Student Feedback

Top submissions from students attended the International Human Rights Day Student Symposium (listed in alphabetical order of their names).

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Canada Alpha

Jeremy Hui (Grade 11)
Moscrop Secondary

I did not know what to expect when I walked into the International Human Rights Day Student Symposium. Before the event I had heard about one event, the Rape of Nanking, on a very general level with no context or many specific details. After learning about the many difficult topics and horrible details of the Asian Holocaust including comfort women, the Rape of Nanking, forced labourers, and human experimentation, many questions came to mind after the event. Why is it that this event is rarely talked about or taught in schools? How do seemingly normal people commit such dehumanizing war crimes and actions? What can we do to prevent these crimes against humanity when they seem to keep occurring again and again?

Learning about human experimentation during the Asian Holocaust really got me thinking about the causes of these crimes. We cannot just say that Dr. Mengele at Auschwitz and Dr. Ishii with Unit 731 were mere psychopaths for doing all their inhumane experiments, just because we believe we ourselves would never do those things. They and the doctors they worked with were normal people, victims of some brainwashing factor that made them treat their test subjects as “logs”, dehumanizing them completely. Rather we must condemn the idea of race, the fact that less than 1% of our DNA is what makes us look different than others; the origin of this Holocaust and many other wars were started with ideas of superiority. It is responsible for the many injustices still happening all around the world today.

I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to learn about the different aspects of the Asian Holocaust, an event rarely spoken of. Hearing about the many denials that this event even happened is very unsettling and makes this even more important to learn about. Brushing off historical events like these will do us no good. We must not forget the past, the terrible atrocities that have been committed and the many lives that have been lost. However we can move on from it, working together and striving together as humans to hopefully learn from our mistakes and improve our world.

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Canada Alpha

Spiro Liakouras (Grade 12)
Prince of Wales Secondary

I would like to express how much I thoroughly enjoyed the WWII Symposium at Van Technical Secondary School on December 4th. Not only was this symposium most informative and inspiring, but also so vividly expressive that I found myself connecting and feeling sorrowful. The sorrow I felt specifically came from learning of the thousands of victims who were part of the devastating events that transpired during World War II.

I want to reflect upon my experiences at the symposium, and highlight some of the events which I thought were most thought-provoking and capturing.

The Human Experimentations & Biochemical Warfare workshop made the biggest impact on me. The graphic images, astounding detail, and the vivid descriptions explained with such compassion and emotion from Mr. Dale Martelli, left me feeling a great array of emotions. Not only did I feel empathetic towards these victims and their families, but I also felt great relief to be living here and now. With this workshop I also found myself questioning how human beings could have treated other human beings so atrociously, and why, even after all that we have learned through our history, is this continuing to be a living reality in other parts of the world even today.

The vivisection segment really captured me because I have never heard of vivisection or anything like it. The thought of dissecting twins and sewing them together really shocked me, and the fact that people practiced this experimentation in an unnerving testing facility called Unit 731, left me stunned.

The stories that were told by the Nanking elders were detailed, comprehensive, and emotionally stimulating. The rape and torture of thousands of Chinese women was atrocious and I am relieved that the survivors took the time to express and explain their stories of what happened to them when they were just infants. I am hoping that the stories told not only shed a new light on us as students, but also served as a sort of therapy for these survivors who so courageously shared their experiences with us.

I enjoyed my time at the symposium because it was both visually striking and incredibly moving. I can now better appreciate and connect with the quote, "Show me, I'll remember; Involve me, I'll understand".

I whole-heartedly thank you for organizing this great symposium and providing us with the opportunity to be a part of it. I hope to attend another one of your war symposiums or something similar in nature in the very near future.

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Canada Alpha

Toko Peters (Grade 11)
Moscrop Secondary

Every Wednesday in Korea since 1992, former comfort women and their supporters have stood outside of the Japanese embassy and protested for justice. This fact is what stood out to me the most during the symposium. It represents that despite how much time has passed since these atrocities were committed, the wounds have not healed and victims have not received the apology they deserve. It symbolizes the importance of education for more people to be aware about these events. It also shows the strength of victims, who tell their stories despite how much it hurts.

The symposium was both educational and terrifying. The things we learned were hard to hear, and seemed to come straight out of a horror movie. However gruesome the stories were, they were a reality for many people. What I liked most about the workshops is that they brought a personal element to the information. It's easy to look at history without much emotion and people can be reduced to mere numbers and statistics. But by hearing the victim's stories, I really understood that behind each number there is a life that has suffered. One woman we learned about was tricked and kidnapped from her family, forced to become a comfort woman. Another man ate bugs and rats to survive inside a work camp. It's shocking that so much suffering can be simply forgotten.

This symposium showed me the strength of a human's will to live and how people can cope with their psychological scars. It was inspiring to see how much victims are fighting for their voices to be heard. Overall I enjoyed how interactive, educational and personal the symposium was. It scares me how a government can cover up their past wrong doings but I am glad I had the chance to learn the history that the Japanese government still refuses to acknowledge.

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Canada Alpha

Angela Wu (Grade 11)
Crofton House School

Words can never be separated from their connotations, the feelings they evoke. Some feelings transcend time but there is a certain beauty found in the moment of impact when you absorb but not yet fully understand the words. That power of impact fades, but a part of writing this down is to remember how those moments of impact felt. I think a part of making a difference is about perseverance and perseverance comes from not willing to let go of anything that had impacted you.

Heather Evans in the Comfort Women workshop said that the core part of activism is standing with the people who have dared to speak up because a major part of our information about the atrocities that have happened come from the survivors. They don't tell their stories for themselves and most of them acknowledge that they may never get the apology they deserve, but they continue digging up old scars in hope that the same things don't happen again. Everytime they revisit the tale, they relive the experience at least 80% neurologically, but they're willing to endure testifying over and over again because they recognize the poignancy of their words in the present moment.

It's funny how the people who have the most reasons to lose hope and hate humanity are the ones who care the most for the future. That shows how powerful hope is. They have kept that hope and will continue to keep it but their time is running out. They were affected permanently in a way that no reparations can have any significance, but what gives them a bit of happiness is knowing that we will carry on their hope and their messages. I think it's beautiful to realize that least privileged are the most selfless. It makes me think about the capabilities of humankind, and how we're so different from elastics because if we just hold on to hope, we will always spring back no matter how far we're stretched or how many rips there are in the elastic fibres.

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Canada Alpha

Maisaloon Al-Ashkar (Grade 12)
Moscrop Secondary

Nothing. That's how much I knew about the Asian Holocaust as I entered the International Human Rights Day Student Symposium, but I left with a newfound understanding of the world I live in. As a grade 12 student, I was quite confused as to why I was never taught about the Asian Holocaust. My disappointment grew after realizing that many generations have been denied the opportunity to learn of the crimes against humanity committed during WWII in Asia, and such lack of knowledge has been igniting these injustices for decades.

Without learning of the atrocities of the Asian Holocaust, we further dehumanize its victims as they become forgotten souls of an inadequately acknowledged piece of our world's dark past. This message was especially clear while I heard stories from females who were cruelly subjugated as comfort women. Goosebumps ran through my body as I observed the immense courage they exuded while expressing the torture they experienced under militarized and institutionalized exploitation. They all desperately hoped that the world would recognize the suffering they endured, which gave me a tremendous sense of responsibility to ensure that their wish will become a reality.

The necessary reconciliation that must occur to honour the countless victims of the Asian Holocaust is far too delayed due to our obliviousness. The innocent lives that have been forever damaged or lost will be denied an apology if we further darken these atrocities by burying them with our ignorance, which is why I consciously made the effort to cherish every ounce of new information I gained from the symposium. It was empowering to share this learning experience with fellow youth, as it gave me hope of being part of a better-informed generation that will finally bring justice to those who have been deprived of their human rights.

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Canada Alpha

Natasha Sharma
Moscrop Secondary

Attending the International Human Rights Day Student Symposium was an incredible, eye opening experience. The Jewish holocaust is a well covered topic thanks to our social studies and English courses; yet we have not been educated about the crimes against humanity committed by the Japanese army. These horrific events continue to haunt the masses affected by these injustices.

This symposium has shed light upon the reluctance of the Japanese government to apologize and compensate for the war crimes they committed during World War II. Not only has this convention taught us about the horrors that humans are capable of, it has showed us the strength of determination and courage. There are incredible stories of survival and self-sacrifice that inspire us, and stories of murder and crime that stir up feelings of repugnance. Educating youth about these events will make sure that these atrocities are never forgotten. Human rights are still being violated all over the world as we speak. The Asian holocaust is proof that there are massacres and injustices in the past and present we are simply not aware of. December 7th will remain in my memory as the day of remembrance for the Rape of Nanking. It is important to educate yourself about the world around you, and strive to ensure that history does not have the opportunity to repeat itself. I have been educated and inspired by an event that had occurred so long ago. I have now realized that important events in history are not all found in textbooks; either it being lives lost more than 10 years ago, or today in war torn countries, any natural number is too high.

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Canada Alpha

Lorraine Shen
Moscrop Secondary

“To empathize is to civilize and to civilize is to empathize” was the most valuable lesson from this insightful symposium. As the heart of darkness is an attribute of human beings, it is of paramount importance to learn from the past in order to be wary of the pitfalls of the human psyche. The enlightening workshops and the heartrending testimony of the survivor elicited deep introspection for the potential of callousness that humanity is capable of.

It is one thing to commit heinous crimes of military aggression, but another to distort and falsify past actions and refuse to acknowledge war guilt. The Nazis are often regarded as the prototype of devils so it was certainly captivating to see that the workshops showcased the largely forgotten holocaust in Asia instigated by the Imperial Japanese Army.

This is however, not simply a Japanese atrocity, but part of the innumerable barbarities that are perpetuated by the mere existence of mankind. With new insight into the torment of Chinese victims, I am more reluctant, but nevertheless going to tactlessly share my view that it is inane to dwell on the past solely for the purpose of finding who to blame as all nations have at one point in history been aggressors that have caused others pain.

It is to my knowledge that the crux of the matter is to instill a sense of empathy and love in children as they have yet to be tainted by the functions of society and can potentially be the beacon of hope for peace in the future. From the big picture, instead of chasing after an apology from grown men that have already formed rigid perspectives, having values of empathy embedded in children is key to a drastic change in the collective attitude of the next generation. Education is the optimum choice in preventing further fiendish deeds people have potential for. Instead of using the fiction of labelling each other by sex, race, and age, it is better to extend people's empathy across our globe by means of banishing such labels. Technology allows us to connect with others around the world to become global and the boundaries broken down can make us noble. Having interpreted the teachings of Mr. Martelli and Mr. Smith through my own perspective, it is evident that Japanese imperialism was ruthless, but seeing the ceaseless warfare in the world, the rest of the human race does not have clean hands either.

True fortune comes with misfortunes because as people become increasingly aware of darkness of the human mind and apply the lessons to daily life, it will hopefully prevent further acts of violence. Perhaps the attempt may be in vain, but after all, it is the dream that makes us real. I am grateful for the opportunity of attending such an informative symposium that provided analyses of facts, which evoked rumination on how to discover peace.

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Canada Alpha

Wina Huang
Crofton House School

I never knew how much a day of learning could change my view of the past. As a youth of Chinese descent, I have been told of how my family was affected by the Second World War; however, I not only took the significance of the stories I heard for granted, but even sometimes doubted the validity of them. When I attended the Human Rights Conference at Van Tech, I was amazed by the organization of the event, moved by the guest speakers' stories, and inspired by the passion and dedication shown by everyone, who was involved.

The planning for the conference was, first of all, simply astounding. Not only did all events run efficiently, but workshops were also informative and engaging. I especially enjoyed the human experimentation workshop, where Mr. Martelli challenged students to express their opinions with sufficient evidence. As a result of stimulating discussion topics, a passionate teacher, and keen students, the workshop was a great success.

In addition to being impressed by the technical aspects of the symposium, I was touched by the stories of Marius and Tony, two survivors of the Second World War. Their firsthand accounts of the terrible hardships they endured inspired everyone to "never give up…never lose hope." These two men are truly admirable for persevering through their many challenges and taking time to share their experiences with us.

All in all, the Human Rights Symposium was an enlightening and inspirational experience. Through the respectful and unprejudiced manner in which all materials were presented, I learned about people of the past not as figures in statistics, but as real human beings, who experienced horrid events that no one should have or ever should. Although I grieve for the sufferings of the innocent, I have also come to appreciate how fortunate I am to have a loving family that supports me, a school that offers me unbiased education, and a home in a peaceful country like Canada.

I wish for this event to continue its success and for more people in the world to be given a chance to learn about the past, so that our world will not conceal or attempt to forget painful truths, but accept the past and progress towards a truly peaceful future.

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Canada Alpha

Min Young Hwang
Prince of Wales Secondary

On Friday, December 2nd, 2011, hundreds of high school students from all over the Lower Mainland gathered at Vancouver Technical Secondary School for the International Human Rights Day Symposium, held by Canada ALPHA (Association for Learning & Preserving the History of WWII in Asia). The Symposium consisted of a series of workshops to raise awareness on atrocities that took place during the Asia-Pacific War (1931 – 1945) in advance of December 10th, International Human Rights Day.

As a History 12 student, I attended these workshops myself, with the most significant one being about Comfort Women. This was my first time ever learning about Comfort Women, and I was shocked by not only how horrifying the subject was itself but how little it was known to the world. The title "comfort women" was given to a woman who was forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese soldiers during World War II. Emperor Hirohito, the ruler at the time, had given these women as "gifts" to the soldiers to reward them for the service, as well as to prevent them from catching any sexually transmitted diseases with their spontaneous sexual activities and slowing down the proficiency in the war. The fact that he allowed the sexual slavery to take place and made it a systemic function is a critical aspect of the wrongdoings against these women.

The women, the majority of them from Korea and the rest from China, Indonesia and the Philippines, were either lured from their homes with lies of promising pay for housework or simply captured, then taken to the houses that were used for the sole purpose of serving the soldiers' sexual needs. Each woman faced four to six men per day who treated them like animals as many of the survivors described, using unimaginable methods of torture and rape. The few that tried to escape were captured and executed in public, while many others died from physical and mental toil. The remaining ones were lugged around with the soldiers wherever they went, and received minimal medical care with the exception of the check-ups that were intended to protect the soldiers, not the women. The soldiers also refused to use the condoms that were recommended and provided, causing the women to undergo abortion multiple times and eventually lose their ability to have children. When the war ended, some of the women were abandoned atop mountains by the soldiers, and others killed off. The survivors lost their way in life, shunned from family and society and buried in shame and self-disgust.

My classmates and I were appalled. I was even more so, due to my Korean heritage. However, we couldn't help but admire the courage and strength of these former comfort women, who opened up about what they had gone through despite the traumitizing effects that it had left on them. In fact, they express themselves proudly and publicly now, in weekly Wednesday demonstrations outside the Japanese embassy in South Korea. This demonstration has set the record as the longest demonstration in history, and held its 1000th demonstration on December 14th with an estimate of 1000 people, ranging from former comfort women and their friends and family to middle and high school students and visitors from all around the world. This event was also promoted via social media, encouraging people to tweet the Prime Minister of Japan about the issue. The passion and devotion of the surviving comfort women have captured attention internationally, with the United Nations and governments of several nations, including Canada, urging Japan to respond accordingly to the outcries of the former comfort women.

So what exactly are these women asking for? Acknowledgement and reparations. The former comfort women want the Japanese government to give an official and sincere apology for their past actions, and make amendments for what the women had to suffer. However, the Japanese government has responded by saying that the women volunteered themselves to prostitution and destroying much of the evidence that existed. The subject of comfort women is barely touched upon in the school textbooks in Japan, if mentioned at all. This is similar to the way that the Japanese government is dealing with other atrocities that arose during the Asia-Pacific War, such as the Rape of Nanking.

It is unimaginable how much damage the whole experience inflicted on the former comfort women. But even more unimaginable is their endurance and strength to survive such horrors and fight for their human rights to this very day. As the Wednesday demonstrations carry on, so does the hope that these women will bring justice one day.

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Canada Alpha

Aleksandra Kolesnikova
King George Secondary

"Only the dead have seen the end of war." – George Santayana
A reflection on this topic should start with an impactful, meaningful first sentence that captures the essence of the whole, yet I am at a loss for words. The workshops at the International Human Rights Day Student Symposium (IHRDSS) held at Vancouver Technical Secondary School in East Vancouver definitely left a mark on me – more of a gouge, actually. The theme of the day was human rights and the abuse of them in the Asia-Pacific war, and the presentations I attended on "comfort women" in eastern Asia and the forgotten Holocaust in Asia during this war were educational, emotionally heavy, and deeply disturbing.

Before coming to this symposium, I had little idea as to what conditions people had to suffer through under the merciless conquest tactics of the Japanese (the Fascists of the East) in World War II and, prior to that, the territorial war in Asia. When presented a list of workshops to rank in order of my preference, of the two I ended up getting to go to, "Comfort Women" was my first choice and "The Forgotten Holocaust" was probably my fourth. I only had a faint idea of what each would be about, and was excited to learn about them upon our arrival at the well-orchestrated symposium.

The workshop on "comfort women" was sad and touching, especially when the leaders of the workshop showed the Korean video of the Halmoni (grandmothers in Korean, what the former "comfort women" prefer to be called) telling the stories of their sexual slavery to the Japanese military during the war in Asia, and promoting the campaign they are heading now – which has been adopted by some young men and many young women, even those residing in Japan. The goal of their campaign is to inform the world of their past plight and get the Prime Minister of Japan to finally formally apologize for the oppression Japan put them under then.

"Kidnapped", a painting made by Soon-Duk Kim, a former "comfort woman" and one of the leaders of the Halmoni campaign, depicting herself being kidnapped by a Japanese soldier before being forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese

Women from Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines, but mostly Korea and China, became "comfort women" after being conscripted into sexual slavery for the Japanese military, through deception, kidnapping, and bribing by hired Japanese. These women were put into houses called "comfort stations" – post- battle sexual retreats for Japanese army men – and forced to accept rape and beating from these "customers", tens of times per day. The fact that such a horrendous, thoughtless objectification of humans was committed on that side of the Earth during and before the Second World War surprised me, as I had never even thought about harsh abuse of human rights in anywhere but Europe, where the mass genocide of Jewish, Slavic, and Gypsy (Roma) people took place, and any opposers of Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer of Nazi Germany, were being sent to torturous work camps.

"The Forgotten Holocaust" was an interactive and interesting workshop, one which I believe struck a chord in the hearts of many of its attendees, with videos of the survivors of "comfort stations" and the Rape of Nanking retelling their horrors, losses, and triumphs being played.

Chinese civilian being stabbed with the bayonet of a Japanese soldier as part of a massacre of the Chinese civilians of the then-capital of China, Nanking: the Rape of Nanking.

Their stories shook me to the core, the one from a man about his experience as a 9 year-old in the Rape of Nanking hitting the hardest. I had never heard of humans experiencing such terror and suffering as their communities being infiltrated with strangers who rape and take their women and young, including their own family members; steal all their worthy possessions; and kill all their friends and neighbours, aiming to murder every last person. I can empathize. To me, it seems a completely unfeeling, cruel, barbaric, and uncivilized action, something shocking coming from a nation I had thought of as so civilized and dignified before. I had never studied Japan's wartime history prior to this, and what I learned of their actions in not only the Rape of Nanking but in the mass, systemic rape of foreign women appalled me.

To conclude, I would like to say that this Human Rights Day Symposium at Van Tech taught me a great amount of stupefying information and inspired me. It inspired me to take action on history, to try and teach it to people so that things can change. To inform those who don't know about horrible events like the Rape of Nanking in China – about which so many people don't know – and the use and disposal of female sex slaves, "comfort women", in the Japanese military during the Asia-Pacific War, and what effects both events had on the people of eastern Asia and how these effects carry on to today. I will help the Halmoni, the former "comfort women", in taking action by telling people of their dreadful predicaments and asking them to help pass their history on, and request that they somehow, maybe through a Tweet, aid the Halmoni in finally getting a formal apology from the Prime Minister of Japan by demanding it from him. Without the globe knowing global history, what action can be taken? We must pass on ours and others' history in order to heal and prevent today. For the victims of the Rape of Nanking, for the ex-"comfort women", and for all who have been broken by their past.

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Canada Alpha

Grace Jin
Moscrop Secondary

300,000 - to many, it is but a number, yet beyond the simplicity of such an integer unearths the three hundred thousand brutal deaths of those in Nanking during World War II. Those who once lived and breathed, who gazed upon our same sun, lie dead while the vileness of their deaths remains untold.

On December 10th, 2010, students and teachers throughout the lower mainland came together to commemorate International Human Rights Day at Vancouver Technical Secondary. I entered the auditorium mentally preparing myself to heed the atrocious facts that may be thrown my way, yet the viciousness and brutality of actuality exceeded my imagination and I felt my mouth open wide and chills run up my spine as I gasped in astonishment.

Race has no existence. We are one race; the Human Race. When the rights of one human being are violated, the rights of every single human being are desecrated. There is no superiority of one race to another, yet even to this day many fail to realize and accept this fact. When Dr. Ishii used humans to perform vulgar experimentations on, he simply regarded them as "logs" entering and exiting a factory. In the same way, Dr. Mengele separated countless families and slaughtered innumerable innocents to complete his research. I cannot help but shudder when I see the malevolence and evil that one human being is able to bring forth.

I am just one human being, just a miniscule portion of the billions of people on this planet we all call home. At the same time, I am just one human being, someone who is capable of bringing alteration and change. One person, whether you believe it or not, makes an impact and represents the Human Race. One person is capable of extreme atrocities, but even greater; one person is able of love. There's no way to amend history, but if there is enough love, care, and compassion, we do, indeed, stand a chance against what is immoral and unjust.

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Canada Alpha

Jessica Law
Vancouver Technical Secondary

To see so many different schools attending a Human Rights Conference at Van Tech made Van Tech stand out from other schools. The effort and hard work from the students and the teachers made us seem capable to host anything. The importance of this conference was for students to gain knowledge and be aware of the forgotten history that is not taught in school. We were informed and notified that history as of today is not dead; it is a part of us even today. The Japanese did not just decide to massacre the Chinese, it was done for reasons that they believed. It was done for the reasons that have been passed down from the ancient times. The soldiers fought to serve their country, their emperor, and to improve their own nation in its way. To the world, they may seem like the enemies. But to themselves, they think they are morally right. What would make us think if it's right or wrong? These actions are not just done without a reason; reasons are present for them to act in their ways.

Tony who was a real Canadian soldier that survived the brutality of the Japanese shared his experience as a Prisoner of the War. His story made many of us and not only me to discover the capacity of human strength. His story has touched many of the student's hearts and looked upon them. His perseverance and strength caught my attention in amazement. The suffer and pain he strived through really puts a huge impact on our lives that we aren't suffering the same as he did once. Are we considered lucky? Or should we be ashamed for the pain that many fought against and did not survive?

With such an inspiring story, I was excited to enter into the two workshops we were able to attend. My first workshop was the Rape of Nanjing. This topic has always caught my eyes that all the brutality wasn't done much too help the people from the Japanese. The pictures and video that were presented scared me at points that nothing could've been done. The most that was done was the safe zone that a few thousands were safe. That was definitely a fortune but for the rest who didn't make it has made me realize the life we live in now, today. I can't stress how much I feel the pain of these young women and children being raped and the others being buried alive or murdered to death. This action is wrong, and something that is this important should be shared to the world of these brutal actions. This workshop has definitely deepened our understanding of the Rape of Nanjing and the effect of this horrendous crime. With such an outstanding presentation, this has inspired me to look further into this action. Our voices need to be heard, the actions that are wrong can be stopped.

Knowing that the Human Experimentation workshop was concentrated on the different experiments and methods conducted by doctors frightened me in some ways of the exposed and horrific images and documents. This workshop led by Mr. Martelli taught us a moral lesson of borrowing examples from historic accounts. Taking bits and bits of the documents on experiments puts a huge impact on all of us. Discussing about the morality of the humans was the main focus in this workshop. The doctors of Shiro Ishii and Josef Mengele were the founders of the experiment facilities. The two doctors were charismatic and honourable people to undertake vivisections and numbers of painful experiments on live people. The discussions, presentations, and the lectures of this workshop were powerful and definitely put some sense into ourselves that this action is wrong. The horrific situations that were brought upon from the ancient times cannot be changed today, however we are the generation that may prevent it from happening again. The purpose of this lecture and workshop with the other students was to acknowledge us on the virtues and sins of the humanity!

Overall, the Human Rights Conference has enlightened my knowledge about the massacre of the Chinese, the morality of humans, and to reflect today from before. It has inspired me to look at the past and look at the future with bigger steps to change the world to a better place perhaps. As of today, some actions are still wrong. We need to fight for our rights and fight for other people's rights. As we are acknowledged of the past that was brought to my attention, my conscience for the future is lightened. Knowledge is one of our choices of power and weapon to conquer the wrongs. This Human Rights Conference has inspired me to look at life differently that we all have a part of it that can be changed. If we fight for what we want, stand against the enemy for the rights, we will always be able to achieve that step. Also, this didn't only inspire me but many of the others who sat and listened to the stories of truth in the past. We must take that step now and achieve for what should be right and to be done.

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Canada Alpha

Aiko Yajima
King George Secondary School

The Human Rights Symposium at Van Tech was very interesting and I was glad I was able to go and listen to not only the presentations but different people's inputs from other schools as well. It's always great to have new thoughts and new voices heard outside our classroom because it gives different outlooks and perspectives on the same topic.

In the morning, we all gathered in the auditorium for an introduction on Human Rights Violations in the Asia Pacific War. I was really interested in the video and speech by Tony Cowling who was a survivor of the war. Professor John Price also had stories from other survivors including former comfort women. It was definitely impactful to see and hear from people who were once a part of such a life changing experience, to say the least.

For our first workshop, I went to the library for the Human Experimentations and Biochemical Warfare done by Dr. Josef Mengele and Dr. Shiro Ishii during the war. There was a video of twin survivors who were experimented on during this time who explained how these 'doctors' would experiment on them by hurting one twin and seeing how the other twin reacted. It was very uncomfortable to hear that human experimentation existed for such sick ways, yet the video also brought hope and showed that these twins (who had families now) really valued their lives. These people who were experimented on didn't have a choice on what happened and I was really glad for them that they were able to get out healthy and living their own lives now.

After lunch, I was back in the auditorium for the Forgotten Holocaust workshop. There we watched videos on how some people survived during the time when Japanese soldiers were killing and beating them. It was heartbreaking to see a video of a man, who was a child back then, explaining how Japanese soldiers had taken his brothers' and mother's life in front of his eyes.

At the end when everyone gathered in the auditorium, we were able to hear from Satoko Norimatsu , a founder of Peace Philosophy Centre in Vancouver. I was happy because she assured that people shouldn't be mad or resent the Japanese as a whole but the people who were part of it during those days. There's still lingering tension in some areas or in some people, but that we should be able to live in peace now if we acknowledge what occurred and not ignoring what happened. I felt guilty during the whole day, feeling like I myself was a cause for such pain and suffering for all these people, but she made me realize that I shouldn't feel guilty, but to acknowledge what has happened in order to be able to learn from such mistakes and hope that this never occurs again. What really surprised me was the fact that this material isn't present in Japanese textbooks or curriculums. Not having lived in Japan and not familiar with their lessons and teachings, I was really surprised and angered at the fact that they're not teaching kids what their ancestors did. I believe that it should be taught so that these kids don't grow up to make the same mistakes.

Overall, it was a really great experience and I would love to attend something similar to this again.

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Canada Alpha

Jimmy Lou
Seaquam Secondary School

Thank you so much for a wonderful learning experience today in the "Human Rights in the Asia – Pacific Workshop." I hope this paragraph explains a little bit of what I have gotten out of today.

It is not often can students be endowed with such opportunity as to explore the atrocities of war, humans' capacity of extreme harm to one another and the detrimental effects of war crime all in one day. However, today, I not only learned that these unfathomable ideas exist but also witnessed the indescribable pain that the victims have experienced. To be honest, before coming to this workshop, I have never truly understood what is so horrific or harmful about a war. Growing up, I was sheltered at homes, protected by parents and treated equally in society that I've never had to worry about malice soldiers, constant bombing or fighting in war. In school, I never really had to understand what people went through, and as a result, their deaths and suffering simply became meaningless words that I had to remember.

Today, I felt, for the first time, greatly disturbed and concerned about what had happened in these past events. The Rape of Nanking, for example, was no longer an event with "lots of death and unhappy people", but rather one with boys, much like myself, who were helplessly stripped of family, girls and women who were brutally raped and murdered, or soldiers who were tortured and killed. It was human hell, and I could see that clearly and sorrowfully.

In the end, I was dumbfounded with the images, films and the first hand recounts of war to which I was exposed. Despite being a rude awakening, this experience has provided me with the lifelong lesson of not taking human sufferings lightly and always trying to help others, for if people had taken notice of the severity of events like Nanking Massacre amidst these crises, much damage could have been reduced or even avoided. Ultimately, I thank all the lecturers in today's workshop and I hope to one day spread the awareness that you have all kindly sent to me!

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Canada Alpha

Tony Nguyen
Vancouver Technical Secondary

The Symposium held today on Human rights in the Asia-Pacific during the years of 1931-1945 was one of the most significant and, I feel, important trips I have made in regards to furthering my education. Up to this point I, like many others, had been more or less ignorant of the events that occurred in that region over 60 years ago. I wasn't even aware that 10 December was Universal Human Rights Day. There is no doubt that this is a troubling circumstance. However, this symposium, without which I would never have had the opportunity to gain a more in depth study of the various atrocities committed at that time, is a fantastic contribution to the education of students.

It's a pity that there remain so many other aspects of it to cover. I was shocked to see that there existed a text available to schools that taught about this. I can't understand why it was that so few of us student had had access to it, let alone having ever seen it before. I was further shocked when I heard the admissions of Mr. Raymond Lemoine and Ms. Karen Symonds during my afternoon seminar; that they, two educated persons involved in the study and teaching of history, had been unaware of such a significant part of history for so many years. I am still confused as to the fact that the school system has still taken such little efforts to address these issues, especially when there is a readily accessible text on the subject.

I don't mean to be critical, however, I see now that the effects of these events still resonates not only personally in survivors and those directly affected, but on society and the politics of today. I was also disgusted at learning of the Japanese company who attempted to play a role reversal in compensating those affected and, instead of taking true responsibility, took to furthering injustice.

In closing, I'm impressed with the efforts of those involved with the symposium to try and inform students. It's only unfortunate that, despite this being a great step forward, there are still so many ignorant of the facts I was able to learn today.

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Canada Alpha

Catherine Torres
Fraser Heights Secondary School

Hi there, my name is Catherine Torres. I am a student from Fraser Heights Secondary School and I am in grade 11. I attended the Rape of Nanking and Biochemical Warfare Workshop. Personally, I have found it extraordinarily thought provoking. At first I said to myself, "how unfortunate that this had to happen to Nanking citizens." I'm not saying that I don't have sympathy or empathy for these situations that is still play backing in the hearts and minds of many witnesses and people. It's more of the lack of courage and inspiration keeping me glued on the side that says, "What kind of difference can I make?"

My favourite was the Rape of Nanking Workshop. Having the opportunity to attend the Rape of Nanking Workshop made me think and firmly ask myself a series of questions, "What am I going to do now, now that I heard this story? What is my responsibility? How am I going to react? Am I going to condone what has happened here?" I mean, I do understand that this has happened at 1937, and to some people, it is no longer relevant. However, I cannot help but ignore the fact that what we call history, is still occurring as we speak. It is not only in the seen world that we see the brutality and atrocity, but also in the unseen world where it is much worse because that is the very place where seed is planted, resulting to the situations and events that happen out in the seen world. A lot of us may not notice it because of the lack of recognition. However, I am not leading to a depressing little essay but I am proud to have learned more about those who stepped up and had the courage and strength at that time to do anything and everything they can do to help as much as citizens in Nanking.

As we all know, we all have our own beliefs and values, for me, I am a Christian. I believe in God. I believe that Jesus came down to earth to die for us so that we may believe and be saved. In having that knowledge of God and finding Hope in Him when no hope is found is something extravagantly important. I relate it to all that has happened in the Rape of Nanking. A lot of people found hopelessness not only during those times but right now because of what had happened. Instead of always looking at the disasters and traumas that had occurred, why not give hope to the hopeless? Through prayer by faith, like what the few missionaries that stayed behind to help out the Nanking citizens did. The situations that seem impossible in our point of view, is not one bit impossible in God's view.

In the end of all this thinking, it leads us back to this question, "What is my responsibility?"

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