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Dr. Isabel Apawo Phiri, associate and acting general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), has expressed solidarity with those seeking justice for women who suffered from sexual slavery imposed by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

Phiri expressed these views in a letter to the Korean Council for Comfort Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan – War & Women’s Human Rights Museum, as part of a global action on the second International Memorial Day for the “comfort women” observed on 14 August.

The term “comfort women” is used for the girls and women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military. The number of women abducted in that era is in the thousands.

Up till now, calls to the Japanese government to apologize for the crimes committed against the “comfort women” have not been acknowledged.

The decision to commemorate this day was made by the 11th Asian Solidarity Conference for the Resolution of the Japanese Military Sexual Slavery. It was on 14 August 1991, when the late Kim Hak-sun, a South Korean survivor, spoke for the first time in public about the atrocities experienced by her as a “comfort woman”.

“We call on the churches in Japan, on the Korean Peninsula and in the rest of the world to appeal to the Japanese government especially through our sisters and brothers in Japan – so that an apology can be made to the ‘comfort women’,” Phiri said. She added that reparations should be made to the “sisters who have experienced this dehumanization.”

In her message, Phiri spoke about Gil Won-Ok, a South Korean surviving victim of the Japanese military sexual slavery, who addressed the WCC meetings this year. “Her message to us was clear and simple: ‘Please make a peaceful world, and a world without war. I wish that there are no more people who suffered like me,’” said Phiri, remembering words from Gil Won-Ok.

Phiri went on to say that the cause of the “comfort women” has a face in late Kim Hak-sun, a reminder that the “girls who were abducted, trafficked or brought to the Japanese soldiers’ camps had their own dreams and visions for the future. Their vision was shattered and their bodies were damaged in circumstances of utter injustice.”

“May our God of Life who walks with us on this pilgrimage of justice and peace grant that victims experience justice, despite that it has been delayed for so long,” Phiri concluded.