December 16, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo
By Hirofumi Mazaki
Kitanakagusuku—On the evening of December 13, about 70 people gathered outside one of the gates to U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Foster for the 33rd Christmas for Okinawans event, which was organized by various Christian denominations within Okinawa. Three years since a window fell from a U.S. military helicopter and landed on Futenma Daini Elementary School in Ginowan City and four years since the MV-22 Osprey (vertical takeoff and landing aircraft) crashed on a beach in Abe, Nago City, the carolers sang and prayed for peace.
While the Christmas event is usually held at a church, it was moved outdoors as a precaution against the novel coronavirus pandemic this year. According to the organizers, it is the first time they held an event at a military base gate. Eisho Uehara, the chair of the executive committee and bishop of the Diocese of Okinawa, Nippon Seikai, said, “There’s this division between ‘them’ and ‘us’ which is symbolized by the fence. I pray for a peaceful world in which this division no longer exists.”
Outside the gate, carollers sang Silent Night and Joy to the World, while children of military families waved at them from the other side of the fence. The organizers collected donations for Team Midorigaoka 1207 (a group working to prevent parts falling from aircrafts onto schools). Takako Nakamoto, 69, traveled from Naha City. She said, “Singing outside the gate made me realize that inside the base is Okinawa. I hope that the fence will be taken down one day, and we can sing carols together with the military personnel.”
(English translation by T&CT and Monica Shingaki)