Efforts are spreading to encourage students nationwide to examine the issues faced by refugees. The movement has been promoted through such activities as classes and lectures given by groups and corporations supporting people who have left their homelands due to the fear of persecution for racial, religious or political reasons.
The number of refugees has been growing around the world in recent years, particularly from Syria and other countries. However, few people are legally recognized as refugees in Japan, and the issue is not yet familiar to everyday Japanese.
On Feb. 10, the Students’ Organization Assembled for Refugees (SOAR) — a Tokyo-based group engaged in refugee relief activities — conducted an after-school class at the junior and senior high school section of Toyo Eiwa Jogakuin in Minato Ward, Tokyo.
About 40 students were divided into groups for discussions, with each student encouraged to think of what is precious to them. Many students named such items as a smartphone and a pair of glasses. In response to a question about what money cannot buy, a significant number of students said “one’s family” and “one’s mother country.”
This activity was followed by a look at footage of displaced people who have lost their homes and families. This helped the Toyo Eiwa students gain a deeper understanding of the situation that refugees face.
“[The class] made me realize how lucky we are. I’ll try to use things carefully, and I’ll always remember to cherish a feeling of gratitude,” said Tsukimi Shimazaki, 17, a second-year student.
“In Japan, too, there are refugees who arrived here after escaping from their countries. First of all, I hope people will imagine how refugees are feeling and understand their situation,” said Maho Kawabata, 21, co-leader of the group and a fourth-year student at the University of Tokyo. Kawabata served as a lecturer at the Feb. 10 class.