Beliefs RNS Press Release Service

Consider the other side of the Pearl Harbor story

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. — As the United States observes the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, American Baptist Home Mission Societies lifts up the other side of this story as a lesson of racial injustice important to remember as well.

More than 120,000 Japanese immigrants and their children, born citizens of the United States, were incarcerated by the United States government from 1942 to 1945 because of their ethnicity and a perceived relationship to the enemy, which had come to infer a threat to national security. Fueled by the hysteria that followed the death and destruction visited upon Pearl Harbor by the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, the incarceration forced removal of Japanese immigrant families from their homes on the West Coast to 10 remote sites established by the United States government in seven Western states.

Executive Order 9066—signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, barely more than two months after the attack—gave Japanese families just a few weeks to prepare to leave their homes and jobs, with no knowledge of their relocation destinations. They were allowed to take with them what they could carry in one suitcase.

A grievous violation of individual civil liberties guaranteed by the United States Constitution Bill of Rights, Executive Order 9066 tore apart families and scarred generations of Japanese Americans. Tens of thousands of Japanese Americans still struggle with the racist victimization of internment: “The Minidoka Pilgrimage: An American story for times such as these” tells this story.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ home missionaries on the West Coast ministered to Japanese immigrants and their families as they prepared to leave their homes, and missionaries followed families to the incarceration centers where they provided spiritual support through worship and Christian education along with a connection to the outside world. The video “A Church Stands With Its People” tells this story.

As the United States honors those who lost their lives in the Pearl Harbor attack and remembers its horrific destruction, American Baptist Home Mission Societies asks that we take time to remember, as well, that the brutality of war or fear of terrorism must never again be used to justify depriving a people of their basic human dignity and their freedom.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies, part of American Baptist Churches USA, partners with American Baptists in answering God’s call to promote Christian faith across the United States and Puerto Rico to cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and heal and transform communities, by developing aligned action networks and programs.

American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with more than 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.

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