November 21, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo A pastor who criticized U.S. military during High Commissioner inauguration during U.S. rule of Okinawa has 50-year anniversary with American missionary colleague. What did the two have to say about the current state of affairs in Okinawa?

November 21, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo
William Elder, 92, who was sent as a missionary to the Okinawa Church of Christ by the United Church of Christ Japan from 1966-1969, prior to Okinawa’s reversion to Japan, traveled to Okinawa from Osaka November 20 for a reunion with Pastor Osamu Taira, 87, their first in 50 years. The two reflected on the authoritarian rule of Okinawa by the U.S., and talked about how the new base construction at Henoko, which if being forced through by the government against the wishes of Okinawa shows, “Nothing has changed between back then and now,” expressing their sorrow over the current state of affairs in Okinawa. On November 21, they gave a lecture on “Churches in Okinawa under U.S. rule,” in Nishihara, where they shared their experiences and thoughts.
Taira is well known for the prayer he gave at the ceremony for Ferdinand Thomas Unger’s inauguration as High Commissioner of the Ryukyu Islands, which stated “I pray that the new High Commissioner is the last High Commissioner, and that Okinawa can return to its previous state of normality.” Taira supposedly consulted with Elder prior to the inauguration ceremony. Elder added, “This prayer was not my prayer. It was Mr. Taira’s prayer,” although he said that he agreed with the words Taira used.
The November 20 reunion was on the day that High Commissioner Unger resigned from his post 51 years ago, and the day his successor, Lieutenant General James B. Lampert, took office. After the reunion, the two held a press conference in Ginowan.
Elder said of the continuing base construction, “I don’t think anything has changed from that time (before the reversion),” he said, strained. He continued to keep an eye on Okinawa from mainland Japan after the reversion, however, “When I raised an appeal about the situation in Okinawa on the mainland, it was not understood that Okinawa is discriminated against.”
Taira said, “I thought at the time that reverting Okinawa back to Japan would set things right. My criticism (at the inauguration) was a reflection of that. However, the situation in Okinawa has only gotten worse.”
Elder was visiting Okinawa as part of his research in his role as professor emeritus at the Osaka Jogakuin University, with a plan to gather testimony about churches in Okinawa before the reversion. The lecture on November 21 ran from 7-9 p.m. at the Okinawa Christian University Jerome Auditorium in Nishihara. The lecture was geared towards Christians, but was open to the general public and free admission.
(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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