Young people across the globe need to better appreciate the value of peace, which they so often take for granted, foreign students who are studying Japanese said during a symposium in Tokyo earlier this week.
Ali Jane, a 21-year-old Afghan who fled his country and came to Japan in 2001, when Afghanistan was still under the rule of the Taliban, recalled his fear of being killed by the Taliban militia on his way to and from school.
His family are ethnic Hazaras, part of the Shiite minority, and were persecuted by the Taliban, who are Sunni Muslims.
“I consider it really peaceful when you can go to school and live with your family,” Ali told the one-day symposium Wednesday involving 21 students from 18 countries who spoke in Japanese on the theme “Youth and Peace.”
“What young people can do for peace is to etch its value in their minds and not forget to appreciate it,” Ali said.
Ali said one of his friends was killed by a stray bullet before his eyes, and his father and brothers were hauled away by the Taliban militia, never to be seen again.
The symposium participants, aged between 15 and 23, were participating in the monthlong Japan Return Program, which began in mid-June. Participants learned about the Japanese language, culture and society while staying with Japanese families.
Most of the students had studied Japanese in their own country.
Wang Wenbo, 18, from China, said many young people in her country are not interested in peace issues.
Ali published a book this year titled “Kaasan, Bokuwa Ikitemasu” (“Mother, I’m Alive”), in which he wrote in Japanese about his life in his homeland and Japan.
Wang said she would like to translate the book into Chinese.
Nowak Woyciech, a 20-year-old university student from Poland, said young people in his country similarly tend to take peace for granted because they now live in a peaceful society.
But one reason for their indifference is the ineffective way in which they gain information, he said.
During their monthlong stay, the program participants visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which exhibits articles left by victims of the atomic bomb dropped on the city, and the Disaster Reduction Museum in Kobe, which displays exhibits related to the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake.
“While the tragedies that happened there were frightening, the way of informing (visitors of the facts) was very interesting,” Woyciech said, explaining that a miniature house at the Disaster Reduction Museum that simulates an earthquake was helpful in understanding what happened at the time of the temblor.
The symposium and the program were organized by the nonprofit organization Japan Return Programme. The young people were selected from 130 applicants from 48 countries.
The program aims to help young people who are fluent in Japanese and will serve as bridges between Japan and other countries, according to the organization.