of thousands of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. They were forced into concentration camps just because they were Japanese descendants.

The Japanese American internment was motivated largely by racial prejudice.

So Japanese Americans such as Minoru Yasui, Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu openly stood up to the U.S. government, and challenged the constitutionality of the Japanese incarceration.

They fought many years and finally won in court nearly four decades later. With courage and patience, they fought laws that directly targeted all innocent people of Japanese ancestry.

Today, we need to be reminded again of their courageous fight against the injustice and be encouraged to live like them. Why? Because, ever since Donald Trump became the President, the government seems to start accepting the idea of Muslim registry and laws targeted them.

Rounding up and stripping the rights of citizens based on their religion is hardly any different than doing so based on race.

Ignoring the state of Muslims today means, I think, ignoring the injustice of the internment and sufferings of all the Japanese and Japanese Americans who were forced into concentration camps.

As a member of the community founded by those who fought against the injustice of the internment, we need to stand up together and fight to protect the rights of our Muslim brothers and sisters. We need to fight for justice with courage just like those who have gone before us.

This is what we need to remember and this is also what today’s scripture passages read by Rev. Debbie is telling us.

We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, who have gone before us. Those witnesses are the Japanese and Japanese Americans who fought against the injustice of the internment. They are cheering us on and encouraging us to continue to race, race for justice. It is not easy, but with the help of Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, it’s possible for us to race for justice.

On this day, let us remember again the courage of the Japanese and Japanese Americans who have gone before us. Let us remember that they are cheering us on to continue to race for justice. With God’s help, let us let go of our fear and fight against all systemic forms of injustice.

Let us pray.

Rev. Hiroko Suzuki currently serves as pastor for families and spiritual care at Christ United Presbyterian Church. The views expressed in the preceding commentary are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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