Wreaths laid to help heal wounds of war; JAPANESE AND BRITISH VETERANS GATHER AT CATHEDRAL SERVICE.
THEY gathered in sincerity and solemnity in Coventry Cathedral's ruins yesterday to help heal the wounds of war.
Former sworn enemies came together and stood as one in a peacetime pact of reconciliation and remembrance.
Burma Campaign veterans Philip Malins and Masao Hirakubo, on opposing sides in their youth and now firm friends in their autumnal years, gently laid wreaths in front of the statue Reconciliation in the cathedral ruins. An identical statue is in the Peace Garden at Hiroshima.
Japan's ambassador to Britain, His Excellency Masaki Orita, laid his own wreath on his first visit to Coventry.
It represented a symbolic handshake spanning half the globe and more than half a century, and the poignant moment - and the message - was captured by a Japanese TV camera.
Canon Andrew White, director of international ministry at the cathedral, said: "In a world of escalating conflict it is essential for us to remember that it is only forgiveness that will prevent the pain of the past determining the future.
"The example set by the former Far East prisoners of war in forgiving the Japanese is a lesson to the world of how reconciliation is the only way forward."
Yesterday's service, on the nearest Sunday to VJ Day, was attended by several Japanese visitors. Coventry's Lord Mayor, Cllr Ken Taylor, and the Bishop of Warwick, the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, were also there. Another guest was infantry captain Satoru Yanagi, a survivor of the great Second World War battles of Quadalcanal and Kohima, who was making his sixth visit to Coventry with his wife. Coventry veteran Les Dennison, aged 87, of Westmorland Road, Wyken, who was captured in Singapore in 1942 and worked on the infamous Burma railway, was also there.
He said: "Quite a few of my comrades try to hang on to their twisted bitterness, but if you want a decent world the only way forward is reconciliation."
The service concluded with the British and Japanese guests forming two lines face-to-face and exchanging handshakes.
GESTURE OF FORGIVENESS: Japanese ambassador Masaki Orita lays a wreath in the cathedral ruins (above) with a message (below, right) and meets veterans (below, left). Pictures: RICHARD NELMES
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|Publication:||Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)|
|Date:||Aug 19, 2002|
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