April 9- Day 40 of Lent

*As noted in earlier weeks, many in the Church do not observe Lent on Sundays. However, for the sake of continuity in our devotional, we have included Sundays in our devotional, thus leading to a total of more than 40 days of Lent in our devotional. 

OPENING PRAYER: Loss is Indeed our Gain (Walter Brueggemann)

The Pushing and Shoving in the world is endless.
We are pushed and shoved.
And we do our share of pushing and shoving
in our great anxiety.
And in the middle of that
you have set down your beloved suffering son
who was like a sheep led to slaughter
who opened not his mouth.

We seem not able,
so we ask you to create space in our life
where we may ponder his suffering
and your summons for us to suffer with him,
suspecting that suffering is the only way to newness.

So we pray for your church in these Lenten days,
when we are driven to denial —
not to notice the suffering,
not to engage it,
not to acknowledge it.
So be that way of truth among us
that we should not deceive ourselves
That we shall see that loss is indeed our gain.
We give you thanks for that mystery from which we live.

Amen.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY: APRIL 9, 1942

Wartime Civilian Control Administration (WCCA) Established to Institute Japanese Internment

On February 19, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, by which U.S. military commanders were authorized to designate specific “military areas,” from which specific person(s) could be excluded. This order cleared the way for the internment of Japanese Americans, German Americans, and Italian Americans to concentration camps throughout the United States. In response to this Executive Order, the administration first established the Western Defense Command to promote “voluntary resettlement” of Japanese Americans from the West Coast, in anticipation of exclusion.  When it became apparent that “voluntary” resettlement was not going to work, the Roosevelt administration formed a new entity to lead a process of forced removal and detention.

On April 9, 1942, the Wartime Civilian Control Administration (WCCA) was created  to coordinate the forced removal of Japanese Americans from their homes to inland concentration camps. The WCCA quickly became responsible for dividing the West Coast into 108 areas, containing about 1,000 Japanese Americans each. They acquired and adapted seventeen different facilities which were euphemistically described as “Civilian assembly centers” or “reception centers.” Most of these facilities were adapted from already existing public facilities such as county fairgrounds, horse racing tracks, and livestock pavilions.  The WCCA then began the forced removal of Japanese Americans, who were allowed to bring only what they could carry, and were bused to one of the 15 centers located throughout Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona.

When the War Relocation Authority (WRA) began to move detainees into more permanent camps, the last act of the WCCA was to oversee the closing of the “assembly centers” and to coordinate the physical transfer to longer term incarceration centers. These transfers were made by trains that embarked late at night, on what were often multi-day trips. Curtains and shades were kept drawn and passengers were kept under armed guard while being transported. 

Although the WCCA was dissolved on March 15, 1943, internment continued, and it is estimated that between 1110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were subject to this mass exclusion and incarceration program. An estimated two-thirds were U.S. citizens. Internees were imprisoned behind barbed wires, forced to live 25 to a room, were monitored and sometimes beaten by armed guards, and experienced a shortage of health care in the midst of harsh living conditions. Many of the camps were in remote and dusty areas, which exacerbated health problems. Children taught in these camps were forced to learn “democratic ideals” and were banned from speaking Japanese. Many suffered the psychological impacts of stress, shame, loss, helplessness, forced relocation, and an unjust loss of civil rights. The WRA recorded 1,862 deaths across the ten camps during this time, many from a lack of medical care and from the harsh conditions of the camps. 

By the time internment ended, many had lost irreplacable property, suffered deep financial losses, and experienced irreversible psychological trauma.

SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: MATTHEW 25:41-46

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

RESPONSE OF LAMENT AND CONFESSION: Please spend some time in personal response, crying out to God with prayers, poems, songs, or art that expresses your lament and confession. If you feel led, please share these responses with others, using #lentenlament #day40

You may close with the following:

Lord have mercy,

Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

CLOSING PRAYER: Litany of Remembrance and Confession (Ellen Godbey Carson, 2016)

One: We remember that time 75 years ago, when our nation was gripped with wartime fears and uncertainty. Our Japanese American neighbors needed our help and protection, but instead experienced exile and imprisonment.

All: Lord hear our prayers.

One: We again feel fear and uncertainty rising around us. We wonder if others are dangerous because they may look different, or believe differently, than we do.

All: But then we remember, we have been here before. Loving God, give us the courage and compassion to understand, love and embrace our neighbors.

One: Our fear is intensified by hearing that the wartime exclusion and imprisonment of Japanese Americans is being used as “precedent” for potential registration, exclusion, imprisonment or deportation of Muslim Americans, Mexican Americans, immigrants from Syria and others.

All: But then we remember, we have been here before. Loving God, we know you expect us to better…we know we can do better. Help us to fight our fears with faith, and to build bridges instead of walls.

One: We remember the dangers of racism, wartime hysteria and lack of political leadership. We seek to learn from our mistakes, to be a stronger nation and to give dignity and honor to each person, as Jesus would do.

All: Loving God, help us be your hands in the world. Give us the courage to stand up, speak out, and protect the dignity and rights of all of your children. Help us learn to celebrate our differences rather than fear them. Help us learn to love the whole of Your diverse creation!

Amen. 

-Taken from Liturgy for Japanese Americans

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