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Education Perspective

Toronto ALPHA strives to promote global awareness of the history of WWII in Asia as well as its significance to human rights education and racial harmony. This important part of history has to be taught not to lay blame but to promote reconciliation. The future generations need to know the historical truth, understand the justice the victims deserve, and to recognize that given certain circumstances all people have the capacity to be a perpetrator. The goal of this approach to teaching the history of WWII in Asia is to empower students to pursue peace and social justice as global citizens.

The atrocities of WWII in Europe are well documented and taught extensively in the western world.  At the same time, the history of WWII in Asia including the violation of human rights has not been studied or taught to the same extent.  This exclusion is due to a variety of complex political, economic and cultural factors. The continued denial of the Japanese Government with regard to war crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Army in Asia has been a stumbling block to peace and reconciliation among East Asian countries, and the world at large.

The War ended 65 years ago on Aug. 15, 1945.  The vanishing voices of the aging survivors have been forgotten; this living history continues to be neglected under a collective amnesia.  It is especially so in the western world where Asian WWII history has been totally waived from school curriculum and not generally available from public resources.

Learning of the WWII history under the school curriculum has been overwhelmingly Eurocentric in North America.  Thus over the years, Canadian students and educators have not been given the opportunity to learn about the historical and cultural context about the WWII atrocities happened on the other side of the globe.  The acknowledgement of the atomic bomb, if ever known, remains as the bulk part of their understanding about the Asian atrocities.  The lack of proper knowledge about this chapter of history leads to the misunderstanding of many that it is no more than an issue of Sino-Japanese conflict, largely driven by the political agenda of these two nations.

Implication of such lack of knowledge of Asian historical and cultural past: ALPHA's perspectives in educating the WWII atrocities in Asia:

  • Young generations are deprived of knowing an important chapter of history on human rights violation and the chance to build up a proper perspective on social justice, human rights and humanity.
  • Without the chance to learn, Canadians in general has no or little ground to understand the present socio-political complications in Asian Pacific regions; their viewpoints thus rely heavily on what they learnt from the media.
  • A comprehensive overview of the historical background is essential in understanding the complexity of international affairs in Asia, especially for political leaders who should possess the sensitivity in making decisions.
  • Without knowing and recognizing the truth, there will be no real healing and closure to conflicts between the perpetrating and victimized nations.  This heritage of misunderstanding and generalization will continue disregarding where they live.
  • Asian WWII atrocities should be seen as a global humanity issue rather than from the nationalistic perspective.  There have been unfortunately doubts by certain Canadians, some of them being Chinese Canadians, that such ‘historical grievance’ between China and Japan had ended 65 years ago and does not concern Canada at all.  Such ignorance comes from the lack of global vision.
  • Unearthing the historical truth does not bring hatred among nations, but instead helps eliminate conflicts that caused by misunderstandings.  It also lays the ground for true peace and reconciliation, especially among the future generations.
  • Our young generations of all nationalities and ethnicity should not be deprived of the right to learn about the past from an objective and unbiased perspective. Only by understanding the past wrongs that our next generations will learn how to make it right.
  • Asian WWII history should be learnt alongside with the European part so that students are given a global perspective on war and humanity; with such they will also be able to make comparison between the behaviours of post-war Germany and Japan.
  • The atrocity displays both the dark (brutality of the perpetrator) and bright sides (heroes) of humanity which may both be embodied within each individual.  Students should be taught how to make a deep reflection on human nature and morality.
  • Through providing a comprehensive overview of the atrocities including the ordeal of the Japanese civilians inflicted by the atomic bomb, students should be able to understand that people is always the victims of war.

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