The hostage crisis that has ensnared journalist Kenji Goto prompted prayers in Japan for his safety as Tokyo rushed to seek a peaceful resolution to the situation ahead of the presumed Friday afternoon deadline.
Many said Goto, who is being held with private security contractor Haruna Yukawa, always cared about the lives of children in war zones and has done his best to help Japanese children in disaster-hit areas.
Goto has reported on ordinary citizens living in war-torn parts of Africa and the Middle East. He has always searched for a way to help those in need and aimed to share the experiences of the people he encountered in the several countries he visited.
Goto compiled the stories and published them in the form of books, such as “Daiyamondo yori Heiwa ga Hoshii” (“We Want Peace, Not Diamonds”) — the story of a child soldier in Sierra Leone.
Another book published in 2009 is titled, “Moshimo Gakko ni Iketara” (“If I Could Go to School”), which tells the story of young Afghan girls who are deprived of educational opportunities.
Goto wrote these stories in simple words, hoping it would help get the message across to the public.
“Japan is such a favored and abundant country,” said one of the students at Tamagawa Seigakuin, a private Christian all-girls junior and senior high school in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward. The student attended one of the lectures Goto delivered to introduce the audience to his stories and books.
Goto gave the students an opportunity to learn about the conditions that children face in conflict-torn areas.
“War only destroys human relations,” said another student who attended one of his talks.
He delivered his first lecture at Tamagawa Seigakuin in 2005, and they became increasingly popular with students over time. He has been invited every year since then to speak in front of the junior high third-graders.
“Some of his words encourage students (to keep working), inspiring them,” said Hiroshi Mizuguchi, the school’s 62-year-old principal.
On Wednesday, all of the students gathered to pray for Goto’s safety.
In September 2011, Goto delivered a lecture at the annual meeting of the Japanese Society of Psychosomatic Pediatrics, months after the massive earthquake and tsunami had struck Japan.
During his speeches, Goto relayed stories he had heard from victims in areas severely damaged by the disasters, said Katsumi Murakami, an associate professor at Kinki University’s Faculty of Medicine who invited Goto to the event. Goto was born and raised in Sendai, one of the hardest-hit areas.
“When such disasters occur, children may end up left behind,” Murakami recalled Goto saying.
Murakami said in one email he received from Goto, the journalist offered an idea about how to introduce a program aimed at supporting children who refuse to go to school.
“He has always cared so much about children who needed protection, worrying about those attending schools he was visiting or others he met in his everyday life,” Murakami said. “I hope this (hostage crisis) won’t claim his life just like this, without allowing him to fulfill his life’s mission.”