Thursday, 22 November 2018

Acts of peace and reconciliation on display at ‘emotionally moving’ visit to Darwin Memorial Uniting Church

Photo: AP/Rick Rycroft Photo: AP/Rick Rycroft

On Friday 16 November – Mrs Akie Abe, the wife of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, visited Darwin Memorial Uniting Church to see the Fujita Peace displays. It was a very emotionally moving time for all.

The group started at the Fujita Hall where in 2017 the Northern Territory Government erected a pictorial display of the bombing of Darwin and the Fujita company removing the eight wrecks that were still in the harbour in 1958. The display is entitled “From Salvage to Salvation” and it commemorates the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin.

The display goes on to tell how Mr Ryugo Fujita, with the blessing of the Japanese Government, donated 77 bronze crosses at the opening of the church in 1960.

It was an act of peace and reconciliation.

The bronze crosses were forged from the non-ferrous metals taken from the sunken vessel, Zealandia. Mrs Abe was moved to tears by the experience.

Mrs Abe then went into the church to see the crosses which adorn the pews, communion rail, pulpit and the communion table. She sat in a pew and prayed.

The next station was the window display. Here is another wonderful part of the story.

At the opening of the church in 1960, a gift of pulpit and lectern frontals was presented from the United Church in Kyoto. The frontals were made from the material of an Obi (sash) belonging to a lady who was related to the Emperor of Japan, along with a promise that never again should there be a war between our nations.

The window display also quotes Matthew 18:21-22:

Then Peter came and said to him, Lord if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him. Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.

It was then onto the peace garden. In the peace garden is a memorial reflection pool. There is a plaque for each ship sunk which is dedicated to the lives lost on those ships. These were the ships that Fujita salvaged. The Peace Garden was developed by the young people of the church.

The final stop was at the Meigs propeller blade. This was taken to Japan in 1960 and placed on Mr Fujita’s family tombstone. In January 2017 it was returned to Darwin and entrusted to the care of our church. The engraved tombstone alongside the blade tells how Mr. Fujita wanted it to be a symbol of the futility of war and that there should never be hostilities again between our nations.

Mrs Abe was greeted by Pastor Lauren Merritt, the newly appointed minister of Darwin Memorial Uniting Church Rev. Dr Andrew Williams and Mr Kevin Davis AM, the congregation’s chairperson.

She was accompanied by Mrs Christy O’Brien, the Northern Territory Chief Minister’s wife.

Earlier in the day the Japanese Cabinet Secretary and Consul-General visited the church. Whilst Prime Minister Abe was unable to attend, he used the story in his speech at a function that night. All the visitors expressed how impressed they were that our church has beautifully kept this story alive.

Members of the congregation strongly believe that the crosses as gifts of peace and reconciliation must be shared with everyone.

It is a witness to the transforming power of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Mr Kevin Davis AM is the Chairperson of the Darwin Memorial Uniting Church Congregation.