Today at 10am an alarm sounded to remind us of the invasion by the Japanese 73 years ago. In the weeks following the invasion 300,000 Chinese were slaughtered.
I was in my office when I heard the alarm, it caused an awful, uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. My bus ride to work takes me past many of the homes and universities that served as refugee camps. I’ve been in the home where the missionaries would gather to pray for peace during that time. I have seen the mass graves that serve as the undeniable evidence of the atrocities committed.
The International Safety Zone was created by the foreigners who chose to stay behind in Nanjing to protect the people. The area was only about 2 square miles, but housed 90% of the city’s population at the time. By that time all of the rich and middle class had fled further inland, this included most of the Chinese staff of the only hospital. This left only the very poorest people behind in Nanjing. Of the 25 foreigners in Nanjing at that time, 6 of them were missionaries from my denomination.
One of the missionaries from my church, who served in a hospital, wrote of that day, Dec. 13th, 1937,
“the stream of wounded were still coming to our door. Trim and part of the time Bob stood at the back gate and dressed them. They all got on their way but six. By the next morning four of those were gone. One lay dead at the gate, the other at the corner of Tientsin Road. The other dead of their wounds or an additional bullet, no one will ever know.
The night was horrible. The wounded civilians poured in by the dozens. More than we could possibly take in. We took in what we could and the rest were dressed and giving comforts to sleep in the dispensary. There were probably forty of them left there. We opened up fourth floor.”
A few days later, on the 17th she wrote,
“Reports began to reach us of the violation of women. Lewis said they had 166 authentic reports to make. How many more that one never heard of will never be known.
Reports of men being carried off and shot. Men being pressed into service. Every one was utterly frightened and afraid to go on the street. Mei-o, Emily and I go back and forth together. Would not think of letting either one of the girls on the street without me or Trim.
It is not convenient to use the back gate because of the dead there. It hurts too badly.”
After the 6 weeks, one of the missionaries who had seen every kind of horror imaginable committed by the Japanese troops wrote this in a letter home, he has more strength than I could ever pray for,
“Do I hate the Japanese, no. I dislike very much their policy, and I dislike very much the way they are mistreating the common people of China. But, if I am ever given the opportunity to do the same for the Japanese, as we have done here for the Chinese men, women and children, I would do the same right over again.”
Without the International Safety Zone, thousands more would have been killed. Today in this season of Advent, I pray for peace more than I ever have before.
Note: If you are interested in learning more about the rape of Nanking, this is an excellent film